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History of Glendurgan Garden

High angle view of twirly maze at Glendurgan in summer
The maze at Glendurgan | © National Trust Images/Hilary Daniel

Glendurgan was created in the 1820s by Alfred and Sarah Fox, who then developed it into a garden featuring rare and exotic plants. They also built a school room where local children, as well as their own, could learn; and they planted a maze. Descendants of Alfred and Sarah Fox live in the house to this day.

School Room

At the top of one of Glendurgan’s three valleys is a small, thatched building. This is a re-creation of the first school opened by Alfred and Sarah Fox in 1829 and where, for more than 15 years, local children including some of the couple’s twelve children attended lessons.

The school room closure

The school room was eventually closed in 1842 once it was no longer big enough for the number of children, and a more substantial school was built on the quay in Durgan in 1876 by Sir Joseph Pease, who was a son-in-law to Alfred and Sarah. The Old School House is now a National Trust holiday cottage available for rent.

‘I hereby agree with Sarah Alfred Fox to undertake to teach the children at her school at Glendurgan to read, write, cypher, sew, knit and plait straw...’

- Lavinia Chinn, Schoolmistress, 1831

Reviving the school room

After the original school room closed, the building became useful to those growing fruit in the garden and may have housed an apple press.

However, by the middle of the 20th century, all traces of the original building had vanished apart from four windows which were later incorporated into the current building.

The Maze

Having 12 children keeps you busy. As well as education, Alfred and Sarah Fox planted the maze in 1833 based on a design taken from the Sydney Gardens in Bath. Most of the cherry laurel hedges still survive.

Visitors playing on the Giant's Stride rope swing in the garden at Glendurgan, Cornwall
Visitors playing on the Giant's Stride rope swing in the garden | © National Trust Images/John Millar

The Giant’s Stride

In 1913, their successors built the Giant’s Stride rope swing for children (and adults) to enjoy.

When you grab hold of the handles of this rotating rope swing and run faster and faster around the central pole, you'll take bigger and faster strides and the more airborne you become. The more people striding round, the more fun it provides. Like the maze, the Giant's Stride is good for spectators too and this part of the garden is characterised by the laughter coming from this simple but enjoyable swing.

At the beginning of 2022, a replacement five-metre-tall pole was installed by the garden team assisted by local contractors.

Durgan’s rich history

Durgan is a picturesque riverside village. However, life in Durgan a century ago was not quite as idyllic as it is today.

Some families lived in the village for generations, often making a living by tending orchards or by fishing. Head down to Durgan to see what was once an old fishing community for yourself.

Pink, blue and white wild flowers bloom on a slope at Glendurgan, Cornwall, overlooking trees

Discover more at Glendurgan Garden

Find out when Glendurgan Garden is open, how to get here, the things to see and do and more.

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Things to see at Glendurgan Garden 

Glendurgan is home to a beautiful mix of exotic and native plants, as well as peaceful orchards and a 19th-century maze that has puzzled visitors for decades.

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Eating and shopping at Glendurgan Garden 

After exploring the garden, take a well-earned break at the Glendurgan Tea-House, tuck into an ice cream at the Durgan fish cellar, or find a good book at the second-hand bookshops.

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Our work in the garden at Glendurgan 

Find out about the conservation work the garden team at Glendurgan are carrying out to protect and preserve it for future generations to enjoy.

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Learn about people from the past, discover remarkable works of art and brush up on your knowledge of architecture and gardens.