Caerhays Castle Gardens
Photos by Sandra & George Pritchard

Caerhays Castle has probably the most outstanding plantsman's garden in west Cornwall. Open daily from mid March to the first week in June our visit was made on Sunday the 23rd of March 2003. The garden is definitely a spring one which is not surprising when you look at its history. 

Caerhays was the property of the Arundell family in the middle-ages.  Raynulph de Arundell left  two daughters who were his joint heirs. One married and had no issue but the other wed  her cousin, Oliver de Arundell of Lanherne and  had a son Ralph De Arundell.

At some point   young Ralph was handed over to a guardian, a kinsman Lawrence De Arundell. This may have been at the death of his father if he was still under age . When he came of age his mother at first passed over to him her  share of the estate. A few months later she  revoked her deed of gift and dispossessed her only child by making over her half-share to Emlina & Roger Inkepenne. Some two years   later her sister did likewise and so the whole estate passed into the hands of  strangers, 

The wife of Roger Inkepenne, Emlina, is listed in the Inkepenne pedigree as a base child   so she could have been related somehow to the two female heirs of Raynulph .  However, the Vivien Visitations sometime later  note that Roger Inkepenne, Viscount Cornubia, was accused of

 "forcibly entering the house of Caerhays and breaking open the coffer of Ralph, son of Oliver de Arundell which was sealed with the seals of the Archdeacon of Cornwall and Lawrence De Arundell and taking away the silver cup value 10/- together with Deeds etc........."

 This adds some credence to the theory  that the estate was in dispute. Roger Inkepenne had taken the law into his own hands together with all Ralph's rightful inheritance.  Once in his hands, dodgy Roger, did not keep it for long. He was the  steward of the estates of  Edmund,  Earl of Cornwall and he  had  not kept his accounts  well.  Caerhays was  forfeited to his lord  in lieu of his  arrears of debt. When  Edmund died  all his  property reverted to the crown, including Caerhays.

By this time the original heir, Ralph, had  married and had two sons and probably on their account appealed to the high court for justice and the return of his property. The courts upheld his claim, rejected the reasons of  his mother and aunt for dispossessing him in favour of Inkepenne and  restored Caerhays to him. From the late  1300's the owners name changed from Arundell  to Trevanion when the remaining heiress  was a  female married to a Trevanion   They were renowned for enjoying most of life's  pleasures. There favourite occupation after dinner was to  shoot the eyes out of  their ancestors portraits ranged around the walls of the  room. The estate fell  into dire straits and there last hope was a handout from a wealthy aunt. However Trevanion's  spaniel dog took a liking to her footman's silk stockined   legs and gave him a nip. Instead of apologizing Squire Trevanion  laughed and the lady promptly stepped back into her carriage attended by the wounded attendant  and was never seen again.

 The castle slowly faded into decay until the early 1800's when John Bettesworth Trevanion employed John Nash to pull down the ruins and build the castle folly. It bankrupted him and it lay unfinished until Michael Williams of Scorrier bought it about 1850.  

He was a member of  one of the many branches of the Williams family who originally came from Wales some time around 1654. They settled in and around the Stithians & Scorrier areas of Redruth and made their fortunes   from there adventures in mining and tin smelting They were allied in both business and marriage with the Fox family of Falmouth, of which there were at least three main branches. The firm of Fox, Williams & Fox was well  respected in mining areas. Locals wags were reputed to have said "Two Foxs sit  on  the board but the greatest fox sits in between"  The  Bolitho family  of Penzance were there cousins

Between the many  different branches of the family  they created the gardens of   Burncoose, Scorrier & Tregullow  near  Redruth: Trengwainton & Trewidden, near Penzance: Rosehill,  Penjerrick , Glendurgan & Trebah all in or near Falmouth. The family  made their fortune through their own good head for business and  also  from the labours of the working  men , women and children of the poor. They  were privileged to be able to  invest their  wealth  back into gardens created for their own exclusive  pleasure .Today we  have  inherited  a  legacy  from both  rich and poor alike.

All of these  gardens still exist in Cornwall and most of the plantings have achieved the peak of their maturity. The family financed many  of the great Victorian plant hunting  expeditions including those of  the famous nurserymen and botanist, F.K. Kingdon-Ward, Forest and E .H. Wilson  The garden  at Caerhays is home to the National Collection of Magnolias, many of which were among the first brought back and  planted in the UK . (see the link to the web site below)

Although the garden is quite steep there are lots of places to stop and rest so allow plenty of time for your visit. 

Plant List

1. Magnolia, "Pickards Sundew"

2. Rhododendron nudiflorum : syn. azalea 

    Introduced to U.K1734  from N America                   .

    In background  Mag. "Pickards Sundew"

3. Mag. Sargentiana, var. robusta x sprengeri "Diva". An unnamed hybrid raised at Caerhays

4. Camellia X williamsii  "Monica Dance". Raised at Burncoose Nurseries.

5. Camellia X williamsii, "Juries Yellow". New Zealand origin, 1976. 

6.Camellia x williamsii " J.C.Williams, one of the first williamsii  hybrids named .

7. Rhododendron moupinense x R. sulphereum

"Golden Oriole". var. Talavera,

 Raised at Caerhays 1963. 

8. Camellia reticulata, "Dream Castle". Originating Nucllio Nurseries, USA.

9.Mag. campbellii. ssp. mollicomata x cambellii. .      Caerhays Origin. 

10.i} Azalea "Razorbill"

 ii} & iii} Mag. sargentiana   var. robusta x sprengeri "Diva"  = Magnolia  "Caerhays Belle"

11.Magnolia sargentii var. robusta x cambellii 

   "Phillip Tregunna"  [ Head gardener at Caerhays]

12.Mag. cambellii "Alba"

13.i} White Rhododendron [Azalea type hybrid ?]

     ii} & iii] Rhododendron Loderii  " Snow Queen".  

14. Mag.  cambellii. ssp..mollicomata,   "LANARTH"


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Photos Copyright 2003 George Pritchard 

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