- Heritage Category:
- Park and Garden
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- Date first listed:
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Parkland of C17 origin with late C18 landscape features and early C19 picturesque improvements, together with C19 gardens and pleasure grounds.
In the C14 Boconnoc belonged to the Carminow family, from whom it passed to the Courtenays in the C15. Following the attainder and execution of Henry Courtenay, Marquess of Exeter in 1539 the estate was granted to John Russell, later first Earl of Bedford before being sold in 1579 to William Mohun. In 1643 troops loyal to the Crown under Sir Ralph Hopton were encamped in Boconnoc Woods before engaging Colonel Ruthen's Parliamentary force at Braddock, while in 1644 King Charles I made his headquarters at Boconnoc during the campaign against the Earl of Essex and the siege of Fowey. William Mohun's great-grandson, Charles, fifth Lord Mohun died in 1712 as a result of a duel with the Duke of Hamilton which left both men dead. In 1717 Lord Mohun's widow sold Boconnoc to Thomas Pitt (1653-1726), the former Governor of Madras, who had sold the Pitt Diamond, a gem he had acquired in India, to Philippe, Duc d'Orleans and Regent of France, for £125,000. Pitt extended the house, while his grandson, also Thomas (1737-93), who inherited in 1761 and was created first Baron Camelford in 1784, made further additions to the house in 1771 with the advice of Charles Rawlinson of Lostwithiel; Sir John Soane (1753-1837) made repairs and additions in 1786 and 1788 (Stroud 1961). Nephew of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham (1708-78) and friend of Horace Walpole, and an amateur architect of distinction who designed garden buildings at Hagley Hall, Worcestershire (qv), Mount Edgcumbe, Cornwall (qv), Stowe, Buckinghamshire (qv), and Park Place, Berkshire (qv), Lord Camelford developed the park and pleasure grounds at Boconnoc, erecting an obelisk to the memory of his uncle, Sir Richard Lyttleton (d 1770). William Mason (1725-97) visited Boconnoc in the late C18 and is reported to have been impressed by the 'taste and judgment of the owner' in laying out walks through the woods (Polwhele 1806). Gilbert noted (1820) that Lord Camelford had created a 'delightful lawn, of nearly one hundred acres', and a ride some six miles in length giving easy access to every part of the grounds 'from which, the pleasing scenery of nature is viewed in all its different attitudes'.
The first Lord Camelford was succeeded in 1793 by his son Thomas (b 1775), who continued the development of the park and pleasure grounds in a Picturesque style. In 1804 the second Lord Camelford died in London as the result of a duel at the age of twenty-nine. Lord Camelford was succeeded by his elder sister Anne, who was married to William Wyndham, Lord Grenville, of Dropmore, Buckinghamshire (qv). Under Lord and Lady Grenville a pinetum was planted at Boconnoc, and massed woodland plantings of rhododendron and other subjects were introduced, similar in style to early C19 developments at Dropmore under Philip Frost (1804-87). Lord Grenville died in 1834, leaving a life interest in Boconnoc to his widow, who in turn died in 1865 when both Boconnoc and Dropmore passed to Lord Grenville's nephew, George Matthew Fortescue, younger son of Earl Fortescue of Castle Hill, Devon (qv). George Fortescue died in 1877, when his son, J B Fortescue (d 1938), inherited the estates. Boconnoc remains in private ownership and is today (2000) subject to a programme of restoration.
LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING Boconnoc is situated c 4km east of Lostwithiel to the south of the A390 road. The c 350ha site comprises c 10ha of gardens and pleasure grounds and c 340ha of parkland, ornamental plantations, and picturesque walks and rides. To the north, south-east, north-east, and west the site adjoins agricultural land, while to the south-west and south the site is bounded by a minor road which leads east from the A390 road to Couch's Mill. A further minor road leading north from Lerryn to East Taphouse forms the eastern boundary of the site. A minor road running south from West Taphouse and Braddock passes through the site c 2km east of the house. The ground is undulating, with the River Lerryn flowing south through a valley immediately west of the house. A tributary stream flows east through another valley, and has its confluence with the River Lerryn c 190m north-west of the house. The ground rises to the west and north-east, allowing wide views across the park and surrounding country.
ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES The approach to Boconnoc today (2000) is from the minor road leading south from West Taphouse at a point c 320m south-east of Braddock church. The entrance from this road is marked by Horsepool Lodge, a mid C19 stone structure standing to the south of the drive which leads c 500m west-south-west along the southern edge of Braddockpark Wood, to join the axial north-west drive c 2km north-east of the house. Turning sharply south-west the drive continues on a straight course aligned on the late C18 obelisk c 1.1km north-east of the house; the drive is flanked by wide grass verges and passes through mixed plantations with evergreen underplanting. Ascending a slight incline to approach the obelisk, the drive passes between a pair of rusticated and pedimented stone classical shrines (listed grade II); constructed c 1771 by Thomas Pitt, first Lord Camelford the shrines form a group with the obelisk. Placed on an axis with the drive, the obelisk (listed grade II) stands on an approximately square level platform, the corners of which are marked by mature specimen Scots pines. A slate inscription panel is set into the north-east face of the obelisk's pedestal recording that it was erected 'In gratitude and affection to the Memory of Sir Richard Lyttleton'. The obelisk was constructed in 1771 for Thomas Pitt, Lord Camelford, presumably to his own design, and was repaired by Sir John Soane after a lightning strike in 1787 (Pevsner 1974); the platform upon which it stands is said to have originated as a mid C17 battery (listed building description; OS). Adjacent to the obelisk the drive sweeps south-south-west and south-west for c 320m, dropping through further mixed plantations and shrubbery to enter the park adjacent to Lawn Lodge, a mid C19 picturesque gabled structure c 720m north-east of the house. Beyond Lawn Lodge, the drive follows a straight course c 550m south-west through the park, dropping gently towards the house and parish church. Some 130m east of the house the drive divides, with one branch ascending north-west to the C18 and C19 stable court (listed grade II) and another sweeping south-east, south, and south-west through the park below the house to form a southern approach. The principal drive continues west, passing through an early C19 white-painted timber gate flanked by mature specimen rhododendrons to enter the pleasure grounds east of the house. The gravel drive divides areas of lawn, that to the north being bounded by a steep rocky slope planted with ornamental shrubs, immediately below the C14 parish church (listed grade I). There is a gravelled carriage turn immediately below the east facade of the house. The north-east drive, leading from the house to an entrance immediately south of Braddock church, was developed in the late C18 by Thomas Pitt, first Lord Camelford.
A complex network of drives extends throughout the site, with entrances giving access from public roads to the west, south-west, south, and east. A further principal drive approaches the house from the minor road forming the south-west boundary of the site. A simple tall timber gate set in a stone boundary wall gives access to a drive which leads c 80m east through the deer park to join a further drive (today, 2000, a track) which leads south-east through Westparks Wood. The point at which this drive enters the deer park is marked by Park Lodge, a mid C19 gabled stone structure which stands to the north-east of a gate supported by granite piers set in a C19 wrought-iron deer fence. The south-west drive continues to descend gently c 600m south-east through a picturesque valley within the deer park planted with beech and clumps of pines to reach a junction with the south drive which leads to an entrance and early C19 lodge at Couch's Mill. The late C19 or early C20 Taley Lodge, a two-storey stone and half-timbered structure stands in large lawned gardens to the south-west of a pair of C19 rusticated stone gate piers with flat caps which mark the start of the south drive. South of Taley Lodge the south drive runs parallel and to the west of the River Lerryn, which here flows through a picturesque wooded valley. The drive passes picturesque features including a granite drinking trough fed by a small cascade, to reach, after c 500m, Millcombe Bridge (listed grade II), a late C18 triple-arched granite bridge which carries the drive to the east bank of the river. To the north of Taley Lodge, the south-west drive extends north along the west bank of the lake and the River Lerryn for c 320m before turning north-east to cross the river on a single-arched late C18 stone bridge with a parapet ornamented with quartz rubble. From the bridge there are views north along the picturesquely wooded valley of the Lerryn, and south to The Lake; to the north-east the house is visible above a south-facing slope. Beyond the bridge the drive divides, one branch leading north along the Lerryn valley to reach the Stewardry north of the house, the other, principal branch sweeping east and north to join the north-east drive east of the house.
The complex system of drives was developed in the late C18 and early C19 by the first and second Lords Camelford. The south and south-west drives with their exploitation of picturesque scenery and features in the Lerryn valley and the deer park are typical of developments made by the second Lord Camelford and Lord Grenville in the early C19. The C18 and C19 drives appear to have replaced a formal approach aligned on the east facade of the house (Mr Fortescue pers comm, 2000); the line of this approach has been partly replanted in the C20 as an avenue.
PRINCIPAL BUILDING Boconnoc House (listed grade II*) stands on an artificially levelled terrace cut into a south- and west-facing slope above the River Lerryn towards the centre of the site. Constructed in rubble stone under slate, partly Mansard roofs, and comprising two storeys with attics lit by dormer windows, the house was formerly L-shaped on plan with a long south wing extending west of the entrance or east wing. The south wing, which contained a gallery constructed by Thomas Pitt, Lord Camelford in 1772, was reduced in 1971, leaving the house approximately I-shaped on plan. The entrance or east facade is nearly symmetrical, with an off-centre doorcase, while to north and south it breaks forward in a pair of bays which are treated identically, with ground-floor tripartite sash windows below first-floor Venetian windows. To the north, and slightly set back, is a three-storey tower which forms the east end of a C19 north wing; this was reduced in height from four storeys in the C20. The west facade which overlooks a gravelled yard is irregular with a projecting central section. To the south is a single-storey range and a C20 screen wall which form remnants of the demolished late C18 gallery wing.
The house assumed its present form c 1719 when the C16 or C17 house built by the Mohun family was extended for Thomas Pitt, former Governor of Madras. The south wing was extended westwards in 1772 by Thomas Pitt, first Lord Camelford, working in association with Charles Rawlinson of Lostwithiel. Sir John Soane undertook repairs and improvements to the house in the late C18 (Stroud 1961), and an early C19 engraving shows a north-east wing extending further east than is the case today (Gilbert 1820). Following requisition of the house during the Second World War, serious structural problems became evident in the south wing, which was reduced in 1971-2, since when the house has remained unoccupied. Today (2000) a major programme of restoration is planned.
GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS The pleasure grounds are situated to the south and east of the house, with further areas on the higher ground to the north-east, north, and on the west-facing slope of the Lerryn valley to the north-west.
To the east of the house is an area of lawn flanking the drive. Stone steps ascend the rocky south-facing bank to the north of the lawn giving access to the parish church. To the north-east of the house and to the north of the carriage turn is a C19 circular stone-kerbed pool which contains a two-tier, cast-iron fountain. A gravel terrace walk returns below the south facade of the house and is retained by a low drystone wall. At the western end of the south wing, on the site of the demolished late C18 gallery, is a partly paved garden and a south-facing loggia, all enclosed behind low stone walls. Below the gravel terrace a grass terrace extends c 50m east beyond the house to be terminated by a double-sided ornamental granite bench seat which is backed by a group of trees. There are extensive views from the terrace and lawns south across the park to The Lake. The grass terrace is retained by a low stone wall, and from it stone steps flanked by low square-section stone piers descend to an area of south-facing sloping lawns planted with groups of rhododendrons and other shrubs. The lawns descend to a C19 metal estate fence separating the pleasure grounds from the park.
Some 130m north-east of the house is an approximately triangular-shaped area of pleasure grounds enclosed on each side by stone walls or Cornish hedges which separate the garden from service or secondary drives. Entered through a C19 or early C20 ornamental wrought-iron gate, the garden comprises an area of south-facing sloping lawn planted with specimen trees, shrubs, and conifers. A mown grass walk leads c 80m north to a low flight of stone steps which ascends to a level terrace which is similarly planted with mature specimen trees and shrubs arranged around a circular stone-kerbed pool which contains a two-tier stone fountain. To the north, a rendered brick wall with a central recess aligned with the fountain and steps marks the site of a C19 conservatory; a brick lean-to shed survives against the rear face of the wall. To the north of the site of the conservatory the ground slopes up to a leat which forms the northern boundary of the garden. To the north-east a flight of stone steps flanked by quartz-rubble walls ascends to a C19 or early C20 wrought-iron gate leading to a drive which leads north from the stables to Nenawicket. This garden, known as the Dorothy Garden, was developed by the Fortescue family from the mid C19.
Beyond the drive is a further area of lawns planted with specimen trees and groups of ornamental shrubs; to the west is a late C20 pond of informal outline. Some 80m north the pleasure grounds are separated from parkland by a C19 metal estate fence which allows views north up the Lerryn valley. A ride lined by mature limes and groups of rhododendrons leads north-north-east parallel to the park boundary, joining further rides which lead north through Brownshill Wood. To the north-west of the C20 pond a mown grass path descends the north-west-facing slope through a belt of mature pines and specimen shrubs to reach a drive, a continuation of the south drive, c 320m north of the house, adjacent to the entrance to the Stewardry. This late C18/C19 two-storey stone house stands in C19 and C20 informal gardens and pleasure grounds comprising lawns planted with specimen trees and groups of ornamental shrubs. To the north of the Stewardry the drive continues to join the network of drives and rides in Brownshill Wood, while to the south it forms the boundary between the pleasure grounds and parkland west of the house, from which it is separated by C19 metal estate fencing; there are picturesque views across the Lerryn valley, and west to Colliershill Wood. Above, and parallel to the drive, a gravel terrace walk extends south from the Stewardry through deciduous woodland underplanted with ornamental shrubs. Some 130m north-west of the house the terrace walk reaches a former quarry with a cascade descending the rock face to the east and an early C19 classical stone bath standing towards the centre of a level area which has been planted with specimen Chusan palms and moisture-loving plants. Below and to the west of the terrace, the stream forms an informal cascade, while a clearing planted with azaleas allows views across the Lerryn valley. Some 50m south of the quarry garden, a flight of rustic stone steps ascends south-east to reach an early C19 bath house and bathing pool (listed grade II) c 50m north-west of the house. The bath house and pool are enclosed within a rectangular enclosure formed by rubble-stone walls c 3m high, with an entrance in the south-east corner formed by a re-set gothic arch and timber door. The pool (dry, 2000) is rectangular on plan and lined with ashlar granite blocks, and is surrounded by a paved walk and narrow borders planted with camellias and rhododendrons. To the west a stone lion's-mask fountain to feed the pool is set on a curved pediment, while to the east the bathing house comprises a stone, square-plan structure under a pyramid slate roof (under repair, 2000). A door on the west facade leads directly to the pool, while further doors in the north and south facades lead to the perimeter walk; a flight of stone steps descends into the pool at its north-east corner. The terrace walk, quarry garden, and bath form part of the early C19 pleasure grounds developed by the second Lord Camelford in the Picturesque taste.
There are further detached pleasure grounds to the west and east of the house. To the west a tributary stream of the River Lerryn flows east through a valley which contains a series of early C19 picturesque incidents. A carriage drive runs parallel and to the north-east of the stream, below the steep south-west-facing slope of Colliershill Wood. Some 270m north-west of the house the rim of a former quarry is planted with evergreen shrubs, while to the west rustic stone steps ascend to a series of rocky walks on the hillside above the drive. Adjacent to the mound is the entrance to a disused mine, and a rocky cascade. A walk to the south of the stream is carried above the mine entrance on a simple, single-arched stone bridge. The cross, bridge, and cascade form a picturesque group when seen from the carriage drive to the north of the stream. A walk ascends south-west through the woodland on the east-facing slope of the valley, from a point c 220m west-north-west of the house. The walk passes a simple granite bench seat positioned at the base of a veteran beech, the roots of which are deliberately exposed. This seat would have afforded views north-east across the valley to the quarry garden in the pleasure grounds; these are now obscured. At the summit of the hill, adjacent to the boundary of the plantation and the north-west park, the walk reaches the 'Bastion' or 'Cock Pit', an approximately circular feature comprising a central circular area retained by a stone wall and surrounded by a ditch which appears to join further ditches extending north-west and south-east. The area is planted with mature sycamore and beech, and projects south into the park, allowing views towards the deer park. To the north-east an artificially levelled platform is planted with hollies and supports a simple early C19 granite bench seat; views from this seat would have extended up the Lerryn valley, but are now obscured by tree-growth. The 'Bastion' or 'Cock Pit' is said to be derived from a Civil War battery (Mr Fortescue pers comm, 2000). These picturesque features form part of the early C19 improvements undertaken by the second Lord Camelford and completed under Lord and Lady Grenville.
Some 670m east of the house, and approached by a ride leading south from the north-east drive, the Pinetum comprises an area of mature conifers underplanted with groups of ornamental shrubs and interspersed with young specimen conifers. This area was developed by Lord and Lady Grenville (Pett 1998) in the early and mid C19, and reflects similar developments at their other seat, Dropmore, Buckinghamshire (qv).
PARK The park comprises four areas of open ground to the west, south, east, and north-east of the house, which are divided by ornamental plantations. The park to the south and east of the house is in mixed use, with the south-facing slope below the house being in arable cultivation with scattered specimen trees, the west-facing slopes to the east remaining pasture with scattered trees. Towards the summit of the west-facing slope some 550m south-east of the house, a low granite column stands within a C19 metal-fenced enclosure planted with specimen trees, yew, and other shrubs; the monument commemorates the burial of the Duke of Wellington in 1852 (inscription). In the valley c 430m south of the house, the River Lerryn is dammed to form a lake of irregular outline with an island near its eastern bank. Constructed in the mid C19, The Lake became heavily silted in the C20 and is now subject to a programme of renovation. To the south-east of The Lake, Penrose Wood rises on a north-west-facing slope, joining ornamental trees around the Wellington monument and the Pinetum to the east of the house to form a visual boundary to the south and east of the park. The park to the south and east of the house comprises the area known in the early C19 as the 'lawn' (Gilbert 1820), and formed part of landscape developed by the first and second Lords Camelford in the late C18 and early C19 and completed by Lord Grenville after 1804.
The park to the west of the house comprises the valley of the River Lerryn which flows from north to south, and a further area of higher ground to the west separated from the river valley by woodland on the east-facing slope above the river. The river valley remains pasture; a veteran oak pollard is preserved as a picturesque feature in the open valley, standing a mound c 200m north-west of the house. The valley is enclosed to the west by the east-facing slope of Colliershill Wood, to the north by Brownshill Wood, and to the east by the west-facing slope of the wooded pleasure grounds; to the south the vista through the valley is terminated by the late C18 stone bridge carrying the south drive across the River Lerryn. Colliershill Wood and its extension to the south are enclosed by C19 metal estate fencing and deer fences, together with a substantial ditch and mound which runs within the margin of the plantation. The park in the Lerryn valley forms part of the picturesque landscape developed by the second Lord Camelford in the early C19.
The park on the higher ground to the west of the Lerryn valley is in arable cultivation (2000). A finger of down-like land which extends c 1km from south-east to north-west is bounded to the south-west by Westpark Wood, and to the north-west by Roughparks Plantation. To the north-east the ground drops into the wooded valley of a tributary stream of the Lerryn. The park drops gently to the north-east, revealing views across the site towards the obelisk and woodland north-east of the house. The north-west park forms part of the late C18 and early C19 landscape developed by the first and second Lords Camelford, and was used as an addition to the deer park to the south; remnants of C19 deer fences survive on the north-east boundary of the park.
To the south-east, and separated from the west park by the shallow valley through which the south-west drive passes, the deer park remains pasture with scattered specimen trees and pines. To the south the park is bounded by Heronshill Plantation, and to the east by Heronshill Wood, which drops into the Lerryn valley. Some 830m south-west of the house a cricket ground is situated on a bluff of high ground with views north-east across the south park. The cricket ground was established in 1846 (Records of Boconnoc Cricket Club). A deer park is first recorded at Boconnoc in 1435 (Pett 1998); a park is marked on Saxton's Map of Cornwall (1576), and by 1583 it was a mile in circumference (Shirley 1867). In the late C18 or early C19 the park included land to the north of the south-west drive which today forms part of the west park. The present park (2000) retains a deer herd.
KITCHEN GARDEN The kitchen garden was situated at the Home Farm c 700m east of the house and immediately outside the park. Sections of early C19 buttressed brick walls c 3m high survive, but the site of the kitchen garden is developed with late C20 farm buildings and a concrete yard. The site of the kitchen garden lies outside the site here registered.
OTHER LAND To the north-east of the park is an extensive area of mixed ornamental plantations, through which the north-east drive passes; this area was developed in the late C18 as a setting for the drive and the first Lord Camelford's obelisk (1771). To the east of this woodland, and to the east of the minor road which passes through the site south-east of Braddock, agricultural enclosures are interspersed by five mixed, irregularly shaped plantations. This area is enclosed to the east and south by a continuous belt of mixed plantations comprising Braddockround Plantation, Withy Piece Plantation, and Clowne Plantation. The woodland planting to the east of Obelisk Plantation forms part of the early and mid C19 picturesque landscape developed by the second Lord Camelford and continued under Lord and Lady Grenville.
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- Parks and Gardens
Books and journals
Lake's Parochial History of Cornwall (I), (1867), 72-5
Borlase, V, The Natural History of Cornwall, (1758), 219, 288
Elliot, B, Victorian Gardens, (1986), 93-4
Gilbert, CS, An Historical Survey of the County of Cornwall (II), (1820), 908
Hals, W, Parochial History of Cornwall i, (1750), 70
Harris, J, The Artist and the Country House: a History of Country House and Garden view painting in Britain 1540-1870, (1979), 254
Lysons, Rev D, Lysons, S, Magna Britannia Cornwall, (1814), pl 33
McCabe, H, Houses and Gardens of Cornwall, (1996), 50-3, 148-50
Pett, DE, The Parks and Gardens of Cornwall, (1998), 151-3, 257
Pevsner, N, Radcliffe, E, The Buildings of England: Cornwall, (1970), 39-40
Pevsner, N (ed), The Picturesque Garden, (1974), 33-53
Polwhele, R, History of Cornwall iii, (1806), 117
Shirley, EP, Some Account of English Deer Parks, (1867), 87-8
Stroud, D, The Architecture of Sir John Soane, (1961), 158
[Archival items] Abstract of garden account, 1810 (DDF/196), (Cornwall Record Office)
[Archival items] Accounts for work on the lawn and park, 1807-9 (DDF/336), (Cornwall Record Office)
[Archival items] Garden accounts, 1771(3 (DDF/188), (Cornwall Record Office)
[Archival items] Pitt and Fortescue family papers, C18-C19, including accounts (DDF), (Cornwall Record Office)
[Archival items] Records of Boconnoc Cricket Club (DDF(4)/78/2), (Cornwall Record Office)
[Archival items] Sir John Soane, Fragment of plan for triumphal arch proposed as entrance to the park at Boconnoc, c 1780 (Sir John Soane Museum, London)
[Illustration] Engraved view of Boconnoc from the south-east, c 1820 (published in Gilbert 1820, p 910)
[Map] Draft enclosure plan for Boconnoc, c 1821 (DDF/326), (Cornwall Record Office)
[Map] OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition surveyed 1880
[Map] OS 6" to 1 mile: 2nd edition revised 1905, published 1908
[Map] Plan of Boconock Barton, Property of Tho Pitt, Esq, nd (?C18), (private collection)
[Map] Tracings of plans of the Boconnoc estate, 1811(20 (DDF/327), (Cornwall Record Office)
Architectural Review, 73 (1933), pp 156-8
Gardener's Magazine, 13 (1837), p 121
Map of Boconnoc and area, C16 (DDF/Ad 644), (Cornwall Record Office)
S Saxton, Map of Cornwall, 1576
This garden or other land is registered under the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act 1953 within the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens by Historic England for its special historic interest.
End of official listing