East Devon historic home blaze: Police arrest two teenagers and Poltimore House launches Crowdfunding campaign to begin repairs

Police investigating a suspected arson attack in East Devon have arrested two teenage boys in connection to an overnight blaze that destroyed an historic home.

Devon and Cornwall Police said a 14-year-old boy and a 16-year-old boy had been arrested in connection to a fire at Poltimore House, in East Devon. They have been released on bail until July 4, 2024, while investigations continue.

Poltimore House has now launched a £100,000 Crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to begin repairing the extensive destruction caused by the blaze.

Funds have already started pouring in from ‘heartbroken’ well-wishers keen to support the charity and house repairs.

Heather Rhodes, who runs the farm shop at Poltimore House Branches café, and donated to the online appeal, said: “Poltimore house is for the community. The volunteers work hard to provide a place for people to visit and enjoy.

“There is a huge amount of work to do to make the house safe and clear up the mess. Every penny will be needed for this massive project.”


The interior before the blaze, with its ornate plasterwork. Photo: with permission/Paula Fernley.


A suspected arson attack has destroyed Poltimore House.
Photo: Ottery Fire Station.

Police thanked the public who got in touch through an earlier information appeal, and urged anyone with fresh help about the fire to get in touch.

The force said the cause of the blaze was being treated as suspicious, and police and the fire service were still present at the scene.

A Devon and Cornwall Police spokesperson said: “Police have arrested two people in connection to a fire at Poltimore House in Exeter.

“Officers were notified of the fire overnight between Monday 8 and Tuesday 9 April and later attended to assist the fire service.

“The cause of the fire was deemed to be suspicious, and an emergency service presence has remained at the scene.

“On Wednesday 10 April, two teenage boys, aged 14 and 16, were arrested on suspicion of arson. They have been released on police bail until 4 July 2024 while enquiries are ongoing.”

The spokesperson added: “We would like to thank the public for their assistance so far in this matter.”

East Devon

All that remains of the house is the charred shell.
Photo: East Devon News.

Poltimore House volunteers and trustees said they were ‘absolutely devastated’ by the level of damage caused to the historic home, on the outskirts of Exeter.

Dr Peter Totterdill, Poltimore House Trust chair went immediately to the site when he got the call to say the property was alight, hoping on the drive down the fire would be ‘fairly small’.

He said: “This amazing place has been loved by so many people over the years, and our heart goes out to all the many volunteers who have worked so hard to protect and restore Poltimore House.

“Everyone at Poltimore House Trust is shocked at the scale of the devastation.

“We know that many people love Poltimore House and grounds and are distraught by what has happened and we are all feeling a deep sense of loss.

“However, we are determined to save what we can of this important part of Devon’s heritage, and to hold on to our vision of Poltimore House and grounds as a place for everyone.

“More than ever, we need everyone’s help to recover from this disaster and to move forward with optimism.”


Peter Totterdill outside the front entrance of the house.
Photo: East Devon News.


Photo: with permission/Alison Bolt.


The view inside from the front porch and hall, which had been refurbished with £50,000 grant money.
Photo: East Devon News.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) said its staff and Councillors were ‘deeply saddened’ to learn of the blaze, and promised to support Poltimore House ‘in every way’ to help restore the ‘significant and historical landmark’.

An EDDC spokesperson said: “As steadfast supporters of this important East Devon site and in recognition of the dedication and tireless efforts of all the volunteers involved, we extend our heartfelt sympathies to the devoted team at Poltimore House.

“EDDC have a long and committed relationship with the trustees and volunteers at Poltimore House.

“Recently, Poltimore House Trust received Innovation and Resilience Funding to establish a café and visitor attraction to generate vital funds for the restoration of the House.

“EDDC will continue to support the team in every way we can to work towards the continued restoration of this significant and historical landmark.”

If you have information about the fire, and have not yet spoken to the police, call 101, or report it online, quoting occurrence number 50240083403.

  • To donate to the Poltimore House Trust Crowdfunding campaign, see here.

PHOTOS: Blaze rips through a historic home in East Devon after a suspected arson attack


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