A 16-sided spectacle

An early impression of A la Ronde

An early impression of A la Ronde

In 1784 Jane Parminter, daughter of a wealthy Devon wine merchant, set off on a grand tour of Europe accompanied by her invalid sister Elizabeth, an orphaned cousin, Mary, and a London friend, Miss Colville. Over several years these intrepid women explored France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and possibly Spain and Portugal, before returning to England. Elizabeth died soon afterwards.

Inspired by their travels, and in particular by the 6th-century Byzantine basilica of San Vitale at Ravenna, Jane and Mary made plans to build themselves a rural retreat, near fashionable Exmouth, which would remind them of their tour and provide a home for their many souvenirs.

An instinct to collect

Bought in Italy, this portrait is believed to have inspired the Parminters

Jane and Mary Parminter collected numerous mementoes on their travels, many of which, including the intricately worked shell picture above, can be seen at A la Ronde.

An unusual inheritance

Mary Parminter, one of the founders of A la Ronde

Mary Parminter, one of the founders of A la Ronde

In the years spent together at A la Ronde Jane and Mary indulged their passion for design, creating the shell gallery and feather frieze, along with mosaic work, papercuts and other crafted items. Jane Parminter died in 1811 and was buried in the tiny chapel of Point in View which the cousins had built on land adjoining A la Ronde. Mary continued to live at A la Ronde until her death in 1849 when she too was buried at Point in View.

Mary left a will of extraordinary length, but with two principal aims: to preserve A la Ronde and its contents intact, and to allow only unmarried kinswomen to inherit.

One male owner

A la Rondes Oswald Reichel aged two

The Rev. Oswald Reichel, an academic and former parish priest, has been the only male owner of A la Ronde in 200 years. During his ownership (1880-1923) he carried out much modernising of A la Ronde.

A twist of fate

A la Ronde in summer

After Reichel's death his widow attempted to sell A la Ronde for development potential. By chance the advert was spotted by Margaret Tudor, daughter of earlier owner Stella, who secured it at auction.

Opening A la Ronde

Part of the remaining orchard

Margaret opened A la Ronde to the public in 1935 and it has stayed open ever since. In the 1950s the orchard was compulsorily purchased for housing and in the 1970s more land was sold to raise funds.

The National Trust

Have fun playing one of our games on the lawn at A la Ronde

Margaret died in1969, her sister Stella inheriting, followed in 1973 by their cousin Ursula Tudor-Perkins. In 1991 the house, its contents and remaining four hectares were bought by the Trust.