Padstow has become famous over the past couple of decades for its harbour, its tranquillity, its food and its celebrity chef, Rick Stein. Perhaps what gets lost, however, in all of this fame is its history. And there’s no location that oozes history in Padstow quite as much as Prideaux Place.
For more than 425 years, Prideaux Place has been the home of an ancient Cornish clan, the Prideaux family. This clan dates back more than 1,000 years, with members of the family once being the lords of the manor at Prideaux Castle in Luxulyan, between Bodmin and St Austell. The clan later moved to Devon before Sir Nicholas Prideaux returned to Cornwall and built the beautiful house we see today in Padstow. His work at this Elizabethan manor house was completed in 1592 and little has changed here over the past four centuries.
The house combines its traditional Elizabethan architecture with 18th century exuberant ‘Strawberry Hill Gothic’ styles that prefigured the famous 19th century Gothic revival. There are 81 rooms and it’s all lavish and kept as a kind of time capsule, thanks to Peter Prideaux-Brune, who began an extensive restoration programme with his wife after he inherited the home from his father in 1988. Prideaux-Brune is also behind the bear stories at the manor as Me Too, his faithful companion throughout his life, is the subject of a cute little book on sale at the house, with all the proceeds going towards the restoration of the Prideaux grounds.
There’s English Civil War history at Prideaux as the house supported the Parliamentarian cause during the conflict but just before the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, a marriage was arranged between a Prideaux daughter and Charles II’s secretary of state to secure a royal pardon that’s still preserved inside the great building. And there’s Second World War history as American soldiers stayed at the property before they went off for the D-Day landings. Visitors can marvel at the house’s remarkable plaster ceilings, its ornate furniture, its Italian paintings, its family portraits, its antiques and even England’s oldest cast iron cannon in the impressive armoury.
Obviously, Prideaux Place is still very much a family home so you must check it’s open for guided tours well before you visit. But its fully licenced café is open every day between Sunday and Thursday from 10.30am to 5pm, and it’s great for coffee, cream teas and cooked lunches. In fact, all of the tables look over the estate’s ancient Deer Park to the Camel Estuary and beyond, creating a stunning vista.
The gardens themselves have been undergoing restoration for the past 14 years, ever since Peter and Elisabeth Prideaux-Brune moved to the property in 1988. Their work has created a restored Formal Garden, a Hornbeam Allee, an Acer Glade, an 80-tree Lime Avenue and a plethora of newly discovered woodland walks for visitors to explore and enjoy. And then there’s that amazing Deer Park. They say that if the deer die out, so will the Prideaux family. Don’t let that happen. Support them by enjoying a quiet afternoon at this beautiful historical treasure in Padstow.