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The History and Haunting of Cornwall's Lanhydrock House

Living in Cornwall, UK, I'm sharing some of the fabulous well-known spots around the county, as well as hidden, magical and secret spots.

The supposedly haunted Lanhydrock House's main entrance in Cornwall, England.

The supposedly haunted Lanhydrock House's main entrance in Cornwall, England.

About the Lanhydrock Estate

If your idea of fun is touring a sprawling historic mansion, then Lanhydrock House is something you're sure to enjoy. The centuries-old Lanhydrock House is said to be the finest large home in Cornwall, with dozens of lavish rooms full of Victorian-era decor to take in. The tour, usually lasting over two hours, takes you through the entire house, from the servant's quarters to the master's private bedroom. During the tour, you'll also get to hear about the various resident ghosts!

Lanhydrock has been owned and managed by the National Trust of England since 1953, and is a Grade I Listed building set on over 900 acres of grounds.

The name Lanhydrock is derived from the local parish church (still located on the grounds), which is dedicated to St Hydrock—the patron saint since 1478. This church pre-dates the house, with parts dating back to the mid 15th century. It is a small church with a single bell that still holds a weekly service.

Now, onto a bit more about the home, its ghostly residents and the grounds.

The History of the Lanhydrock House

This table details the home's timeline, from the mid 16th century until the early 21st century.

DateHistorical Details

pre-1577

The priory at St Petroc, Bodmin owned the land until the dissolution of the monasteries. The locally-based Glynn family then takes ownership, and it is then passed to the Lyttelton family and eventually to Thomas Trenance.

1577

Trenance is granted ownership of the lands through marriage.

1630

Sir Richard Robartes buys the land and starts building the house with his son.

1634

Robartes dies, but his son, John, continues with the construction work.

1651

The gatehouse is built and still stands today.

1780s

The eastern section of the house is demolished by George Hunt, giving the house its current U-shape.

1857–1860

The house is remodelled extensively when Baron Robartes decides to make it his home.

1881

A great fire destroys most of the house.

1882

Thomas Charles Robartes inherits the house upon the death of his father. Both house and chapel are then restored.

1930

The 7th Viscount Clifden inherits Lanhydrock.

1939–1945

Evacuees are moved into Lanhydrock during World War II.

1953

The house is given to the National Trust, along with its 900 acres of land and gardens.

1995

Filming takes place at Lanhydrock for the 1996 adaptation of "Twelfth Night."

2008

Filming takes place for the BBC TV series "Antiques Roadshow."

2010

Filming takes place for a new film about the evacuees at Lanhydrock during the war.

The impressive gatehouse of Lanhydrock House

The impressive gatehouse of Lanhydrock House

The Ghosts of Lanhydrock House

Over the years, staff, visitors and residents of Lanhydrock have claimed to have heard and seen various phenomena. They have recounted an old lady dressed in grey walking the gallery in the North Wing, and another old lady in the Long Room. A third female ghost has reportedly been seen in the bedroom designated for the lady of the house. People have also smelled cigar smoke coming from the smoking room and felt a presence in many of the other rooms.

Paranormal Society Investigates the Ghosts

In July 2004, the Paranormal Society was invited to spend the night at Lanhydrock, bringing along with all their ghost monitoring equipment. Their purpose was to find out if the house was haunted and, if so, by whom.

When they compiled their notes, they identified the following ghostly happenings.

  • A young girl giggling in the nursery.
  • The sound of a heavy table or chair being dragged across the floor in the Long Gallery.
  • A figure of a male ghost on the grounds.

The group also made contact with ghosts, including a maidservant called Elizabeth Hargreaves, who said she'd fallen down the stairs in 1823.

There are occasional Ghost Nights held at Lanhydrock for those who wish to try and experience the phenomena.

A view of Lanhydrock House from the garden.

A view of Lanhydrock House from the garden.

The Fire at Lanhydrock

In 1881, a fire started in the kitchen area and spread through most of the house. In fact, only the north wing, the entrance porch, and the distant gatehouse were left standing.

Lady Robartes was at home at the time and had to be rescued, with the aid of a ladder, through the gallery room window. Although she survived the fire, she died a few days later from shock.

Her husband, Lord Robartes, was similarly affected by the devastation of his home and the loss of his wife and died the following year.

Thomas Charles Robartes, their only son, was left with the burdensome task of restoring the house. In memory of his parents, he chose to also restore the chapel.

Lanhydrock as a Filming Location

Lanhydrock has been used as a filming location a number of times over the years. It can be seen in the following.

  • The 1993 adaptation of The Three Musketeers starring Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland and Chris O'Donnell filmed scenes here. Other filming took place throughout Cornwall and in Austria.
  • Filming took place and the home was featured in the 1996 film Twelfth Night, directed by Trevor Nunn. Helena Bonham Carter starred in the film as Olivia.
  • The Lanhydrock House hosted a 1998 episode of the BBC TV series Antiques Roadshow in the late 90s. It ended up airing as two separate episodes due to the amount of footage taken.
The entrance to Lanhydrock House

The entrance to Lanhydrock House

Walking Around the Grounds

With over 900 acres of grounds to explore, there are many fine and interesting walks you can enjoy on the grounds of Lanhydrock. Take a picnic lunch and settle down by the River Fowey or take in Respryn Bridge on your walk. The proximity of this Grade II listed monument is marked on the map below.

There are many rare and unusual plants to be found on the grounds as well. Most of the formal grounds are laid out on land higher than the house, so you can look down on the rooftops of the mansion while you're strolling through flowers. You'll discover roses, bedding plants and over 30 massive topiary yews. There are also rhododendrons and camellias, magnolias and white pheasant's eye narcissi.

Copper beeches were planted by William Gladstone and Lord Roseberry during the 19th century. Interestingly, both these men went on to become British prime ministers.

The gardens were first formally laid out by Scott when the house was remodelled between 1857 and 1860. The design continued to be modified over the next 50 years; then Lady Clifden laid out various herbaceous borders and a semi-circle yew hedge in 1914. In 1930 Viscount Clifden inherited Lanhydrock House—importing many shrubs and trees for the gardens.

In 1971, the National Trust modified the semi-circular yew hedge, making it circular.

Visiting Lanhydrock House

There's plenty of space to leave your vehicle at Lanhydrock, in well-manicured and grassy car parks. It's a fairly flat walk along the more proper tree-lined roads up to the gatehouse and entrance.

Visit the official National Trust website for the most recent information on hours and cost of admission.

Hours: Opening hours vary throughout the year, but the house usually opens around 11 a.m. and closes late afternoon. Lanhydrock House is not open on Mondays, in addition to being closed from the beginning of November to the middle of March.

There is a shop, bookstore and the Park Café on the grounds as well. These hours also vary throughout the year, so be sure to check their website for the most up-to-date information.

Address: Lanhydrock House, Lanhydrock, Bodmin, Cornwall PL30 5AD, United Kingdom

Telephone: 01208 265 952

© 2010 cornwall_UK