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“Visit while you can! National Trust leaving soon” 5 of 5 stars
Review of High Cross House - CLOSED

High Cross House
Dartington Hall Estate, Dartington, Totnes TQ9 6ED, England
01803 842382
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Type: Architectural Buildings, Landmarks
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Owner description: Built for William Curry, headmaster of Dartington Hall School, this Modernist gem was commissioned by Leonard Elmhirst and designed by William Lescaze in 1932. The house still evokes the ‘serenity, clarity and a kind of openness’ described by Curry. High Cross is one of Britain’s most celebrated Modern residences, and we are presenting it to the public under our management, working in partnership with the owners of High Cross House, the Dartington Hall Trust until 29 December 2013 when we will be closing the doors of High Cross House to visitors and subsequently ending the lease with the Dartington Hall Trust.In March 2012, we agreed to manage High Cross House as a Trust property on a ten year lease; this included a two-year ‘break-clause’. We took on the house with its indigenous furniture only; the living and dining rooms shown in their original state but the rest of the house as an exhibition area for local artists.Despite hugely raising the profile of High Cross House, visitor figures continue to be below target and therefore are not generating enough income to make it financially sustainable. Experience has shown us that ‘new’ properties normally have high visitor numbers in their opening year due to significant levels of publicity and Member curiosity and drop significantly in subsequent years.Gary Calland, General Manager for the National Trust English Riviera properties said: ‘Although of course we are disappointed at having to take this decision, over 21,000 people came and visited High Cross House in 2012, that’s something we should be proud of. As a charity we must ensure that we do all we can to protect the many properties, coast and countryside we already own and care for’.Vaughan Lindsay Chief Executive of The Dartington Hall Trust said: ’As a Trust we are keen to give the public access to our Estate. Our gardens, in particular, attract many people to explore and experience their beauty. And we wanted to see if opening up High Cross House in partnership with the National Trust could also be successful. Unfortunately, the house has not attracted as many people as had been hoped for and the National Trust have decided they don’t want to continue with the arrangement. We will now be looking at alternative ways we can share this remarkable modernist building.
Exeter, United Kingdom
Top Contributor
166 reviews 166 reviews
41 attraction reviews
Reviews in 98 cities Reviews in 98 cities
98 helpful votes 98 helpful votes
“Visit while you can! National Trust leaving soon”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 20, 2013

I found this a fascinating visit. The house - as may be seen - is modernist and was taken over by National Trust on a ten year lease. The lease has a two year break clause and as the number of visitors was disappointing they plan to get out at end of 2103. The house was originally built for a family and would have had many interesting period features. Sadly over the years these have disappeared. The structure and explanations are interesting and some areas are used as studios by artists who were friendly and educational. There is a small cafe on site with helpful staff. We are NT members so did not have to pay but there is otherwise a charge. There is an audio "reminiscence" system in the rooms which might be useful but I found a bit of a nuisance!

It is difficult to predict what will happen - long-term - to this property. Because of the design [flat roofs, Crittall windows and so on repairs and maintenance would appear costly.

Visited October 2013
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27 reviews from our community

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  • English first
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English first
Tiverton
Contributor
12 reviews 12 reviews
7 attraction reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
“Stunning architecture and gallery displays + helpful stewards”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 1, 2013

On the beautiful Dartington Hall Estate this unique “International Modernist House”, now used as a gallery, is just to the north-east of Dartington Hall School and well worth the effort to locate it. High Cross House reopened to the public under a partnership between the National Trust and The Dartington Hall Trust and we were able to visit within weeks of its opening. It is amazing in its simplicity both outside and in. Brutal straight edges of wall rendered in white on the outside and whitewashed walls indoors used as a blank canvas by designers wanting gallery space. A tower gives access to a flat roof terrace. This stunning modernist house is worth spending hours to admire and is stewarded (if that is the right word !) by knowledgeable and friendly National Trust staff that seem keen to involve visitors in living the minimalist and modernist experience. They encourage comments and involvement by younger visitors in the model making area of the former garage downstairs. My wife loved the house and would happily have moved in! In the main living room there is a splendid Steinway grand piano which visitors are encouraged to play – this was the piano used by Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst who commissioned the building of the house in 1932. I greatly enjoyed two sessions on this piano – but musical visitors may like to know that if they wish to enjoy the full experience then it is best to arrive for a late afternoon visit as the sun moves away from the living room windows and the stewards are then able to lift the entire piano lid. Presently the house is going through an initial period of use as a “blank canvas” with a programme of exhibitions and installations by both recognised and emerging designers and artists. Some of these I found quite challenging to my uneducated art tastes! However I enjoyed my memorable visit and will definitely return bringing my granddaughters next time!

Visited November 2012
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Senior Contributor
43 reviews 43 reviews
8 attraction reviews
Reviews in 17 cities Reviews in 17 cities
18 helpful votes 18 helpful votes
“If you're thinking of paying to see this don't waste your money !”
1 of 5 stars Reviewed September 25, 2013 via mobile

My partner and I have been so looking forward to visiting this property and have never been so disappointed. The signage is hopeless and we ended up not where we should have been!. After walking a short distance to the house itself we were amazed at how badly run down it looked from the outside with peeling paint etc. The staff inside were its saving grace and really helpful and friendly however the rooms were soul less. The art was ok not to my taste but ok but the rooms were so empty that the house felt cold and uninviting. The few pieces of furniture that were there were lovely but it would have been wonderful to have at least the kitchen as it was or some room that provided an insight into the house.

Visited September 2013
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Briport
Top Contributor
58 reviews 58 reviews
30 attraction reviews
Reviews in 30 cities Reviews in 30 cities
12 helpful votes 12 helpful votes
“Bauhaus meets Frank Lloyd Wright”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed August 23, 2013

The house was completed in 1932 to the requiremets of the then headmaster of Dartington Hall School. It had been designed in the "modern" style, but unfortunately, the designer did most of the work in California, so the house ended up meeting Californian requirements, rather than UK ones. By this I mean that the flat roofs were exactly that - flat - rather than having a slight rake on them and in the intervening years the damage caused by the rain settling there, rather than running off, has created problems that both the Dartington Estate and the NT should have addressed a long time ago. There is no evidence of work being done, or even work in the pipeline so unless something is done soon, costs are going to escalate dramaically. They are very happy to take your money at the door, but where is it going?
In no way are these comments meant to disuade you from visiting, as inside the house is a gem. Large open and airy rooms with plenty of windows show how houses should be designed, rather than the prosaic styles we still have to put up with these days.
Visit while you can, as if the NT decide not to renew their lease, the opportunity to see a classis design will have passed, as I doubt that the Dartington Estate will put any monety into te house ad it will eventually succumb to nature and crumble into a ruin.

Visited August 2013
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Bath, United Kingdom
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“High Cross House Dartington Devon”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 22, 2013

This is part of the Dartington Hall estate and is currently being supported by the National Trust, which is how I found out about it. It's a beautiful building designed by William Lescaze in 1932 (a modernist building) The house now has local artists working in small studios and their work is displayed as well as the attraction of the house. I read on the internet yesterday that the NT is severing it's connection at the end of the year. The building itself is a little 'jaded' but one can still imagine how it may have been as a home. Basically, I think it needs money spending on it to restore it to it's former glory, but well worth a visit.

I walked up the hill to the White Hart at Dartington Hall for a very good lunch and walk around the grounds so all in all I felt it was an enjoyable day.

Visited August 2013
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