Gardens Penzance A Free Access Public Garden
Photos by Sandra & George
The Morrab Garden in Penzance,
Cornwall has always been a favourite spot of mine. I spend a lot
of time researching in the reading room of the Library which is
within the garden and nothing is nicer on a warm spring day than
to slip into the garden for a break.
Morrab is derived from the
Cornish words mor = sea & app = shore or coastal land.
Until the late 1830s the land after the chapel of St
Mary's was indeed sand dunes. However, Samuel Pidwell, a local
brewer, decided that the sloping site was the ideal place for his
new home and in 1841 he built the house, surrounded by a walled
garden. The Pidwell family did not live here for long. The family
moved to Portugal where an identical house was built,
using the same plans as for the one in Penzance.
Morrab House was bought by Charles
Campbell Ross, the local Member of Parliament and banker and he
moved in with his family. By the late 1880's Penzance was
expanding and the Ross family decided to move further out of town.
The house and land were purchased by the Penzance Corporation for
use as a public park. The independent society running
the Penzance Library elsewhere in the town then moved
into the house, renting it from the corporation. The building
still houses the library and the re-formed local authority
of Penwith is still their landlord. It is often confused with the
Penzance Free Public Library built a little later at the top
of Morrab Road.
With the purchase of
additional land the gardens were turned into a municipal park
in 1889. The corporation commissioned Reginald Upcher, a
landscape gardener from London, to lay out the new 3 . 5
acre site. The picture below gives an idea of the layout of
part of these early gardens.
The 1891 Census records the
gardener as being a Thomas Dorothy who lived in Morrab Cottage
with his wife and three children. He came originally from Devon.
In 1904 a secluded
garden was created in memory of the men of Penzance who gave
their lives in the South African Boer War of 1899 - 1902. At
this time only officers were commemorated on memorials
so the record is incomplete. For a detailed picture of the
The postcard below is by Valentine
& Sons and shows the memorial and surrounding garden as
painted by Brian Gerald around 1910.
Unfortunately, the memorial has
been vandalised for the second time in two years and now stands
without its statue. Hopefully it will once again be restored to
its original state.
On August the 5th 1905 the
bandstand, which had been donated by local coal merchant J.
H. Bennett, was opened with a grand concert by the Penzance
Military Band and band concerts continue in the gardens today,
although not so frequently as in former years.
Photo a. below shows the
recently renovated fountain . Personally I preferred it painted
silver- white as in b. when you could see the detail of a seal on
a ball balancing a fish spouting water.
The lowest basin is supported by
four carp spouting water.
The Morrab Gardens are home to a
range of tender trees and shrubs which have their origins
in the warmer climes of the Mediterranean or sub-tropic
zones. The plants flourish here and are rarely nipped by frost or
damaged by cold winters due to the proximity of the sea and the
southerly aspect. However, as the photo below taken in the winter
of 1947 shows it sometimes fails to live up to its reputation.
I hope you enjoy looking at
the photos and if you are able to visit the gardens why not call
in to the Library where you will be made welcome.
For more details on the Library
visit the web site by clicking HERE