Audley Flete House retirement village is a beautiful Grade I listed country house, in 12 acres of Grade II listed landscaped grounds, near Modbury in Devon. Note: There is no pool or health club. Limited dining service is available.
Flete House is a Grade I listed country house at Holbeton, in the South Hams district of Devon, England. Flete was a Saxon estate, the manor being held by the Damarell family from the reign of William I until the time of Edward III.
The earliest part of the house dates from the sixteenth century, and was substantially rebuilt around 1620 for Sir Charles Hele. The Hele family held the house in both the early and the late eighteenth century.
The house was heavily remodelled in the Gothic style in 1835 by J.C. Bulteel, which obliterated the early and late eighteenth century classical work and added castellations.
In 1861 the railway came to Plymouth, enabling the Mildmays to visit Flete as guests of the Bulteels. Henry Bingham Mildmay (1828-1905) loved the place so much that he bought the whole estate extending down to the sea at Mothecombe (now the family home).
In 1878 the architect Richard Norman Shaw undertook extensive building works for Henry Bingham Mildmay, whose ancestors included Sir Walter Mildmay, Chancellor of the Exchequer to Queen Elizabeth I and founder of Emmanuel College Cambridge. Norman Shaw remodelled and extended the house, while retaining the sixteenth/seventeenth century house to the south-west.
He incorporated the Mildmay family crest in one of the windows on the main staircase. It was a house built for entertaining distinguished visitors. In 1887 Crown Princess Friedrich Wilhelm visited Flete House as well as the Kaiser's mother Princess Victoria and our own Queen Mary, who stayed in 1938. It is said that Goebbels, Hitler's Minister of Propaganda, visited Flete in the 1930s before the war (but we don't talk about that!).
Flete House was used by the City of Plymouth as a maternity hospital during and after the Second World War. At the time the Second World War broke out, the estate was in the hands of Lieutenant-Colonel, the Lord Francis Mildmay of Flete.
The first baby to be born at Flete arrived on Monday July 14, 1941, and by the end of 1941 there had been a further 124 births. Lord Mildmay remained in residence at the House until his death in 1947 and was apparently often seen in the wards. Dave Hill of the pop group Slade was one of the babies born at the House. In August 2010 there was a reunion of some of the 'Flete Babies' from the Plymouth area which was filmed by the BBC and hosted by John Sargeant.
The hospital closed on 8 May 1958, less than a month after the last baby was born there. Flete House was returned to the Mildmay family in 1959. For a while the house was operated by the Country House Association, before becoming luxury retirement apartments in 2005.
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