Colours: Red, White & Green
President: Ken Terry Valley Retreat Long Coombe Lane Polperro PL13 2PL Tel: 01503 272902
Deputy President – Roger Bennett
Secretary: Mrs Norma Dobinson, Westmor, Pelynt, Looe, Cornwall PL13 2LF. Tel: 01503-220042.
Membership Secretary: Vivien Bennett, 33 Bodrigan Road, Looe, Tel: 01503 262147.
Treasurer: Vivien Bennett, 33 Bodrigan Road, Looe, Tel: 01503 262147.
Recorder: Mr Roger Bennett. Tel: 01503-262147.
Dialect Recorder: None
Archivist: Mr Roger Bennett. Tel: 01503-262147.
Two Federation Delegates:
See Looe OCS website
A report of the meeting of Looe Old Cornwall Society held on 12 November 2016
The President, Ken Terry, welcomed everyone to the meeting. It was good to see so many people at the meeting on the day the new Lifeboat was launched and the Literary Festival was in full swing.
The next meeting would be the Christmas Party, at the Millpool Centre on 10 December, and money (£10) would be collected at tea time.
The Secretary, Norma Dobinson, read the correspondence. There had been an invitation to the Mayor’s afternoon tea dance to raise funds for the New Year’s Eve Fireworks. No-one was available to attend, but it was later agreed to make a donation of £20 to the fund.
Roger Bennett reminded members that he would be speaking at St Nicholas Church the next day as part of the Literary Festival, to promote his new book on the church, a companion to his previous book on St Mary’s.
Ken Terry introduced the speaker, Paul Holden of the National Trust, on “The Cornish Country House”. Paul had been House and Collections manager at Lanhydrock House for the past 17 years, and he gave a well-structured and beautifully illustrated talk about the Cornish country house, from medieval times up to the 20th century.
He said that there were around 300 country houses in Cornwall, a surprising number of them designed by well-known national architects such as George Gilbert Scott, John Nash, Sir John Soane and Lutyens, as well locally renowned ones like John Hicks and Sylvanus Trevail.
He explained that many houses were on the site of earlier medieval or Tudor houses, and even those whose origins were not obvious often contained modern features grafted on to an older house. St. Tresungers, near St Endellion, is an example of an L-shaped medieval house, with a three storey crenelated porch and a cobbled cross passage through the house to the stables. Penfound, said to have been inhabited since Saxon times is believed to be the oldest continually inhabited house in the county - a rare example of a hall house. Houses with a Tudor basis include Lanherne, Morval, Pengersick and Trerice.
Protected hall houses date from the 16th century. They have a central hall surrounded by a suite of rooms, the idea being that in times of strife the family could retreat to the central hall while their retainers defended the outer rooms. Godolphin and Mount Edgecumbe are examples of this style. The latter was bombed in World War II and was rebuilt in a different style.
He gave several instances of houses in the Early Classical style of the 17th century, those in Queen Anne Style and those with Palladian influence.
He described Port Eliot, and the rivalry between Sir John Soane (responsible for the enfilade through the house) and Sir Humphrey Repton, who wanted to remodel the house to fit in with his design for the grounds. The storage areas are as grand as the upper house, and there is even a subterranean road through the kitchens and out of the back of the house to St Germans so that deliveries would not be seen by the family.
Trewithen,a location for films of Rosamunde Pilcher’s novels, is the work of several significant architects, including Thomas Edwards, who worked for many of the families which had become wealthy through mining, including Tehidy, Trewithen, Carclew, Nanswhyden, and Trelowarren.
At Caerhays John Nash, designer of the Brighton Pavilion, constructed the roof from papier mache – unsurprisingly, it leaked and had to be replaced. Place Manor at St Antony in Roseland is a Gothik survival.
During the 19th century Treverbyn Vean was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, and Lanhydrock was built for the Robartes family. Pugin designed the interior fittings, and William Burgess designed the elaborate fireplace, which unfortunately was smashed out in the 1960s.
Moving on towards the Arts and Crafts movement, the rectory at Lanteglos by Camelford was also by Pugin and has Gothic Revival doors and plasterwork. An example of Arts and Crafts style is Porth-en-Alls at Prussia Cove, which was never finished because of the outbreak of World War I.
Lutyens extended the 17th century house at Penheale near Launceston. He developed a great affection for Cotehele while staying in the area. Later in the 20th century Norman Foster and Richard Rogers worked in the Modernist style, as at Creak Vean, Feock.
Many Cornish houses have been damaged by fire, including Bake, Nanswhyden, Glyn, Hengar, Tehidy, Carclew, Treworgy and Mount Edgecumbe.
During the 1950s British country houses were being demolished at a rate of 2.5 every week, because of lack of servants and the cost of death duties. Cornwall was luckier than many other counties because of the tourist trade. The National Trust took over the running of some of the more important houses, the Historic Housing scheme saved others, and many smaller ones became caravan sites, like Clowance and Trelawne, or were later converted into holiday lets.
After answering members’ questions, Paul was thanked for a fascinating talk which gave us all a greater insight into the development of the country house.
The meeting ended with a raffle and tea. There is no meeting next month because of the Christmas party, and the next talk will be on January 14th, when the speaker will be Dave Holford, on the subject of “350 years ago – the story of Looe pirates”.