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Mount Edgcumbe


Mount Edgcumbe is 16th-century house set within an 18th-century landscape park of about 205 hectares on the Rame peninsula. The site has exceptional marine views, and a late 18th- to early-19th-century formal garden and pleasure grounds covering about 40 hectares.


The site is undulating, rising to a summit about 530 metres south-south-west of the house, with precipitous drops to the coast to the east and south.

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

An early 16th-century park which was landscaped in the 18th and early 19th centuries, together with 18th and early 19th century gardens and pleasure grounds which were partly developed from late 17th century formal gardens. Extensive late 18th and early 19th century coastal rides leading to Penlee Point incorporate a series of picturesque features and structures.


Location, Area, Boundaries, Landform and Setting

Mount Edgcumbe is situated on a headland to the west of Plymouth Sound and to the south of the Hamoaze. The c 205ha site comprises some 40ha of gardens and pleasure grounds, c 162ha of parkland, ornamental plantations, and coastal rides, and c 3ha of kitchen gardens and home farm buildings. To the east and south the site is bounded by Plymouth Sound and Cawsand Bay, while to the north and north-west the site is bounded by the B3247 road which leads west from Cremyll Quay to Millbrook. The coastal ride extending west from the park and pleasure grounds along the coast to Penlee Point is adjoined to the north and west by agricultural land, while the kitchen garden to the north-west of the house extends down a combe to a small harbour, Empacombe, on the Hamoaze.

The site is undulating, rising to a summit c 530m south-south-west of the house, with precipitous drops to the coast to the east and south. Several steep-sided valleys descend from the park on the high ground south of the house to the coast, while to the north of the house a more gentle slope descends towards Cremyll Quay. There are extensive coastal views from many points within the site, and there are also significant views north up the Hamoaze and River Tamar from the upper levels of the park and from the pleasure grounds. The views to and from Mount Edgcumbe were widely celebrated and painted in the C18 and C19 (Gaskell Brown 2000).

Entrances and Approaches

The principal early C21 approach to Mount Edgcumbe is from the B3247 road to the south-west of the house at a point c 320m north-east of St Julian's Well (listed grade II*; scheduled ancient monument), a C14 or C15 chapel and holy well (restored c 1890) set into the west-facing slope above the road. From the entrance the drive extends c 200m north-east through the park before joining the Maker Drive and turning north-north-east for c 240m to reach the late C18 stables, coach house, and outbuildings (all listed grade II) c 100m south-west of the house. The drive sweeps round to the west of the stables, before turning sharply east to cross an early C19 bridge with Coade stone ornaments (listed grade II); the bridge surmounts the entrance to the icehouse (listed grade II). Beyond the bridge the drive approaches the north or entrance facade of the house.

There are two further entrances to the site from the B3247 road to the west of the house, and another entrance from Cremyll Quay to the north. The Maker entrance is situated on the B3247 road at a point adjacent to an early C20 war memorial c 300m south-west of St Julian's Well, and is marked by a pair of granite piers surmounted by ball finials. A straight drive extends c 290m through an area of park to the north of the C12 Maker parish church, to reach Maker Lodge (listed grade II), a mid C19 two-storey gothic structure which adjoins a gate leading into the deer park. The drive continues c 530m north-east through the deer park to join the early C21 principal approach to the house.

The third entrance from the B3247 road is at Higher or West Lodge (listed grade II*), c 800m south-west of Cremyll Quay. The entrance comprises a triumphal arch flanked by a pair of doorways set in flanking walls which terminate in piers surmounted by ball finials. The arch and the lodge to the south-west were built c 1790 to commemorate the visit of King George III in1789. From Higher Lodge a drive sweeps east and south-east for c 400m, following the boundary between the pleasure grounds and Barrow Park. Turning east, the drive approaches the north front of the house.

The Cremyll entrance is situated immediately south of Cremyll Quay, the landing for a ferry from Stonehouse, and comprises a pair of monumental rusticated stone piers surmounted by ball finials which support a pair of wrought-iron gates with spear-head finials (all listed grade II). The entrance forms the north-west termination to a wrought-iron screen (listed grade II) comprising spear-headed railings supported on a low stone wall which extends c 80m south-east to a further rusticated stone pier. Immediately west of the entrance stands Lower Lodge (listed grade II), an early C19 picturesque stone structure with a canted crenellated porch facing the drive to the east. The straight drive extends c 320m south-south-west, within an avenue which forms the western side of The Avenue, a double avenue which flanks a wide grass ride aligned on the north facade of the house. The Avenue formed part of the late C17 formal gardens and pleasure grounds, and is shown in Badeslade's engraving published in 1739 extending south to the house, and beyond to the skyline; the extension south of the house does not survive.

Principal Building

Mount Edgcumbe (listed grade II) stands on an artificially levelled terrace cut into a north-facing slope above the Hamoaze. The house is square on plan with four octagonal corner towers, and comprises two storeys, with the towers rising to three storeys; stair turrets associated with the corner towers rise a further storey. The house is built in red sandstone rubble, with granite dressings under crenellated parapets and plain tiled roofs. The north or entrance facade has a centrally placed two-storey porch with a carved stone doorcase incorporating a broken pediment and armorial carving, while the east or garden facade and the south facade each have a central full-height canted bay window.

Mount Edgcumbe was built between 1547 and 1550 for Sir Richard Edgcumbe (1499-1562) by Roger Palmer of North Buckland, Devon (guidebook; Pett 1998). As built the house comprised a high central hall surrounded by other apartments; the corner towers were originally circular but were remodelled in 1749 (guidebook). A detached, two-storey pedimented pavilion was constructed north-west of the house in the mid C16, and the north porch was built at the same period; this was replaced by an attached wing in the C19.

Further internal improvements were made in the mid C18, and in 1818 under James Adams, a pupil of Sir John Soane. George Wightwick made additions including extensions to the gallery and a new conservatory in 1841 and 1844 (ibid). In March 1941 the house was gutted by incendiary bombs; it was subsequently rebuilt with modifications for the seventh Earl by Adrian Gilbert Scott between 1958 and 1964. The west wing and conservatory were not reinstated, and the external walls were left bare stone rather than covered with stucco and white paint as they had been since at least the late C17 (ibid).

Gardens and Pleasure Grounds

The pleasure grounds are situated to the east of the house, with formal terraces adjoining to the north. A further area of detached pleasure grounds is situated c 350m north-east of the house, while informal pleasure grounds and walks extend south and west along the coast from Barn Pool Wood c 270m east-north-east of the house to Hooe Lake valley c 1.2km south of the house.

To the north of the house a gravel terrace retained by a stone wall which supports a group of stone urns (all listed grade II) extends to the full width of the building. A flight of stone steps aligned with the entrance porch descends to a gravel carriage turn on a lower terrace; this terrace extends east to connect with rides in the park, and west to connect with the west and north drives. From the carriage turn a further flight of stone steps flanked by granite piers surmounted by acorn finials (all listed grade II) descends to a pair of wrought-iron gates which lead to the Sheep Park south of The Avenue. The steps are aligned with The Avenue, allowing views across the Hamoaze to Stonehouse and Plymouth.

To the east of the house the Earl's Garden comprises a level terrace laid out as a parterre, with areas of informal lawns and shrubberies on the north-facing slopes beyond. The parterre comprises two rectangular lawns with a symmetrical arrangement of geometrical beds. The lawns are separated by a gravel walk which is aligned on the central bay on the east facade of the house, and which leads through a rondpoint to steps which descend east to the lawns. Further stone steps descend north to the terrace walk, below which lawns descend to the park. A group of C19 statues, urns, and other ornaments around the parterre are listed grade II. To the south of the parterre the north-facing slope is terraced, with a gravel walk extending from east to west.

Above this walk is the East Lawn Summer House (listed grade II), an early C19 arcaded single-storey structure approached by a shallow flight of steps flanked by quadrant walls. The Summer House is placed on the north/south axis of the parterre, of which it has an uninterrupted view. To the east of the parterre is an area of lawns planted with specimen trees and shrubs, and enclosed to the north and east by further areas of shrubbery. A late C20 timber summerhouse, the Cedar View Seat, c 220m east of the house affords views of Stonehouse and Plymouth.

To the west of this summerhouse a shallow flight of stone steps ascends to a further area of lawns on the north-facing slope south-east of the house. Curvilinear gravel walks define the areas of lawn, with that c 130m south-east of the house being planted with mature specimen cedars. Known as the Cedar Lawn, it is overlooked from the south-east by the late C18 Shell Seat (listed grade II), a free-standing recessed seat faced with shells, fossils, and crystalline stones. To the south, the early C19 Cedar Lawn Summer House (listed grade II) is an arcaded structure under a hipped roof; it affords views across the Cedar Lawn towards Mount Wise. Herbaceous borders flank a walk which leads north-west above the house, and which descends the slope in a sweeping curve to reach the East Lawn Summer House.

South of the house a gravelled courtyard is ornamented with a group of classical antiquities and sculptural fragments (all listed grade II). To the south the court is enclosed by two terraces retained by stone wall which are reached by a double flight of stone steps. Against the lowest wall and between the steps, a small early C20 pool has a fountain in the form of a pair of bronze dolphins (listed grade II); these were formerly the taps feeding a late C18 sunken marble bath inside the English Garden House.

The Earl's Garden was laid out in its present form by the first and second Earls in the late C18 and early C19; the parterre lawn is a late C20 recreation of a mid C19 scheme which had survived until the bombing of the house in 1941. The pleasure grounds to the east of the house conform to a terrace and open glade aligned on the east facade which is shown in Badeslade's early C18 engraving and an estate map of 1729. S Elliott's Plan (1819) shows the informal pleasure grounds south and south-east of the house, with an area of lawn on the site of the mid C19 parterre terrace to the east of the house.

A further group of pleasure grounds is situated c 350m north-east and downhill from the house, and is approached through the Orangery Lodge (listed grade II). Dated 1785, this late C18 Tudor-gothic structure stands c 50m east of the Cremyll Lodge and comprises a pair of square towers flanking a central arched carriageway. The group of pleasure grounds is enclosed to the south and west by fences, walls, and hedges, while to the north and east it adjoins Plymouth Sound. Further high ilex oak hedges to the south-east, including the 'Great Hedge', provide shelter from the coast.

Beyond the Orangery Lodge the drive sweeps south-west through mixed shrubbery to reach the Italian Garden, which comprises an approximately circular area enclosed by evergreen hedges. To the north, the garden is overlooked by the late C18 Orangery (listed grade II*), a single-storey classical structure lit by tall sash windows divided by pilasters; it was designed by Thomas Pitt, first Lord Camelford (d 1793), an amateur architect who designed landscape buildings at Hagley Hall, Worcestershire (qv), Stowe, Buckinghamshire (qv), Park Place, Berkshire (qv), and on his own estate, Boconnoc, Cornwall (qv). The garden is laid out with cruciform gravel walks which divide four symmetrical lawns, each containing a circular flower bed. The intersection of the gravel walks is marked by a stone-kerbed polygonal basin which supports an early C19 fountain comprising a tazza supported by four carved stone mermaids (all listed grade II).

To the south, an early C19 monumental double staircase of Italian Renaissance inspiration (listed grade II) ascends to the late C20 New Zealand Garden and American Garden, areas of mixed ornamental trees and shrubs planted in 1989 (Gaskell Brown 1998). The staircase, known as the Belvedere, supports a group of C19 free-standing classical statues cast in patent artificial stone (all listed grade II), while a bust of Ariosto is placed in a niche facing the Orangery. The Italian Garden was developed as an orangery garden to the north of the late C17 wilderness (Badeslade, 1739) in the mid C18 when Richard Edgcumbe brought orange trees from Constantinople; it assumed its present form in the early C19 under the second Earl (d 1839).

To the south-east of the Italian Garden is a group of four further late C18 and early C19 gardens which are separated by shrubberies, mature trees, and hedges. The French Garden comprises a geometrical box-edged parterre arranged around a polygonal stone-kerbed basin which contains a fountain composed of large shells. To the north-west the garden is enclosed by the French Garden House (listed grade II), an early C19 summerhouse and conservatory comprising a central octagonal room flanked by a pair of plant houses. To the north-east and south-west the garden is enclosed by high clipped hedges, that to the south-west containing a recess in which stands an early C19 Coade stone urn (listed grade II) commemorating Sophia, wife of the second Earl (d 1806), for whom the garden was laid out c 1803 (guidebook).

West of the French Garden, the English Garden is an area of informal lawns planted with specimen trees and divided by gravel walks. To the north-west the English Garden House (listed grade II) comprises a single-storey, stuccoed, neo-classical structure with a projecting wing to the north-west containing a late C18 marble-lined plunge bath. A drawing by Badeslade indicates that the central section of the building with its pylon-shaped doorway existed by 1735 (Mount Edgcumbe Collection), at which time it served as a pavilion in the late C17 wilderness. The rear elevation of the building is also shown on Badeslade's 1735 engraving; architectural details shown on the engraving and late C20 archaeological investigations suggest that the building may be of C17 origin (Gaskell Brown and Humphries 1993). The garden was developed in its present form when William Mason (1725-97) advised the first Earl and Countess in the late C18 (Batey and Lambert 1990).

South-west of the English Garden, and enclosed by high hedges, an early C19 formal rose garden (replanted late C20) contains the remains of a conservatory. To the south-east of the English Garden, the Fern Dell comprises a shallow quarry planted with ferns, ivies, and evergreen shrubs (replanted late C20) and ornamented with classical and other carved stone fragments and artefacts (all listed grade II). The Dell contains a pets' cemetery.

A walk leads north-east from the French Garden to an area of lawn planted with specimen trees and shrubs which lies east of the Italian Garden and is bounded to the north by the Hamoaze. The walk passes a monument to Timothy Brett (listed grade II) dated 1791 which comprises a triangular-section pedestal surmounted by an urn and supported by three carved stone tortoises. Some 130m south-east of the Italian Garden a two-sided mid C18 temple seat, Thomson's Seat (listed grade II), affords views north across the Hamoaze, and contains an inscription quoting from James Thomson's poem The Seasons (1730).

To the south-east of Thomson's Seat are the remains of a group of early C19 greenhouses, and a mid C16 single-storey crenellated stone Block House (listed grade II*). East of the Block House the mid C19 stone Garden Battery (listed grade II) comprises a segmental stone terrace, built in 1863 as a coastal defence, which supports a group of late C18 French cannons. To the south-west of the Block House and Garden Battery a rectangular bowling green c 100m long is enclosed to north-west and south-east by high ilex oak hedges; the bowling green formed part of the late C17 formal gardens and is shown on Badeslade's engraving of 1739.

The group of pleasure grounds north-east of the house was developed in the late C18 and early C19, partly with the advice of the Rev William Mason, from a late C17 wilderness which comprised a series of serpentine walks and groves cut through a plantation and enclosed by low hedges; this is shown on Badeslade's early C18 engraving and was probably laid out to the design of the head gardener, Thomas Hull (Gaskell Brown 1998). In the early C18 a walled garden, the Passage Garden, and a group of farm buildings occupied the site of the Italian Garden, lawns, and Thomson's Seat; these features were developed in the mid C18 when the earlier buildings were cleared. The pleasure grounds are shown in their present form on Elliott's Plan of 1819.

A further area of pleasure grounds extends along the coast to the south and south-east of the house. This is approached from the Lower Walk which follows the shore of Barn Pool south of the detached pleasure grounds, and, at a higher level, from a walk leading from the Earl's Garden east of the house. Some 350m south-east of the house a wooded valley drops north-east from the Higher Walk to the coast. The wooded slopes of the valley are underplanted with a collection of camellias, while the floor of the valley contains an informal pond.

To the east of the valley, adjacent to the coast, the Temple of Milton (listed grade II*), an Ionic rotunda containing an inscription from Book IV of Paradise Lost, acts as an eyecatcher; it was built in 1755 (ibid). The valley is known as the Amphitheatre, and in the late C17 was developed with a walled kitchen garden to the east, and a formal arrangement of topiary trees and shrubs on the floor of the valley to the north-west. The eastern end of the valley adjacent to the coast was enclosed by a wall terminated at each end by a square, ogee-roofed pavilion. These features are shown in Badeslade's engraving; they were removed c 1775 when a new kitchen garden was built at Empacombe. The remains of a late C17 stone wall (listed grade II) with an external ditch which enclosed the Amphitheatre from the deer park survive at the head of the valley.

To the south-east of the Amphitheatre, the upper drive, known today as the Earl's Drive, and the lower drive emerge to cross a spur of parkland which here extends north-east to cliffs above the sea. A folly (listed grade II) comprising a deliberately ruined stone tower incorporating medieval architectural fragments from the churches of St George and St Lawrence in Stonehouse, stands between the drives c 650m south-east of the house, among mature specimen stone pines. The folly was constructed in 1747 as a picturesque feature in place of a navigation obelisk (ibid).

South of the folly the drives enter a further area of coastal woodland. The lower drive leads c 270m south, passing two early C19 picturesque stone wells (both listed grade II) to reach Lady Emma's Cottage (listed grade II), a Tudor-gothic-style cottage of 1882 which replaced an early C19 thatched cottage orne known as Beechwood Cottage, which burnt down c 1880 (ibid). A walk continues from the cottage to the Zig-Zags. The upper or Earl's Drive continues south and south-west through the coastal woodland which is here underplanted with an early C19 collection of camellias and other ornamental shrubs.

Some 1.2km south-east of the house the drive passes through a simple stone arch (listed grade II). Originally constructed c 1760 and rebuilt in the C19, the arch formed part of the setting of the Zig-Zags or 'The Horrors', a series of mid C18 precipitous coastal and cliff walks which were planted with exotic shrubs and which exploited the sublime quality of the site. The summit of the Upper Zig-Zag is marked by the Red Seat or Kiosk (listed grade II), an early C19 stone summerhouse with an arcaded front which is today roofless. Below the Earl's Drive, on the Lower Zig-Zag, are the remains of the Verandah or Indian Cottage (listed grade II), an early C19 timber and stone summerhouse of which only the stone verandah and seat survive (ibid).

West of the Zig-Zags the drive continues round the head of the Picklecombe Valley, where the Picklecombe Seat (listed grade II), a late C18 stone recess constructed c 1788 from medieval architectural fragments from two churches in Stonehouse, stands in a grove of mature specimen rhododendrons. There are views from the seat down the valley to Fort Picklecombe (listed grade II; outside the area here registered), an early and mid C19 fort which was constructed with a picturesque outline incorporating an octagonal tower inspired by Guy's Tower at Warwick Castle (qv) (ibid).

Some 100m north-west of the Fort the drive passes to the north of Picklecombe Cottage (listed grade II; outside the area here registered), an early C19 timber cottage which formed a picturesque incident on the drive. At this point the drive passes below a south-facing cliff known as The Earthquake. Some 270m west of The Earthquake the drive enters the deer park and divides, one branch leading north up Hooe Lake Valley to join the Maker Drive east of Maker parish church, while the other branch continues west along the coast.

The coastal pleasure grounds were developed in the mid C18, and are mentioned in Pococke's description of a visit to Mount Edgcumbe in 1750 (Pococke 1888(9). They are shown in essentially their present form, with a series of ornamental features including the cottage, Zig-Zags, and several seats, on Elliot's Plan of 1819.


The park lies to the north, west, and south of the house and is divided into four discrete areas by planting and fences. To the north the Sheep Park comprises an area of north-sloping pasture which extends north to join The Avenue. Blocks of trees to the north-east and north-west of the house are cut by vistas, that to the north-east giving views towards Stonehouse, and that to the north-west views to the Hamoaze. The vistas are remnants of the late C17 formal park landscape which is recorded on Badeslade's engraving of 1739. Some 190m north-east of the house a rectangular pond survives from a chain of four formal ponds which are shown descending the north-facing slope on Badeslade's engraving.

A further area of park is situated to the west of The Avenue and to the east of the B3247 road, which is screened by a mixed belt of trees, while to the north of the B3247 road, c 700m north-west of the house, an early C19 stone obelisk (listed grade II) serves as an eyecatcher. To the west of the house, Barrow Park is surmounted by a Bronze Age burial mound (scheduled ancient monument) c 350m west of the house, which was used in the C18 as a prospect mound allowing views north and east across the Hamoaze. Barrow Park is planted with groups of trees and specimen stone pines, while a late C19 cricket pitch lies to the north of the barrow.

The high ground to the south of the house comprises the most extensive area of park, and is known as The Park. Rising to a summit c 560m south-south-west of the house, the deer park remains pasture grazed by a herd of wild fallow deer. To the north-east, south-east, and south it is separated from the coast by the wooded coastal pleasure grounds, while to the west of Hooe Lake Valley there are further plantations which include maritime pines grouped for picturesque effect. To the north the ground falls away to the Dry Walk which separates the deer park from Barrow Park to the north-west. Mixed plantations and scattered groups of trees frame views within and beyond the park, while several C18 and C19 structures are incorporated in the landscape.

Some 130m north of the summit of the park, the Harbour View or White Seat (listed grade II), an C18 stone structure (roofless, 2000), affords a long view north up the Hamoaze and Tamar River. Below the Harbour View Seat and c 20m south of the Dry Walk are the remains of the Lower Deer House (listed grade II), a late C18 or early C19 stone structure. On the south-facing slope below the summit of the park, Grotton Plantation contains the remains of the Higher Deer House (listed grade II), a late C18 or early C19 stone structure, while c 80m south, beyond the southern edge of the plantation, the Pebble Seat (listed grade II) comprises a semicircular free-standing recess constructed from smooth beach pebbles. Constructed in the mid C18, the picturesque seat allows views south down the Picklecombe Valley to the sea. Some 80m north of Maker Lodge, the kennels (listed grade II) stand in the boundary plantation. The stone building was constructed in a Picturesque style in the mid C19.

In 1515 Sir Piers Edgcumbe was granted permission by King Henry VIII to impark some 200 acres (125ha) on the Rame peninsular, comprising 50 acres (c 21ha) of pasture, 60 acres (25ha) of wood and 100 acres (c 41ha) of furze and heath, with the right of free warren and fishery. This park is shown on a map of coastal defences drawn for the king c 1540. The C16 park appears to have occupied the entire headland, with its boundary running from north to south a little to the east of Maker parish church (Gaskell Brown 1998). The construction of the house in the mid C16 led to the separation of the north-facing slopes below the house from the park; these were laid out as formal pleasure grounds in the late C17. Part of this area, the Sheep Park and The Avenue, were returned to parkland in the C18 when the formal gardens were remodelled. During the C18 picturesque landscape structures were built in the deer park, which, with its dramatic coastal views, formed an important element of the circuit of rides and drives around the estate. The park is shown in essentially its present form on Elliott's Plan of 1819; since 1971 the park has formed part of the Country Park administered jointly by Cornwall County Council and Plymouth City Council.

Kitchen Garden

The kitchen garden is situated in the Empacombe valley, to the west of the B3247 road and c 650m west of the house. At the head of the valley is a group of late C18 stone farm buildings which comprise the Home Farm (listed grade II). The farmhouse is placed across the valley and is flanked by a pair of single-storey ranges of sheds which are terminated to east and west by a pair of two-storey barns which project north, forming a complex of buildings which is U-shaped on plan. Below the farm the valley is enclosed within stone walls c 3m high (listed grade II). Approximately elliptical-shaped on plan, this enclosure or slip garden contains towards its northern or lower end a brick- and stone-walled enclosure which is approximately parallelogram-shaped on plan (listed grade II). This enclosure comprises the kitchen garden which is sub-divided by four lateral brick walls into five smaller compartments.

The garden is no longer in cultivation but the two northern compartments retain the remains of late C19 or early C20 glasshouses. At the north-east corner of the garden is the two-storey Garden Cottage, a late C18 stone structure (listed grade II). The north wall of the kitchen garden (listed grade II) faces the small harbour of Empacombe and was conceived as a folly screen wall, with a pair of round towers with blind gothic-arched openings flanking a large entrance door (rebuilt C20) which is surmounted by further blind gothic arches. The screen walls flanking the towers have blind crenellations, as do the towers and linking wall.

The Home Farm and kitchen garden were constructed in the Empacombe valley in 1775 to replace the late C17 kitchen garden and orchard in the Amphitheatre valley south-east of the house; they remain in separate, private ownership.

Other Land

The registered site includes the late C18 and early C19 coastal ride which extends from Hooe Lake Valley to Penlee Point; the contiguous settlements of Kingsand and Cawsand are not included in the site here registered. Leaving the deer park south of Hooe Lake Cottage or Keeper's Lodge (Elliott, 1819), the drive continues parallel to the coast for c 1.5km before reaching Kingsand. It is resumed at a point c 100m west-north-west of St Andrew's church, Cawsand, where it leads south-east from a minor road, Forder Lane, along the eastern edge of Millpool Plantation.

The drive continues south-east parallel to the coast for c 1.3km, the landward side being screened by a belt of mixed plantation, before turning south at a point c 100m east of the site of a late C18 folly tower. This tower, which was demolished c 1919, resembled the three-sided folly tower built by the first Earl of Mount Edgcumbe at Cotehele (qv) in 1789; each tower is said to have been visible from the other.

Beyond the site of the tower the drive continues c 400m south to reach Queen Adelaide's Grotto (listed grade II), an early C19 picturesque stone structure which was constructed in front of an earlier recess or seat cut into the rock above Penlee Point. The Grotto comprises three arched openings beneath gables, which are positioned at angles to each other so as to frame three coastal views; it was constructed in 1827 for a visit to Mount Edgcumbe by Queen Adelaide.

Coastal walks continue west of Penlee Point to reach Rame Head and St Michael's Chapel, and on to Tregantle Fort above Whitsand Bay (all outside the area here registered); these walks may have formed part of the extended early C19 landscape associated with Mount Edgcumbe, and lie within the mid C20 Country Park.


T Badeslade and J Roque, Vitruvius Britannicus IV, (1739), pls 94, 95

R Pococke, Travels through England ... during 1750 I, (1888(9), pp 107-108

W Gilpin, Observations of the Western Parts of England (2nd edn 1808), pp 215-219

C S Gilbert, History of Cornwall ii, (1820), pp 374-380

Gardener's Magazine 18, (1842), pp 547-548

Gardeners' Chronicle, ii (1882), pp 7, 17, 39

Country Life, 2 (4 September 1897), p 238; 11 (8 March 1902), pp 317-319; 119 (12 April 1956), p 746; 128 (22 December 1960), pp 1550-1553; (29 December 1960), pp 1598-1601; no 34 (14 September 1989), pp 214-217

Architect Hist 7, (1964), pp 32, 77-78

N Pevsner and E Radcliffe, The Buildings of England: Cornwall (2nd edn 1970), pp 123-124

The Garden of Mount Edgcumbe, A Report, (M Batey and Garden History Society, 1985)

Mount Edgcumbe Country Park, A Report of the Survey 1983(4 (Manpower Services Commission) [copy on EH file]

M Batey and D Lambert, The English Garden Tour (1990), pp 236-241

C Gaskell Brown and R W Humphries, The English Garden House, Mount Edgcumbe: Excavation and Survey (Mount Edgcumbe Park 1993)

T Gray, The Garden History of Devon An Illustrated Guide to Sources (1995), pp 156-160

D E Pett, The Parks and Gardens of Cornwall (1998), pp 229-231

C Gaskell Brown, Mount Edgcumbe House and Country Park: A Guide, (Mount Edgcumbe Park 1998)

C Gaskell Brown, Images of Mount Edgcumbe, Cornwall (Mount Edgcumbe Park 2000)


Map of the South-West of England, c 1540 (British Library)

Estate plan, 1729 (DD/ME2402), (Cornwall Record Office)

S Elliott, Plan of Mount Edgcumbe and Pleasure Grounds, 1819 (Cornwall Record Office)

OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition surveyed 1859-1860

2nd edition revised 1912, published 1919


W du Busc, Mount Edgcumbe and Plymouth, c 1680 (Plymouth City Museum & Art Gallery Collection)

G van Edema, Mount Edgcumbe from Stonehouse, 1686 (Mount Edgcumbe Collection)

T Badeslade, The Garden House in the Wilderness, 1735 (Mount Edgcumbe Collection)

T Badeslade, Four engraved views published in Vitruvius Britannicus (1739)

W Tomkins, Mount Edgcumbe from the east, 1769 (Mount Edgcumbe Collection)

N M Condy, Twelve watercolour views of Mount Edgcumbe, dated 1849 (Western Morning News collection; published in Gaskell Brown 2000)

Archival items

The Edgcumbe family papers, including the early C16 licence to impark, building accounts, garden accounts, and estate records are held in the Cornwall Record Office (DD/ME).

Photographs, mid and late C19 (private collection)

Description written: February 2001

Amended: July 2001

Edited: October 2001

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts


01752 822236

Access contact details

The country park is open daily, all year. The house and Earl's Garden are open between April and September, Sunday to Thursday only, 11am to 4.30pm. Please see:


At Torpoint, south-west of Plymouth.


Cornwall County and Plymouth City Councils

Plymouth, PL1 2AA

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):


The site of Mount Edgcumbe formed part of the Valletort estate which was acquired by Sir Piers Edgcumbe (1472-1539), son of Sir Richard Edgcumbe (died 1489) of Cotehele, Cornwall, through his marriage in 1493 with Joan Durnford. In 1515 Sir Piers enclosed a deer park on the Rame peninsular and it was here, between 1547 and 1550, that his son, Sir Richard, who had inherited the estate in 1539, built a new house known as Mount Edgcumbe; this replaced Cotehele as the family's principal residence. Sir Richard was succeeded in 1562 by his son, Sir Piers (died 1608), and during the late 16th century fortifications against the Spanish were built on the Rame peninsular.

Sir Piers' grandson, Colonel Piers Edgcumbe (1610-1667), supported the Crown during the Civil War, and following the capitulation of his garrison at Mount Edgcumbe in 1645, returned to Cotehele. Following the Restoration, Colonel Edgcumbe began to make improvements to the grounds at Mount Edgcumbe, diverting the road from Cremyll Passage to Millbrook in 1664. The improvements were continued by Sir Piers' son, Sir Richard (1640-1688, knighted 1662), and may have been influenced by his cousin, John Evelyn (1620-1706) (Gaskell Brown 1998).

By 1739, when Thomas Badeslade published an engraving of Mount Edgcumbe, extensive formal gardens and pleasure grounds had been laid out by Sir Richard's son, also Richard, who inherited in 1688 and was created Baron Edgcumbe in 1742. In 1715 Richard Edgcumbe married Matilda Furnese of Waldershare Park, Kent. Their gardener, Thomas Hull (active 1730s to 1783), was a subscriber to Switzer's Practical Husbandman (1733-1734). Nicholas Pococke described Mount Edgcumbe in 1750, commenting on the 'fine lawn before the house' and the 'terrace' planted with exotic subjects extending along the coast south of the house (Pococke 1888-1889).

The first Lord Edgcumbe was succeeded in 1758 by his eldest son, Richard, the 2nd Lord Edgcumbe, a close friend of Horace Walpole and a keen antiquary. The 2nd Lord Edgcumbe died in 1761, when the estate passed to his younger brother George, a naval officer who became Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth in 1776. The threat of French and Spanish landings in 1779 led to the felling of large numbers of trees in the park at Cremyll and Maker Heights for the construction of temporary defences (Gaskell Brown 1998).

Lord Edgcumbe was created Viscount Valletort in 1781 when he entertained King George III and Queen Charlotte at Mount Edgcumbe; during a subsequent royal visit in 1789 he was created Earl of Mount Edgcumbe. The 1st Earl, who, like his brother, was an antiquary and associate of Horace Walpole, died in 1795, when he was succeeded as 2nd Earl by his only son, Richard. Married to Sophia Hobart, daughter of the Earl of Buckinghamshire of Blickling Hall, Norfolk, the 2nd Earl developed the Italian and French Gardens in the pleasure grounds, and continued to develop rides and plantations in the park. The 3rd Earl, who inherited the estate from his father in 1839, found Mount Edgcumbe increasingly inconvenient as a residence, particularly as his health began to fail; in 1855 he constructed the Winter Villa at Stonehouse on the east side of Plymouth Sound. The Villa, a substantial residence, was demolished in 1975.

In 1941 the interior of Mount Edgcumbe was destroyed by incendiary bombs, while in 1944 the direct Edgcumbe line failed when the 5th Earl died without issue. The title and estate passed to a cousin, Kenelm, 6th Earl, who supervised the reconstruction of the house between 1958 and 1964. The 6th Earl's only son having been killed in action in 1940, at his death in 1965 the estate passed to a cousin from the New Zealand branch of the family. The 7th Earl (died 1982), who moved to Cornwall from New Zealand, negotiated the sale in 1971 of the house and some 865 acres (about 360 hectares) of gardens and park jointly to Cornwall County Council and Plymouth City Council for use as a Country Park. Today (2000) the site remains in divided ownership, with the house, gardens, and park continuing to be municipally owned, and other areas of the site remaining in private ownership.

Mount Edgcumbe was situated in Devon until 1854, when it was transferred to Cornwall.


18th Century

Associated People
Features & Designations


  • The National Heritage List for England: Register of Parks and Gardens

  • Reference: GD1030
  • Grade: I


  • Plantation
  • Description: Ornamental plantations.
  • Ride
  • Description: Coastal rides.
  • Kitchen Garden
  • Description: The kitchen garden to the north-west of the house extends down a combe to a small harbour.
  • House (featured building)
  • Description: The interior of the house was destroyed in 1941 and reconstructed from 1858 to 1964.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Formal garden
  • Landscape garden
  • Pleasure Garden
  • Parkland
Key Information





Principal Building

Domestic / Residential


18th Century





Open to the public


Civil Parish




Related Documents
  • CLS 1/22/121

    Photocopy of Restoration and Management Report - Hard copy

    Land Use Consultants - undated

  • CLS 1/22/122

    Report - The Garden at Mount Edgcumbe - Hard copy

    Mavis Batey - 1984

  • CLS 1/22/123

    Survey of Formal Gardens - Hard copy

    MSC - 1984

  • CLS 1/22/124

    Survey of Amphitheatre - Hard copy

    MSC - 1984

  • CLS 1/22/127

    Mount Edgcumbe Country Park: Proposed Masterplan (Dec. 1989) Scale 1:1250 - Hard copy

    Land Use Consultants - 1989

  • CLS 1/340

    History of the Landscape and its Restoration - Digital copy

    LUC - 1989, rev.1990