Skip to content

History of Overbeck’s

A view of the house behind the trees and bushes in the garden at Overbeck's, Devon
House and garden at Overbeck's | © National Trust Images / Chris Lacey

From family home to hospital, the house at Overbeck’s has a varied history as it passed through different families. Discover more about the history of this special place. Please note the house is closed to the public.


The present house, originally called ‘Sharpitor’, was built by Mr and Mrs George Medlicott Vereker. The Verekers’ enjoyment of their new home soon came to an end when Great Britain declared war on Germany on the 3 August 1914. Their second son, second lieutenant Robert Vereker, 2nd Battalion, Grenadier Guards, was killed at Mons, Belgium on 25 August 1914, just 22 days into the war, aged 21.

The convalescent story of Overbeck's

In memory of Robert, Mr and Mrs Vereker offered their new home to the Red Cross Society to be used, rent free, as a Voluntary Aid Hospital for the treatment of convalescent British and Allied Troops. Sharpitor V.A. Hospital formally opened on 23 August 1915, mostly run using volunteers and supported by a constant flow of gifts, both financial and in kind, from the local community.

Spirits were kept high with home-produced entertainment including concerts, plays, boat trips and more than a few billiard tournaments were played in what later became Overbeck’s tea-room.

By the time of its closure on the 29 January 1919, 1010 convalescents had passed through 'the old home' as it was affectionately referred to by the men, and thanks to the skill and dedication of the staff not a single death was recorded.

Becoming Overbeck's

Otto Overbeck was an accomplished inventor, linguist, and art collector. Otto’s most economically successful invention was the ‘electrical rejuvenator’ that he patented in the 1920s. He claimed it could defy the ageing process if users applied the electrodes from his device to their skin.

He produced various pamphlets and published two books on his ‘electrical theory of life’ and successfully marketed the rejuvenator worldwide. The success of the product allowed him to purchase the property in Salcombe and it is thanks to him that the National Trust has this special place for everyone to enjoy.

A history of the garden

Overbeck’s garden is a 20th century creation. Edric Hopkins, the first owner, laid out much of the garden structure. After being sold to G.M. Vereker in 1913, he and his wife, who were keen gardeners, extended the garden to its present size. In 1928 the property was sold to Otto Overbeck, who continued to add rare and tender plants to an already unusual garden.

A view of the house behind the trees and bushes in the garden at Overbeck's, Devon

Discover more at Overbeck’s

Find out when Overbeck’s is open, how to get here, the things to see and do and more.

You might also be interested in

Visitors surrounded by trees and plants in the garden at Overbeck's

Things to see and do at Overbeck’s Garden 

Explore Overbeck’s Garden, often considered to be more reminiscent of the tropics than Devon. Discover plants from around the globe, thriving in Devon’s microclimate.