The history of Tremough

Those who have stayed with us during the summer months have explored the beautiful grounds of historic Tremough House that still form an important part of our Penryn Campus today.

Dating as far back as 1309 when Nicolas de Tremoghe is recorded as being a chief parishioner in the ‘Chapelry of St. Laudius near Penren’ – it is fair to say that the estate has a long and interesting past. We thought we’d share a little of it here.

The beginning…

It is thought that the name Tremough is derived from the Cornish word ‘Tre’ which means ‘house’ and ‘moch’ which means ‘pigs’. This coupled with the fact that West Street in Penryn – which previously led directly to Tremough – used to be called Pig Street, suggests that the Tremough family may well have started off as pig farmers.

The family lived on the site until the 1600’s which, at that time, consisted of parcels of land that roughly extended from what is now the roundabout situated outside the campus, down to the edge of Penryn.

Changing hands…

In 1703 a successful local merchant, John Worth, bought the estate and built the house, starting the creation of the estate we know today. He had married Bridget Trefusis, a member of the prominent Flushing dynasty, four years earlier, and would go on to become High Sheriff of Cornwall. During his time at Tremough, he also introduced an avenue of lime trees and a small deer park in the grounds.

Times of change…

By the end of the eighteenth century, Tremough had been sold and was leased to a 28-year-old teacher, Benjamin Barwis, who turned it into an ‘academy for the education of twenty-five young gentlemen’. However, this only lasted a couple of years as the school soon moved to larger premises in Penryn.

In subsequent years the house fell into disrepair until it was bought at auction in 1827 by John Tilly. Enjoyed by the family for 30 years, they built Tremough Barton Farm, the Italian Garden and the left hand cross wing of the house during their time there. They were also the first to begin planting rhododendrons on the estate, using seeds from the Himalayas.

Next came Benjamin Sampson who owned the Kennal Vale Powder Mills in Ponsanooth, before the Shilsons took ownership – at which time the estate became known for its growing collection of rhododendrons which were tended by Head Gardener, Richard Gill. These Gill Rhododendrons still flourish and can be enjoyed today.

Finally came Colonel Mountifort-Longfield and his wife who lived at Tremough for twenty years.

A place of education…

It was in 1943 that the property went up for sale once again and caught the attention of an order of nuns based in Torquay who were looking for premises for a new convent school. Impressed by the estate, they decided to buy it and for the next 50 years it became Tremough Convent School – a place for girls’ education.

Past pupils of the school fondly remember days swimming in the Italian Garden pond (after clearing the frogs out)!, secret midnight feasts in the dormitories and, perhaps not quite so fondly remembered, the school meals, created from the produce grown on the estate.

Closing in 1998 Tremough was once again available to purchase and was bought by the Combined Universities in Cornwall group in 1999. Since then the estate has been developed into the Penryn Campus you see today.

By Sue Bradbury


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