About A La Ronde
A la Ronde is a unique 16-sided historic house built in the 18th century. It was once the home of the colourful and well-travelled Parminter cousins, and today provides a charming visit amongst Exmouth’s stunning countryside.
A la Ronde history
The eccentric house of A la Ronde was built in 1796 for Jane and Mary Parminter, a pair of cousins looking to construct their own rural retreat following years of travelling around Europe. Alongside Jane’s sister Elizabeth and their friend from London Miss Colville, the women explored France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and possibly Spain and Portugal before returning to England to design their home.
Inspired by the 6th-century Byzantine Basilica of San Vitale they saw in Ravenna, Italy, a quirky geometrical building was constructed complete with 16 sides! They filled the house with their vast collection of souvenirs and over the years decorated it with oddities of their own making, such as a ‘shell gallery’, feather frieze and mosaic work.
When Jane and Mary died in 1811 and 1849 respectively, they pair were buried in the nearby Point in View chapel, specially built for them on land adjoining a la Ronde. In Mary’s extraordinarily long will, she interestingly specified that A la Ronde was to remain intact from the time of their residence, and should only be inherited by their ‘unmarried kinswomen’.
A la Ronde today
Today A la Ronde is managed by the National Trust and is a popular tourist attraction for those looking to explore some of Britain’s more unknown history. Alongside its intriguing exterior, visitors can inside admire the unusual ‘shell gallery’, a seaside-themed enclosure covered in as many as 25,000 shells arranged in intricate patterns by the cousins.
Their ‘cabinet of curiosities’ also features a host of interesting objects from shells to votive statues, and their large collection of souvenirs can of course be found throughout. Wonderful views across the Exe estuary to the east Devon coastline provide a pleasant backdrop to visits of A la Ronde, with tranquil gardens and a cafe also available to explore.
Getting to A la Ronde
A la Ronde is located 2 miles north of Exmouth in Devon off the A376, and there is free parking at the site. A number of bus services stop at the Courtlands Cross stop a 5-minute walk away, while the nearest train stations are Lympstone Village and Exmouth, both around a 30-minute walk.