Enys is considered to be one of the oldest gardens in Cornwall and is noted in the 1708 Edition of Camden’s Magna Britannia for its fine gardens. The bluebells in Parc Lye are believed to be undisturbed since ancient times; in spring, they are a sight to behold.
Enys probably became the home of the Enys family when Robert de Enys lived there during the reign of Edward I (1272-1307).
Today there is no trace of the first house built on the estate, but foundations of the second, an E shaped Elizabethan house burnt down in the 1820s, have been found beneath the servant’s wing of the current house.
The ponds are also likely to date from this time, and would have been used as fish ponds to supply the house.
Francis Enys (1836-1906) began alterations to the Gardens early in the 19th Century, creating a less formal space. Part of the Walled Garden was demolished at that time.
The current house is probably the third one to stand in the current location and is believed to be finished around 1830.
It was requisitioned by the War Office during WW2 for the use of the Royal Netherlands Naval College. When the Dutch Navy departed in 1946, the family briefly returned to live in the house, but it was soon turned into a boys’ school. This lasted only a few years, and since then the house has remained uninhabited.
The formal gardens such as the Flower Garden and the Colonel’s Garden, contain plants, shrubs and trees that were sent home from New Zealand and Patagonia by JD Enys (1837-1912).
Keeping Our History Alive
In 2011 the Estate sold their vast archive to fund essential repairs. Cornwall Council bought the archive where it is safely stored and may be reached on CROcat/Enys. A project was launched to make the huge range of material going back to the Thirteenth Century more accessible to the public and there is now on www.enysfamilyarchive.com We also have a Family Historian who may help with enquiries, by request to the Enys Gardens office in the first instance.
In addition, in 2014 an Oral History Project was launched and this again may be accessed by request to the Enys Estate office. This project is ongoing and we very much welcome any information on the family or estate history you may have to add to this bank of personal records, oral or written.
Each year we have students on placement from the University of Exeter (Penryn Campus) History Department who research some aspect of the estate. Previous students helped conduct oral history interviews, and this year there was a study of estate workers, both domestic and agricultural, from 1818 to 1918, which will be available in the History Room this summer.