Country House Rescue: efforts misapplied – Trereife House, Cornwall

Trereife House, Cornwall (Image: matt bibbey / flickr)
Trereife House, Cornwall (Image: matt bibbey / flickr)

Inheritance is a double-edged sword – for all the perceived luck of being given a large country house, the reality is that, in many cases, the house requires significant investment.  For some, this is a chance to shine; to put in place the plans they had been making, or develop new talents and unexpected skills. For others it quickly becomes burden as it pushes them into situations they seem unprepared for – as it frequently proves on Country House Rescue.  This week (27 March), heading back down to the south west, Ruth Watson visits Trereife House in Cornwall, to a house threatened by the odd schemes of the owner.

Antony House, Cornwall (Image: mothproofrhubarb / flickr)
Antony House, Cornwall (Image: mothproofrhubarb / flickr)

Trereife (pronounced ‘treeve’) nestles in the hills above Penzance, an neat pink hued Queen Anne house with an elegant parterre garden laid out below the south front.  The original house was an Elizabethan farmhouse which was home to the Nicholls family, who had become wealthy landowners and minor gentry through farming and marriage.  The first records of them is the marriage of William Nicholls (also known as William Trereife) in 1590, though it is thought the family had been in the area for several generations earlier.  The design of the grade-II* house as we see it today is the result of an extensive rebuilding in 1708 which not only added the wonderful Queen Anne front with its hipped roof but also created some fine interiors with plasterwork ceilings, probably by travelling Italian workmen, who were known to have worked on several houses in the south west.

Boconnoc House, Cornwall (Image: cornishmoth / flickr)
Boconnoc House, Cornwall (Image: cornishmoth / flickr)

Architecturally, the echoes of the style of Trereife can be seen at the much grander Antony House for the much wealthier Carew family. The house was begun in 1718 shortly after Trereife’s remodelling and so is technically Georgian (Queen Anne died in 1714) but the basic form of the house is similar.  Also Boconnoc House, near Lostwithiel, displays the same two-storey with dormer windows design as Trereife and Antony – though again for a much wealthier family, the Pitts.  Boconnoc features later alterations in 1786 by Thomas Pitt, cousin of Pitt (the Younger) the Prime Minister, in conjunction with Sir John Soane, who he had met in Italy in 1778, which probably explains the serlian window to the projecting bay.  Another house of a similar design was Dunsland House, Devon which was one of the most important houses in the area, with particularly fine plasterwork, which sadly burnt down in 1967.  On a smaller scale than any of these, but possibly even more beautiful, is Great Treverran, near Fowey, a compact (one room deep) house built in 1704 but given a dose of grandeur with fine granite Ionic columns, it was last sold in 2003 for around £650,000 and is now wasted as a holiday cottage.

Trereife is a significant part of a great tradition of Cornish houses with a fine family history with connections to the Romantics such as Coleridge, Wordsworth, Charles Lamb and Leigh Hunt through Revd Charles Valentine Le Grice, affectionately known as ‘CV’.  The house passed to the Le Grice family through inheritance in 1821 following the marriage of Mary Nicholls, whose son had died childless, to ‘CV’ in 1799.  The house is now owned by Tim Le Grice, a solicitor who inherited the neglected house in 1986 from his grandmother and who now lives at Trereife with his family.

Sadly, Tim appears ill-equipped for the role as country house rescuer as a series of slightly eccentric – gypsy caravan theme park anyone? – or badly planned business ventures have taken up significant time and money with little to show for it.  For the family, the £40,000 per year running costs were proving ruinous and so they turned to Ruth for advice; which is typically hard-hitting.  Much as the family would rather avoid having their family finances shared with the nation this appears to be the only way to persuade Tim that he needs to draw on the skills and experience of his literary agent daughter to organise events and his wife to develop the potential for B&B and weddings within the house.  Considering that the house now comes up well in Google searches as a venue for weddings and events it seems that Ruth was right – and has hopefully enabled another family to remain in their ancestral home.


Country House Rescue: ‘Trereife House‘ [Channel 4]

Official website: ‘Trereife House

Interiors: ‘Trereife House‘ [UK Film Location]

Official Facebook page: ‘Trereife House

More details: ‘Trereife – a family home‘ [Cornwall Life]

7 thoughts on “Country House Rescue: efforts misapplied – Trereife House, Cornwall

  1. jeff Aldridge March 26, 2011 / 22:22

    Once again……….thank you! To my eye, Antony House has stunning architectural integrity. I am anxious to learn more about it.

  2. James Canning March 26, 2011 / 23:23

    Let’s hope Trereife thrives with new set-up.

  3. stephenm March 28, 2011 / 14:02

    I do think some of these places aren’t always best-served by having just Ruth Watson’s hospitality industry perspective with solutions nearly always geared to ‘getting the punters in’ in one way or another. I’m sure plenty of owners would be more readily amenable to answers that don’t involve opening the place up? Struck me that row of terraced cottages would be ideal for period location filming – and they’d probably get the interiors basically refurb’d into the bargain. And the one thing the squire had a genuine affinity for, thoroughbred horse-breeding, wasn’t considered, presented as something of pastime to keep the old boy amused, simply I guess because things like the bloodstock industry fall outside Ms Watson’s purview. Time for some more points of view?

  4. Oliver Chettle March 29, 2011 / 22:58

    I can’t understand why you think Great Treverran is “wasted” as a holiday cottage. It appears to be well cared for, and is no doubt enjoyed by just the sort of people who read this blog. It isn’t likely that many chavs rent it!

    Stephenm, I’m impressed by the variety of ideas that Ruth Watson comes up with. The ideas for making these houses pay are related to hospitality because that is the only way they can pay for themselves. Your alternatives are not realistic at all.

    Location fees can provide a nice top-up to another income stream, but nowhere can pay its way on them alone, and the idea that a firm would pay for restoration for this reason is a complete fantasy. Film companies are spoilt for choice already, from places that are already restored. Cottages are not exactly rare, and the ones at Trereife are not even very attractive.

    As for bloodstock breeding, it is a high risk industry, probably in long term decline, profit margins are usually thin to non-existent due to involvement of super-rich hobbyists who can afford to make losses, and success depends on the skills and contacts of the breeder, plus a great deal of luck. Having a house to support isn’t part of the business plan. A very few owners might be able to make a go of this as a personal career, but it is not a lasting solution for a house, and very few owners are capable of doing it well.

  5. jeff Aldridge March 30, 2011 / 02:47

    Oh how I wish we had a steamship full of cryogenically preserved American heiresses to send you to help rescue and preserve some of these magnificent houses. We will not see the like of them again. The multimillion dollar residences built now are, to my eye, uniformly vulgar making it even more important to save what we can…………and the best are in the UK.

  6. Tasha Bryant March 30, 2011 / 11:08

    We are marketing Trereife House and lots of similar period properties/Castles etc, with the goal of securing them extra revenues from film and photo-shoot contracts.

    If there are other owners of properties like Trereife House looking to obtain contracts for film then please feel free to contact me.

  7. Crownfolio March 31, 2011 / 20:49

    It’s also a slight misunderstanding of how tv works, the sense that it is just Ruth Watson’s ideas coming to the rescue each time. While I am sure she does have a lot of very useful opinions, there will also be at least one researcher working away at the coalface of 1001 things to do with an country house to raise money. And the producer, if they have any sense at all, will have specifically instructed them to find as many different ideas as they can. Because a whole series of ‘do weddings’ isn’t very good television, never mind good advice…

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