The almost 900 acre Lanhydrock estate originally belonged to an Augustinian priory, but after Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s the estate passed into private hands. In 1620 a wealthy Jacobean merchant – Sir Richard Robartes – purchased the land and began to build what would become his family’s seat, the beautiful Lanhydrock House. The Robartes (a recently taken on and rather affected pronunciation of ‘Roberts’) were descended from tin merchants but had risen to become prominent bankers, to the extent that Richard Robartes had been knighted in 1616.
In 1881 fire swept through the House, destroying the south wing in its entirety and causing extensive damage to the central section. The then Lady Robartes, née Juliana Pole-Carew – then aged 68 – was rescued from her bedroom window by ladder but died a few days later from the shock. Her husband Thomas, with whom she had been very close – never recovered from his grief, and died himself within the year. Juliana is said to be seen from time to time in what was her bedroom; the Smoking Room still to this day fills with the scent of cigar smoke each evening, around the time when Lord Thomas used to retire there…
The fortunes of the Robartes family continued to fall. Although Thomas and Juliana’s heir son ordered Lanhydrock to be rebuilt (which is why much of what remains today is in this late Victorian style, as opposed to the original Jacobean) his eldest son and heir died in 1915, during the Battle of Loos – shot whilst trying to rescue a friend from No-Man’s Land. With the death of the younger son in 1966, the barony of Robartes became extinct. Today, Lanhydrock House is owned by the National Trust, and only one Robartes descendant survives, living in a cottage on the vast estate.
Learn more about Lanhydrock on the National Trust website.