The English Garden House


Heritage Category: Listed Building

Grade: II*

List Entry Number: 1140619

Date first listed: 23-Jan-1968

Date of most recent amendment: 05-Dec-2018

Statutory Address: Mount Edgcumbe Estate, Cremyll, Mount Edgcumbe, Torpoint, PL10 1HZ


Ordnance survey map of The English Garden House
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Statutory Address: Mount Edgcumbe Estate, Cremyll, Mount Edgcumbe, Torpoint, PL10 1HZ

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Maker-with-Rame

National Grid Reference: SX4549053170


A Classical garden building, later used as a bath house, subsequently a dwelling, built by 1729, for Richard Edgcumbe (later 1st Lord Edgcumbe, 1680-1758), on the Mount Edgcumbe estate; extended in about 1809 and in the early C20.

Reasons for Designation

The English Garden House at Mount Edgcumbe, a Classical garden house dating from between 1718 and 1729, and extended in about 1809-1812, is listed at Grade II*, for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* as an early example of a Classical garden building in C18 England, constructed as a banqueting house; * the design of the original range, copied from an example illustrated by Palladio in his Quattro Libri immediately following its first publication in English, is of clear quality in design and execution, as are the matching rooms added at the beginning of the C19; * the building retains fine Classical interior schemes of carved wood and moulded plaster from both main phases of its development in the C18 and early C19.

Historic interest:

* the garden house, unusually, survived subsequent remodellings of the gardens with changing fashion throughout the C18, C19 and C20; * the creation of the bath house in the mid-C18, the addition of private rooms in the C19 and the conversion to domestic use for staff in the early C20 clearly demonstrate responses to social change.

Group value:

* with the numerous listed garden buildings and structures throughout the Mount Edgcumbe landscape, which is itself included on the Register of Parks and Gardens at Grade I.


The English Garden House was constructed between 1718 and 1729, in the wilderness garden on the Mount Edgcumbe estate; it is depicted on an estate plan of 1729, but not on a plan of 1718. The estate, occupying a dramatic and extensive site on the Rame peninsula, with views along the coast and over Plymouth Sound and the Hamoaze, began with a deer park enclosed in 1515 by Sir Piers Edgcumbe of Cotehele. His son, Sir Richard Edgcumbe built his house on the site in 1547-1553, and subsequent generations developed the landscape according to the tastes of the day. The Edgcumbes were close to a number of figures who were in the vanguard of landscape design in the early C18, including Horace Walpole and Alexander Pope, who built perhaps the first example of an English landscape garden at his villa in Twickenham from about 1720. It may have been through the connection with Pope that Richard Edgcumbe (1680-1758) conceived the idea of the English Garden House. The Classical design, initially comprising the core of the present building with the central bay of the present south entrance front as its main elevation, is copied from illustrations of the Roman Temple of Vesta at Tivoli, published in Palladio’s Quattro Libri, which had been published in an English translation for the first time in 1715-1720. A drawing of 1735 by Thomas Badeslade, preserved in the Mount Edgcumbe archive, shows a fashionable party dining outside the English Garden House, surrounded by the tall, coniferous trees of the wilderness garden, clearly recognisable as the core of the building as it stands at present. An engraving by Badeslade dated 1737 shows the wilderness garden from the opposite angle, with the English Garden House depicted from the rear; the high, circular windows shown in the wall are still present in the building, now enclosed inside a later extension. The English Garden House was retained and remodelled even as the gardens around it were developed in different styles, continuing to form a focal point in the landscape in subsequent centuries.

Recent, extensive architectural and scientific investigation and archive research by students at the University of Pennsylvania [see SOURCES], has established a closely-dated chronology for the history of the English Garden House since the early C18. The building appears originally to have enclosed a single large room, rectangular on plan, clearly used as a banqueting house and place of entertainment. In the second quarter of the C18, the space was divided into broadly its current divisions, with most of the space given over to the main entrance hall, with the smaller inner hall and its fireplace beyond, and small closets to either side. The building was also extended in this period, with the addition of a square bath house, its deep, oval bath lined in Ashburton marble, with an elaborately-modelled dolphin faucet (since removed and re-used as a water feature in the garden outside Mount Edgcumbe House) set within a niche alongside the bath. Further features which are no longer extant are hinted at in the fabric, though their interpretation is not clear, such as a balustrade in the inner hall. The existing elaborate Classical interiors in the entrance hall and the inner hall, including the intricately-carved timber cornices, door surrounds, chair rails and skirting boards, appear to have been installed in about 1750-1775. The English Garden House continued as a place of pleasure and entertaining, for the family, their guests, and even royalty: the English Garden, which was built around the house and from which it takes its name, was visited in 1789 by King George II and Queen Charlotte, and in 1834 by William IV, both of whom took refreshments there, presumably within the Garden House. The building was extended in about 1809-1812, when two new rooms, built in brick but stuccoed to match the earlier building, were added to either side of the main entrance bay, described by one visitor in 1836 as a study and boudoir; these have plasterwork decoration and were made comfortable with fireplaces, and appear to have been used regularly by the second Earl and his daughter. The principal rooms have not been altered since this period. In the mid- to late C19, a low, detached range was constructed to the rear of the English Garden House, with a large fireplace, perhaps to facilitate the heating of water for the bath house. By the end of the C19 it is likely that the building was in use as lodging for guests, rather than in regular use by the family. In the early C20, a lavatory was added at the east side of the building, and the space between the rear of the English Garden House and the detached ancillary building was roofed over to become a large kitchen, with a high fireplace for a range. It is probable that it became accommodation for estate staff from this point, in which use it remained during the C20.


A Classical garden building, later used as a bath house, subsequently a dwelling, built by 1729, for Richard Edgcumbe (later 1st Lord Edgcumbe, 1680-1758), on the Mount Edgcumbe estate; extended in about 1809 and in the early C20.

MATERIALS: rendered stone and brick; slate roofs with lead rolls to the hips and ridge.

PLAN: the building is a rough T-plan, with an additional cross-range to the rear.

EXTERIOR: the building is a single storey, in Classical style, with hipped roofs. The main (south) elevation is in a pattern of 1:1:1 bays. The design of the central bay, which was the first to be built, was copied from Serlio and Palladio’s illustrations of the Temple of Vesta at Tivoli. The bay breaks forward, its roof extending over the centrepiece with Roman Doric pilasters and entablature with triglyphs and guttae. The entablature breaks forward again, with a pediment at the centre supported on Roman Doric columns. The central tapered doorway has a pulvinated frieze, cornice, and later multi-paned glazed double doors. The later bays to either side each have a multi-paned glazed door in lugged and tapered architraves, each with a recessed panel over. The cornice continues to right and left of the centrepiece without a frieze and is supported at the corners on rusticated pilasters. Each of the returns has a blind lugged and tapered recess matching the flanking openings in the main elevation, with a similar recessed panel above. The rear sections of the building are irregular. To the rear of the western room is an attached, roughly square addition: the bath house, with a brick stack, eight-over-eight hornless sash window to the north, and a pyramidal roof. To the west side, a small addition of the early C20, with a three-over-six sash window. Adjoining the main, central block to the north is an early-C20 infill range, with a pyramidal roof. To the west side it has a central entrance door, with multi-paned timber windows to either side and above, reaching the eaves. This block links the main building with a mid- to late-C19 range, set into rising ground, which has segmental-headed, single-pane windows to either side, and a deep, pent roof with rooflights. A tall, brick stack rises from the centre of the range at the junction with the infill block.

INTERIOR: the main entrance gives access to the central entrance hall, which occupies half of the earliest part of the building, dating from about 1729, the remainder to the rear. The entrance hall has a stone-flagged diamond-set floor with slate squares at the junctions and slate flags to the margins. The entrance doorway has a panelled doorcase and pylon architrave, moulded in three orders, with a moulded entablature; the pulvinated frieze is deeply carved with oak leaves and acorns, and the cornice with egg-and-dart. The chair rail is carved with a Vitruvian scroll, and the skirting boards have foliate carved decoration. The room has a heavy modillion cornice with highly-detailed Classical mouldings. The ceiling is deeply coved above the cornice, with a central, flat circular lantern (removed for safety at the time of inspection, but retained within the building), and scrolled moulding defining the edges of the flat surface of the ceiling. Slightly-splayed door openings give access right and left into the east and west rooms. These doorcases are elaborate: their architraves match that to the entrance door, and extend upwards to encompass a tympanum over each door. Above this, rising to the cornice, is a further carved-timber recess, with egg-and-dart moulding, scrolled ears and foliage. A doorway set centrally in the rear wall gives access to the inner hall, occupying part of the remainder of the early-C18 building. This has matching skirting boards and chair rails, a large Classical fireplace in its rear wall, with eared and shouldered surround, with detailed carving of Classical, floral and foliate motifs. The cornice is similarly detailed. The fireplace is flanked by doors into the small, rear rooms; these doors have flat-moulded architraves. Above each is a carved male profile portrait roundel with laurel wreath surround. A six-over-six sash window with moulded architrave is installed in the ceiling to borrow light from a skylight. The final elements occupying the original building are small rooms, one now including a corridor into the rear link building, which lie to either side and the rear of the chimney breast. These rooms each have a high, circular window divided into five panes, shown on an early engraving of the building in about 1737; the wall in which they are set is the original rear wall of the garden house. The square east and west rooms at the southern end of the house, added in the early C19 to flank the main entrance hall, have reeded architraves and moulded cornice. The east room has a chair rail, absent in the west room. They each have narrow-boarded floors. The east room has an inset, built-in cabinet with arched top, including a small metal ventilator. The wall surface above chair rail height is covered with battens, mounted with stretched fabric onto which is pasted hand-painted wallpaper, largely hidden behind C20 hardboard. The cornice is reeded, with floral motifs at the corners. The west room, whose cornice is moulded with a floral scroll, has a very wide and high apsidal alcove in its northern wall, forming a large niche which extends beyond the depth of the wall to the room beyond. This room, accessed from the inner hall, is the former bath house, dating from about the second quarter of the C18. Set into the floor, and occupying most of its area, is a large, oval bath, constructed from Ashburton marble, incorporating steps down from floor level, and built-in seats at either end. In the centre of the western wall is a deep niche with apsidal head. The south wall has later floor to ceiling cupboards concealing the wide, projecting niche constructed later in the adjoining room. A three-by-four light window is set into the ceiling in the same way as the adjoining inner hall. Built against the northern wall of the original range, an infill block dating from the early C20 houses the present kitchen, with a high, wide fireplace opening and quarry-tiled floor. The chimney stack is shared with the earlier cross-range to its rear, which is set lower and reached by steps from the kitchen; this range, possibly dating from the later C19, has exposed purlins and a rather crude brick fireplace with C19 grate.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 61860

Legacy System: LBS


Books and journals
Beacham, P, Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Cornwall, (2014), 365
Mount Edgcumbe, Register of Historic Parks and Gardens, 1000134: entry on National Heritage List for England, accessed 18.10.2018 from
University of Pennsylvania European Conservation Summer School, 2007-2008: English Garden House and French Garden House. Mount Edgcumbe Estate: architectural investigations and archival research, volumes I and II

End of official listing