Kestle Barton is an ancient farmstead set in fields and woods high above Frenchman’s Creek and the Helford River, on The Lizard, West Cornwall. Not so long ago, the farm buildings were sinking into a beautiful and ruinous old age. Architect Alison Bunning has ensured their conservation using cob, lime plasters, paint and render, and scantle slate. We currently have five houses of various sizes at Kestle Barton, used for workshop accommodation, artist residencies and for letting as holiday accommodation. All profit from holiday letting goes to Kestle Barton Trust for the purpose of furthering the arts at Kestle Barton.
Our gallery and garden are open from 23 March to 2 November 2024. There is no admission charge. In the gallery, we have a changing programme of exhibitions as well as events and workshops. We usually close on Mondays but are open on bank holidays. We tend to show four exhibitions a year; please note that in the week immediately preceding the opening of a new show there might not be much to see in the gallery. The garden will be open as usual.
The garden was made in the old south-facing mowhay by designer James Alexander-Sinclair. He has created a real plantsman’s scheme of gauzy swathes of herbaceous plants and sweeps of tall grasses with hedges surrounding small circular spaces for sitting and dreaming. Beyond, is the meadow, an ever changing carpet of wild flowers and bees.
The Tea Room is situated in the garden and provides visitors with a casual opportunity for light refreshment. The space is a glorified ‘garden shed’ complete with cooker, sink and other kitchen appliances. The system is simple: delicious, locally roasted Origin coffee is made fresh through the day for people to help themselves, along with a kettle for tea – of which we have a selection. Milk, plant-based alternatives and sugar are available. There are locally baked cakes (Kellies Kakes) and Roskilly’s ice cream in 120ml tubs…with little wooden spoons hidden under the lid. The juice that we produce from our orchard, which is pressed and bottled here onsite, is also for sale. All the products are £2.50 each and we operate an honesty box, with a cash only policy – so please bring some cash along when you visit.
The Tea Room also serves to display the two limited edition lithographs of Mike McInnerney paintings from the exhibition Routes and Branches (2010). These are very popular and available to buy both framed and unframed.
Kestle Barton Trust was set up to bring contemporary art to our remote setting and subsequently Kestle Barton has become an important place in the context of the cultural life of West Cornwall with exhibitions of work by artists of national and international standing. Our diverse, rural site provides a great variety of unique opportunities for artists, participants and audiences.
We are able to support Groundwork, the programme of International Art in Cornwall as a partner, providing space for exhibition and residential workshops and Cornwall Workshops which provide professional development opportunities for artists, curators and critics who live and work in Cornwall and the South West, by creating a forum for dialogue and exchange with international colleagues, and by offering opportunities to experience and participate in ground-breaking international contemporary art.
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A close reading of the first chapter of Daphne du Maurier’s Frenchman’s Creek leads us to suppose that du Maurier must have known Kestle Barton. On ordnance survey maps, the farmhouse at Kestle Barton is marked as ‘mansion, remains of’. A third side, and possibly a fourth gatehouse side, to the farmhouse, was taken down at some point in the past, while du Maurier says, of Navron, ‘part of the original quadrangle still stands, enclosing the farmyard of today.’
To add to our convictions, original features of the old house at Navron had, du Maurier tells us, been reused in the building of farmyard barns, ‘the two pillars that once formed the entrance to the house … serve as props to the modern barn with its corrugated roof.’
At Kestle Barton it is the remains of a c1600 fireplace that have been reused in the construction of one of our barns.
In 2005 Eric Berry, Nigel Thomas and Peter Dudley produced a Historic Building Analysis of the barns at Kestle Barton. Eric Berry spent several days looking closely at the buildings and a remarkable report was produced.
Of the north Barn, Eric Berry says,
‘Built into the foundations of the front right of the (east) doorway is a c1600 moulded fireplace lintel. Jambs with matching mouldings and diablo (alternatively known as dice or hourglass) stops (the left hand jamb with the moulding on the inside face with its stop buried, the other side with the moulding and stop visible on the outside face of the jamb) form the lower part of the jambs that flank the north doorway.’
Until 2004 Kestle Barton was owned and farmed by Boaden Lyne. A short film of his reminiscences of Kestle Barton can be seen here. Another branch of the Lyne family continues to farm next door at Chy-an-Kestle. Andy Lyne has a herd of red Limousin cross cattle that can often be seen grazing in our fields. His farm and ours were once a single entity, split during a family difference; neither farm is quite big enough to sustain the herd so using our grassland is a good option for us both.
In 2013 we were able to buy the western wing of the Farmhouse, so bringing the current land and buildings within the Kestle Barton curtilage into single ownership. The cottage as ￼￼￼￼existing was large enough for us to be able to make an Artists’ Apartment for residencies, a two bedroom cottage – now Kestle Cottage – to add to our holiday letting resources, a studio and the Apple Store, a place for meeting and screenings.
Conservation architect Alison Bunning continued to work on the buildings at Kestle Barton, bringing Kestle Cottage into use in 2014. Her work on the barns and Farmhouse is widely admired and award winning. At the RIBA South West Town and Country Awards 2011, Alison was presented with the Conservation Award and given, for her, the ultimate accolade of having her work compared to that of the great Venetian architect, Carlo Scarpa. On this occasion, it was also said of Alison that, ‘The architect navigates with great skill between restoration and contemporary intervention and what characterises both strategies is a profound understanding of the materiality of buildings involved as a generating force for improvements. Design drawings were produced almost exclusively by hand and this methodical draughting process is likely to be at the root of the innate, practical and poetic understanding of place that the scheme so beautifully demonstrates.’
Kestle Barton is situated on the footpath between Helford Village and Frenchman’s Creek, on the circular walk.
Walk up to Kestle Barton from Helford village, or park at Kestle Barton and take a magical circular woodland walk to Frenchman’s Creek and Penarvon Cove, allowing for a Roskilly ice cream at Helford post office before you return.Kestle Barton can also be reached from the north bank of the Helford River by ferry from Helford Passage. It is a twenty minute walk from the landing stage at Helford. For more details of the ferry, visit Helford River Boats website www.helford-river-boats.co.uk/ferry or phone 01326 250 770. There is a public car park at Helford Passage above The Ferry Boat Inn.
Leave Helston on A3083 towards Lizard, driving past Culdrose. At the mini roundabout turn left B3293 towards St Keverne. At the next mini roundabout in Garras take the third exit towards St Keverne, still B 3293, drive past Trelowarren white gates on the left for approximately a quarter mile. Take a left turn signposted to Helford and Manaccan. In Newtown St Martin turn right at the T junction and immediately left, signed Helford and Manaccan.In about a mile and a half at the small cross roads take left turn to Kestle and first right to Kestle Wartha. Kestle Barton is about half a mile on the right.
Cornwall TR12 6HU
01326 231 811