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Discussion in 'Penzance' started by sparky, Mar 28, 2016.

By sparky on Mar 28, 2016 at 3:32 PM
  1. sparky

    sparky Authoritarian Staff Member Administrator

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    Forming a ring on the outer edges of the ancient borough bounds of Penzance are a remarkable number of fine mansions and villas. Some are ancient, medieval sites, some the product of the money to be made from tin, trade or banking in the 18th and 19th centuries when Penzance was one of the largest and most prosperous towns in Cornwall.

    Even those sites with genuine claims to antiquity present themselves now with facades of Georgian classical propriety (Castle Horneck, for instance). Posandane, Roscadghill, Castle Horneck, Rosehill, Trereife, Trengwainton, Laxrigan and many others; granite or elvan ashlar fronts, severely elegant, mark the seats of a tightly knit group of families which dominated local life for three or four centuries or more - Borlase, Bolitho, Tremenheere, Pascoe, Usticke.

    Treneere encapsulates some part of all their varied stories - the same families, tin adventurers, lawyers, clerics, bankers, industrialists, seamen and merchants that fill the pages of Penzance's history, and of Madron and Gulval, are found at Treneere. Never the centre of large events, never a particularly big or important place, it nonetheless became a favoured spot for many locals, its fields a venue for local and County shows, its owners Justices, mayors, stalwarts of the local literary and natural history societies as often as active businessmen.

    In many respects this slightly anonymous, affable history is reflected in the house and grounds today. Preserved as a remarkable island of gentility and a reflection of a way of life otherwise long gone amid the schools,playing fields and public housing that hem it in on every side, from within the house and grounds little of all this intrudes, and one suspects it rarely ever did. Treneere is surrounded by modest legends and misleading myths - again, nothing of great significance, but enough to trap the unwary. Its origins and development are shrouded in a modestly confusing mist that obscure it like the high wall and tall trees that still surround it. Behind the wall is a delightfully charming place; not a great architectural masterpiece, but as visitors say of so many National Trust properties, somewhere you feel people actually lived and made a home.

    Treneere is Listed grade II* (LBS 69235); the garden walls are separately listed (Grade-II) (LBS 69236). There are no scheduled monuments within the assessment area. It is not situated within a conservation area.
    The site
    Treneere is located on a slight hill that rises above the town, the house and grounds situated between 50m to 55m OD. From the House looking eastwards there are far- ranging views to the Iron Age Lescudjack hill fort, the valley of Chyandour and beyond to Godolphin Hill.

    The geology underlying Treneere is mainly the Metabasalt of the Mylor formation, although the southern edge of the assessment area is underlain by metamorphosed hornfelsed slate and siltstone (British Geological Survey 2005).

    Although the present house was built from new in around 1770, and its gardens and pleasure grounds laid out at the same time, there are a number of reasons why it is necessary to trace the history of the site further back - quite apart, that is, from the academic interest of establishing a history, and the narrative pleasures of simple story telling. Some key questions this report attempts to address concern the origins of the present house - in particular why it came to be sited here at all, its relationship with the older, perhaps medieval house supposed to be on the site - and whether it has any local or national significance through association with people or deeds. Understanding the origins and history of Treneere as a whole is therefore a vital part of setting its context and significance.
    The medieval estate
    A medieval origin for the estate and settlement at Treneere is evident enough - locating that settlement on the precise site of the current house is not so clear cut. Although Treneere (Trenyer) is recorded as a place name as early as 1280 (Padel 1985), it is unclear if this is Treneere in Madron (there are other Treneeres and Trenears - in Wendron for instance). Treneere in Madron more certainly appears in a documentary reference of 1324, when it was described as Treyer juxta Alverton and in 1325 Trenyer in Alverton. (Comishman 1961). The name Treneere may derive from the Cornish place-name elements tre, 'farming estate' and yar, 'hen' (ICS place- name index; Padel 1985).

    While the actual settlement sites thus recorded may be uncertainly fixed and their subsequent histories sometimes difficult to trace, it is clear that here was a self-contained agricultural estate (never a manor - a place-name perhaps now best dropped as alien to Cornwall in general and to this site in particular). Its likely extent can be hazarded at by recombining all the subsequent subdivisions of the estate, (the first as early as 1350 when Trenyer Bigyan (Cornish for 'small'), was recorded (ICS place-name index). The results suggest continuity for most of the lands as a single estate right through to the 1795 sales particulars of Treneere, and even right up to the Tithe Award of 1840.

    Treneere lands occupied a comer of high ground leading down to Lescudjack and the coast, the whole bounded to the north by the Chyandour Brook, to the southwest by the estate of Hea, to the south and east by the former common fields at Carnegoes (Penzance Cricket Club and Cemetery) and Treneere Weeth (Penwith College/Humphry Davy schools and grounds). Beyond in these directions lay Chyandour and the borough lands of Penzance.
    This was never a big area - in 1795 the various parts of the lands amounted to scarcely 55 acres, probably not including Lower Treneere, itself only possessed of a few acres. The estate included various plots of moor ground and gazing on the weeths, and there was probably a mill from an early date in the Chyandour Stream, although the first clear reference to a mill so far found is on the OS 1st edition map (surveyed c. 1809) and in 1819 Madron parish records.

    Yet this small area had supported three, maybe four subsidiary holdings by the 17th century, had moreover supported Gentlemen. It had even given its name to a local gentry family (the Madron parish records have entries in 1590 to Robert son of Richard Treneyr Gent, and in 1591 to Alice daughter of Richard Treneyr) and was dignified with the name of the Barton of Treneere. The Barton place-name signified a head farm, often the head farm of an estate, and as such was often associated with a separate gentleman's house. In some cases the name refers to the earlier site of a house, as the family, if wealthy enough would eventually build a new main residence situated away from the main farm.
    16th and 17th centuries

    All these early centuries of activity remain largely anonymous in the record, however, until the 16th century and the references to the Treneyr family. The estate was sold in 1617 by R [...] Treneere of Treneere to Sir Warwick Hele of Wembury, Devon (CL HO/5/20). Hele was a leading figure in Devon and Plymouth life, owner of what was said to be the largest house in Devon at the time. No other known connection has been found so far with Madron/Penzance or the Treneere family.

    In 1648 the estate was leased from J Hele to J Usticke of St Just in Penwith (CL HO/5/3) - almost certainly John Usticke, owner and builder of Botallack Manor, who bought Treneere outright from Hele in 1655 (CL HO/5/4). He married in 1627 in Madron, and his son John was born in Madron in 1628; this may indicate that the Usticke's were already leasing Treneere before 1648.
    The last of the old house - to 1769

    The Usticke family remained in possession, and apparently in residence, until 1716-17 when transactions between J[ohn] Oliver and Henry Usticke are recorded (CL HO/5/20) - Henry Usticke was born in Madron in 1675, and described as 'of Treneere' at the time of his marriage to Sybella Tremenheere. The Olivers were landowners in Sithney, Gulval and Ludgvan, other branches settled in Penzance. At least one branch of this extended family is recorded as 'of Madron', even though habitually buried in their home village of Gulval (Thomas son of William Oliver of Madron buried 9-Jan- 1738; William son of John Oliver of Madron 2-Nov-1747, John Oliver of Madron l-Jan-1753.)

    The last of this direct line was the famous Doctor William Oliver (of Bath Oliver biscuit fame) confidant of the Borlase family and one of the leading figures in the creation of Bath as a great resort of society and wealth. Ironically, as probably the most famous individual associated with Treneere, he may have been the last to reside in the old house, if indeed he ever lived there at all. The old mansion was coming to the end of its long association with the great and good of Penwith society.

    The good Doctor died, in Bath, in 1764, and although most sources rather blandly say that the estate was sold soon after his death (Lake), in fact, Treneere, with Treneere Weeth, had already in 1746 been settled on one Mary Oliver as part of her marriage settlement to Simon Worth, Gent. of Washfield, Devon (CRO BRA833/210); the Worths were still in possession in 1765 (CRO BRA846/89) and further documents suggest that they held it to 1769 (R1C HO/5/29-30).
    Thomas Robyns and the new house

    With the sale of the estate away from the Oliver family in 1768/9, we come to the creation of the modem house and grounds. There has been some confusion in various accounts over both the date of the new house (the List description quite erroneously gives 1758), and who its builder was. This last confusion arises from the near contemporary account given in 1814 which gives the Reverend Anthony Williams as the builder of the house (Lysons) - and this has been repeated from time to time in various other accounts. What can now be established for certain is that the true version of events is as given in Davies Gilbert, who, writing in 1838, says: 'Trenear was sold soon after the younger Dr. Oliver's decease, and purchased by Mr. Robyns, who built there a good house, and made it a gentleman's seat. It afterwards became the residence of the Rev. Anthony Williams, sometime Vicar of St. Kevem ....'
    Thomas Robyns built the house - he has left his signature scratched on a window pane on a rear window of the house (along with others, unfortunately less legible).
    There is independent confirmation that the old house was not on the same site as the new (see below for more detailed discussion). H. P. Tremenheere painted two watercolours of it, sometime in the years around 1800, and Lysons, although wrong about the builder of the new house, does add that 'the old mansion has been converted into a barn and outhouses' (Lysons, op. cit).

    There were a number of Robyns in and around Penzance, they were an armigerous family (gentry entitled to bear a Coat of Arms) by the later 18th century, their arms described thus: Robyns or Robins of Budock, S. Winnow, and Treneere near Penzance - Quarterly nebulae argent and azure 4 birds counterchanged (Boase). Rather than leisured gentry, most of the family were professionals; Thomas may have been the son of Thomas Robyns Surgeon of Penzance, other Robyns were pewteres and merchants. Thomas Robyns, lawyer, of Penzance is recorded in 1780 - it is not clear, but is probable, that this is the Robyns of Treneere.
    Thomas Robyns Esq. is recorded in Madron from at least 1771 (when he married Anne Veale); between 1772-1780 they had children baptised at Madron - John Robyns, the third son, is recorded as being born at Treneere in 1780 (Collect Cornub.). Robyns appears on various documents at Treneere in June 1779 (CN/962/1-4), 1784 (CN/948/1-3) and 1791 (the British Directory, where Treneere is listed as the seat of Mr Robyns).
    All of this suggests that Robyns built, lived in and completed the new house - as shown in the full description of the house given in 1795 (see below), and certainly contradicts 20th century stories that the original builder of the house went bankrupt and had to leave the house unfinished. This, another favoured myth of recent owners of the house, is rather more true of Henry Pendarves Tremenheere, a later owner (see below).
    Thomas Robyns Esq. was buried in Madron in 1794 aged 48; the family continued to live in Madron and Penzance all through the 19th century, but the house, with the rest of the estate, was put on the market (at first part for rent, part for sale). The first part of the disposal of the property appeared in the 2nd February 1795 edition of the Sherborne and Yeovil Mercury:
    'To be Let from Lady-day next, and fit for the immediate residence of a genteel family, a complete Modern-Built MANSION HOUSE, called Treneere.. .The taker may be accommodated with seven acres of land close to the house... For particulars apply (by letters post paid) to James Pascoe, attorney at law, in Penzance.'

    A second advertisement placed in the 9th November 1795 edition of the same paper offered the rest of the ancient estate in its various subdivisions for sale, including the Barton, Lower Treneere, the Mill tenement and farm, and various fields at Camegoes and the Weeth, skirting the edge of Penzance Borough. The agent was again James Pascoe. It seems to have been only at this time that the Reverend Anthony Williams came into possession of the house, perhaps unsurprisingly, given that James Pascoe was a relation and business partner. Lysons confirms that Williams bought only a third part of the ancient estate of Treneere (Lysons, op. cit).
    Williams and Tremenheere; 1795- 1841

    The Reverend Anthony Williams had a curious relationship with both Treneere, and with St Keverne, of which he was sometime vicar. Born in St. Keverne in 1739, he was vicar there from 1767, the gift of his stepfather, the previous vicar, James Pascoe. But he held the Living only in trust until such time as his step brother (also James Pascoe) was qualified and old enough to take over, which he did in 1789. Although there is plenty of evidence that Williams was resident in St. Keveme throughout this time, he had married in 1771 Deborah Beard, born in Boston, but a member of a prominent Penzance family which provided several mayors (and was also related to the Pascoe family). They had married in Madron, just three weeks later than, in the same church, Thomas Robyns and Ann Veale (of another mayoral family). There may be rather more than coincidence in the acquisition of Treneere from the trustees of Thomas Robyns by the Reverend Williams.
    Williams was again obliged to do duty as vicar of St Keverne between 1807 and 1816 in the interval between the death of James Pascoe the younger and the institution of his son, a third James Pascoe, as vicar of the parish. All references to Williams during this second incumbency suggest that this time he remained resident at Treneere.

    The Reverend Williams had two daughters, the younger, Peggy married in 1804 the reverend William Hockin of Phillack, and the house eventually passed through this marriage to the Hockin family. The elder, Deborah, had married in 1803 captain Henry Pendarves Tremeriheere, of an old established and noted Penzance family, to whom she had been betrothed since 1798. H. P. Tremenheere had a distinguished career in the East India Company fleet; made captain in 1804, he remained on active service until 1817, visiting England only infrequently it appears. In the meantime, The Reverend Anthony Williams and his wife Deborah had both died in 1816.
    H. P. Tremenheere and his wife Deborah had already been officially resident at Treneere since 1803, but occupied it properly only from 1816/1817. H. P. Tremenheere, J.P. and Deputy Lieutenant for Cornwall was greatly interested in agriculture and his gardens at Treneere were, by some contemporaries, said to be unsurpassed in the county. There is anecdotal and family evidence that HPT improved both house and estate, continuing after the death of his wife in 1832, to the point where he left the estate much burdened by debt when he died in 1841 (Cornishman 1961; Tremenheere, 1978).
    Later 19th century

    On Tremenheere's death, Treneere passed (as his wife's property) to his sister-in- law's family, Hockin of Phillack, who appear to have leased it out - perhaps with reduced grounds: in 1854 it was noted that the grounds at Treneere 'till very lately ... had a most park-like appearance.' (Courtney 1854).
    There are, confusingly, two entries for Treneere in the 1844 Pigot's directory of Cornwall; one notes Rumbell, Esq., otherwise unknown, the
    other Captain Campbell. John Saxton Campbell is an interesting character, a Canadian who looms large in the history of his native country, as a landowner, merchant and industrialist, involved in timber, shipbuilding and banking in and around Quebec. Apparently at the behest of his second wife, Mary Carne Vivian of Penzance, he decided around 1842 to leave the Colony and go to England. He settled at Penzance, and continued to purchase ships built in North America.
    A son, also John Saxton Campbell, described as of Treneere, died in 1852, and his father died in 1855.

    There is then a gap in the record of occupation for some years; the house does not appear in local Trade Directories, and Treneere Mansion is noted as unoccupied in the 1861 census. Only in 1864 does an occupier appear. George Millet Millet Davis, although born in Sheffield and described as of Liverpool, was related to the Millet family of Phillack, and through that connection was a director of the Cornish Copper Company at Hayle (as had been various members of the Hockin family). Although a director nominally since 1849, and engaged in the Copper Co.'s business since the 1850s, he only moved to Cornwall in about 1858 - living in 1861 in Falmouth. In 1864, the death of his son John is recorded at Treneere House, and by 1867, George M. M. Davis is described as merchant of Treneere House, when he was acting as one of the prime movers in the closure and sale of the Copper Company. The company was effectively wound up in 1871; Davis retired to Bath and by 1873 a new tenant was in the property - Thomas Robins Bolitho, a member of the extended Bolitho family who at one time or another in the 19th/early 20th centuries seem to have owned or occupied most of the great houses in and around Penzance. By 1885 the family was wealthy enough to be described as the 'merchant princes' of Cornwall (Boase, 1890, 1332- 1340). Bolitho, who went on to live at Penalverne, and then Trengwainton, only lived a short while at Treneere and seems to have had little impact on the house or estate; it was put up for sale by the Hockin family in 1875, and bought by Joseph Polglase of Herland Cross, Breage for £6,800 (MOR/LAN/2). The Sales particulars and map are preserved in the house.
    Into the 20th century - Joseph Polglase

    While the house, described in the sales particulars as 'arranged with every regard to domestic comfort' undoubtedly had its attractions, it seems to have been the 32 acres of rich surrounding farmland and market gardens that went with it that may have attracted Polglase more - he always described himself in subsequent census returns as 'farmer' (1881, 1901) or 'Yeoman' (1891) employing 2 labourers; yet the grounds and gardens were clearly maintained, perhaps even extended. Polglase is described in trade directories in 1893 and 1914 as a private resident, and he hosted both the Penzance Agricultural shows, and on occasion, the Royal County Show (1885 and 1898), so perhaps he should be seen rather as a gentlemen farmer. The quality of many of the fittings and furnishings of the house during Mr Symons's time, which appear to have come down from the Polglase family, certainly show little evidence of simple rustic taste in the Polglase family - at least in Joseph's four daughters.

    Polglase is yet another enigmatic figure associated with Treneere. Described as a 'seafarer' in Treneere tradition, in fact, although originating from the extensive Polglase clan in and around Breage, he was born in Lelant c. 1837, the son of the Innkeeper of the Praed's Arms (now the Badger Inn). In 1861 he was recorded as a tin miner at Herland Cross, Godolphin; his brothers, in Lelant and Breage, are also recorded as tin miners and engineers, later as mine adventurers. Although it is not known what Joseph did between 1861 and 1875, it is quite likely that his money came from tin-mining and speculating - the reference to the 'seafarer' may be explained if he was known as Captain Polglase - a mine captain rather than the mistaken assumption that he was a sea- captain. Polglase has no known connection with Penzance or Madron, but intriguingly, Trenear in Breage is by Herland Cross and was the site of Herland Cross mine proposed 1864 (the current tourist attraction known as Poldark Mine
    The House - general description

    The 18th century main block of Treneere is built of stone and brick; all elevations are faced with fine-grained dressed granite ashlar (or it may be a form of elvan - further geological investigation of the stones used would be of interest) with finely cut and moulded architectural details all in the same material. The interior face of the structure appears to be built of brick (exposed at wall plate level in the roof space). The two large stacks rising up through the entire house are likewise of red was historically known as Trenear Stamps) - did Polglase make his money here? - was buying Treneere in Madron the whimsy of a self-made man celebrating the name of the mine that made him rich?

    To 2007 - the shrinking estate
    Despite Polglase's attachment to the land, parts of the estate were sold off at various stages in the early 20,h century - principally for Penzance County School for Boys 1909 and Penzance County School for Girls in 1913.

    With the death of John Polglase in 1921 the house was inherited in equable share by his four daughters as heirs in common. Further land was s old to Penzance Borough Council in the 1930s for the building of the Treneere Housing estate begun by the Corporation in 1938. Rosa Warren, the last surviving daughter, died in 1956 and passed the house and grounds to Mr Symons who had been the gardener and general factotum for the sisters. Mr Symons, like Joseph Polglase before him, operated an agricultural (market gardening) business at Treneere for a long while. He died in 2006 at the age of 95 leaving the house and its contents to St. Dunstan's, a charity providing crucial assistance to ex-Service men and women with significant loss of sight whether through war, age, accident or illness.
    The house and remnant grounds were subsequently bought on behalf of Truro College, the present owners.

    brick (English bond), although now rendered above roof level. Internal partitions appear to be of timber stud, with lath and plaster timber boarding or brick infill. The house is slated with natural (Cornish) slate. The rear courtyard and part of the basement well are paved with small cobbles, with rubble retaining walls; attached to the house on north and south side are garden walls, in part brick, in part stone rubble.
    Genera] description - exterior The building is fundamentally as built in c.1770 Two tall full storeys and attic stand on a full basement set within a deep area, with flat plat bands to each floor and chamfered quoins. Modillion eaves cornice to what was originally a hipped roof (the structure of which remains within the later 19th century mansard roof structure), perhaps u-plan (with a valley gutter running towards the rear) with very large stacks (originally brick, now rendered) aligned north-south to centre left and centre right. The principal east front is of 3 windows with a central projecting pedimented bay containing a lunette. Glazing bar sashes throughout - 6 paned in basement, 12 paned on principal floor, and 9 paned on first floor. The window heads have boldly projecting keystones - doubled on the principal (first) floor. Central doorway with Tuscan 3/4 columns and entablature, semi-circular fanlight containing carriage lamp, fielded panel door. Steps in two flights (a modest 'Imperial' flight) to doorway with iron railings.

    The left (south) return wing is of three narrower window bays, lacking the centra] projecting bay, but with the same architectural detail; the central windows on each floor are false windows, those on first and second floor with fixed sashes inserted; the left hand windows ignore the changes in floor and ceiling levels internally (visible behind the glass). The right (north) return has only two windows to each floor, those on the basement level have been blocked (C20 concrete block). The 2 right hand windows ignore the changes in floor and ceiling levels internally (boarding visible behind the glass).

    The rear (west) elevation has four windows on each floor (unevenly distributed, the three northern window bays are closer together than the fourth, isolated a little to the south end of the elevation), set at a lower level than the principal elevations (reflecting the lower internal floor levels within) with a panelled door in a later timber enclosed porch to centre right to basement. The plat bands continue around every elevation, the quoins and modillion eaves cornice are omitted on the rear elevation.

    This external appearance has been altered principally by the creation of a French-style mansard roof containing four contemporary round-headed moulded dormers (probably with the rendering of the stacks at the same time), and by alterations to the central windows on the rear elevation. Those on the second floor have been lengthened, their cills dropped, not only introducing 12-pane sashes in place of the original 9-pane, but these are themselves of a different proportion to the original window panes. Below them, the heads of the first floor windows have been lowered correspondingly.
    The central left basement window, now partly blocked to form a toilet window, shows signs of having been cut through in the past to create a door.
    General description - interior

    Principal reception rooms with late C18/ealry C19 wall paper (south room), panelling (north dining room), moulded cornices, skirting, dados and door surrounds, shuttered windows. 'Adam' style timber fireplaces with good, boldly moulded cast insets. Panelled and moulded (Doric) arched openings to main door and stair hall with inserted fanlights. Other rooms in basement, ground floor and first floor with C18 moulded timber fireplaces (and marble in Library), most with contemporary cast iron insets, panelled doors (many with H-L hinges), skirting, cornices, door and window surrounds, shuttered windows throughout.

    Geometric principal stair, with ramped handrail (echoed by false rail attached to wall), turned newels with stick balusters on open string with guttae. Secondary stair of turned balusters and broad moulded rail. Many small incidental features of interest such as servants' bells in basement, enamelled bell-pull handles in principal rooms, C18 cupboards (basement and first floor) with original wooden pegs. Early C20 wall paper of some interest. Mid C20 mock Tudor decor and granite fireplaces in the Long Room in Basement.
    Plan form
    The building is of a fairly standard plan form, a double pile separated by a spine wall bearing the flues and stacks; the centra] door leads to a lobby/hall, with principal reception rooms to left and right, and main stair to the rear. A secondary stair occupies an adjoining compartment. The same approximate floor plan runs right up through the entire building - certainly from the gTound floor. The principal stair runs only between the ground floor and the first floor, where it alights on a landing with a further broad flight of steps in an opening through the thickness of the spine wall to an upper landing. The floor levels in the front of the house are set higher on first and attic floors to allow for the greater height of the two ground floor reception rooms.
    Style and provenance

    Treneere as built was not exactly old fashioned, but neither was it all of the most advanced taste. The compact, four-square house with a plain exterior, occasionally enlivened by a pediment or good classical doorcase, had been standard in smaller Cornish country house since the late 17th century. However, Treneere is taller and more compact than most, with some respect paid to Palladian proportion in the main, east, elevation, particularly in the ratio of window to solid (less well- proportioned and more typically Cornish design would have squeezed five windows into this front), and by the emphasis given to the main floor by the differences in window height, and the emphasised keystones - in effect creating a 'piano nobile.'

    This is a neat classical villa raised on a basement, rather than simply a local builder's version of Cornish polite architecture (compare with the lower, spreading and less classically correct proportions of nearby Rosecagdhill, or Nancealveme, for instance).

    The same careful thought about the design and appearance of the main elevation can be seen in the care taken to achieve a balanced and noble aspect to the south elevation - the main approach of the house historically - to the extent of having false windows in the centre to avoid the architectural solecism of an unresolved duality of only two bays. But the thoughtful design seems to go only skin deep; the south and east elevations sit awkwardly when seen together, while the rear elevation is asymmetrically disposed and does not really relate to any of the others, despite the granite, plat bands and window details being carried over. The change in floor and ceiling levels between the front and rear part of the house led to the rather clumsy treatment of either putting cupboards into the window space, leaving he boarding backing visible from outside, or, in the case of the Library south front widow, leaving the exposed floor structure visible from the outside.

    There is much else about Treneere that suggests that the overall design and many of the architectural details both outside and inside the house derive from early-mid 18th century pattern books and built exemplars. The severe clean-cut lines of the granite exterior, the overall dimensions and size, two storeys and basement (with a deep area all the way round the building), plat bands, quoins and modillion cornice to hipped attic, the heavy keystones of the window arches or the geometric 'imperial' stair leading up to the main door can all be found in Cornwall on houses of the 1730s- 50, for instance those built to the design of Thomas Edwards of Greenwich He was the favoured architect of the Cornish mining magnates and the principal country house architect of mid 18th century Cornwall. Edwards's influence was so pervading that he helped to establish what became almost a Cornish 'polite vernacular', his style based originally on that of James Gibbs, with baroque elements tempered by Palladian proportion and detail, overlain in the 1750s by rococo styling, eventually giving way to neoclassical detailing.

    Much of the detail on Edwards's houses, as with others by contemporary 'architects', was actually supplied by builders and decorators using standard pattern books and catalogue items (one small country house very similar to Treneere, Trewince in the Roseland Peninsula, has details which are almost exact copies of those in the Mansion House, Truro, a townhouse by Edwards of c.1760). This leads often to a sort of mix and match appearance (Palladian door cases and panelling, typically mixed with flowing rococo ceiling plasterwork or Chinoiserie backstairs in Edwards's houses, for instance).

    This same process could in part account for the mix of the old fashioned and the new in Treneere. Some of the interior detail, particularly in the principal rooms, are in the late 18th century neoclassical taste - the two Adamesque fireplaces in the main rooms, the principal stair, the mahogany- grained butt-hinged/parliament-hinged doors (if these are not part of the early 19th century alterations), but most of the detail found in the rest of the house, like the cornices and other mouldings, the H-L hinged panelled doors, or the lugged door and fire surrounds, had been current for decades.
    An alternative, or additional, explanation for much of the variation in design features in the house is that there were subsequent alterations - more fully explored below. No known professional designer can be linked to Treneere. Edwards himself is
    The old mansion

    Little can be said about the medieval settlement at Treneere. As the historical analysis showed, while the broad outlines of the estate and its age can be established, nothing is known about where the focus of settlement was or what form it took. Even Lower Treneere, recorded in 1350, no longer exists, having been demolished to make way for 20th century housing
    Relationship with Treneere Manor site

    One of the lasting myths associated with the current house is that it is built on the site of the ancient Barton of Treneere. Newspaper reports and verbal tradition even suggest that old cellars and old brick and timber buildings were found encased within the present structure in the past - and the imaginative construction of the 'Tudor Room' in the basement of the present House in the early-mid 20th century is a reference to this, while the bricks used unlikely to have had any hand in it. Although he did not die until 1775 and was still active in Truro in 1768-9, it is thought his work on the church spire there was his last commission before retiring permanently to Greenwich). As the quality of work in and around Penzance testifies, there were local designers (including the Gentry themselves) and builders more than capable of producing such a competent design. Penzance had around it, and retains, an unusually large number of substantial 17th to early 19th century gentlemen's houses; most were altered throughout the period, often as not to the design of the owners - Walter Borlase of Castle Horneck and William Oliver himself, one time owner of the (old) house at Treneere were thought of as particularly well-informed on architecture corresponding with each other on the various merits of James Gibbs and William Kent, advising in the 1750s, among others, the Hawkins family at Trewithen near Probus on how to deal with no less an architect than Thomas Edwards.
    to form the garden walls are likewise usually said to come from the old mansion.

    However, there is little or no evidence for any ancient fabric on site, the house contains no evidence of any structure or construction earlier than c.1770. There is, furthermore, the most compelling evidence that the old house stood apart from the present mansion in the form of two watercolours of the old house by Henry Pendarves Tremenheere, now in the possession of Professor Charles Thomas. Both are of identical views, one painted in summer, one in winter, and appear from the quality of detail, and the similarity in form, to be of a real place, not an imaginative reconstruction.

    Tremenheere lived at Treneere from 1803- 1841; he may have known the place since his boyhood (born in Penzance 1775), certainly since his engagement to the daughter of the then owner Reverend Anthony Williams in 1798, so the paintings may date from any time from the 1780s onwards, but certainly long after the present house was built c. 1770.

    The paintings show the remains of a 16th or 17th century house, part converted to a cottage or barn, part ruinous. It appears to be a moderately large L-shaped building, standing within a walled courtyard. The main range may be the remains of a typical late or post-medieval three-cell layout, with service end, central hall with projecting lateral stack, and parlour end; a projecting wing stands at the left end as viewed in the painting (whether service end or parlour end is unclear), with an arched gateway through a courtyard wall to left. The building is built of large granite rubble blocks (no other local stone would have been used in blocks of this size) with what appear to be stone mullioned windows with drip moulds over.
    The paintings are clearly labelled Treneere House, nr. Penzance, H. P. Tremenheere. They offer incontrovertible proof that the old house did not stand on the site of the present house - further confirmed by the account of the building of the house given in Lysons: 'The barton of Treneere belonged to the family of Oliver, by whom it was alienated in 1768: the old mansion has been converted into a barn and outhouses....'
    Likely dates for the construction of the house are firstly the late 16th century, when Treneere is first clearly seen as the base of a gentry family (the Treneyr family), the last of whom sold Treneere in 1617.

    Rather more typical of the early 17th century would be the projecting wing and perhaps the lateral stack which seems to be shown in the Tremenheere paintings. This could be related to occupation by the Usticke family, perhaps from c.1628, certainly from 1648. They were among the richest landowners and mine adventurers in the area, based mainly in St Just and St Buryan, and John Usticke, who acquired Treneere, was well-know as builder of the substantial manor house at Botallack (dated 1665, but perhaps with earlier elements).
    Location of the Old Mansion

    There remains the question of where the old house actually was, whether within the current curtilage of the Manor House, or elsewhere.
    Possible site at Treneere Barton

    One obvious site would be at the present Treneere Barton. This is now (2008) in the process of restoration and conversion. Reached by a lane called, suggestively, Treneere Lane, the evidence for an ancient building complex here is abundant but inconclusive. There do appear to be the remains of possibly 17lhcentury building materials (squared and dressed granite) incorporated into what is now essentially an unusually detailed and constructed 18th/ 19th century range. The quality of the stonework on part of the main elevation is certainly much grander than the present scale of the farm/cottages warrants - including a high, well-fashioned plinth. It is not entirely clear how much this is an older elevation cut into by later openings, as opposed to a new elevation constructed from older material - there are elements of both about the fine stonework. The rear walls are of more humble rubble and cob, although incorporating some more good older stonework in the south-west corner. There are, moreover, remains of other buildings on both sides of the lane leading down to Treneere Mill which suggest a similar earlier date and structures of some quality; there may even be evidence for a walled yard to the rear (stream) side of the main range, incorporating some early and good quality masonry, especially near the house itself.

    While there is thus strong evidence of a substantia] building re-built or converted at this site, probably in the 18th century, the following factors range against the Barton being the site of the old mansion:
    • the lack of clear dateable or high- status features (apart from the good quality stone of the front elevation itself) such as mullioned windows (clearly shown on the Tremenheere paintings) or moulded stones
    • nothing in the surviving plan or disposition of the buildings can be related to the Tremenheere paintings
    • the Tremenheere paintings do not seem to show the high plinth or coursed stonework of the Barton building
    • there is no interna] evidence to date the building much before the 18th century or to indicate a particularly high status building

    there is no over-riding reason why, even if the stonework is of good quality ^^tentury or ^"Nzentury origin, it need undoubtedly be the old mansion. As the 'Barton,' or home farm, of a gentleman's estate good

    • quality structures might be expected here as well as at the mansion house
    • the Lysons writing in 1814 state that the old house was converted to a barn and outbuildings - the Barton seems always to have been domestic in use and character
    • perhaps most problematic is that the early map evidence all seems to point to the mansion being more or less on the site of the present house curtilage.

    Possible site at Treneere Manor

    'Trenear' is marked as a gentleman's seat on Joel Gascoyne's Map of Cornwall c.1695, but the scale and accuracy of the map is insufficient to place the building exactly. Thomas Martyn's 1748 map of Cornwall is more detailed, and it is possible to set it against later maps, the 1st edition O.S.I" map in particular (surveyed in about 1809) to suggest that the site of the gentleman's seat shown there was in the present location - not down in the valley of the Chyandour stream where the Barton is set (see Fig 1).

    If the map evidence is accurate, then the old house may have occupied the site of outbuildings in the northern part of the current site, although there is nothing about the surviving buildings (item 38 on the HES inventory - the former stable block) suggesting such a date. However, there was formerly an L-shaped building shown on the both the 1840 Tithe map and the 1875 Sales plan just north of where the 20th century house now stands (item 33 on the HES inventory - see Fig 4).

    The wall that separates this site from the gardener's cottage appears to be one of the earliest at the Manor site - it is at least 18th century in character, yet unlike the cob or brick walls, or indeed the rubble walls elsewhere on site, it uses well-worn granite moorstone laid roughly to course (some longer pieces of worked granite also occur in the base of the garden wall here). Although equivocal, this may be significant evidence. The buildings on site appear to be of sufficient size to reflect the L-shaped building shown in Tremenheere's watercolours, and are set within the walled courtyard in the same layout. Their later use would confirm the Lysons' statement that they were converted to a barn and outbuildings.

    A site here would line up well with the lanes approaching the site, and would certainly accord well with the Map evidence of Thomas Martyn's 1748 map.

    Without further detailed site investigation (including vegetation clearance and/or archaeological survey and investigation), this can only remain at present a possible location for the old house, since there are no other identifiable remains anywhere on site or in standing structures - although some of the granite used to create the rock garden in the walled garden may have come from here (no diagnostic stonework noticed on inspection) - and may have given rise to the supposed evidence Mr Symons saw of the old mansion being on the present site.

    Other possible sites

    Alternative sites outside the present house curtilage are possible; buildings shown on the 1st edition O.S.I" map somewhat north and west of the Manor may have been related to the old mansion site - there are patches of fine worked and squared granite to be found in the garden and embankment walls along Manor Way/Manor Close approximately on the site of buildings shown on 19th century maps at NGR SW 4667431309 and at SW 4679631437.

    A third possible site is that of Lower Treneere - certainly this was an L-shaped building shown on OS maps, although if the 1890 sketch in the Morrab Library (in a notebook of the Penzance Old Cornwall Society) is of these cottages, they again bear little resemblance to the Tremenheere paintings.

    The conclusion must be that at the moment, the precise site of the old mansion remains undetermined. Both the Barton, and the northern part of the manor site would repay further investigation. Although the standing fabric is more extensive at the Barton, the map evidence may be compelling to place the old house at the Manor (where it certainly would have been easily accessible for Tremenheere to paint it). If stories of 17th century and early 18th century artefacts found in the grounds are true (Cornishman .1961), this would lend some weight to this possibility. There is, then, great and sensitive archaeological potential for this part of the site.

    This information has been reproduced with the kind permission from Nick Cahill from The Cahill Partnership who prepared the Historic Building Assessment report for Poynton Bradbury Wynter Cole Architects Ltd.
    Planet Penwith and Hedge Slammer like this.


Discussion in 'Penzance' started by sparky, Mar 28, 2016.

    1. Planet Penwith
      Planet Penwith
      Love it! Very interesting read that :)
      Viv Aitken and sparky like this.
    2. Dickon
      Very interesting article on Treneere! The article mentions that the house was bought by John Oliver from Henry Usticke, and goes on to say that the "Olivers were landowners in Sithney, Gulval and Ludgvan, etc", giving the impression of quite a "tribe". I am trying to trace my own family, but am more or less stuck around the beginnng of the 18th c. because there seem to be so many Olivers, and not helped by the notable lack of originality of Christian names, ie. Thomas, John or William! Do you know of any sources of the above remarks about Olivers ?

      Dickon Oliver
      Viv Aitken likes this.
    3. Viv Aitken
      Viv Aitken
      I really enjoyed this fascinating article ... my great uncle was Reggie Symons - he was married to my mother's aunt Margery and my brother and I grew up spending many happy childhood holidays at Treneere. In my imagination it was the setting for 'Secret garden' and 'Anne of Green Gables' and many other stories of my own. Favourite spots were the walled gardens so beautifully maintained by uncle Reggie, the main room downstairs with its massive fireplace and long floor perfect for sliding, the kitchen (where Nancy the housekeeper would give us treats) and the bedrooms with four poster beds and bear skin rugs. I remember the beautiful art throughout the house and my aunt's collection of extraordinary victorian hats. The article doesn't mention the priest hole behind the panelling in the upstairs loft, which we were told connected to a secret passageway to the sea... though that could have been just a fable!
      I hope it's OK that I have linked this article to the Wikipedia page about Treneere. It's such a great read, others deserve to find it too. Thanks so much.

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