Trewithen means "house of the trees" in Cornish, and the gardens belong to an attractive Georgian house set amidst woodland gardens and parkland .Trewithen was begun in 1730 by Philip Hawkins, and the impressive south front added in 1763. The interior is filled with furniture and paintings collected by the Hawkins family over many years.
Though Trewithen House is itself worth a visit, most people come to see the gardens. The grounds of Trewithen were landscaped at the same time as the house, remodeled as woodland gardens in the 19th century, then transformed in the early 20th century, when George Johnstone inherited the estate.
Trewithen Gardens are internationally famous. They have a magnificent collection of camellias, rhododendrons, magnolias (at their best in Spring ) and many rare trees and shrubs seldom found in Britain. The fine lawned avenue leading up to the House is bordered by large magnolias. Tree ferns, azaleas and acers surround a sunken garden. and there is also a walled garden with a pool.
In 1914 the Government ordered 300 mature trees to be felled for trench props, which George Johnstone used as an opportunity to create the South Lawn, that runs away from the south front for nearly 200 yards, and is lined on both sides by a range of rare specimens.
From the South Lawn curving paths lead into numerous bays full of flowers and constantly offering new views beyond. From early spring there is colour in the huge magnolias and the camellias. Later in the season the rhododendrons bloom beneath the canopy of fresh beech leaves.
Many mature trees were lost in the great storm of 1979, but it remains a woodland garden on the grand scale. Many of the flowering trees and shrubs were grown from seed sent from China, Burma and Assam and are now bigger than their parent plants, having flourished in the mild damp Cornish climate.
Philip Hawkins bought Trewithen, for £700, in 1715 and began to rebuild the existing house in the period style. Philip was succeeded by his cousin Thomas in 1738 and he planed much of its mature woodland and landscaping. Thomas planted the woods to the south and south west of the house which provide the essential shelter for the garden. Philip’s heir Christopher became involved in mining and china clay extraction, he made a lot of money from this and Trewithen became the centre of a great Estate that stretched across the centre of Cornwall.
Trewithen passed to Christopher's’ nephew, CHT Hawkins in 1767, who had little involvement with the property. CHT’s sister married the Rev George Dempster Johnstone and the Estate passed to him on CHT’s death. George Dempster’s grandson (George Horace Johnstone, 1882-1960) eventually inherited the estate, and was the man responsible for most of what one sees today in the gardens. The present owner, Michael Galsworthy, is George Johnstone’s grandson.
The house of Trewithen was largely built by Philip Hawkins after he bought the estate in 1715, its exterior believed to be the work Thomas Edwards of Greenwich, an architect who was responsible for several other major Cornish houses of the time.
The north façade of nine bays with a recessed five-bay centre. This has grown attractive lichen which gives it a pinkish hue, particularly in humid weather. At right angles to this front are detached wings in brick which form the entrance courtyard.
The south facade, looking onto the South Lawn, is of fine ashlar masonry and has a grandeur, probably due to the architect Sir Robert Taylor.
The dining room occupies the five central bays of the south front. It has fine rococo stucco plasterwork and screens of Ionic columns at either end. Throughout the house there are examples of craftsmanship, fine furniture and a collection of paintings including work by Reynolds and Ramsay.
Cornwall Gardens Map