A mysterious cavity has been discovered in Cotehele House

A crack in the wall in the King Charles Room at Cotehele, Cornwall

A recently-discovered concealed cavity is perplexing the staff and volunteers at Cotehele.

Shocking crack

When the conservation team in the house took down a large tapestry for conservation, we were shocked to find a large crack in the wall. Through the four-centimetre gap we could see that the wall enclosed a narrow cavity covering a glazed window, which can be seen from the outside.

The mystery develops

When the northwest tower was added to the house in the 16th century, there was one large room at the top, however, at some point, probably around 1652 when Colonel Piers Edgcumbe resided at Cotehele, it was divided to create two smaller rooms. The hidden window does not lie behind the partition wall, but belongs to the King Charles’s Room, so why it was sealed off leaving an inaccessible cavity is a mystery.

Practical or something more sinister?

One speculation is simply that the Edgcumbes built the false wall in order to hang a tapestry, but that doesn’t make sense.

" The Edgcumbe family were scissor-happy when it came to cutting tapestries to fit around windows, but having said that, the blocked window is very large. To make it inaccessible is odd. What about maintenance? I don’t understand why they didn't install a door, or at least a hatch, so that access could be gained if necessary."
- Rachel Hunt, Cotehele House & Collections Manager

Another speculation, perhaps more romantic but less realistic, is that a treasure or something more sinister may be hidden behind the wall. It is hoped that the necessary architectural investigation and subsequent repair work will unravel the mystery.

Join in

You can view the crack in the wall and speculate about why the Edgcumbes covered the window in King Charles’s Room.