Located near Helston, England in the county of Cornwall, Godolphin holds one of the area’s previously most productive tin mines with a 400-year history – and now classified as one of Cornwall’s Mining World Heritage sites. The grounds include 550 acres of land, an historic house with ancient formal gardens (both from the 16th century), and stables (from the early 17th century). The family pioneered the use of gunpowder to open up the rich mines in the 1690’s.
Today, the house (with added modern features) provides lodging for visitors from around the world for three weeks each month, with one week open to the public. While unable to see the main house due to schedule, we nonetheless toured the impressive grounds with natural gardens and a multitude of little stone cottages each with its own purpose, inspected a guest room host to a king centuries ago, and touched an impressive (if slightly dilapidated) metal fireplace guard given the family by King Henry VIII in 1543. With the guidance of a most enthusiastic volunteer docent, we investigated recent archeological findings on the upper floor of the huge (and intensely hot) outbuilding next to the house, including long-dead rats and bats – at which point this writer had to exit for feeling faint, leaving partner behind.
The Godolphin Estate represents another instance of grand properties having to pay for themselves in order to stay alive in one piece and not be sold off for development. The National Trust gained the lands in 2000 and acquired the house and gardens in 2007. Truly a conservation work in progress, it brightens the imagination to consider what a return to its former glory might look like in years to come. The quality of light and the rich color and texture of the delicate plants (indicative of the original era) produces a sense of simple elegance for all to see.