Country houses for sale

The incredible clifftop manor with a history full of smugglers and pirates

The families who've lived at Treorse Manor over the centuries have stories to tell that are every bit as fascinating as the house itself.

On the market for the first time in 41 years is historic, Grade II-listed Trerose Manor at Mawnan on Rosemullion Head, which overlooks Falmouth Bay and the Helford River estuary in Cornwall.

The house, for sale through Falmouth-based Jonathan Cunliffe at a guide price of £1.95 million, is a place full of history, for the story of Trerose Manor is the story of the families — some distinguished, others less so — who have owned it over the years.

The ancient manor of Trerose — ‘the house on the headland’ — once included much of Mawnan parish and extended upriver. Here, following the departure of the Romans from Britain, Helford’s heavily wooded creeks and inlets provided a safe haven for the native Cornish, who dodged the advance of Anglo-Saxon invaders by stealthily escaping, under sail or oar, via the Helford to Brittany. Centuries later, some returned with William the Conqueror to reclaim their stolen lands.

Smuggling and piracy were a way of life for many of Cornwall’s great seafaring families, among them the Killigrews of Arwenack in Falmouth, who acquired Trerose in the late 1500s. Despite their notoriety, the Crown was usually prepared to turn a blind eye to such activities in return for Cornish support when invasion threatened.

Between 1540 and 1545, Henry VIII built Pendennis Castle and St Mawes Castle to protect the River Fal and the Carrick Roads against invasion by France and Spain and appointed Sir John Killigrew as the first governor of Pendennis Castle. The Helford estuary, however, was never fortified, which no doubt facilitated the Killigrew family’s nefarious activities. In the case of the second Sir John, who succeeded his father as governor, these included cattle theft, ‘evil usage in keeping of a castle’ and using his office of piracy commissioner to trade with the pirates and smugglers who frequented the coast he controlled from the castle.

In 1635, Sir William Killigrew sold Trerose to Sir Nicholas Slanning, who also succeeded him as governor of Pendennis Castle. A Royalist commander during the Civil War, he was killed at the battle of Bristol in 1643. In 1675, Trerose was sold to Brian Rogers, a merchant of Falmouth, and, for the next 300 years, was owned by a number of prominent local families before the current owners acquired the house in 1979.

The present house is a smaller 18th-century reconstruction of a much larger manor house of 13th-century origin, the architectural elements of which can apparently still be seen. Extended in two or three phases in the 19th century, the manor is now L-shaped in format, with the reception rooms and all five bedrooms overlooking the dreamy, part-walled gardens.

Trerose Manor is set on a particularly beautiful stretch of the South West Coast Path, with footpaths leading down to the beach or up towards Durgan, where Trebah and Glendurgan are among the country’s most celebrated exotic gardens open to the public.

Trerose Manor is for sale via Jonathan Cunliffe at £1.95m — see more details and pictures.