Torre Abbey is currently closed. We look forward to welcoming you back in the near future.

Torre Abbey monastic ruins consultation - updated 21 April

Consultation update - Tuesday 21 April 2020

Due to COVID-19 (Coronavirus), guidance has been received from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) stating that all new applications are paused until at least October 2020. This means Torbay Council will not be able to submit its application for Torre Abbey in May, as intended. In light of this Torbay Council have taken the decision to pause the consultation towards the application, to ensure we can properly consult with the community on this important issue. 

Councillor Mike Morey, Cabinet Member for Infrastructure and Culture, Torbay Council, said "Although we have had to pause on the consultation aspect, the team at Torre Abbey are still progressing with the business, activity and cost plans to support the applications. Once we are able to re-open the consultation process we will let the community know. The land surrounding Torre Abbey is a community asset, so it is really important the community can express their views as to the future use of the land. A later submission date, expected to be in the autumn of 2020 means if we were successful with our funding application restoration works would not commence until at least October 2022". 

In like with UK government guidance Torre Abbey is closed to the public, but the tea are still working on planning future exhibitions, events and activities and accepting private hire bookings from this autumn up until October 2022 including wedding bookings. The team can be contacted on 01803 293593 or via torre.abbey@torbay.gov.uk 

Update issued on 17 March 2020

We would like to hear your views about restoring the sea facing land at Torre Abbey, which could include making a feature of the monastic ruins buried underneath the pitch and putt site. This could also create an opportunity for the land to be used for community events and leisure activities.

Torre Abbey, including its surrounding landscape, is a Scheduled Ancient Monument which includes two Grade I and four Grade II listed buildings.

An image showing the monastic ruins which are currently buried beneath the area in front of Torre Abbey. Click for a larger version.The image (click to see a larger version) shows the monastic ruins which are currently buried beneath the area in front of Torre Abbey.

We are the custodian for Torre Abbey and the buildings and surrounding land are a community asset. It is really important to us that you have a say in deciding how this community asset is used in the future. We would like this survey to be completed by as many people as possible, so please share your thoughts with us and let others know about this survey.

The survey is open until Friday 17 April 2020.

Complete the questionnaire

FAQs

Why is this consultation taking place?

We are currently in the process of applying for a National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) Grant to complete Phase III of restoration work, to ensure Torre Abbey has a sustainable future. As part of this grant application, we are looking at options for the future of the (sea facing) land in front of Torre Abbey and we would like to obtain your views.

We are the custodian for the accredited museum Torre Abbey, the listed buildings and surrounding land. The whole site 17.8 acre site is a designated Scheduled Ancient Monument and is a valuable community asset.

Why is Torre Abbey so important?

The land under consideration is a valuable Ancient Scheduled Monument. It has the same level of importance as Stonehenge and is part of the best preserved medieval monastic ruins in the south-west. It covers the space surrounding Torre Abbey down to the sea.

Over the years the site has been extensively altered, with some unsympathetic activities and land use having taken place; despite this, the area is still of huge importance from a historical and archaeological viewpoint. The whole 17.8 acre site complements the great history of the visible ancient buildings of Torre Abbey.

Constructed in 1196 as a monastery for Premonstratensian canons, Torre Abbey grew to be the richest Abbey of this order in England. After it was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539, the church was demolished and the west and south ranges were adapted for use as a country house.

From 1662 to 1930 Torre Abbey was home to the Cary family. Although the Cary family had previously lived in the Abbey in some style, from 1840 their finances started to deteriorate and they were no longer able to keep the Abbey in good repair. In 1930, the family sold the 17.8 acre site to the local Council, who turned it into an art gallery, and opened it up to visitors.

The Spanish Barn, adjacent to the house, is so named because it played an important role in housing 397 prisoners from the Spanish Armada. Today the Barn is currently used for functions, such as weddings, and exhibitions.

Torre Abbey’s collection includes items that reflect the history of the house and its archaeology. This includes an important art collection which is the third largest in Devon.

What is under the land?

Nationally important medieval monastic ruins are buried under the land in front of Torre Abbey.

As part of the National Lottery Fund Grant application project (Phase III) it is proposed that some of these archaeological ruins will be uncovered.

Why are the medieval monastic ruins so important?

The land under consideration is a valuable Ancient Scheduled Monument. It has the same level of importance as Stonehenge, and is part of the best preserved medieval monastic ruins in the south-west. It covers the space surrounding Torre Abbey down to the sea.

Over the years the site has been extensively altered, with some unsympathetic activities and land use having taken place; despite this, the area is still of huge importance from a historical and archaeological viewpoint. The whole 17.8 acre site complements the great history of the visible ancient buildings of Torre Abbey.

Constructed in 1196 as a monastery for Premonstratensian canons, it grew to be the richest Abbey of this order in England. After it was dissolved in 1539, the church was demolished and the west and south ranges were adapted for use as a country house.

Will there still be access for activities such as dog-walking, picnics, public recreation, etc.?

Yes. The intention of the project is to open up more green space for free public access, and for a wider range of community activities than is presently available. The project will focus on reclaiming an area of land for use by the community and visitors.

What kind of events are planned for this area?

It is envisaged that the events will be similar to the scale of events at Powderham Castle. Any events that take place on the land would need to be sympathetic to the location and wider site. Existing events currently held on Torre Abbey Meadows should not be affected.

Will the proposals affect events that take place on Torre Abbey Meadows?

No. Events that are held on Torre Abbey Meadows should not be affected by the proposals.

Will businesses on the site be affected?

The Pitch and Putt course will need to be removed or re-located in order to open up access to the whole site. Alternative sites for the Pitch and Putt course could be considered.

The bowling green and other local businesses will not need to be moved.

Will there be any specific activities for children and families?

Yes. An element of the proposed project is the creation of an open play area which will be in keeping and sympathetic to the site. All parts of the community, including families are considered when programming events.

Will there be a charge for any activities?

For the majority of the year the site will be open access and free of charge. It is envisaged that there will also be a number of ticketed events throughout the year. Where an entry fee is charged, these will be advertised to the public accordingly. These events will generate income to help the cost of maintaining the site.

How will the ecological value be enhanced?

As part of the project we plan to look for ways to add some suitable re-wilding areas (where nature is allowed to flourish) and work to increase the land’s environmental value. The site will become one of the largest open green spaces in central Torquay.

Will there be any archaeological investigations?

Yes. As part of the project, there will be further investigations into the archaeology, and a trench will be uncovered and interpreted.

Why are you considering these changes now and why are my views important?

We are currently in the process of applying for a National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) grant to complete Phase III of restoration work, to ensure Torre Abbey has a sustainable future. As part of this grant application, we are looking at options for the future of the land in front of Torre Abbey and we would like to obtain your views.

We are the custodian for the accredited museum Torre Abbey, the listed buildings and surrounding land. The whole site 17.8 acre site is a designated Scheduled Ancient Monument and is a valuable community asset.

How will the project be funded?

The vast majority of the project will be covered by a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF). Other funding will be provided by us and other sources.

How will future maintenance of the land be funded?

After the project is complete, for the majority of the year the site will be open access and free of charge however it is envisioned that some ticketed events held on the land will raise income to cover maintenance costs.

What is National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF)?

The National Lottery Heritage Fund is the largest dedicated funder of heritage in the UK.

It believes that understanding, valuing and sharing our heritage brings people together, inspires pride in communities and boosts investment in local economies.

  • It distributes National Lottery grants from £3,000 to £5million (and over), funding projects that sustain and transform the UK's heritage
  • It provides leadership and support across the heritage sector, and advocate for the value of heritage
  • Funds are raised by the sale of National Lottery tickets.

NLHF has previously funded two phases of work at Torre Abbey.

How will consultation responses be used?

Consultation responses will be used to help us make informed decisions on future use of the land. Postcode and age data will be used to monitor the spread of responses and will not be used in any other way or retained.

When we will find out if the funding bid has been successful?

The first stage of the application, an expression of interest, has already been successfully completed. This current application is a round one submission, results from which will be received in approximately six months from submission.

If successful at round one, a round two application will be submitted.

How long would it take to complete any re-landscaping?

If successful, work is likely to start in 2021/22 and may take up to 18 months to complete. Some access restrictions during work may apply to ensure the safety of the contractors and visitors to the site. Any restrictions will be well advertised in advance and inconvenience kept to a minimum where possible.

Will access to the site be restricted during any re-landscaping work?

Some access restrictions during work may apply to ensure the safety of the contractors and visitors to the site. Any restrictions will be well advertised in advance and inconvenience kept to a minimum where possible.

What happens if the consultation feedback isn’t in favour of the proposals?

The views of the consultation results will be considered alongside the views of various experts in the field and not looked at in isolation, however, the views of the community are very important to us as part of the decision making process.

What work will take place as part of the Phase III project?

There have been two major phases of restoration and conservation work carried out at Torre Abbey between 2004 and 2013. Torre Abbey is currently submitting an NLHF grant for Phase III of the work to ensure the buildings are no longer at risk and the site has a sustainable future.

This project will:

  • Complete restoration works to the Gatehouse, Spanish barn and the two wings of the south facing façade
  • Improvements to the café facilities to support commercial sustainability
  • Improvements to the Spanish Barn to increase year-round access and grow commercial opportunities
  • Landscaping of the whole 17.8 acre site including the ruins, gardens, woodland walk and potential re-landscaping of the sea facing land in front of Torre Abbey
  • Improve access to the wider 17.8 acre Torre Abbey site, and enable access to better green spaces for the wider community
  • Potential uncovering of the archaeological ruins and interpretation of these.