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Morrab Gardens Penzance
A Free Access Public Garden

Photos by Sandra & George Pritchard

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.     

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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 memorial click here 

The postcard below is by Valentine & Sons and shows the memorial and surrounding garden as painted by Brian Gerald around 1910.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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 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                                                  

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     Flowering Currant        Japanese Quince

              'Ribes Sanguineum'   ' Chaenomeles Japonica'

Morrab Garden ( a Poem by Patrick French )

Map of the location 

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Cornish Garden Photos

Photos Copyright 2003 George Pritchard 

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Web Master

Morrab Library Site

George P Design