The house is handsomely sited on a slight rise with fine views to the south. The house appears to be eighteenth century Palladian, but the proportions of the main range suggest an earlier date. The house was built by Moses Gould, who bought the Downes estate in 1692; considerable alterations were made by the Buller family, who inherited the house through the marriage of James Buller to Moses Gould’s granddaughter Elizabeth. The entrance is now on the west, through an Edwardian Baroque porch with Ionic pilasters created by W.C.Marshall in 1909-10 as part of a toning-down of obtrusive additions of 1866-74. The late Victorian character of the wing behind is still just recognizable. In 1796 Revd John Swete visited Downes and wrote that ‘the scenery is of a pleasing nature, including the gradually declining hill, on the side of which the house is placed, and a winding valley entered by the Creedy, which descends thro’ an expanse of the most fertile pastures . . . the whole of this however, would in itself have been tame and naked as a landscape; but the contrast which it received, and the relief given to it by the fine foreground of oaks added beauties to the prospect below, which though not its own, served to render those which it had more pleasing, and to give them a zest which they seemed to stand in need of.’ In the 1840s Downes was described as being ‘pleasantly situated on a gentle ascent above the vale of the Creedy. The views from the house are much diversified & agreeable. The grounds have been of late years much improved by the present possessor’ while the final entry in Stockdale was that it was ‘a spacious mansion built on rising ground near the river Creedy & has, with the surrounding plantations, a pleasing appearance’. White (1850) merely noted it was a ‘pleasant seat’. The single storey pavilions on either side of the house were perhaps an addition of the 1730s. They are shown as existing on an estate map of 1784. The stone facing to the south front and the curved links with corridors behind were added in 1794 by Thomas Jones of Exeter. Ambitious plans for rebuilding and remodelling in the 1820s-30s came to nothing. Plans for landscaping the grounds were made in 1831,with a formal terrace and flower beds to the south, and a vista of cedars and shrubs to the east. The formal terrace remains, as does the woodland.
House listed Grade II*
Cherry & Pevsner: The Buildings of England – Devon, 1989: 339
T Gray: The Garden History of Devon, 1995: 88-90
T Gray: Devon Country Houses and Gardens Engraved Vol I, 2001: 100-1