‘Former college is converted into a community resource’

April 29, 2016

On the Steps

WE’RE BACK: Pictured with yours truly 20 years on are Dave, Simon, Phil, Andy, John and Helen from the Higher National Diploma Course in Rural Resource Management, who graduated in October 1992.




CHANGE OF USE: The former Seale-Hayne Chapel is now been converted into an art workshop and studio linked to the trust’s project to showcase and build up the work of professional and emerging artists.

Frank Park Block

HOLIDAY BLOCK: The Frank Parkinson residential block was originally the living quarters of first year students. The rooms haven’t changed that much and are now used as affordable accommodation for visitors to the centre and families and their residents, who are using the centre’s services and facilities.

Ee Ore and Ponies

DAWN CHORUS: Instead of being woken up by the birds, our alarm clock over the weekend were these donkeys in this paddock and some sheep in adjoining fields.


BUSY QUAD: The former heart beat of the college – the Quad – has an art exhibition at the north of it and to the right of this picture is the Bistro. Their dinner menu uses fresh and local ingredients when and where possible and they  bake their own cakes in the kitchen.



A FORMER agricultural college that regularly turned out conservationists and farming graduates for the South West has taken on a new lease of life in recent years.

Twenty four years after graduating in 1992 I met up with six fellow alumni that I had not seen in 20 years – the same people I knew then but are now married or with partners and children and have been successful in using their training.

Seale-Hayne College opened in 1919 and is located in countryside just outside Newton Abbot. A spirited campaign was set in motion in the 1990s and early Noughties to prevent it being closed by the University of Plymouth yet it ended in disappointment.

After the college closed in 2002, the Dame Hannah Rogers Trust (DHRT) bought the land and buildings and have turned them inot a centre that specialises in education, therapy and respite for young adults and children with profound physical and mental disabilities.

They purchased the 90-acre site in December 2009 and after five months of sorting out keys, frozen pipes and leaks they opened to the public in May 2010. There is a recording studio, sensory music rooms, a bistro in the Quad, a gallery, an outdoor pursuits centre, workshops, vocational courses and learning placements.

Their chief executive Bronwen Hewitt says on their website: “Our vision is a society where people with disabilities experience the same opportunities to work, train, learn and live.

“We imagine a society that advocates recognition and encourages people to fulfil their true potential without judgement or limit; a society where disability is incidental.”

Alumni I have come across in my time as a rural affairs columnist for the Western Gazette include Andrew Cross of Goldhill Organic Farm, Child Okeford; former Somerset NFU chairman Simon Wetherall; David Cotton of West Bradley and former chairman of the Royal British Association of Dairy Farmers and one of the Bartlett brothers (David and James) of Wootton Organic Dairy at North Wootton, near Wells, is also a former alumni.

Raymond Bartlett, chairman of the Seale-Haynians Club, wrote in a letter to former students that the trust is emphatic that the history of the college is maintained and that former students are always welcome to visit the college and recall their time there.

He said: “Hannahs has welcomed the Seale-Haynians as part of their ‘family’. They cherish the heritage of the college and encouraged us to set up a Seale-Hayne heritage room, donating the old library for this purpose.

“Your committee and other volunteers are busy trying to recover for display as many artefacts as possible and many old agriculture books have been donated by Seale-Haynians to restock the library bookcases.

“Hannahs also invite us to hold events and reunions at Seale-Hayne. They enjoy our gatherings, not only for the income it brings to them but because they also love hearing about our student pranks!”

Our motley crew spent two nights in the Frank Parkinson Block, which was formally opened in 1958. It was very surreal as the rooms – now let out as cheap, affordable accommodation – are not that different to when we used them in our first year as fresher students on the Rural Resource Management course.

In the course of a fleeting two day and two night visit, our group did a ten-mile hike across Dartmoor with the weather being very kind to us and ably led by a ranger from North Devon –  double the distance I would normally walk and which ended up with me taking a tumble and getting soaked to the feet stumbling into a bog.

  • ANYONE wanting to stay, should contact the Hannah at Seale’s Hayne or wanting to know anything about the activities provided, should call them on 01626 325800.
  • IF you would are a former student and would like to be subscribed to the Seale-Haynian Magazine, visit their website at www.seale-hayne.com

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