Sunday, April 11, 2021

Talland House and St Ives 2003/2012

 Talland House and St Ives 2003/2012


Talland House in 2012

In 2003, I was fortunate enough to spend several days in the "Nursery" flat on the first (second if you are American) floor of Talland House (the balcony to the right and center window in this picture).  I had complete access to the garden and took many pictures of the house, the garden, and the views down the hillside and across the bay.  I also did some research in the local town archives and was able to retrieve a copy of the hand-drawn 1877 Survey map of Talland House and its grounds at the time Leslie Stephens first leased it.

In 2012 I returned to St. Ives with five students, bent on taking photographs of everything we could.  Although we were not staying at Talland House, the gardener saw us discreetly peering and invited us in for a tour where we were able to document what still remained, although some of the garden and all of the open land below it had already disappeared under a swarm of holiday house developments. 

I have thought for years that I needed to make my pictures available to the public, especially for Woolf scholars and teachers. I had made a power-point which I had thought I would post, but it had not been updated and was a digital leviathan to upload.  Also, I wanted people to be able to extract and use my images as easily as possible.  So instead I am going to set up this blog post. It begins with a wide focus, locating Talland House in St. Ives, then narrows down to views of the gardens and the surrounding grounds, centers in on a few pictures I was able to take of the views from the interior and of the actual rooms I stayed in, and ends by flaring out to photos of the beach at St. Ives and some images of the lighthouse taken on our boat trip out to see it.


House and Surrounding Area

 This is the 1877 Ordinance Survey Map made of Talland House. From my experience studying a similar survey map of Monk's House, I can attest that these hand-drawn maps were accurate down to the placement of particular trees.  There was a sizeable orchard on the north side of the house which had completely disappeared by 2003. There were also four greenhouses, the back wall of three of which was still standing with an exit door to the street in 2003.  The house was approached by a carriage road (off Albert Road) which curved around below an oval ground set off by the escallonia hedge. On the south side of the garden there was a path that led down to a separate pedestrian gate, accessible by three stairs to the road.  This gate and stairs were still there in 2003, though they had disappeared by 2012.


Looking down on the greenhouse walls in 2003.

Door into Greenhouses (2003)

Approach up carriage road from Albert Rd (2003)

Pedestrian Gate to Albert Rd in 2003

Peering up at house from the stairs (2003)

  When I was there in 2003, there was a path across the road from the green house gate that led down some stairs bordered on either sides by red hot pokers towards the beach.

View of beach from the road below Talland House (2003)

Closer view of the pokers

Portminster Beach from above the train station parking lot.  (2003)


Talland House in St. Ives

Talland house is located south of the main harbor and peninsula of St Ives, high on a hill over-looking Porthminster beach and sitting above the train station.


 This is a pre-2003 postcard of Porthminster Beach where I have placed a circle high-lighting Talland House; you can see that there is green space not only below the house, but also all the way down to the train station.



Below is a photo of Talland House taken from a  boat off the beach in 2012; you can see that holiday houses almost block it in.


From Talland House it is only about 1/4 of a mile stroll down the hill on Albert Road to the center of town. Here is a picture of the street you follow into town. 

If you drop downhill to The Terrace road, you can take a slightly longer route that passes by the Malakoff and its spectacular view of the main harbor.


The Talland House Garden

In "A Sketch of the Past" Woolf designates various sectors in the garden: "there was the coffee garden; the Fountain -- a basin with a funnel that dripped, edged in with damp evergreens; the cricket lawn; the Love Corner under the greenhouse" (MOB 129) . Although it is not shown on the ordinance map, in 2003 there was a basin in the the SW corner of the garden, surrounded by calla lilies.  


Basin in SW corner, planted with pseudocoreus in 2003

The SW lawn was the flattest expanse in the yard and might have been where tennis was played.

SW lawn space


South-facing entrance


Terrace along South side of house (perhaps where Mr Ramsey paces?)


On the east front of the house, tall doors/ windows opened up to the view of the bay and the lighthouse, overlooking a terrace, with stairs down a low rockery into an oval space bordered by the escallonia hedge. Here is a link to a photo of the east front of the house  from Leslie Stephen's Album at Smith. 


You can see that the  rather overgrown hedge completely surrounded the oval garden below, and the front of the house was half covered with the vines of clematis and passion flowers which Woolf mentions in "A Sketch of the Past".

East front of Talland House in 2012  (new addition to right)

Here is a link to a photo of the south windows from Leslie Stephen's photo album.

By 2003, the upper hedge had been cut down, the rockery exposed and planted,  and the view framed by the addition of a palm tree and a yew.

Looking down on oval space in 2003

Looking down on rockery leading to oval space in 2003 (still planted with mesembrantheum)

Photos of the children playing cricket against a rough stone wall  (in Leslie Stephen's photo album, owned by Smith ) suggest that the cricket lawn was the oval space below the rockery and above the hedge.

Views from and Inside the House

From the upper floor balcony, the views across the bay are spectacular, but the lighthouse seems very far away .

View of nursery balcony

Godrevy Lighthouse from the nursery balcony (2003)

View of Julia Stephen's balcony from the nursery balcony (2003)

I was lucky enough to be able to sleep in the nursery, next to the window, which still had a shade that blew out in the sea breeze.

I like to imagine that this window in the nursery is the one from which the Stephen children used to lower a basket for treats from the cook.

Across from the entrance to my flat I was able to catch a glimpse of the stairs up to the attic.

 To the Lighthouse
When I first arrived in St. Ives, one thing that really impressed me was the intense colors of the waters, backlit by the white sand of the beaches.

In 2012 my students and I were able to take a trip out to the Godrevy lighthouse on a boat leaving from the main harbor.  What follows is a series of photos of the lighthouse taken as we approached the island.
As you leave the harbor, you can see three lighthouses: two on the main pier,  one in the distance.



  1. Oh, Elisa, what a wonderful, wonderful post! So much loving work here. Thank you, from the bottom of all our hearts. Beth

  2. Almost as good as visiting. Thanks for taking the time.

  3. Thank you very much for posting such fascinating and valuable material, Elisa.
    Gill (Lowe)

  4. What a wonderful resource! Thank you so much Elisa. Wish I'd seen these while writing Talland House!

  5. What a wonderful gift, this account of your stay in Talland House Elisa. Thank you so much!
    Like you I stayed in the Nursery-part of Talland House in 2003. But I lost my photo-album of this period after moving houses last year. So I'm so glad to 've stumbled across this blog when visiting your extensive 'Woolf-Work' in blogs after Woolf Salon no 16 last week. Thanks again!