Sheila Brain celebrates the work of two sisters devoted to sea shells and female education
A La Ronde, on the outskirts of Exmouth, is one of the National Trust’s smallest and quirkiest properties. Built in 1796 by two wealthy spinster cousins, Jane and Mary Parminter (Mary is pictured below), following their return from the Grand Tour around Europe, its design was based on an octagonal church they saw in Ravenna, Italy. The pair decorated the interior with art made from paper and feathers, and covered the walls with patterns created from 25,000 shells.
There is lesser-known building hidden away nearby – the sisters’ tiny chapel, Point-in-View. The Parminters were nonconformists belonging to the Independent Glenorchy Chapel in Exmouth, but found that, in winter, bad weather often prevented them from getting there. It is said they did not wish their coachman to work on the Sabbath, and so they built their own chapel nearer to home in 1811. They also decided to create a small community for needy women, so they surrounded it with almshouses.
Jane died in 1811 and was buried in the Point-in-View vault, where Mary was to join her in 1849. The Almshouse Charity was established in 1813. The four women residents occupied single rooms built around the chapel, one of which was used as a schoolroom for six local girls who would not otherwise receive any education, with one of the women was appointed as schoolmistress. The school was disbanded in 1911 following the education acts. …
Sheila Brain is clerk to the trustees of Point-in-View
This is an extract from the November 2013 edition of Reform.