CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Devon Life today CLICK HERE

Decadence & eloquence

PUBLISHED: 12:12 10 January 2014 | UPDATED: 12:12 10 January 2014


NATALIE MILLAR-PARTRIDGE is wowed by a visit to Exeter’s Southernhay House

Photography by Richard Downer

"‘Part of the charm of a stay at Southernhay House lies in the grandeur and decadence of the bedrooms’"

On stepping foot inside Southernhay House you could be forgiven for thinking you had stepped into a different era. Drenched in all the decadence and eloquence of a time gone by, I was struck by the sheer grandeur of the interior.

The house is now a charming and elegant boutique hotel with a modernist influence and all the exuberance of style from the era in which it was built.

A beautiful and striking Georgian town house trailed with ivy, it stands with pride on the Southernhay promenade in the heart of Exeter’s Georgian business quarter.

The building has been lovingly restored to its original purpose as a ‘social focal point’. The exquisite grade II building now holds a restaurant, private dining room, beautiful veranda, art deco inspired bar and ten luxurious bedrooms.

The decor and feel of Southernhay has been inspired by the colourful history of the building and its original owner. It was built in 1802 by the eccentric Major General William Kirkpatrick, who spent years with the East India Company, spoke five languages and had two Indian children. Kirkpatrick, dubbed the Orientalist, entertained extensively and lived on the bohemian fringe of Devon bourgeoisie, with a gentlemen lover a short ride away from the house and penchant for laudanum, he was well-known for his extravagant parties.

Just ten years later however, Kirkpatrick succumbed to ill health and died in August 1812 aged 58. The end of an extraordinary and accomplished life from humble beginnings. Fortunately Kirkpatrick’s legacy lives on in the form of his published works, letters, diaries and his fabulous Georgian home, which the owners say ring with echoes of its colonial past.

Fast forward nearly 200 years, various owners and the Blitz where the building miraculously escaped unscathed with neighbours reduced to rubble and now Southernhay House has once again become the entertaining social focal point it was originally intended to be.

Owners Deborah Clarke and Tony Orchard, who also own Burgh Island, took on the project of transforming the interior of the building, which had previously been let to a firm of accountants, into a ten-bedroom bespoke hotel. Southernhay House opened its doors in June 2011. Deborah and Tony pride themselves in offering the very best in food, teamwork, service and atmosphere.

They have researched and tuned into the personality of the house in the hope of bringing guests ‘closer to the gregarious and glamorous Georgians with a touch of the repressed Victoriana, a fizz of Colonialism and lashings of modern comfort’.

Whilst the design has embraced the colonial past of the house which is reflected in its architecture and detailing the project is not easily defined, instead, it is filled with personal identity and off beat modernism. The interior is traditional with a modern twist, infused with elements of the orient and nods to its historic past.

Most importantly it is run by a warm and dedicated team, a combination of long-term Exeter residents and staff trained at Burgh Island. With just ten bedrooms, a night at Southernhay is a completely personal and unique experience. The bar, restaurant and private dining room are the former grand salons of the original house and are in keeping with the elegant and intimate style of the former residents. The restaurant has limited covers and a friendly, unhurried service. The food at Southernhay is a rare treat and the menus are a modern take on the grand dishes of the last two centuries, with comfortable classics such as Dover sole, chicken pie or venison re-worked for a modern palate. Rob Law, Chef at Southernhay House, embraces the trend for modern nostalgia in his menus.

A stay at Southernhay House is one that you would be hard-pushed to forget. It has all the old-style glamour combined with the luxury of mod cons that make it an abode you’d be very happy to return to. n


More from Out & About

Tue, 11:47

Now is the perfect time to head for the bright lights of Exeter, where you can hunker down in one of the city’s many pubs, cafés and indoor attractions. Here’s our pick of the best places to keep warm, dry and entertained | Words: Chrissy Harris

Read more
Tue, 08:15

From cosy pubs galore to winter beach walks, there’s plenty to enjoy in Devon at Christmas. We list 19 reasons you should come visit us this December.

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Devon is particularly stunning at this time of year and so we’ve picked out 18 stunning pictures that encapsulate the county during the festive period

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Devon is a joy to explore with its beautiful beaches, pretty woodland and charming towns and villages. Made even more magical under a blanket of glistening frost, we pick 12 walks to blow away the cobwebs in the county this winter

Read more
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

A South Devon walk along a wreck-rich coastline with SIMONE STANBROOK-BYRNE

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

In the latest of our 24-hour tours of Devon’s best locations, we head to Britain’s Ocean City

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

With breathtaking beaches, rolling countryside, stately homes and unique villages, it’s no wonder high-profile film productions flock to Devon - how well do you know the movies that have set up camp here however?

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Whether it’s on our beautiful beaches, in our magnificent moors or within our stunning stately homes, film productions are constantly setting up in Devon. Here are 16 that you might not know used the county as a filming location

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

From angry spirits to headless horses and ghoulish monks, Devon has more than a few supernatural stories to get your skin crawling. We have picked 11 haunted places in the county

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

October is the perfect time to discover the joys of Exmoor. Jennette Baxter of Visit Exmoor suggests five great ways to enjoy autumn on the moor

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Wild camping can be one of the best ways to escape the crowds for a night or two and lose yourself in the landscape - SOPHIE PAVELLE chooses her five favourite places to ‘wild-life’ camp in Devon

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

From sandy beaches and lighthouse-topped cliffs to views of the Jurassic Coast, the Devon coastline offers many perfect locations for a seaside walk. We pick 10 of the prettiest routes to take

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Take our quiz to find out how well you really know Devon

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

As the weather starts to warm up and the Devon countryside beckons, LIZZIE JANE of the National Trust in the South West offers plenty of walk ideas for you to try. Whether you want a relaxed Sunday stroll or a more strenuous hike, here are 10 walks across Devon (and beyond) to help you escape the crowds and head off the beaten track

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search