Port Eliot Estate, St Germans Cornwall is one of my favourite places. It has buckets of history and even more charm. As part of culture24 and museums by night events held all over the country, Port Eliot opened its door to the public to view the house by candlelight and to say it was magical was an understatement.
We have seen the house before in daylight and have been to the annual festival every year but one. At last nights event it was an absolute delight to wander the grounds on a sunny May evening when it was so still and even better empty. It made me reflect on what it is about this place that so touches a chord.
For starters the house on the outside is not particularly beautiful, probably due to its lengthy history and little changing over the centuries. Although the river was diverted from the times of the monastery when Repton developed the landscape around the house, it feels at one with nature and sits in the valley and blends into the fields and backdrop of trees and woods.
The tide was out and the wide estuary of the Lynher sweeps down to meet the Tamar in a small channel exposing mountains of glistening silvered mud. The sky reflected in the river as it takes its narrow sweep at low tide, but at full tide it can come brimming over the edge and into the fields.
The woods were bathed in a golden glow carpeted with bluebells, dandelion heads ready to blow and the last of the wild garlic. Apart from the untouched and natural, Port Eliot has beautiful gardens too, but they are to the back and up on the hill. It is a large estate!
Another defining feature is that what I would deem to be the front has no grand entrance. The entrance is tucked away on the side, with the drive coming in behind the church. The more sheltered south side of the house has a stunning wisteria which was in full bloom and created a lilac haze as the light faded.
It must have one of the largest churches only metres from the house dating back to the monastery days, but nothing forboding about it … more a place of sanctuary.
We went to see the interior by candlelight. So what was it like?.. serene, calm, warm and sparkly. Walking in I half wondered if they had given into health and safety and used battery tea lights, but no; the house was filled with tealights, candelabras and candlesticks galore. If you had gone to see the Joshua Reynold paintings, you might have been disappointed, but the patina of the furniture and the depth of colours in the decor took on a life of their own in the half light which was helped by the glow of burning log fires. Different quirky things came to light as others were plunged into darkness with a plethera of elephants in all forms everywhere. ( the family emblem).
The round room in particular has to be one of England’s treasures now. As I am writing I hope you getting the sense of how homely this place is but it’s also filled with history and its own treasures. Along side objects of history are elements from the current families lives including surfboards, family photos and a harley davidson motorbike full throttle in the round room.
The round room takes your breath away. No one can hide in a corner; everyone faces in and the walls envelopes you with its Robert lenkiewitz mural. In parts not finished as he died, but painted over 30 years it is incredible in its detail and luminosity of painting which is helped by the biggest sparkling chandelier in the centre of the room.
I have tried to put into words how this place makes you feel. I think my judgement is slightly informed by the family that live there; friendly, unassuming and creative . You have to go and visit to see for yourself.
Some of my images would not translate from my iphone to the blog. Grrr!; but you can view the full image gallery on my facebook page here.