Princes House is celebrating 280 years!
Princes House History
The architect Thomas Edwards of Greenwich was much in demand, designing fine houses for the Cornish gentry. He built our historic town house in 1739 for Cornish mining magnate William Lemon.
When built, Princes House was the finest in Truro with amazing views of the river. It had stables and both an inner and an outer garden that ran right down to the Quays. Princes House saw some “fine entertaining” as William Lemon was twice the Mayor of Truro and Sheriff of Cornwall. After his death in 1760, Princes House became a family home to his widow and grandchildren.
Just across the road on Quay Street is the Old Mansion House, built by mining giant Samuel Enys in 1707. As Truro became wealthier, more mansion houses were built in this area. Thomas Daniell, previously his agent, bought up Lemon’s mining and merchant businesses. He employed Edwards to design and create “an equally imposing house in the same street” (Colvin). The nearby Mansion House took 7 years to build and reportedly used French slaves as labourers.
At the time of Poldark (based between 1783 and 1790) Truro was a centre for the fashionable, wealthy and influential people, with Princes Street the place where they lived. Thomas Daniell, in the Mansion House, had become known as ‘Guinea-a-minute’ Daniell and his son, Ralph, was said to be the richest man in Cornwall.
William Lemon’s grandson, Sir William Lemon, was a philanthropist who became Member of Parliament for Cornwall and a Baronet from 1774. He built Lemon Street and developed the bustling Lemon Quay. Lemon Street was completed in the 1830s and ‘the pride of Truro’ became the new residence for the Lemon family and members of the growing business community. At about the same time, Thomas Daniell’s grandson had spent the family fortune and was forced to leave the country to flee his creditors.
Today Princes Street is no longer a residential area but part of Truro’s Artisan District. Princes House is home to a creative community of artisans and small, independent designer businesses. The décor has been preserved and Princes House remains one of the most beautiful houses in Truro, renowned for its pillars, sweeping staircase and decorative plasterwork.
Notable Architectural and listed building features:
A Grade II* Listed Building in Truro, Cornwall. Built c1740 by Thomas Edwards for William Lemon.
Famed architect Silvanus Trevail designed the porch, steps and dwarf boundary wall and S. J. Polkinhorn added these in 1893.
There is a granite ashlar basement with dressed freestone and a late C19 porch. The rest of the building is painted brick with freestone dressings. The roof is hidden behind parapet, brick end stacks. Double-depth plan with central entrance hall leads to a large stair hall, on the right, reception room on the left, large “saloon” (Lemon inventory) behind and service stair and service room behind the main stair.
There are 3 storeys and a symmetrical 5-window street front.
The central porch has a round-arched doorway with entablature broken forward over 2 pairs of Corinthian columns. The column bases are linked to quadrant-on-plan stone balustrades of broad flight entrance steps.
The basement has flat arches with projecting keyblocks. Rusticated quoins, mid-floor platband, first-floor sill string, and modillioned cornice to parapet. Original sashes with thick glazing bars and some crown glass, within Gibbs surrounds over moulded sills on consoles to ground floor, and within moulded architraves to upper floors. Rear elevation is also complete.
INTERIOR: retains its original fine quality carpentry, joinery and plasterwork including Ionic columns to entrance hall, mahogany open-well staircase with key motif and egg and dart and dentilled soffit, square panelled newels, ramped handrail and heavy turned balusters. Stair-hall has plasterwork with deeply carved acanthus decoration to oval ceiling panels and plaster wall panels with decorative pediments and drapes and Vitruvian scroll to frieze. Heavy doorcases with pulvinated friezes and cornices or pediments. In the ground-floor rear room the doorcases are intricately carved. This room, the saloon, also has elaborate Rococo plaster ceiling and cornice and fireplace with pedimented overmantle and intricately carved window architraves. Other rooms are well detailed. The service stair is painted pine and has closed string and turned balusters with moulded handrail over square newels.
Architects drawing by Silvanus Trevail held in Cornwall County Record Office [CRO 888-1/7/220]
- Truro Buildings Research Group: Princes Street and The Quay Area, (1980)
- Colvin, H M, A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600-1840, (1978), 285
- Cornwall Gardens Trust