The China Tower, also known as the Bicton Belvedere, is located on the Rolle Estate above the Otter estuary near Sidmouth.
A Birthday Present
This handsome, octagonal castellated Gothick tower was built in 1839 by Louisa, Lady Rolle, as a surprise birthday present for her husband. J C Loudon described it as ‘the best piece of architecture at Bicton’. The tower is said to have got its name because Lady Rolle used one of its rooms to display her rich collection of china.
The Rolles were an ancient Devon family who amassed vast acreages in the county through marriage and purchase. Their main seats were here at Bicton, and at Stevenstone, where we have another Landmark, The Library. Lord and Lady Rolle were passionate gardeners and together they created fine botanical gardens and a famous arboretum at Bicton. Today, Bicton House has become a college and the Rolles’ beautiful botanical gardens nearby are open to the public.
The China Tower had fallen empty and become a temptation for local youth, so the Clinton Devon Estates, on whose land it stands today, approached The Landmark Trust for help with its future use. The Tower sits atop a pocket of deep countryside, surrounded by heathland and pretty villages just east of the Exe estuary, between Sidmouth and Budleigh Salterton. The handsome red cliffs that form part of World Heritage Site, The Jurassic Coast, are within close reach. Sir Walter Raleigh was born just a couple of miles away.