Historic North Devon farmhouse saved from ruin

Left to right: Dominic Stoneman from South Molton Scaffolding, Lead Member for Economic Development and Strategic Planning Policy at North Devon Council, Councillor Malcolm Prowse, Phil Babb from WMS Ltd who carried out the building work, Collette Hall Conservation Officer at North Devon Council and Duncan Hill, Structural Engineer from DHD Structures

Posted on: 10 October 2019

An important historic North Devon farmhouse has been saved from ruin following urgent works by North Devon Council.

Work to repair Bunksland Farmhouse in East Anstey, a grade II* listed medieval farmhouse, have just been completed following the issuing of an Urgent Works Notice in February by the council. The notice, which is issued when a listed building is considered at risk due to its poor condition, required urgent works to be carried out to the building by its owners. Due to its listed status and difficulty identifying owners, the council stepped in and carried out the work to support the building until the ownership is established.

Work carried out to the farmhouse included repairing the roofs to make it watertight and providing new scaffolding structures to prop areas of cob wall which were considered vulnerable. The building’s importance has been recognised by Historic England and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB).

Lead Member for Economic Development and Strategic Planning Policy at North Devon Council, Councillor Malcolm Prowse, says: “There are a large number of listed buildings in North Devon but this farmhouse is very special.   The works were needed to ensure the building could be stabilised and saved – preventing further deterioration.  It grants time for all involved with the project to establish a long term plan to secure the future of this significant heritage asset in North Devon.  I would like to thank all of our officers involved and agencies that have worked alongside us on this project for their hard work and dedication. The council are determined to intervene and find solutions for listed buildings at risk.”

Architect for Historic England, Annie Evans, says: “Bunksland or Bungsland Farmhouse is a remarkably unspoilt example of a cob built dwelling, probably dating from the late fourteenth century.  It contains an unusual closed truss of a type which may once have been more common in Devon and is associated with a wind-braced roof over what was once the medieval hall.   Historic England is very pleased to have been able to work with North Devon Council to undertake this urgent stabilisation, ahead of further work which will be needed to safeguard the building’s future.”

Work carried out at the farmhouse started in May. It was largely grant funded by Historic England with a contribution by the council – once ownership is established the cost of repair works can then be reclaimed. As well as providing funding, Historic England sent a recording team to survey and investigate the development of the building and have carried out dendrochronology (tree-ring dating) on some roof timbers. The results suggested a late fourteenth century date which is very early for this type of roof.

SPAB also supported the preservation of the building, sending in a task force to carry out initial protective works in 2018.

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Posted in: Planning