Buildings in Cornwall are shaped by the elements, seasons, local people, animals, fishing, farming, weather, tides, and the wild and beautiful landscape. Even new builds are soon shaped by the coastal winds, rain and shine, and quickly become characterful structures with stories to tell. We take a look at some of the most interesting and beautiful buildings in Cornwall; you never know what will inspire you for your own home!
This secluded little church is a Grade I listed building and is therefore considered a nationally historic and important structure. It is perhaps most famous for the legend of the Mermaid of Zennor, who lured local boys down to the wild, wild sea. Surrounding the church is a graveyard, with headstones dedicated to the villagers of Zennor, including to John Davy, the last speaker of traditional Cornish, who died in 1891.
The church was built and rebuilt over several centuries, with part of the current structure being Norman, medieval and 15th Century. This blending of building aesthetics tells the story of a community through time. The local Cornish granite has been recently repointed and the light, textured render gives the building a modern and fresh feel, along with the honey-coloured contemporary roof beams that swoop above the nave. The typically Cornish barrel ceiling reminds you of a boat’s hull, and the rag slate roof is also a quirk local to the area.
The combination of new and old building techniques are not only practical, safe and environmentally- considerate, they also make the space feel comfortable, modern and characterful. Walking through and around the building reminds you of its roots, right back to the Celtic church settlements that existed here hundreds of years ago, when St Senara first started the church, and mermaids sang down at the cove.
If you’re considering an exterior renovation on your home, you might want to think about which eras from history you are inspired by. In a recent Padstow church conversion, the owners worked with a local Cornish construction company to create shelves and a fireplace reminiscent of English gothic lancet windows. This was a nod to the building’s history as a chapel and looked both clean and rustic.
This country estate in Bodmin is one of the most expansive of any National Trust property, and guided tours of the building are the longest due to the many servant’s quarters, kitchens, family rooms, and bedrooms that can be visited. Much of this house was built during the Victorian era, and the square, stately granite walls hark back to the Victorian’s obsession with gothic architecture. Here, the local slate on the rooves appears severe and smart, whereas, on other buildings, this material appears weathered and homely.
The earlier parts of the house date back to the 1600s, however, in the late 1800s a fire ravaged the building and destroyed much of this beautiful, old architecture. This fire prompted one owner of Lanhydrock to remodel using concrete and steel, in order to be as fireproof as possible!
The Jacobean history was not lost in the fire, and the Jacobean long gallery can still be visited today. As you wander down the gallery, don’t forget to look up and see the decorative plasterwork on the ceiling.
As you’re planning your own renovations, don’t forget that what is practical and safe, can also be made beautiful! Consider decorative plasterwork and mouldings to add interest to large, long walls and ceilings. It’s a cost-effective way of making any room feel historic and characterful and adds value to a home.
The lime plasterwork gives texture, charm and character to these walls in a renovated home in Bodmin.
The Engine House at Tregurtha Downs was once the buzzing, lively production centre for one of Cornwall’s hugely successful tin mines. Solidly built from local granite in the late 1800s, this building was a key part of the area’s industry and community, helping to produce 5 tons of tin a month.
This important building was converted to a residential structure in the 80s, and visitors can now enjoy holidaying with views over Marazion and St Michael’s Mount, surrounded by the wild Cornish countryside. We particularly love the contrast between the industrial majesty of the chimney and engine house and the soft gentleness of the gardens. The interior metalwork is a reminder of the working history of the building, whilst the wooden decking shows the place to be a comfortable and cosy place to chill out!
You might be doing up your own Air BnB, or annexe, and own a building with an important Cornish past. Why not use local granite, like Tregurtha’s Engine House, to display the history of your property, and to support traditional and family-run businesses. Using local materials also cuts down on carbon emissions, and ensures that all the labour that goes into your construction project is ethical and fairly paid. If you need a top team to make your inspired dreams a reality, you can read out blog post about how to hire the right construction team here.
Have you been inspired by any of these beautiful buildings? Share your pictures of your renovations and construction projects!