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Coast Fowey

Coast Fowey/Menabilly

Menabilly is an Elizabethan house on the south coast of Cornwall, England, United Kingdom, on the Rashleigh Estate, seat of the Rashleigh family. Menabilly is situated on the Gribben peninsula about 2 miles (3.2 km) west of Fowey. The great house itself lies in woodland just outside Menabilly Barton.

History and description

The land that Menabilly was built on it has been owned by the Rashleigh family since the 1560s. In 1589 John Rashleigh commenced building work on the mansion which was completed in 1624 by his son Jonathan Rashleigh.

Jonathan was a MP who continued in that profession until the start of the English Civil War of 1641-1651 during which Menabilly was ransacked of livestock, furniture and stores. After Charles I's execution Jonathan was imprisoned at St Mawes castle with his estate bankrupt from the war and parliamentarian taxes. After Jonathan's death in 1675 his son of the same name inherited the estate. After his death in 1702 his son Philip Rashleigh inherited. In 1724 he had paid off many of the estate mortgages and began to rebuild the derelict house which had suffered so badly in the civil war. He also built stables by the house. His brother Jonathan took over the estates after Philip's death in 1736. Jonathan was responsible for the building of the pier at Polkerris.

His oldest son Philip was a renowned mineralogist who became a large collector of many mineral samples, writing many books on the subject and dedicating a room at Menabilly to store them. Philip also started a coin collection which expanded greatly to become one of the greatest in the country. Philip had the Gardens relandscaped and built the grotto at Polridmouth made of "every variety of English and foreign stones and shell" and also planted the woodland around the house and around the estate. After Philip's death in 1811 he was succeeded by his nephew William Rashleigh. He was a member of the Church Missionary Society and had built Tregaminion Chapel. In 1822 a fire broke out which lead him to greatly extend the house. During these alterations his architect noticed that the buttress against the north wall was not really supporting anything and so had it demolished upon this they discovered steps leading to a small cell where they found the body of a Cavalier, when William researched this he discovered that certain members of the Grenville family had sought sanctuary from the Parliamentarian forces during the civil war. William's son (also called William) inherited the estate in 1855 and travelled round the Middle East. Whilst he was in Egypt he met a sheikh in Cairo who when heard his name was Rashleigh asked him if he knew Philp Rashleigh and then told him that many years before when he was a prisoner of war in England Philip had invited him to Menabilly many times.

William's younger brother Jonathan Rashleigh greatly improved and extended the gardens and grounds surrounding Menabilly. He planted many trees including pines, cedars, eucalyptuses and beeches. He also planted rhododendrons, bamboos and hydrangeas.

Upon Jonathan's death in 1905 the estate passed to John Rashleigh, his grandson, who rarely lived at the house and let it fall into serious decay. It was discovered in a dilapidated state by author Daphne du Maurier who, when granted a lease in 1943, set about restoring it and living in it before returning it to the Rashleighs in 1969.

Today, Menabilly and most of the grounds remain private although two cottages on the estate are rented as holiday lets.

In popular culture

The house was the inspiration, along with Milton Hall, Cambridgeshire, for "Manderley", the house in du Maurier's novel Rebecca (1938). Like Menabilly, the fictional Manderley was hidden in woods and could not be seen from the shore.

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on May 20, 2012
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by Erik van den Ham