Bowhill House was built around 1500 as four ranges set around a courtyard. It has been much altered since, and is now a central block to the south with two wings on the east and west.
Conservation work was undertaken during 1977 to 1995, and this provided an opportunity to study in great detail the site, building, and related historical records. The archaeological report of the work gives a fascinating insight into one of the fine buildings of west Exeter.
The house is a mix of local building materials and techniques: cob, volcanic trap, breccia, and some Beer Stone for decorative detail. During the 15th and 16th centuries breccia was quarried in large quantites at Exminster and Peamore, and these sources are nearer. So it is more likely that the breccia used at Bowhill came from Exminster rather than the Heavitree quarries. However, it is still known around Exeter as ‘Heavitree Stone’.
The archaeological report suggests that the way the Heavitree Stone is used marks it out as a “specially selected stone” rather than “common walling material”. For example, it is used in stair doorways and the kitchen, and the hall chimney stack in the east range was almost wholly breccia, inside and outside.
Not much of Bowhill is visible now beyond a small section on Dunsford Road, as most of the building has been rendered. But there is a great photo of the stack on the cover of the report, and it contains much more detail about the construction and history of the house.
- Stuart Blaylock (2004) “Bowhill: The archaeological study of a building under repair in Exeter, Devon, 1977-95.” - http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/library/browse/issue.xhtml?recordId=1137468
- Historic England Listed Building - https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1103985
- Historic England Pastscape - https://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=448400
- Exeter Memories - http://www.exetermemories.co.uk/em/_organisations/bowhill.php