Visitors to the Gardens could be forgiven for not noticing the Stable Block. Well screened, almost hidden by camellias, palms and senecio, the building only comes into view as you approach the entrance to the Morrab Library. Even then, its appearance hardly catches the eye. With walls part-covered in ivy it almost merges into the surrounding vegetation, and paint peeling off the woodwork gives it an air of neglect.
A prestigious past
But when Morrab House was built – a prestigious ‘gentleman’s residence’ – the Stable Block played an important part in the life of the household. As well as housing the horses – some of the most valuable assets of the estate – there would have been a coach-house and harness room, with a hay and fodder loft above. A carriage court in front of the stable block was enclosed by a wall, separating it from the drive leading to the entrance portico of Morrab House, and was sheltered on the east by a belt of trees. You can see the Stable Block and carriage court outlined in red on this copy of the 1878 Ordnance Survey map.
When Morrab House was bought by Penzance Corporation, in 1888, there would have been no longer any need to maintain horses and a carriage for the household, and the Stable Block was adapted to new requirements. Part of the block was converted to provide living accommodation, and was occupied by the Head Gardener and his family until at least 1951. (You can still see that the doorway at the western end of the building – to the left in this picture – used to be much wider!)
In a sorry state
The Stable Block is now used by the gardeners and volunteers who maintain the Morrab Gardens; it serves as office, gardener’s reference library, kitchen, tool shed and machinery store amongst other uses! Its strategic location within the Gardens makes it an ideal base for the garden team. But the facilities are far from ideal at present; time has left it in a sorry state, and because of its condition part of the building is unusable, with public access is not permitted at all.
An exciting collaborative project
But there are exciting plans ahead – in November 2017 The Hypatia Trust secured £70,000 of seed funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and is working together with The Friends of Morrab Gardens and the Pengarth Day Centre to revitalise the stables that will become The Gardeners’ House – a new learning centre for botanical and horticultural projects, a natural history reading room, lecture hall, an open air laboratory for ‘citizen science’ and communal activity spaces. You can read more about the plans – and how you can help with this community project – at The Gardeners’ House web site.