Oldway Mansion, Paignton, Torbay (Grade II*-listed, 1873 G.S. Bridgman, extensively remodeled 1904-07)
Built as the private residence for American inventor Isaac Singer, Grade II*-listed Oldway Mansion in Paignton, Torbay was drastically remodelled by his son Paris in the early 20th century in the style of the Palace of Versailles. The interiors are just as opulent, with an imperial staircase leading up to a ballroom on the east side and a gallery based on the hall of mirrors at Versailles on the west.
Following many different functions during the later 20th century, it was used as council offices from 1946 until 2007 when the council announced its intention to sell the building as it had become too expensive to maintain. This proved controversial with local residents who wished it to continue being a public space. In 2012, plans for the building to be converted into a luxury hotel and sheltered retirement flats were approved by the council, but works never started. In 2016 there emerged a legal dispute between the developers and the council over the leases, which developers claimed had caused the delay on the redevelopment. This heated legal dispute ultimately brought an end to the planned development, leaving the council once again with the issue of how to proceed with the listed building.
Christopher Costelloe, Director of the Victorian Society, said: “I was lucky enough to be shown round Oldway Mansion just a few days ago; Pevsner was not wrong when he described it as ‘stunningly bombastic’! The council are so privileged to have such a building in their possession, but are also laden with a huge responsibility. Such a large, opulent building requires a lot of care and I know they are struggling. It would be wonderful if it could be kept as a public space, that way everyone could enjoy the building as the pride of Paignton. But whatever happens, such an important Grade II*-listed building must be protected and maintained.”