Today we took a trip down memory lane when we revisited Lanhydrock, well my memory anyway. On our first visit to Cornwall two years ago we visited Lanhydrock. It was during our trip from the top to the bottom of the UK. However today Michele had no idea we had been here before.
On the way to Lanhydrock we took a detour to Bodmin to get the front wheel bearing replaced. It was highlighted during the MOT by the mechanic so as soon as we arrived in Bugle I called the local bike shop who recommended Dave at VLM Motorcycles in Bodmin. Whilst we enjoyed a coffee and cake from the bakery next door Dave was busy ripping the bearing out and replacing it. Not long after finishing the cake Dave was wheeling the Princess back out of the shed. Surprisingly the replacement bearings cost us bugger all and felt much better as we rode towards Lanhydrock.
Arriving at Lanhydrock I had an overwhelming sense of déjà vu. I mentioned to Michele that we’d been here before and she of course thought there was something wrong with me. She was adamant that we hadn’t visited. I knew for certain that we’d been there before but I had just not remembered the name.
As we passed the front gate I told her how the road ahead twisted down the hill to the right and there were gates at the bottom of the hill. Sure enough it was all as I said and Michele was thinking I was psychic.
We passed through the gatehouse of Lanhydrock where we were greeted by the Butler. Dressed in a black suit with a bowler hat the butler told us the story of the house. Although we’d actually visited Lanhydrock before the introduction was new and fresh.
Lanhydrock dates from 1620 when a rich Truro merchant, Richard Robartes bought the property. His son built the first wing of the building using local dressed granite on the front and rubble stone on the back walls. Over the next thirty years the further three wings were built so the building formed a quadrangle. The gatehouse was built in 1651 completing the building phase.
During the civil war the house was unscathed as John Robartes supported the parliamentary forces and led the army in Cornwall. However, he didn’t agree with Cromwell’s religious policies and retired from politics. By the time Charles II regained the throne in 1660 he was a supporter of the Crown and as a result was made Earl of Radnor.
At this stage the Robartes had sizeable lands in Cornwall, owning about 1/12 of the country. As Lanhydrock was set in Cornwall the descendants weren’t too happy to leave their houses in London to visit the wild Cornish countryside. They were just happy to collect rents and rarely visited. As a result the house became rundown and by 1780 the house was ready to fall down.
George Hunt the great great grandson of John Robartes was the first member of the family to love the estate. He set about tearing down the eastern range and repairing the rest of the house. He transformed it into the shape we see today.
In 1881 a fire started in the kitchen and spread to the south and central wing. Much of the furniture was saved but Baroness Agar-Robartes suffering from shock and probably smoke inhalation died soon after. Without his wife Baron Robartes died in 1882. The son 2nd Lord Robartes (6th Viscount Clifden) repaired the house but in the process installed all the modern Victorian appliances as he and his wife had nine children. The family had a successful political career and the eldest son Thomas followed in the footsteps of his forebears. All set to inherit the land and titles the First World War was to rob him of not only his inheritance but also his life. The estate passed to his younger brother Francis who gifted the house and 400 acre estate to the National Trust in 1953.
After our initial history of the house we set about exploring the interior. For me, it was quite strange to be visiting the house again. For Michele, she was starting to think I was having some sort of ‘being reborn’ as I kept explaining rooms beofre we entered them. The last time we visited we were in a little bit of a hurry which may explain why Michele couldn’t remember it.
Today, as we are visiting during the busy period the display is different. Previously room guides explained the history of the house as we went, but now with lots more crowds we purchased a guide to explore the house. The interior of the house is a time capsule from the Victorian era. Due to the devastating fire much of the interior decoration and furniture dates from around the period.
Passing through the house the first floor is very much the business centre of the house with the outer hall a reception area for guests, offices for the lord and lady, dining room, billiard and smoking rooms and at the rear the kitchens.
Exploring the kitchen areas it’s amazing how many rooms were used for the storage and preparation of food. These days commercial kitchens may have three rooms to prepare food for a restaurant of fifty people. Landhyrock has a kitchen, a scullery,a bakehouse, a pastry room,a pantry room, a meat larder, a dairy scullery, and a dairy. It was fascinating seeing the displays in each room and discovering how they worked. The kitchen was a huge room with a high ceiling benches around the walls and a huge preparation table in the centre. On one wall a large open front stove was set with a series of rotisseries geared to a fan inside the flue. It was quite ingenious as it operated by the hot air passing through the flue. There was also a more traditional oven which used solid fuel. Around the kitchen all sorts of copper pots and pans were arranged
Another room of interest was the dairy scullery. With granite troughs of water around the wall it was used to cool fresh milk. Pans of fresh milk were stood in the water to cool. As they cooled the cream rose to the top of the milk. Afterwards the milk would be either be used by the household or the cream skimmed off the top and turned into butter or clotted cream.
One room of interest is Captain Tommy’s dressing room and bedroom. On display is the suitcase which was sent home with all of his belongings after he was killed at the Battle of Loos in 1915. His mother never opened the case, however since the National Trust were gifted the house it has been on display.
Around the corridors leading to the smoking and billiard rooms all sorts of oddities are on display. Moose heads and stuffed animals set the tone of a very Victorian male domain. Upstairs the various rooms are divided into nurseries and servants areas. There’s also a school room where the children would’ve learnt their ABC’s from the governess.
The Lord and Lady had separate rooms and very elaborate bathrooms. Interestingly despite having modern bathrooms they both preferred a wash in the tub in front of the fire.
It’s interesting how the servants areas are separated from the family areas of the house it gives areal glimpse into life on both sides of the social scale. The long gallery was the last room we visited. I remember the stories about the room from last time we visited. Unlike the other ranges which are divided into rooms it is just one room. It was a gallery of art pieces with old testament scenes depicted in plaster around the ceiling. It was also used to play cricket, skittles and other games indoors. I could imagine through a window would be six and out.
The dejavu comments got too much for Michele and she finally decided to search on the blog to see if we had been here before and to her surprise there it was…..so I was no longer a psychic in her eyes just a husband with a good memory.
After visiting the house we stopped for a coffee and sandwiches at the cafe at the side of the house. The cafe was just packed with people. Lanhydrock has two cafe’s. There’s one at the house and another larger one at the car-park. The one near the car-park caters for the people who use the multitude of walking trails and cycle tracks which criss cross the property. There’s also a bike hire situated nearby.
At the rear of the house is Lanhydrock church, a small chapel dedicated to St Hydroc, an Irish missionary who came to Cornwall. In it are the memorials to the family and to Tommy.
This time as the weather was much warmer we were in for a treat as we visited the house gardens. Around the house are formal gardens laid out with lots of lovely colour and design of a formal garden. At the rear of the house are more cottage style gardens winding up through trees with a mixture of natural setting and flower gardens. It’s quite interesting how many exotic plants are growing in the gardens and we recognised kangaroo paws plants growing and other Australian natives.
After a walk around the gardens it was time to head for Bugle, and we were just in time for as we were leaving a bus load of Germans arrived and quickly took over the the place.
Entry for Lanhydrock is £12.65 (free for National Trust Members), more information on opening hours is here
On the way home as we past through Lostwithiel we spotted a sign to Restomel Castle and decided to take a look. Restomel Castle is set on a hill overlooking the ford near Lostwithiel. It dates from Norman times and was built perfectly circular with a defensive ditch surrounding it. After a bridge was built at Lostwithiel its military importance fell.
It was for a while a hunting lodge and the Black Prince is said to have hunted in the forests which extend below the castle. During the English civil war it was occupied briefly and afterwards fell into disrepair and anything of value was removed. These days just the outer shell of the castle with inner walls which would’ve formed the great hall, chapel and houses remain.
Inside the castle there are a few story boards which explain the different rooms and a wooden staircase leads to the battlements. Although it’s one of four Norman castles in Cornwall it’s not a well visited site. This is probably due to its lack of history and there is just the ruins of the castle to visit. With storyboards there is nothing to hold a persons interest beyond 1/2 an hour.
Restomel Castle is operated by English Heritage (Free for members) it costs £4.50 for entry. Opening hours are available here.
It’s quite interesting comparing English Heritage sites to National Trust properties. It seems National Trust try to make the site interesting with volunteers, whilst English Heritage just have ticket collectors to take your money. At a site like Restomel Castle where there is just a castle in a clearing you’d think that the operators would set up picnic tables to encourage people to visit.
Michele wisely chose not to look around the castle and sat with her book on the one picnic table instead. A disappointing way to end the day. Tomorrow we hope to visit a place where men were turned to stone for playing Hurley on a Sunday.