Our vision for the future

Dartington is the in the midst of an exciting transformation. The charity is returning to its original purpose and values, delivering social impact and undergoing a period of rejuvenation and development.

Our restaurants are busy, theatre and cinema performances are packed, and recent educational and family events are full to capacity. The number of enterprise tenants on the estate now numbers around 180, and we are delivering social impact through a range of initiatives. In addition, our experiments in agroforestry, land use and education are putting Dartington back on the map as a place of innovation and radical thought.

Learn more about our plans for the future here…

Our strategy

Over the next 5-7 years…

…our events programme will bring people together – to delight in and learn from artists, educators, makers and each other.

…our buildings will be a hub of enterprise and creativity and community – rewriting the rulebook to develop the estate sensitively, sustainably and inventively.

…our land and woods will be a source of inspiration – exploring how to grow food sustainably and conserve our environment.

…our learning and social justice programmes will innovate and explore new models of teaching – providing ‘learning by doing’ for a new generation of change-makers.


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

The Gardens

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.

FURTHER READING: ‘Gardens Master Plan – The Valley Field Project’ – view our Open House 02 exhibition online >

Land and Farming

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.

FURTHER READING: view our Open House 02 exhibitions on conservation and biodiversity online >

The Barn Cinema & Cafe

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.

We hope to soon 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

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.

We have begun a conversation to explore how to re-make The Shops at Dartington. We hope this will begin to better reflect the rest of the estate as we increase food production and celebrate our successful craft and making community.

FURTHER READING: ‘The Shops at Dartington’ – view our Open House 02 exhibition online >

High Cross House

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 want to bring 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 have begun initial work, with support from specialist heritage architects, to understand the complexity of restoring this building. We are committed to securing the funding to allow us to start work soon.

FURTHER READING: ‘High Cross House: the past and the future’ – view our Open House 02 exhibition online >

The White Hart

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. We have a new menu which epitomises our ethos of celebrating local, sustainably produced, seasonal food.

We have begun to refresh the space, taking account of the feedback we received during Open House, which called for a better thought-out, warmer and friendlier venue.

Homes and communities

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

We will work with experimental architects, builders and the people who plan to live in the homes to create innovative and sustainable places.


We are exploring how we might restore and develop The Foxhole campus, the site of Dartington Hall’s famously progressive school for over 50 years.

There are lots of ideas, pending confirmation of funding, to create a complex for learning, social enterprise, social justice programmes and more.

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

The Whitney-Elmhirst Centre

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 two Open House events 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.

Current engagement opportunities


The River Dart Charter for Dartington

This project is about those who live near or use the river here agreeing together a shared vision for stewardship of the river as it passes through the estate. Find out more >

Estate Framework

A high level spatial plan and a set of clear design and development principles to support all decision-making about the future use of land and buildings on the estate.

The plan is currently being developed alongside our overall strategy and funding plan, and we will soon be seeking to ask your opinion on a range of issues in order to take our ideas further.

Funding our vision

The Dartington Hall Trust is pleased to announce the launch of a bond issue – a chance to invest your money at a 4.3% return and support a new vision for Dartington’s future.