Updated: Sep 26, 2018
Once the centre of one of Cornwall's greatest mining estates, Godolphin is a truly magical place. It's just a short drive from Middle Colenso and even though we're regular visitors we continue to be enchanted by it.
The original fortified house was built in the 13th century by Sir Alexander Godolghan. After the discovery of tin and copper on the land, the family changed their name to Godplphin and began construction on a grand house befitting their new wealth and status.
The Godolphin family were staunch Royalists and briefly sheltered Charles II on his flight into exile. The family's most famous scion was Sidney Godolphin who became Treasurer to Queen Anne and was created First Earl of Godolphin. His son married the daughter of the Duke of Marlborough but the line died out and the house passed to the Duke of Leeds.
The current building, with its imposing neo-classical facade, dates back to the Tudor and Stuart period. It was once part of a larger structure that was built around a courtyard and, at its height, boasted 100 rooms but, after the decline of the Godolphin family, it fell into disrepair and much of it was demolished in the early 19th century.
The rest of the house may also have disappeared were it not for the efforts of Sidney Schofield, a member of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, who bought the house in 1937 and devoted his life to its restoration. The estate is now owned by The National Trust.
Visitors can only enter the house at certain times of the month as the trust uses the house as a holiday let but The King's Room, with its spectacular carved fireplace, is always open.
The gardens at Godolphin have their origins in the medieval period are among the earliest formal gardens in Europe. Research suggests the layout took the form of nine rectangular compartments with the house in the centre square. This layout is still evident in the Side Garden which has barely changed during the last 700 years.
A Walk up Godolphin Hill
The walk up Godolphin Hill has to be one of my favourites; it takes less than an hour and from the top there is an incredible view of both coastlines - Mount’s Bay on one side and St Ives Bay on the other.
Park at the National Trust Godolphin car park and turn right up the track, past the farm buildings. Cross the cattle grid on the left and make your way across the field. At the other end there is a stile. Cross the stile and turn right into The Slips.
Godolphin Hill once formed part of the estate’s deer park which was created in the 16th century. The Slips is the name for the old droving route between the park and the house
Follow The Slips uphill until you reach a junction with the path that circles the bottom of Godolphin Hill.
Turn left towards Tregonning Hill with its war memorial on top. To the left are the remains of the Great Work Mine, the source of the Godophin family’s immense wealth. In the 16th century this was Cornwall’s largest mine and employed more than 300 men.
Where the path forks left turn right towards Godolphin Hill and make your way towards the summit. The area is rich in archaeological history including Bronze Age settlements, a prehistoric field system, old mining works and artificial rabbit warrens known as pillow mounds.
On a clear day the summit affords spectacular 360 degree views.
Make your way down and follow the path to the right as it skirts the bottom of the hill. Turn left into The Slips and head back towards Godolphin House. You can extend your walk by exploring the wider estate or visiting the house. If you’re here in the spring don't miss the spectacular bluebell display.