Estate History

Caerhays Castle, which is owned by the Williams family, is located in a sheltered valley overlooking Porthluney Cove on the south Cornish coast equidistant from Truro and St Austell.

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The surrounding parkland and woodland gardens were created in the main from the discoveries of the plant hunters in China shortly after the turn of the 20th century. Since then a great deal of hybridisation work and especially the creation of the first x williamsii camellias, has taken place at Caerhays to create the extensive woodland gardens which visitors can admire and enjoy today. Caerhays is very much a spring garden and is at its best in March, April and May.  The castle, where the family still live, is only open for more limited periods so please do check opening times carefully by visiting the 'Visitor Information and Opening Times' page.

Caerhays Castle is an English Heritage Grade 1 Listed Building.

F J Williams
F J Williams

From 1370 - 1840 it had been owned by the Trevanion family. Built by the famous architect, John Nash, work started in 1807 and was completed by 1810. There would have been little in the way of a garden in their time but the main feature of Caerhays then would have been its deer parks. These would have been useful as a source of food in the autumn/winter and would also have added to the beauty of the place during the rest of the year. The trouble with deer parks was that the deer had to be kept in an enclosed area by very substantial and expensive walls. The remnants of these can still be seen in some of the woods here today.

Williams Family Crest
 Williams Family Crest
The last Trevanion retreated rather hastily to Paris and the Bailiffs took over the estate in 1840. Tradition always states that following their departure there was a great sale of their effects and one of my old friends used to boast that his forbear had purchased a Trevanion teapot but this, we have yet to see.


The search for a purchaser took a long time (1840 - 1853). At last Michael Williams of Scorrier and Burncoose purchased the by now very derelict property. The house had not been watertight for decades so very extensive repairs had to be carried out and it is open to some doubt as to whether Michael Williams ever in fact lived in the Castle. Both he and his son John Michael, who succeeded him, spent very peripatetic lives since, as they were both active in mining, smelting and the banking sides of National and County life, frequent visits had to be made to Swansea and London.

The Williams Family 2010
The Williams Family 2010
Charles & Lizzie Williams
Charles & Lizzie Williams

J.M. Williams died in 1880 and the long period of J.C. Williams began. He was only 18 years old when he inherited Caerhays and was in fact still at Cambridge University when his father died.

To read more about J.C. Williams and the  history of  Caerhays please follow the links  to the articles below.

J.C Williams - An Enthusiast by F.J. Williams J.C Williams - A Tribute by the Rt Rev J W Hunkin, Bishop of Truro Extract on Caerhays History from the Garden Guide John Nash - A Complete Catalogue Extract from the Trevanion Cook Book Caerhays since 1987, and its contribution to gardening and plants - 26 pages.

Essays In Cornish History by Charles Henderson. Oxford at the Clarendon Press 1935.

 St. Michael Caerhayes - The History of a Cornish Parish. Redruth, Earle & Co., Station Hill 1953.