The 18th century gazebo was in the garden of Palmer House, New Street, which was built by John Palmer, brother-in-law of Sir Joshua Reynolds and it appears in some of the artist’s paintings. A letter in the Sunday Times of June 1929 from a certain E. E. Rudd states:
‘Sir – There is a gazebo in the grounds of Palmer House in this town with a fine view to the north. It is of historical interest, for Sir Joshua Reynolds and Dr Johnson have sat in it together.’
The gazebo was built possibly at the same time as Palmer House (1752) and was re-erected at Rosemoor in 1999.
In 1897 the Palmers sold Palmer House and, following the subdivision of the Palmer estate during the 20th century, the gazebo ended up marooned at the intersection of four boundary walls. Inaccessible to the public and with no particular owner, the Grade II listed building gradually deteriorated and, at one time, a local man kept his horse in it! It became so dilapidated that by the 1990s it featured prominently on the English Heritage Buildings At Risk register and the Devon Historic Buildings Trust set out to save the building.
As it was in an inaccessible location, it was decided to dismantle the gazebo and move it to a site where the general public could enjoy this unique building. The RHS agreed to receive the gazebo at Rosemoor, their garden a mile and a half out of town, and take over its stewardship.
In a project that took more than three years and cost over £100,000, the Devon Historic Buildings Trust, aided by various grants and bequests, took the gazebo apart and rebuilt it, using the original components. It took twelve weeks of painstaking work to carefully measure, dismantle, catalogue and transport the remains of the gazebo, piece by piece to Rosemoor where it was reassembled following the original 18th century construction. Altogether, the Palmer Gazebo took five months to rebuild and was reopened on 23rd September 1999.
The gazebo is a two-storey structure of rendered stone rubble and a slate-hung first floor. It has a hipped slate roof and a small ball finial and wrought-iron weather vane at the apex. It is an octagonal building with a flight of stone steps at the rear to a first floor room which is entered through a panelled door and restored wooden porch. Inside is a small stone fireplace with slate hearth flanked by china cupboards. There is panelling below the bay window and a moulded dado rail.
Some local people felt that the amount of money spent on restoring the gazebo was excessive for what is, essentially, a folly and others regret that it has moved out of Torrington into the parish of St Giles-in-the-Wood. However, it is a fascinating little building with interesting historical associations and it sits easily at Rosemoor commanding attractive views over the gardens towards Torrington, almost in sight of its original home.