Cotehele House & Gardens, National Trust Cornwall

Cotehele House & Gardens, National Trust Cornwall

Cotehele House is a well preserved, and little altered, Tudor manor house in the east of Cornwall and on the banks of the River Tamar. Cotehele has a series of formal gardens near the house. Plus a richly planted valley garden, with a medieval dovecote and stewpond, a Victorian summerhouse and an 18th century tower with fine views

Cotehele was owned by the Edgcumbe family for nearly six centuries. It is one of the least altered medieval houses in the country, it contains original furniture, armour and a set of remarkable tapestries. There is more to Cotehele than just the house. The estate is criss crossed by miles of footpaths, riverside and woodland walks. There is a working watermill and industrial ruins in the Danescombe Valley

The present house was built between 1485 and 1539 during the reigns of Richard III, Henry VII and Henry VIII. Sir Richard Edgcumbe, was rewarded for his loyalty to Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth (the battle was in 1485), started to completely remodel the original 13th century property. Following Richard Edgcumbe's death 4 years later at Morlaix in Brittany, his son Sir Piers Edgcumbe (1472-1539) completed the new house. The local granite and slate used to build the house is particularly durable and this fact together with Sir Piers' son, Richard, building a new family seat, Mount Edgcumbe in 1553, resulted in Cotehele being comparatively little altered over the years. The family moved to Mount Edgcumbe in the 17th century but they continued to own Cotehele until 1947 when it was accepted by the Treasury in payment of death duty and given to the National Trust. This was the first property in Britain to be acquired by Trust via the "in lieu of death duty" route.

The property was built with defence in mind, the exterior windows are small and high on the walls. The grand large windows open onto the protected inner courtyard.

The Retainers' Court is to the left of the south wing and provided outbuildings to the main house. Sir Richard Edgcumbe's Chapel protrudes into this space. The chapel has moulded, a bellcote and decorative finials. The two light, pointed windows, with square dripcourses and the low broad west window to the Chapel are late fifteenth century.

Entering the main courtyard through the square gate-tower, and cobbled passageway is cobbled just wide enough for a laden pack-horse, you will see several arched doorways going into the house.

The Great Hall is where you can now see arms and armour beneath a high, arched timber roof . The walls are limewashed and would originally weapons would have been kept there for convenience rather than decoration. The raised dais at one end, from where the Lord of the Manor would survey his guests, has been removed but the fifteenth century stained glass still shows the arms and history of the family.

The tower was added in 1620 and it contains three bedrooms where King Charles I is said to have stayed for a night in 1644

The Old Dining Room has a display of tapestries. Used originally as much for insulation as for decoration, the tapestries have been sewn together to fit where necessary.

The Chapel is late fifteenth century, with alterations from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The roof is barrel vaulted with Tudor roses carved on the bosses. There are three peep holes which allowed private viewing of the services. The Chapel floor has some of its original medieval tiles and there is a Flemish early sixteenth century Crucifixion on the south chancel wall.

The chapel clock installed in 1489 is a great rarity. It is pre-pendulum and is powered by two 90 pound weights. It is the earliest domestic clock that has survived, unaltered in its original position and unaltered. It is a pre-pendulum clock, without a face, telling the time by the striking of bells in the bellcote and it is still in working order.

The Red Room and the South Room were originally one large Solar for the Lord's private residence.

Queen Anne's Room is where George III and Queen Charlotte were entertained to breakfast in 1789.

The Kitchen Court, the smallest of the three courtyards, is off the main staircase. There is a lead water tank with the date 1639.The Kitchen was well sited for the Hall when in use for meals, but not so convenient for the Old Dining Room across the court. It was used as the kitchen for the house up till 1946.The original 10 foot Tudor hearth remains and there is a huge oven in the north wall.

The contents of Cotehele House are on loan from Lord Mount Edgcumbe's trustees.


Outside, the formal gardens overlook the valley garden below, with medieval dovecote (probably 15th century), stewpond and Victorian summer house, and 18th-century tower above.

At the Quay old buildings house the Edgcumbe Arms tea-room and an outstation of the National Maritime Museum. The restored Tamar sailing barge Shamrock is moored alongside. Unaltered since the last century, the stone and slate buildings form a fine setting for the restored Shamrock.

The Shamrock is a 57ft ketch-rigged vessel of 1899. It transported cargoes on Tamar and then worked as a diving tender and salvage barge before being acquired by The National Trust in 1974. She is now co-owned by the National Maritime Museum, and has been restored to sea-going condition. Normally seen in her dock at Cotehele, she does make occasional trips on the Tamar. The adjoining Quay Museum tells Shamrock's story, trade on the river, and mining, quarrying and shipbuilding in the Tamar Valley.

Further away from the house there are nineteenth century workshops and a forge, filled with old tools. A water mill and apple press are also open to the public.

National Trust in Cornwall

Historic Houses in Cornwall

Cotehele National Trust


The hotel to stay at when visiting Cornwall is Corisande Manor Hotel, Cornwall find out more about it

Corisande Manor Hotel, Cornwall