Godolphin House in West Cornwall was used as a backdrop to the latest BBC Poldark series. It was at the very heart of the copper mining industry and it is almost certain that the family who Winston Graham based his novels upon would have spent time here.
The estate which dates back to the 13th century was built by a family called Godolgan as a house with a wall or a moat to protect stock, produce and valuables from thieves. In the late 15th century the family name changed to Godolphin and tin and copper lodes beneath the land brought them wealth and position in the local community. Today when you follow the trails around the estate the main mine shafts are protected by circular Cornish hedges known as collars, but it is still very important to stick to the main paths as so many mine workings are unmapped in this area.
The new-found wealth from mining led to many improvements around estate, the house was rebuilt and deer and rabbit warrens were created for food and hunting.
The heyday of Godolphin
Today’s structure is only part of what was once a very extensive granite-built fashionable Tudor and Stuart house which in 1689 boasted over 100 rooms and a magnificent medieval garden designed to impress visiting dignitaries. It is easy to imagine the Bassetts, Warleggans, Poldarks and the Godolphins and the other Poldark characters meeting here to map Cornwall’s history as we now know it — a key reason why the front of the house has been used in some of the Poldark episodes in the new adaptations (look for the familiar circular driveway).
A period of neglect through the 18th and 19th centuries led to much of the house being demolished. The estate was sold as a farm in 1937 and acquired by the National Trust in a state of disrepair in 2007.
Today you can explore the listed garden and the wider estate, with its historic Leeds Engine house and stack – the remains of the Godolphin family mine.
The walk: Climb Godolphin Hill
From the main car park, you begin by following signs for ‘pedestrians’ which lead you through a short woodland path, past a map of the estate, to the entrance to the house and café. Before you reach the cafe, just beside the edge of the disabled car parking spaces, is a gate signposted towards Godolphin Hill.
Go through this gate and turn left to follow a track across a field which leads to a wooded lane known as The Slips. Follow this lane with your back to the house and cafe, to scrubland at the bottom of the circular Godolphin Hill. Soon, you reach a junction in path. Turn right following the signpost pointing directly (and visibly) to the top of the hill. As time has passed I have found the hill easier to climb, but be warned, the track is rugged and boggy after wet weather. It is well worth the climb however, as when you read the top you can enjoy a rare view which takes in both the north coast towards Hayle and St Ives, and towards Rinsey Cove and Mount’s Bay to the south.
You can see many of the old engine houses and remnants of the mining works which once dominated this part of Cornwall from this point. It is very easy to imagine stepping back in time to a time where mining dominated the county.
You can continue on longer walks if you wish, but be advised there are very steep stiles. To return to the main house, cafe and car park, simply retrace your steps. Click here for a description of a longer walk which I do with my Nordic walking group Walk Kernow.
Visiting the main house
If you want to explore inside the house, there are free tours of Godolphin which run most days at 11am and 2pm. My tour guide was incredibly knowledgeable and brought the history to life. The garden and estate are open all year and there is a tea room in the old piggery which serves sandwiches, cakes, biscuits and hot drinks. As the house is let as a self-catering property, it is not always open. If you’re keen to see inside the house, you can check the opening times on the National Trust website before you visit. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/godolphin
Goldolphin is situated about 4.5 miles north west of Helston and approximately an hour’s drive from Bosinver. Postcode for SatNavs: TR13 9RE
Have you been to Goldolphin or any other National Trust properties in Cornwall? We’d love to hear about your visits and find out what you enjoyed the most. Write a comment below, tweet @actionnan or post on our Facebook page