Port Eliot Estate Office, St. Germans, PL12 5ND
Tel: (01503) 230211
Huge Cornish estate
Port Eliot is the family home of Sir John Eliot the Earl of St. Germans in the village of St. Germans and includes a 6000 acre estate adjacent to the River Tiddy.
The grade I listed house houses a collection of paintings, including several by Joshua Reynolds. It has a remarkable Tudor gateway.
Originally built as a monastery for the adjoining St. Germans Priory Church (the former Cathedral for Cornwall), parts of the house date back to the 12th century. It was substantially altered and remodelled in the 17th and 18th centuries by noted architects including Sir John Soane.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Eliot family invested heavily in the estate, building numerous farmhouses, fisherman's cottages and other dwellings across the land. Many of these remain part of the estate to this day and are rented out to local residents and friends of the family. Some properties, mainly lying remote from the estate, have been sold in recent years.
The Priory of Augustinian Canons had a priory on this site, and abandoned it at the dissolution of the monasteries. The King had the priory stripped of everything of value, and sold the ruin as a private residence to John Champernowne, a Devon squire in 1540. The estate then went to his son Henry Champernowne, of Modbury. And in turn he sold it in 1564 to John Eliot a gentleman of St. Germans and soon after purchasing he took up residence.
From 1573 the property was known as Port-Elyot, and later as Port Eliot. Edward Eliot was raised to the peerage in 1784, the grounds were remodelled in 1792. In 1815 his son became the Earl of St. Germans, and the property has remained in the family until the current day.
One of the principal surprises of Port Eliot is a colossal mural painted over a period of 30 years by Robert Lenkiewicz. In the east wing of the house, it sits in the Round Room some 40 feet in diameter. Although by the standards of the artist the work is unfinished, it would take a very observant person to notice.
In 1980 the Elephant Fayre had outgrown its site at Polgooth in mid-Cornwall approached the Port Eliot estate and asked if it could be held in the idyllic grounds. The estate office agreed a price, and there began the Elephant Fayre, one of the most eclectic festivals of the 1980's. The festival ran from 1981–1986, beginning with some 1,500 visitors over four days, and featured a mix of music, theatre and visual arts. Over the years the festival grew, attracting crowds of up to 30,000. The burning down of the oldest tree in the park, looting of the village surgery and the robbing of stall-holders in 1985 prompted Lord Eliot and fellow organisers to make the 1986 festival the last.
In 2003 Lord St. Germans began the Port Eliot Lit Fest. The Festival is held in the park every July, and since March 2008 the house and gardens have been open to the public.
Just on the northern edge of the village of St. Germans.
Daily except Friday
Catchfrench Manor Gardens St. Germans