Photo: © xlibber / CC BY-SA 3.0
Photo: © Derek Harper / CC BY-SA 3.0
A La Ronde is probably unique in Britain, if not the world for having sixteen sides. In fact there are many quirky features to this 18th century country house.
The house was built on the instructions of two spinster cousins; Jane and Mary Parminter. Jane was the daughter of a Barnstaple wine merchant and during the late 1700s the cousins travelled extensively throughout Europe on Grand Tours. It was these tours and in particular the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy that provided the inspiration for the house. The 20 room house was completed in 1796. One of the most striking features of A La Ronde is the two storey "Octagon", a central hallway off which the downstairs rooms radiate.
There are a host of other quirky elements throughout the house none more so than the Shell Gallery - a sort of Gothic seaside grotto decorated with around 25,000 shells. An accompanying feather frieze of exquisite delicacy and detail is further testament to the Parminter cousins skills. As the contents of this gallery are so fragile the National Trust took the decision to only allow visitors to view the room via a remote control camera system.
During the spinsters years residing in A La Ronde no man was permitted to enter the home or grounds. Indeed the sister's wills stated that only "unmarried kinswomen" could inherit the property, and this held for nearly one hundred years. Eventually the house came into the hands of a Reverend Reichel who made a number of changes, most notable replacing the thatched roof and adding the balcony.
Now a Grade I listed building and owned by the National Trust the house is open to all.