Sidholme Leaflet

Sidholme- An Introduction to the Architecture

Throughout a 200 year history the Sidholme Hotel with its numerous layers of spatial interventions is an evolving story. Located in the Elysian Fields it consists of three main components, the original Richmond House, the neighbouring Cumberland Cottage and the resplendent Music Room.

The Sidmouth Conservation Study describes Elysian Fields as "'the one area of the town which retains, almost unchanged. the character and atmosphere of Sidmouth as it would have been in the early years of the 19th century". The Conservation Area consists of a group of five `cottage ornes`, with picturesque views through the woods over the town and sea beyond. Originally constructed in the 1820s as a speculative development by William Barrett all the villas had a stucco finish, in white or beige and reflect the Regency taste for colonial artifices. They have all been subsequently altered and although most have been considerably extended each remains listed as architecture of special interest. Accessed from a winding secluded drive they are all well concealed in a well-balanced distribution of mature deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs. Elysian Fields, in Greek mythology, were the final resting place of the souls of the heroic and virtuous

The most outstanding property is Sidholme which has some remaining Regency details but with its extensive additions has been transformed into a Victorian mansion of character. A lithograph of 1826 painted by artist George Rowe shows it was a modest 'box', three bays wide beneath a pair of hipped roofs. Its verandas on the southern façade and the Oriental lantern canopies that shade the first-floor windows are of the period. In common with other Sidmouth developments the villa is rendered in white throughout including stacks, roofs are slate and there is much adornment. Characteristic features such as windows and balconies all combine to give the elegance and refinement which is typical of the genre. Three storeys in height with gables of different sizes and ornamental bargeboards Sidholme is the largest of the villas. Fenestration with an emphasis on marginal glazing bars and drip eyebrow mouldings is decorative and together with delicate balcony ironwork tracery are a particular Regency embellishment.

Approached through the main entrance on the west side the extraordinary music room is noted for its Rococo splendour. Best entered through a glazed gallery at the top of the staircase the hall is 20 metres long by 13m wide and 10m high. The most striking element is the ribbed vaulted ceiling which at the centre includes a painted canvas, by an Italian artist, of cherubs and mystical animals on a blue background. There are six tall slender Roman arched sash windows which extend to the cornice giving an overall impression of light and elegance. The focal points are both the large cut-glass central chandelier and the ‘lapis-lazuli` blue painted organ. On the west and east walls are marble fireplaces, with original hot-water tower radiators on each side and square-section fluted pilaster from which the vaulting springs. The tall mirrors over the mantles have gilded rococo frames, featuring ornate acanthus plant shapes. The cherubic theme continues in the patterned wallpaper and in the frieze above the cornice. The motifs are cherubs playing drums, pipes, cymbals and stringed instruments all on a grey background. In late 18th century it became fashionable to create music rooms which were fitted with chamber organs and decorated with carved instruments and muses.

In 1987 major restoration work involving English Heritage funding began on the music room when the roof timbers, slates and chimneys were replaced. Dry rot was discovered in a main supporting arch and both the structure and the elaborate decorations required repair. The blue wallpaper was stripped off and Victorian frescoes of female figures, in classical Italian style and carrying musical instruments, were revealed. The ceiling painting under the dome was restored and French hand-made gold-coloured embossed wallpaper replaced the blue.

Leaflet prepared by Graham Cooper 2019

Chronology of Sidholme 
1823 'Elysian Fields' purchased and a Regency Cottage Orne, Richmond House, built and leased out by developer William Barrett (1781-1858).
1847 Rev Augustus Hobart the  6th Earl of Buckinghamshire (1793-1885) purchased the property and renamed it Richmond Lodge.
1852 Six additional acres purchased and grounds expanded to 9 acres.
1854/5 Music Room and Billiard Room built (separate from main building).
1860 Next door, Cumberland Cottage, purchased and renamed Richmond Cottage.
1877 Banker Benjamin Davidson purchased the property and the house was renamed Sidholme. His young American wife Olga (1848-1927) oversees the incorporation of Music Room and Richmond Cottage into the main building mass.
1930 Sidholme sold to a Methodist Guild and now called Sidholme Guest House of the Wesley Guild.
1987-1990 English Heritage restoration of the Music Room plus addition of the Richmond Room and a swimming pool built in the grounds. Guest House renamed Sidholme Hotel.
2015 Friends of Sidholme Music Room formed with completion of the organ restoration.
2016 Start of chandelier appeal.
See p4 Richmond House to Sidholme by Nigel Hyman SVA

Sidholme Music Room Chandelier Appeal
The collection of chandeliers is of historical significance. Donations are sought to enable the complete restoration of the full set. The Friends of Sidholme Music Room aim to raise £100,000.
Appeal Leaflet and Sponsorship application forms can be obtained from:
• 'Friends of Sidholme Music Room' find online
• telephoning 01395 515104
• Sidholme Reception desk.

1 Richmond House
2 Cumberland Cottage
3 Camellia House 1930
4 Guest in Garden c1930
5 Hotel Footprint
6 Music Room c1950
7 Music Room 2018
8 Painted Frieze 2019
9 Fireplace & Mirror 2019
10 Restored Organ 2019
11 Restored Chandelier
12 Ribbed Vaulting
1,2,3,4,5,6 images from Sidholme Archive

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