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Last Updated: Friday, 11 May 2007, 06:08 GMT 07:08 UK
Estate shows its sense of history
By Andrew Segal
BBC News South West

Dartington Hall through ruin
The Dartington Trust says it invites people from around the world

The move of the Dartington College of Arts from south Devon to Cornwall will mark the end of a very important chapter of history for the Dartington estate.

While Dartington's famous hall was built in 1388, the area around the estate is believed to have been continuously occupied for more than 1,000 years, the Dartington Hall Trust says.

Dartington itself was first mentioned in a Royal Charter dating back to 833 AD, and has maintained a noticeable presence in south Devon history since that time.

The estate has seen its manor and its property become the Crown's and then go into private hands again several times.

During its times as royal property it was even given by Henry VIII to two of his wives: his second, Catherine Howard, and his final wife who survived him, Catherine Parr.

Hard times

Its most recent purchase was in 1925, when Dorothy and Leonard Elmhurst took on the then run-down buildings and estate as part of a rural regeneration project they masterminded to halt the decline of the area after it had fallen on hard times.

The estates previous owners, the Champerbowes, had owned the estate for 300 years, but a depression of the agricultural industry in the 19th Century hit the family badly.

Several parts of the estate were sold off, before the Champerbowes eventually sold the remaining 800 acres to the Elmhursts.

Dartington Hall
The estate was brought back up to 1,000 acres
The estate is now managed by the Dartington Hall Trust and in the intervening years it has been expanded to about 1,000 acres.

The trust says that throughout its modern history Dartington "has invited creative people from around the world to its rural estate, encouraging them to conceive, develop and test promising ideas in a wide variety of fields".

The so-called "Dartington Experiment", as the trust describes it, has seen a number ventures over the years as part of its vision of encouraging people in many fields, particularly the arts, ecology, social justice and enterprise.

Important chapter

The most famous is arguably the arts college, which began in 1961.

Since opening, it has built-up a worldwide reputation for being able to encourage and inspire its students partly through their picturesque surroundings, something many students say a move may endanger.

College bosses said that the institution would "indeed maintain an active, long-term association with its place of origin".

The college may be able to maintain its kudos despite the move, and Dartington Hall itself will do its best to maintain its reputation as an experimental environment working for the good of the area and beyond.

However, it may see itself falling into more hard times - maybe not to the degree experienced by former owners the Champerbowes - but it certainly has to look at how to deal with any problems caused by one of its main economic and social assets leaving.

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