Cornwall's Great Houses And Gardens
by Barry Gamble
Review by Frank Ruhrmund
"COINCIDING with the advent of spring, the publication of Cornwall's Great Houses and Gardens could hardly be better timed.
While most of us could probably name a few of the county's big houses, from Lanhydrock and Boconnoc at one end of Cornwall to St Michael's Mount and Godolphin at the other, author Barry Gamble, a specialist in the field of heritage interpretation and author of Cornish Mines: St Just To Redruth and Cornish Mines: Gwennap To The Tamar, has come up with no less than 50 of them.
Not all of them are open to the public. Nevertheless, they are all of considerable interest, especially their gardens.
As he says in his introduction, "Cornish gardens, in particular, have experienced a surge of interest in recent years, contributing substantially to the local economy and being an important part of the tourism offer, particularly in spring when many are at their best."
The formation of the Cornwall Gardens Trust, launched in 1988, brought together a wealth of expertise and since that time English Heritage has doubled the number of Cornish gardens in its Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England.
The Cornwall Garden Society, too, continues a tradition that began in 1832 with the Royal Horticultural Society of Cornwall. Its contribution in sustaining the profile and interest in Cornish gardens culminates annually with its outstanding Spring Flower Show held at Boconnoc.
The author presents his houses and their gardens as a gazetteer from the west of the county, beginning with the Abbey Garden, Tresco, in the Isles of Scilly, and Trengwainton near Penzance, to the east ending with Antony House, used four years ago as a location for Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland film and Mount Edgcumbe on the Rame Peninsula.
With each place he describes its character and key features, plus a short account of its history including some of the important people who have lived there, together, as he says, "with an indication of the source of their wealth and when and how they created the places that we know and love today".
Each of them also comes with an Ordnance Survey Explorer map reference giving its location, measurements of the land and distances involved.
There are also several splendid photographs of house and garden, including a number of aerial shots seen here for the first time, all of which have been taken by the author himself.
Barry Gamble concludes his introduction with the hope that his readers will enjoy these photographs as much as he enjoyed taking them, and that his book will help them "learn a little more about yet another special element of Cornwall's rich historic environment".
There is every chance that they will do both.
Excellent value, Cornwall's Great Houses and Gardens by Barry Gamble is published by Penzance-based Alison Hodge at £6.95 in her Pocket Cornwall series."
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