Godolphin House is one of Cornwall’s most outstanding and important historic houses. It is a 15th century property that is the jewel in the crown of the National Trust in the southwest of England. Until the middle of the 18th century it was the home of the Godolphin family who made their fortune from the local tin-mining industry and they became one of the wealthiest families in the Duchy. The structure we see today is only part of what was once a very extensive, granite-built Tudor and Stuart house.
By the middle of the 16th century, Godolphin House was an impressive building consisting of three main wings around a central courtyard. At this time, Sir William Godolphin – a soldier in the service of Henry VIII – made some alterations to the house. During the 1630s, William Godolphin (grandson of Sir William) added the north range, which is a long, symmetrical structure with a ground level colonnade of Doric columns and mid-17th century mullioned and transcomed windows. Under the colonnade there is a gateway, dated 1575, which leads through the original screen wall into the courtyard.
By the 1650s Godolphin House had reached the pinnacle of its development, boasting some 100 rooms. However, it fell into decline in the early 1800s as the family preferred to live in their London property. Large sections of the house were demolished and Godolphin was converted into a simple farmhouse. Godolphin House was sold in 1929 to a local Cornish miner and then sold again to the Schofield family in 1937. It was eventually bought by the National Trust in 2007. Following the acquisition of the property, a survey of the building showed that much of the North Range was structurally unsound and that a major programme of refurbishment would be needed to preserve the building. The roof was removed and the structural wooden frame exposed for the first time in almost four hundred years. It was revealed that a combination of water ingress and woodworm meant that many of the great wooden beams that should have supported the building had rotted away at one end. The decision was made to repair the beams in situ, as replacement would have entailed a total demolition and rebuild of the structure. However, being Grade I listed meant that special consideration had to be given to the choice of every material used in the repair and conservation of the building. The existing materials had lasted nearly 400 years and the concept was that it should be another 400 years before any further work was necessary. Steel rather than timber was chosen as the material for the renovation due to the complexity of the sections that would be required. Galvanizing the steel was also seen as a crucial element in order to preserve the structure for another 400 years.
Image: David Baron