An ambitious plan to restore an historic dilapidated property in Penzance has reached a key milestone. 

A charity project team has signed a lease to officially take over the Gardeners’ House in Morrab Gardens and received the keys. 

The Gardeners’ House has now begun their search for a building contractor with a track record of working on listed buildings who will oversee the full renovation of the building and give it a new lease of life. 

The building would have been a hub of activity when Morrab House was a private residence, as it contained the stables, fodder store and coach-house that were an important part of a nineteenth-century gentleman’s residence.  

Since Penzance Corporation purchased Morrab House in 1889, the building has suffered mixed fortunes, at times providing living accommodation for the head gardener and his family, stabling for the donkey that pulled the garden’s lawnmower, and until recently a kitchen and mess room for the gardeners and volunteers. 

​The plan is to restore and repurpose the Morrab Gardens stable block to create a flexible community hub to help address the area’s social issues through education, drawing on the green heritage of West Cornwall and of Morrab Gardens in particular. 

The Gardeners’ House Penzance will become an important centre for the community, helping to improve mental and physical wellbeing.  

The renovated building will become a home to wellbeing workshops, green community projects and a sensory garden. 

The team plans to create a welcoming and calm space to support the local community, especially those from disadvantaged situations – using the heritage of Cornwall’s natural environment past and present, to inspire people and support their wellbeing. 

Miki Ashton, the project co-ordinator for the Gardeners’ House said: “At the Gardeners’ House, we’re all about collaboration.  

“We’re teaming up with local partners, volunteers, and community groups to create a space that’s welcoming to everyone.  

“From hands-on workshops, inspiring talks, to a varied diary of events, we can’t wait to partner up on some fantastic projects. 

 “We’re also aiming to create a living archive where ideas and local information will be preserved for generations to come.  

“The past, present, and future are all part of our vision, where we can come together to discover, record and nurture our natural environment, not just for our pleasure, but also to make a positive impact.”  

The Gardeners’ House, a charity based in Penzance, received £2.2 million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, as well as a grant of £896,000 from the Penzance Town Deal fund to help realise their vision.   The project will also create a home for a unique archive of documents, books and illustrations. The ‘living archive’ collection will be made accessible to the public for the first time and highlights the history of Cornwall’s natural heritage.    

Donated by the Hypatia Trust, the ‘living archive’ showcases the achievements and stories from the last 200 years of the men and women connected to West Cornwall’s natural heritage. Its new home will mean that the important collection is safeguarded and preserved in Penzance so that the community, researchers and visitors can learn and be inspired by it.  The hope is that it will continue to grow and include items that reflect the thoughts, feelings and experiences of people in the community today, particularly in response to the natural world and the climate emergency. 

 The Gardeners’ House renovation will also include a community art project led by artists Jane Darke and Andrew Tebbs, working with the community to create designs inspired by illustrations and objects from the archive. Local craftspeople will then be commissioned to recreate these designs in stone, metal and wood that will feature in the Sensory Garden. 

The Sensory Garden, made possible by generous funding from the Tanner Phoenix Trust, will be created between the Gardeners’ House and Pengarth Day Centre. It will give a tranquil safe space where people can reconnect with nature and hopes to enhance the lives of older people, particularly those living with dementia. 

The project will work in partnership with local community groups and organisations - including Sustainable Penzance, Earth’s Green Guardians, Hypatia Trust and Pengarth Day Centre. 

Martin Tucker, the chairman of the Penzance Town Deal Board, said “We are absolutely delighted to reach this milestone in this exciting project with the signing of the lease.  

“We are really looking forward to seeing the impact The Gardeners’ House will have on the community and watch the progress towards becoming a centre for mental and physical wellbeing, supporting the people of Penzance.  

“The Gardeners’ House is a great example of the kind of project that is really benefiting from the Town Deal.”