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History of A la Ronde

A child's painting of A la Ronde with two people in 19th century dress in the foreground
A 19th centry child's painting of A la Ronde | © National Trust Images/Derrick E. Witty

Delve into the history of this characterful 16-sided house to discover how two fiercely independent cousins, Jane and Mary Parminter, created a quirky home and filled it with mementos from their world travels.

Women explorers

In 1784 Jane Parminter, the daughter of a wealthy Devon wine merchant, set off on a grand tour of Europe accompanied by her sister Elizabeth, 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.

A 16-sided spectacle

Inspired by their travels, and in particular by the sixth-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 unusual inheritance

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.

A very special will

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.

The shell collection at A la Ronde with lots of brown and cream shells of different sizes

A la Ronde's collections

Explore the objects and works of art we care for at A la Ronde on the National Trust Collections website.

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The circular exterior of A la Ronde with diamond shaped windows and a green door

Things to see and do at A la Ronde house 

Discover an enchanting 16-sided house filled with the treasures from two women’s travels around Europe, where every nook and cranny is crammed with curiosities.

A 19th century earthenware jug with an inscription (not legible) and light yellow flower design

Fremington pottery at A la Ronde 

Amongst the jumble of curios from travels abroad is something that was made a little closer to home – a specially commissioned Fremington jug. Find out more about its history.

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Volunteering at A la Ronde 

Find out more about the volunteering opportunities at A la Ronde and how you can help care for this special place. We are always on the lookout for new additions to our team.

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Learn about people from the past, discover remarkable works of art and brush up on your knowledge of architecture and gardens.

The interior of the library at A la Ronde with bookshelves to the right and many paintings on the green wall

A la Ronde's collections 

Explore the objects and works of art we care for at A la Ronde on the National Trust Collections website.

1921 Census records for England on a wooden table with some conservation tools including a magnifying glass

Discover a community at A la Ronde with Findmypast 

In collaboration with family history website Findmypast, we've been exploring the 1921 Census of England and Wales. It's helped us get closer to the lives of people at A la Ronde, where we've researched the colourful life of the Reverend Reichel, the only male owner of this property. Discover more about these stories at A la Ronde, as well as research from nine other places in our care. By clicking this link, you’ll access a third-party website. Please see their privacy policy for how they handle your personal data.