Sadly, many people were unaware of this Minehead Country House tucked away from sight in 3.6 acres of grounds, until they read about the recent fire that took place there. At the turn of the 19C Periton was still a small village surrounded by open fields. By 1904 a redbrick villa had appeared amidst the fields. In 1913 it was inherited by Mr C.S.Orwin, an authority on agricultural economics and Director of the Institute for Research into Agricultural Economics at Oxford (1913- 1946). He wanted a family seaside house so decided to enlarge the existing villa. He chose the acclaimed architect Percy Morley Horder who had designed the Institute building where Orwin worked. It is a significant example of Horder’s Arts and Crafts interpretation of a Tudor Building with stables and coach house. He even drew up a complete plan for the garden.
Work on the house started during WW1 and was not completed until 1923. The west front of this two storey building has an imposing Tudor style appearance. It has a central entrance with projecting wings on either side opening on to a cobbled courtyard laid in a geometric design. The entrance is in a projecting porch with a gable surmounted by a ball finial. The oak front door has a Tudor arched head and long iron strap hinges, a decorative wrought iron latch and is studded with iron nails.
The east front ( photo) which opens on to a terrace is more vernacular in style. The chimney stacks are very tall from this side of the roofs. The southern wall still has a mounting block set against it. Both Mrs Orwin and her daughter enjoyed riding. Inside, original fireplaces, slate floors and window sills, Tudor roses , library panelling and bookcases, and oak floors remain.
The design was very much influenced by the availability of local materials . Orwin did not like the redbrick of the existing villa and although the local red stone would be much preferable, also readily accessible and reasonable in price, he wanted something else. On a visit to Cleeve Abbey he saw what he wanted – a clean grey stone. Nearby the slate quarry at Treborough could supply any amount of varied grey slates not only for the roof but also very thick slate for terrace walls and paved walkways.
Even the undersides of the eaves were formed with slates let into the walls.
As Cleeve stone was used for the walls Orwin felt that stone windows and mullions would enhance it, so Doulting stone from Norton -sub- Hamdon was used, together with iron casements. His one extravagance was his use of local oak for the doors and sitting room floors. The Hall floor was Treborough slate.
Lt Colonel William Hartley Maud and his wife Isabella were living in Periton Mead by 1927 and became local benefactors. Isabella died in 1935 and William in 1948 .Both are buried in Minehead cemetery. It then became an open air boarding school ; later an independent Special Needs establishment until closure.
In 2015 the house was granted Grade II listed status along with garden features such as walls, piers, cobbled courtyard, raised terrace and sunken garden. The house has now been granted listed building consent for 14 apartments.
Compiled by Sally Bainbridge on behalf of Minehead Conservation Society.
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