Exactly 45 years ago, in 1967, Dunsland House, near Holsworthy, was badly damaged by fire and what remained was demolished. Its loss is regarded as Devon’s most tragic architectural disaster since the Exeter blitz. The fire at Sydenham House is, arguably, even more catastrophic. It is one of only 50 country houses listed Grade I in the county but, unlike Dunsland which was owned by the National Trust, it is a family home.
Half of the 50 Grade I houses have been converted to institutional use or multi-occupancy. Sydenham has not always been in immaculate condition. It was described in 1919 as “a vision of ancient corrosion” but its importance was recognised and it was restored in the 1930s.
I hope Mr & Mrs Hart will have the determination to restore the house once again.
Hugh Meller, Crediton