|The southern elevation of Oldway Mansion at dusk|
Today the building is used mainly as council offices, and for civil marriage ceremonies, but the house was once the home of Isaac Merritt Singer (1811-1875) the founder of the Singer Sewing Machine Company. Born in New York, USA, Singer fled to London in 1862 in disgrace, following his arrest for bigamy. He had a very complicated personal life and by 1860 had fathered, and acknowledged, eighteen children by four different women!
|Portrait of Isaac Singer 1869|
by Edward Harrison May
Singer bought the Fernham estate in Paignton in 1871 and had all the original buildings demolished to make way for his new home, however, he died in July 1875 shortly before the work was completed. Between 1904 and 1907 his third son, Paris Eugene Singer, supervised remodelling work, which was based on the Palace of Versailles. Of particular note inside is the grand staircase, the ceiling is a replica of the one at Versailles.
Marble and bronze were used lavishly in the design of the grand staircase.
At the top of the staircase is a reproduction of Jacques-Louis David's painting 'The Crowning of Josephine by Napoleon.' The original, that used to hang here, was purchased by Paris Singer in the late 19th century, but sold to the French government in 1946. It is now displayed at the Palace of Versailles.
A gallery on the first floor of the mansion is a reproduction of the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.
|Look at the hideously incongruous|
|Beautiful parquet flooring.|
The gallery leads to the ballroom. It is known that Agatha Christie attended dances here. How grand it must have appeared with all the ladies and gentlemen climbing the stairs in their finery.
|The portrait above the fireplace is|
Louis of Bourbon dating from 1717.
This is where the civil marriage ceremonies are now held, hence all the tables and chairs.
|Mirrors and gilt-panelling line the walls.|
|Another view of the ballroom.|
Following the end of his affair with Isadora Duncan, during which he fathered her second son, Paris Singer became an American citizen and went to live in the United States. Oldway Mansion was then no longer the primary residence of the Singer family. During WWI it was became the American Women's War Relief Hospital, and during WWII it was home to RAF cadets training as aircrew. It was damaged in an air raid in 1943.
Oldway Mansion was bought from the Singer family by Paignton Council in 1946. It is a Grade II listed building, which limits the changes that can be made to it. As the cost of upkeep has continued to spiral Torbay Council, under whose jurisdiction Paignton falls, have reached a deal with a developer to allow the mansion to be converted into a luxury hotel, with sheltered retirement flats being built on some of the land. This has led to much opposition from locals, because at the moment the house and grounds are open to the public free of charge. However, there were very clear signs of deterioration in the grand hall, and I think this may be the only way to ensure that the necessary money is spent on the upkeep of the house.
|A marble floor leading to the ballroom.|