History of the Gardens
Morrab House, with its gardens sloping down to the seashore, was built in 1856 by the wealthy brewer, Samuel Pidwell. Later in the century, Charles Campbell Ross, MP for St Ives and four times mayor of Penzance, purchased the villa where he lived until the early 1880s. By the late nineteenth century, Penzance was developing as a popular seaside resort and the provision of a park was seen as a necessary facility for the recreation of visitors. To this end, Penzance Corporation acquired the property in 1888 to develop as a public park with the villa providing library accommodation.
The Corporation held a competition for the design of the new park, which was won by London designer, Reginald Upcher. Upcher's plan included a bandstand, tennis grounds, children's playground, gymnasium and an area described as a sub-tropical garden. The sloping site was to be divided into areas for different activities by a series of curvilinear walks, while mature trees from the gardens of Morrab House were incorporated into the scheme. How much of Upcher’s original plan was executed is unclear, the 1909 OS map indicates a number of significant changes.
The children’s playground, gymnasium and tennis lawn do not feature. The bandstand is positioned further to the South, the path pattern is more complex and the extent of the exotic 'sub-tropical' planting appears significantly larger. A fountain stands on the circular lawn and two ponds, with a Boer War memorial sited opposite the upper pond, have been added to the plan. The gardens we see today have remained essentially unchanged although sadly the range of late C19 display glasshouses, which included a fernery and palm house, were replaced in 1970 by a single-storey day centre for the elderly.
It was anticipated that a significant role for the park would be the study of acclimatisation, and at the opening of the park in 1889 the Gardeners' Chronicle noted that 'One of its features is to be a Palm-grove, where tourists may fancy themselves in the tropics or on the Mediterranean shores'. As early as 1895 The Garden noted the use of bamboos (cordylines) and agaves, while in 1930, tree ferns, olives, and Musa ensente in fruit were noted. The same tradition of planting continues to this day with many rare species being added to the collection.
Last Updated (Tuesday, 25 October 2011 09:10)