Our vision for the future

Our 1,200-acre estate will become a place of radical experimentation, a model of rural regeneration, and a centre for progressive ideas and innovation.  We will welcome visitors and build a living and working community.

Our strategy

Over the next 5-7 years…
…our events programme will attract people from around the world to participate in arts, culture, learning and making, and actively encourage experimentation and debate.
…our buildings will house artists, designers, makers, researchers, educators, social entrepreneurs, health practitioners and more. As we repurpose and renovate our architecturally important buildings and build pioneering new homes and communities, we will rewrite the rulebook in the way we develop our estate sensitively, sustainably and inventively.
…our land and woods will be a source of inspiration – building on Dartington Hall’s reputation at the vanguard of biodiversity. Already one of the most agriculturally diverse country estates in the country, we will expand food production across the estate and continue to push the boundaries of agricultural and forestry innovation.
…our learning and social justice programmes will reflect our long history of progressive thinking and activism. We will continue to deliver ‘learning by doing’ for all ages (from short courses and postgraduate studies for adults to schools programmes for children). We will also use our Learning Labs to experiment with new models of higher education and life-long learning.


As our plans come to life, our projects will evolve – but here’s what we’re aiming to deliver.

The Gardens

For the many, not the few

When we spoke to the community at the various open events held over the last few years, it was clear that the gardens are one of the most treasured parts of the estate for many people. We want to protect this magical place and improve the areas around it. So we are working with one of the leading landscape designers of our time, Dan Pearson, to gently restore them to their full potential. Dan’s presentation of the masterplan is available to view on our website and is a wonderful way to understand how this precious asset will be revitalised over the years to come.

We will need support from our members and supporters in order to do everything we want to do, and fulfil our commitment to keep the gardens free and open to all.

Land and Farming

New ideas and approaches

We aspire to position our estate at the forefront of experimental land use: an exemplar of diversity and rural regeneration. That emphasis continues with a second 5 year Land Use Review, with agroecology as our focus. Following the completion of our most recent 5 year programme, Land Use Review 2 will seek to continue the innovative approach that marks the Dartington Hall out as one of the most progressive land stewards in the UK.

The Barn Cinema & Cafe

A café worthy of its setting

In the mid 1930s, one of the 20th Century’s most influential architects and founder of the Bauhaus Movement, Walter Gropius, came to Dartington – one of the many connections the Elmhirsts fostered with progressive artists and performers fleeing Hitler’s Germany. Along with fellow architect Robert Hening, he helped transform the barn into a theatre. Now it is the Barn Cinema, a proudly independent, award-winning cinema in an extraordinary setting.

In late 2018, we will transform the Roundhouse (the current café adjacent to the cinema) into a new foyer café. The Barn Cinema & Café will be a beautiful, contemporary space serving nourishing, locally sourced food. During the day, it will be a relaxed space to sit and work or meet friends for a quiet coffee, and in the evenings it will a buzzy, sociable place for a drink and a light meal before going to the cinema or one of our many evening arts events.

The Shops

Reflecting the whole estate

Reinvigorating the Elmhirsts’ original vision of rural employment and regeneration, our concept for The Shops at Dartington is for a table top of our region’s artisan food, drink and crafts: a showcase that is Devon in flavour, where star brewers, butchers, bakers, potters and furniture makers will feel at home.

Throughout the early autumn, there will be a chance to learn more about these ideas and join us in a conversation to explore how to re-make The Shops at Dartington. We hope will begin to better reflect the rest of the estate as we increase food production and celebrate our successful craft and making community.

High Cross House

A revolutionary building built to revolutionise learning

High Cross House is one of the most important early Modernist buildings in the UK. Designed by American architectural pioneer, William Lescaze, it was built as a home for the legendary Headmaster of Dartington Hall School, William Curry. We are bringing it back to life as a Learning Lab with plans to host educators from around the world as they explore new models of learning.

We are working with specialist heritage architects to undertake a sensitive and meticulous restoration which will begin in early 2019.

The White Hart

The return of a much-loved place

The White Hart, sited in the 14th Century kitchens of the Great Hall, was once a thriving pub on the estate – a cosy place for a drink and a bite to eat. We plan to bring this once-loved institution back to life as a key part of the experience of staying at our hotel and eating on the estate.

Already the White Hart is changing. Our new head chef, Eamon Fullalove, has designed a menu which epitomises our ethos of celebrating local, sustainably produced, seasonal food.

In 2019 we will start the refurbishment process taking account of the feedback we received during Open House, which called for a better thought-out, warmer and friendlier space.

Dartington Hall Hotel

Where dreams are deep

At the heart of the estate, next to the Great Hall and the private house where the Elmhirst family once lived, is Dartington’s courtyard hotel with its distinctive and individual rooms. Staying in our small hotel is a chance to experience the beauty and understand the ethos that created this unique place.

In 2019 we will start the refurbishment of the courtyard hotel, working with ancient building restoration specialists and a leading interior designer to capture the Elmhirsts’ philosophy of ‘reverence for the old and a joy in the new’. The 1925 restoration of the medieval hall and surrounding buildings was revolutionary for its time. Our aim is to follow the same approach, combining the highest quality restoration with creativity and innovation. We are excited about how the hotel can tell Dartington’s story.

Homes and communities

Building communities at Dartington

Working with Dartington Parish Council, South Hams District Council and Historic England, the emerging Local Plan will offer us an opportunity to build around 250-300 homes across our estate. We will develop homes to respond to local need that offer the very best in rural community building.

We are working with experimental architects, builders, and the people who will live in the homes themselves, to create innovative and sustainable places. The first of these projects, The Plantation, is underway and plans are in place to start building once the planning process has been completed.


A model for future learning

The Foxhole campus, the site of Dartington Hall’s famously progressive school for over 50 years, is to be restored and developed as a home for education and enterprise. The first step in creating our new multi-disciplinary learning campus is relocating the School for Social Entrepreneurs to Foxhole to create an enterprise start-up facility. We are exploring how to develop the rest of the complex as a new home for Schumacher college at the heart of a truly innovative learning campus incorporating our arts, craft and social justice programmes.

The building needs a great deal of work to restore it to its former glory and a full programme of design is currently underway.

Leonard's office in the Elmhirst Centre before it became Trust offices

The Whitney-Elmhirst Centre

A legacy of progressive thinking brought to life

The founders of the original Dartington Experiment, Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst, lived in the building next to the Great Hall, known for many years as the Private House. Our plan is to transform this into a space to explore and interpret their exceptional lives and legacy, showcasing the family’s art collection, and much more.

Over the next year, we will be experimenting with how we bring this centre to life and make it a vital and relevant resource for our community, as well as a way to understand the importance of the Elmhirsts’ work during their time at Dartington Hall.

Our Engagement Programme

Dartington is changing – let’s keep talking!

We have been inspired by the support from the community for a new Dartington project and we listened to what you told us at our Open Space sessions in 2015 and 2016, and our Open House event in 2018. We have responded by bringing forward smaller projects like the Green Table café, Deer Park, biomass project, natural children’s play area and campsite, beginning work to revitalise our beautiful gardens, expanding our arts and craft programmes, and continuing to support innovative land-use and conservation projects across the estate.

Once we have key elements of our funding plan in place, we will start the bigger projects. We are planning lots of events this autumn to keep you up to speed with this work to revitalise the estate, including:

Barn Storm

A chance to meet some of the key people involved in the restoration and regeneration of our buildings

Funding our Plans

One to one drop-in sessions to talk directly with our Finance Director about plans to fund the new Dartington project

Shops at Dartington exhibition

A chance to see some of the drawings and ideas for transforming the shops at Dartington

People Make Dartington

A preview of a new exhibition of photographs showcasing the remarkable community of makers based on our estate

Open House 02

A weekend of talks, previews and events designed to engage with our community about our forthcoming plans

Dartington Live Dress Rehearsals

First chance to see the new Dartington Live programme of theatre and performance to run through late autumn and beyond

High Cross House Tour

Take a tour of one of the UK’s most important early Modernist buildings and meet the architects who will undertake this fascinating renovation

Barn Cinema & Café

A chance to preview the new café at the Barn Cinema (previously the Roundhouse) due to open in December

As our plans come to life, our projects will evolve – but here’s what we’re aiming to deliver.

Funding our vision

The reinvigoration of our estate will be funded by a mix of bonds, ethical bank finance, grant-funding and philanthropy.

In the coming days, we will be releasing details about the bond issue and how you might get involved – click below to find out more.