The history of Tregenna Castle, St Ives

Our history

Our castle may not date back to the Middle Ages, but it still has a pretty colourful history. Read about our beginnings as a family home, our transformation into a railway hotel, and some of the famous faces we've encountered along the way.

An 18th century private home

Way back in 1774, Tregenna was built as a 12-bedroom private home for a wealthy Cornishman with a love for the sea. Samuel Stephens Esquire commissioned the build of the house from local granite, and the four castellated turrets and original glazed skylight with the family coat of arms can still be seen today. The house remained in the family until it was sold by their final heir, John Stephens, to a family of local bankers, the Bolithos, in 1871.

A thoroughly modern railway hotel

The Bolithos acquired the house at the same time that Brunel was building the Great Western Railway from London to Penzance to serve the West of England. It was then fashionable for all the great railway companies to establish destination hotels by the sea. GWR discovered Tregenna Castle with its spectacular views overlooking St Ives Bay and decided to lease it from the Bolitho’s in 1878, before purchasing it in 1895.

With the help of local craftsmen, the original house was extended to include new function rooms, a restaurant, adjoining kitchens, and a hallway leading to the main reception area. Thanks to the exceptional quality of the work, and our show-stopping location, it wasn't long before Tregenna became the 'Jewel in the Crown’ of the GWR hotels.

The Tregenna Castle you see today

The hotel saw further developments throughout the early 1900s. The West Wing was completed in 1932 around the same time a certain guest was ‘touring’ and stayed at the hotel - Hitler’s Ambassador, Herr Von Ribbentrop. It’s said that he later sent a message back which stated that on no account was St Ives to be bombed as he wished to live in Tregenna when ‘they’ had won the war.

The Great Western Railway Company was nationalised in 1948 and the management of Tregenna passed to a number of different owners: British Rail, Sea Containers Ltd and finally to Crown Hotels. Then, in 1992, the current owner took possession and once again it became a family-owned estate and hotel.

A few famous faces along the way

Over the years, we've had the pleasure of hosting several famous faces at the hotel. These include Prince Phillip, Prime Minister John Major, David Attenborough, Dame Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, Joanna Lumley and Peter O’Toole, and David Bowie. More recently, we've welcomed Aiden Turner with the cast of ‘Poldark’ and, world champion boxer, Anthony Joshua.

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