There are some places, Clandon Park is another, that you seem fated not to visit. We finally got round Lanhydrock House, which is just south of Bodmin, at the third time of asking. Last year we had to abandon attempts as we fled the floods and tempests that were enveloping the South West at the time. This year we turned up on a Monday only to find that the house itself was closed but the gardens were open. We finally got around the house on the following Saturday. Third time lucky indeed!
The gardens themselves consist of some stunning bedding plants – the begonias were just coming into full bloom when we were there – and there was a proliferation of rhododendrons and magnolias which must in the spring make a wonderful show when set against the surrounding woodland landscape. The grounds also include a small church, St Hydrock’s, parts of which date back to the 15th century.
The house itself has had a rather chequered history. The estate belonged to the Augustine priory of St Petroc in Bodmin until the Reformation when the lands passed into private hands. Sir Richard Robartes in 1620 started the construction of a four-sided house around a central courtyard and chose to build it in granite. Dying before it was completed, Robartes’ work was completed by his son, John who became, amongst other things, Lord Privy Seal. During the 18th century the house’s east wing was demolished to leave the three-sided building that remains today.
In 1881 a major fire destroyed the south wing and caused severe damage to the central section of the house, resulting in a major rebuild. Today only the north wing with its magnificent Long Gallery and the front porch building and its gatehouse remain of the original building.
Inside, the National Trust have made a very good job of representing what life above and below stairs was like in the late Victorian era with over 50 rooms open to the hoi polloi. The kitchens, larders and dairy are stocked with the utensils and equipment needed to keep such a large establishment going. However, for me the Long Gallery with its splendid 17th century plaster ceilings was the stand-out feature. The house is furnished sensitively with examples of 18th century furniture and tapestries.
The Robartes who had, like many families, a tragic First World War, passed the house with 400 acres of parkland to the National Trust in 1953 and the remaining descendant lives on the estate in a cottage.
Be warned – it is a long walk (about 10 to 15 minutes) from the car park which is currently undergoing remodelling to the house. However, it is well worth the effort – after all we visited it twice!