Penrose Allotments, Barnstaple

All on Devon Gazetteer
  • C17
Local Authority:
North Devon
OS Grid Ref:

Penrose Allotments, adjacent to Penrose Almshouses, are contemporary with the main building and have been in continuous horticultural use since 1627. The gardens were not laid out for ornament but for productive purposes for the occupants of the Almshouses. 

Penrose Almshouses are a remarkably attractive and ambitious early seventeenth century complex, considered to be the finest of a notable group of almshouses in Barnstaple. There were originally 20 dwellings. Each one housed 2 people of the same sex. The building was  completed in 1627, three years after the death of the founder, John Penrose. Above the doorway a plaque records 'this howse was founded by Mr John Penrose, marchant, sometime maior of this towne. Ano Do 1627', John Penrose lived from 1575-1624 and was a dealer in woollen goods and mayor of Barnstaple.

The Almshouses were built in Litchdon Street, which was then the main road south out of Barnstaple. Behind the imposing frontage is an attractively spacious courtyard with a seventeenth century pump in the centre, surrounded by dwellings.

At the  rear of Penrose Almshouses is a a large garden enclosed by high cob walls with a slate coping. The gardens within the historic walls have been gardened since the foundation of the Almshouses and it is believed that the layout of the gardens has changed very little in almost four centuries. The majority of the plots are on their original footprint, and are of the same size and shape. The access to the garden from the almshouse court is via a passageway, suggesting that the garden is contemporary with the almshouses.  The philosophy of the original benefactor was to create fair, orderly living for poor people with each of the twenty dwellings having an allotment of the same size. 





Listed Buildings

Penrose Almshouses, are included in the List of buildings of special architectural or historic interest at grade I and are of exceptional interest.

 The Pump in the courtyard at Penrose Almshouses are listed grade II and are of special interest. 

The Garden walls to the allotment at the rear of Penrose Almshouses are listed grade II and are of special interest.