The Lizard Point is the most southern point of mainland Great Britain and it for many ships is the starting point of their ocean passage as well as a notrious shipping hazard.
There has been a lighthouse at this site since 1619, with the existing one being built around 1751 as two towers with cottages in between.
Polbrean House itself is located just south of the lighthouse and was built in around 1868, when Thomas Hart moved from Falmouth. He is shown as living with his parents at, Upper Berkley Place, Falmouth, in the 1861 census
The house was commissioned by Thomas and included an artist’s studio. Having a home based art studio within this area obviously gave Thomas his inspiration as his most frequently painted subjects were the surrounding areas of The Lizard, Polbrean and Kynance Cove.
The popularity of Thomas Harts paintings was becoming more evident as this article in the Cornishman, Thursday 14th November 1878, displays:
“We the (Western Daily Mercury) have pleasure in stating that Mr Hart of the Lizard, who a year or two since passed some time in Rome, and brought home many works of great interest, recently sold one of his Roman pictures for £315. This is very encouraging. He had previously spent years upon our western coasts, and had painted many of the Cornish lions. It is gratifying to see our Western men establishing a name for work done far, far away.”
Which is why it is no surprise to see in the 1871 and 1881 census the family living at Polbrean in some style with servants, a governess, cook and a housemaid.
It seems that life was not always idyllic at Polbrean as this letter published in the Cornishman newspaper, Thursday 9th May 1907, shows:
“CORRESPONDENCE. THE NUISANCE AT THE LIZARD. Sir, —Will you kindly allow me space in your valuable paper to thank Rambler for taking an interest in the welfare of the Lizard inhabitants. I wish to confirm what he says. My house is situated directly under the lighthouse, and overlooking Polbrean Cove, where this mass of decomposing matter is lying. When the wind blows from the south-west we cannot go into the garden, the stench is so strong. I have repeatedly called the attention of the authorities to the matter, but up to the present time without any success. , THOMAS HART. Polbrean, the Lizard”
Thomas lived in the house up until his death in 1916 and it finally left the families hands in 1921 when Claude M Hart sold Polbrean at auction.
Claude arranges the auction of the contents of Polbrean. An article in the Western Morning News, Thursday 10th March 1921, shows how ecclectic the Hart’s taste were:
“SALE TOMORROW. Polbrean, The Lizard. —Old Furniture, China, Earthenware, large assortment Safes, and Effects for sale.
—On FRIDAY, March 11th, 1921. W, COLLINS and SONS have received instructions from C. M. Hart, Esq., who removing from the above place to SELL at PUBLIC AUCTION the under mentioned FURNITURE and Effects:
Very fine kneehole mahogany writing table, leather top, with useful drawers and large receptacle back for keeping plans, mahogany writing table, with drawers, leather top. (The two tables are in splendid condition.) Nearly new tortoise stove, writing press, very fine stuffed flamingo, in good case, 4 feet high; Cornish chough and owl in case, globe of the world, 3 large brass curtain poles, 3-inch diameter, with rings; large quantity of useful chairs and forms, Mliner’s fire proof powder resisting safes, viz., 2ft. 3ins. high, ‘lft. 9in. wide, and 2ft. high, Ift. 6in. wide; about 200 assorted books, nearly new and in good order, some of the best novels; burr walnut drawing-room table, 40 years old, in splendid preservation; drawing room carpet, several mats, hearthrugs, and other carpets, 2 gilt over mantels, terracotta old Venetian pottery, splendid mahogany dining extension table, with spare :leaves, four chairs to match; solid mahogany carved back sideboard, with cellarette; linoleum in 4 rooms (sold floor), pure bronze ormolu lamp, 3ft. high; 2 old bronze Roman hanging lamps, umbrella stand, book rack, sofa, and armchair to match; chest with 2 drawers, solid mahogany table, large quantity curtains, counterpanes, stair carpet and rods, quantity of cocoanut mats. Bedrooms.—Very fine solid” mahogany chest of drawers, brass-mounted bedstead, solid oak wardrobe, bath, new; bamboo chest of drawers, 2 double washstands, 3 single washstands, several dressing tables, single bedsteads, 1 single oak bedstead mattress, pillows and blankets, wicker and other bedroom chairs, mahogany dressing table, several lots of Indian mattings very fine inlaid oak wardrobe, solid mahogany of drawers, full-size solid brass bedstead, spring mattress, hair overlay; chest, drawers, and several other bedroom utensils. Landing.—Linoleum, mat slips, Magic lantern. 200 historic views of France, Belgium, and Italy; large number of lantern slides, number of picture frames, covered sofa and easy chair, Queen Anne plated teapot, plaited biscuit barrel, crumb brush and tray, household utensils, 2 stag brackets, 1 desk, assortment good ornaments, steps and easel suitable for painting room, 2 fine ormolu gilt candelabra, glass, china, earthenware, cut-glass decanters, glasses, good kitchen tables, mangle, knife machine, boiler, saucepans, flour bin, coal scuttles, meat safe, splendid gun case, by Armstrong, oak, glass-fronted, holds 4 guns. Outside. —Garden, tools, cast-iron garden chair, step ladder, wheelbarrow, quantity of seakale (lots, hand chaffcutter, Muntry metal air tank for boat, galvanized tank, galvanized cowl, four water barrels, galvanized water butt,, with oak stave covering and solid tap; lawn mower, “splendid order; large galvanized bath, several forms, several barked skeins, 18 and 24lbs.; about one ton coals, and several outside effects.
The Auctioneers call the attention of Furniture Dealers and others this good all-round sale. The lots are numerous and worthy the attention of suitable purchasers. The whole be sold without reserve. Goods on view 10 a.m. on the day of sale. Sale to commence 12 Noon, outside lots. 0.W.R.. cars leave Helston 9.25 a.m.; leave The Lizerd 4 p.m. For all further particulars apply to C. M. Hart, Esq., Polbrean. The Lizard; the Auctioneers, Gweek Mills, and Meneage-street, Helston, and Redruth on Fridays. Dated Gweek and Helston, February 26th. 1921.”
The Western Morning News then shows, Wednesday 14th September 1921 the auction details of Polbrean itself:
“CORNWALL AUCTIONS. Mr. John Winn, of Truro, offered for sale at The Lizard Hotel Monday the freehold marine residence Polbrean, situated at Polpeor. Vacant possession can obtained immediately. Bidding was not particularly keen, but Mrs. J. A. Hill, proprietress of Hill’s Hotel, The Lizard, became the purchaser for £1.050.”
This then concluded the part of the Hart’s history at Polbrean but not of Polbrean itself as it was to become a hotel.
The Polbrean Hotel
Records are scarce when it comes to Polbrean’s time as a hotel but from the small pieces of information we can see that sometime after the sale in 1921 Polbrean was converted into a hotel.
As the postcards show the house has changed over the years, the Artist’s studio was converted into the dinning room and by the number of table places we can estimate it may have accommodated up to 30 guests at any one time.
What we do know is that in 1993 the National Trust bought Polbrean. The National Trust records:
“Lizard Point: the Polbrean Hotel, Lizard: 0.881 hectares (2.18 acres) acquired freehold on 8 August 1993 from M S Easton Mrs J D H Kennedy T E and Mrs V A G Stepney”
Polbrean was then restored by the National Trust at a cost of nearly half a million pounds utilising a £425,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The records from the Lottery Fund:
“Total amount awarded: £425,000”
Date added to database: 19/10/2006
The grand opening of YHA Lizard Point in April 2003 wasn’t just good news for weary travellers looking for somewhere to kip in Cornwall – it was the culmination of a unique partnership which has transformed a picturesque corner of the south west and preserved it for future generations.
Lizard Point was once the southernmost hotel in England, offering visitors spectacular views of the Lizard coastline and access to the South West Coast path from its 19th-century walls on the very edge of the British mainland.
The hotel, formerly known as The Polbrean, had been derelict for years when it was bought by the National Trust in 1993 and has now been refurbished as a youth hostel thanks to £425,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Featuring 32 self-catering rooms, it will be managed by the Youth Hostel Association (YHA) and will offer visitors the opportunity to explore the Lizard area, including the historic nearby lighthouse.
The hostel is the final part of a major regeneration of the Lizard area by the National Trust, which purchased the entire peninsula at the same time as The Polbrean. Landscaping, disabled access, information facilities, protection of local wildlife and the reopening of the historically-important Marconi Wireless Station will all bring tourists into the area, and hostel visitors will provide a vital boost to local businesses and the Lizard community.
In its first month of opening, Lizard Point saw more than 400 overnight stays and welcomed visitors from as far afield as Japan, South Korea and the US.”
So now Polbrean is being enjoyed by people from all over the world, using its ideal location as a base to explore the whole Lizard area renowned for its outstanding natural beauty.
Which is exactly what you can imagine was Thomas Hart’s idea when he decided to create Polbrean in the first place.