Ancient mansion-houses

Magna Britannia: Volume 3, Cornwall. Originally published by T Cadell and W Davies, London, 1814.

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Daniel Lysons, Samuel Lysons, 'Ancient mansion-houses', in Magna Britannia: Volume 3, Cornwall( London, 1814), British History Online [accessed 13 July 2024].

Daniel Lysons, Samuel Lysons, 'Ancient mansion-houses', in Magna Britannia: Volume 3, Cornwall( London, 1814), British History Online, accessed July 13, 2024,

Daniel Lysons, Samuel Lysons. "Ancient mansion-houses". Magna Britannia: Volume 3, Cornwall. (London, 1814), , British History Online. Web. 13 July 2024.

Ancient Mansion-Houses.

Figure 26:

Part of Place House, Fowey

Of Place-house, the ancient seat of the Treffry family, in the town of Fowey, a considerable part still remains, though the "right fair and strong embattled tower," mentioned by Leland, and which appears from a drawing in Dr. Borlase's manuscript collections, to have been standing in the year 1752, does not now exist. Leland says that Thomas Treffry, "embateling all the waulls of the house, in a manner made it a castelle, and unto this day (temp. Henry VIII.) it is the glorie of the town building in Fowey." A pretty good idea may be formed of what this house was in the time of King Henry VIII., from the representation of the town of Fowey, in the chart of the southern coast above-noticed (fn. n1), where the tower noticed by Leland appears.

On the south side a bow-window still remains, very richly ornamented with Gothic tracery. The hall, which has a flat ceiling of oak, richly ornamented, appears, from a date under a coat of arms, to have been fitted up in the year 1575; long since which period, the greater part of this building has been much altered internally.

A square embattled tower is all that remains of an ancient castellated mansion, in the parish of Breage, called Pengersick castle, which does not appear to be of higher antiquity than the reign of King Henry VIII., when it was the seat of the family of Militon. An upper apartment in this tower was ornamented with a great variety of paintings round the upper part of the oak wainscot, with proverbs and verses to illustrate them; these are at present much decayed. About the middle of the last century, when this building was visited by Dr. Borlase, they appear to have been pretty well preserved; and as they serve to shew the style of decoration then in use, we shall insert in a note the Doctor's description of them from his manuscript collections above-mentioned. (fn. n2)

The following may serve as a specimen of the proverbs and verses. In the compartment where is represented the blind man with the lame on his back:—

"The one nedith of the other ys helpe."

"The lame wyche lacketh for to goo Is borne upon the blinde is back, So mutually betwien theme twoo The one supplieth the others lack: The blinde to laime doth lend his might, The layme to blynde doth yeld his fight."

Figure 27:

Cothele House court, from the gateway

Cothele-house, the ancient seat of the Edgcumbe family, situated on the west bank of the river Tamar, in the parish of Calstock, is, externally, nearly in the same state as when it was erected by Sir Richard Edgcumbe, in the reign of King Henry the Seventh, and exhibits a curious specimen of the mansion-house of that time: the style of its architecture will be seen by the annexed view, which shews the court, having on the north side the hall, 22 feet by 42, in the windows of which are many coats of arms of the Edgcumbe family and their alliances, in painted glass (fn. n3); on the west side is the chapel, in the east window of which are some remains of painted glass.

There are considerable remains of Rialton-house, in the parish of St. ColumbMinor, one of the houses of the prior of Bodmin, and built by Thomas Vivian, the last prior, whose monument is noticed at p. ccxxxvi. Part of these remains has been converted into a farm-house; in a chamber of which, still called the Prior's Chamber, is a coat of arms, — Az. three fishes Arg., in one of the windows, with the initials T.V. Over a door-way with a pointed arch, in the ruined part of the house, in one of the spandrils, is a shield charged with a cross-florée and crown, with this inscription, "Edgarus." In the other, a shield charged with a sword and crown, with a bugle-horn across; a stag on one side, and a dog on the other, with this inscription, "S. Petroc, T.V." The upper part of a larger arch, which now stands alone, and appears to have been the principal entrance, is ornamented with shields and inscriptions, very neatly carved: over the arch, in large letters, is the name of the house "Rialtoun." On one spandril, the arms of Engand, supported by angels; in the other, a shield charged with three fishes, supported by angels; over which, on a scroll, is this motto, "Sit laus Deo:" over the arch is also this inscription, "T.V. Prior hoc fecit." There is a well in the court adjoining the house, with a small stone building over it, at one end of which is a niche with a pedestal for an image.

Part of the castellated mansion at Trelawny, erected by Lord Bonville, in the reign of King Henry VI., still remains on the eastern side of Trelawny-house, in the parish of Pelynt, now the seat of the Rev. Sir Harry Trelawny, Bart. Of Trecarrell, the ancient seat of the family of that name, in the parish of Lezant, the old hall and chapel still remain; as does the old hall at Benallack, in the parish of Constantine, formerly the seat of á family of that name. Some parts of the ancient mansion at Golden in Probus, the seat of the Wolvedons alias Goldens, and afterwards of the Tregians, consisting chiefly of the chapel and a gateway, still exist, in a dilapidated state.

The ancient building in the town of Lostwithiel, supposed to have been a palace of the Earls of Cornwall, which was unroofed, and in a dilapidated state in the year 1734, when Buck's view of it was taken, part of which is now used as the Stannary prison, was erected by Edmund Earl of Cornwall, for his exchequer, &c.; and it is doubtful whether there ever was a palace or mansion-house attached to it. (fn. n4) The sites of Cardinham, Boscastle, and several other castellated mansions, are to be traced in the ditches of their moats, or other earth-works still remaining.


  • n1. See the plate, p. 108.
  • n2. "On the wainscot round the upper part of the room are pictures in miniature, proverbs divided, and betwixt the division, verses; all serving to illustrate each other, and to enforce some moral instruction. The first recommends loyalty to the King. The second asserts the happiness of a kingdom, when served by faithful ministers. The third, how tender and careful a Prince should be of the safety of his subjects; comparing an affectionate sovereign to a dolphin, (a fish always remarkable for his love to the human species,) and at the same time, probably, intimating how happy the master of this house was, in the affection and kindness he met with from Godolphin house, (of which family a dolphin is the crest,) whence he married his lady. (See Leland, Itin. vol. iii. p. 6.) The fourth asserts the sacred ties of marriage, and how wantonly they had been violated by some late divorces, alluding, probably, to the divorce of Henry VIII. from Queen Catherine. In the picture relating hereunto are represented, first, the proper emblems of marriage, — the gentleman giving his right hand to the lady; a picture of no contemptible hand, and surely a strong testimony it is of the conjugal affection and domestic happiness of this Militon and his lady. On each side of this picture is a mansion-house; the one (by what is still remaining) evidently the dwelling-house commonly called Pengersick Castle, as it then stood; the other is the house whence the lady married to Militon, lord of Pengersick, proceeded, and I take it to be the old house of Godolphin, as it was in those times. The fifth truth inculcated is, that as the wants of mankind are mutual, so ought to be their assistances of each other; very properly exhibited to us in the blind man's carrying the lame on his back. The sixth, that nothing is difficult or impossible to the willing and industrious. The seventh and last, gives a true picture of the miser, in the ass laden with plenty, and dainties of all kinds, yet feeds upon poor herbage, and tastes not nor touches what he bears the burthen of, not for himself, but for others." (Borlase's MS. Collection.)
  • n3. Cothele-house is entirely furnished with ancient furniture, collected by its present noble owner and his father.
  • n4. See p. 203.