Charlie Courtenay, the Earl of Devon and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mark Goodwin

New partnership will help experts discover more about the history of Devon’s most illustrious family

A new partnership between the University of Exeter and Powderham Castle will help experts to continue to discover more about Devon’s most illustrious family.

Historians Professor James Clark and Professor Henry French are exploring the extraordinary archives at the ancestral home of the Earl of Devon to discover more about the long history of the Courtenay family, the landmark castle and Devon and the West Country region as a whole. The work has led to new exhibitions, reinterpretation of the collections at Powderham, a new understanding of our most significant medieval kings, and has informed local planning policy.

Now the University of Exeter and Powderham Castle have signed a Memorandum of Understanding, a formal agreement which means the work will continue.

The ongoing research also focuses on the impact the Courtenay family on Devon, the South West and our nation’s history.

Professor Clark said: “As our collaborative research with the Earl of Devon continues we are discovering how much of an impact the Courtenay family had on the region. By telling their story we can tell the story of Devon. This story isn’t just about Powderham, there are links to many other places.

“Charlie, the Earl of Devon, wants to share the story of his family and Powderham Castle in different ways and we are proud to help him.”

The collaboration began when the Earl of Devon approached Professor Clark to advise on medieval documents he discovered at the castle. Together with Professor French they have been analysing the earliest Courtenay archives, with documents digitised to help Powderham visitors discover more about the family’s history.

The research into the Courtenay estate, and towns and villages connected to it over the centuries, is also helping to inform local planning decisions, with the Local Authority drawing on their insights to revise local Parish Plans and Conservation Areas.

Professor Clark and Professor Henry French have presented their findings at public events in communities close to the Powderham estate, and are hoping that residents will help them by examining their gardens for any archaeological finds which appear.

Next year celebrates the 500th anniversary of the Field of the Cloth of Gold, a major diplomatic meeting hosted by Henry VIII, the architect of which was his first cousin Henry Courtenay, the Marquis of Exeter. University of Exeter research is likely to inform commemoration events held at Powderham.

Professor Mark Goodwin, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, said: “We are proud to have built a relationship with the Earl of Devon in the last few years. We’ve seen new research, student placement opportunities and the reinterpretation of parts of the castle and its collections. Using Powderham archive and source material we’ve supported and influenced Teignbridge District Council in strategic planning and development matters and organised community engagement events for local residents to help them understand more about the villages and geographical area in which they live.”

Charlie Courtenay, the Earl of Devon, commented: “All of us at Powderham are thrilled to have confirmed our strong relationship with the students and faculty of Exeter University.  Their expertise and enthusiasm has uncovered so much, and has helped us to throw fresh light on some remarkable local, regional and national history. We look forward to a long and fruitful partnership, and to further discoveries.”

Date: 26 November 2019

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