The Ghost of Tryphena Pendarves

tryphena pendarves

When Tryphena Pendarves died at the age of 94 in October 1873 the Cornish newspapers reported the return of her mortal remains to Camborne. Her funeral was supposedly attended by numerous local dignitaries and Mrs Pendarves was apparently laid to rest in the imposing family tomb at Treslothan Church, close to Pendarves House. (I say apparently and supposedly for reasons that will become clear later.) Since that time however rumours have circulated that Tryphena Pendarves does not rest easy. That her ghost has been seen haunting the graveyard near the Pendarves tomb and the gardens of the rectory close by.

tryphena pendarves
The overgrown gardens of Pendarves House

Tryphena’s Life

Tryphena Trist was born into a well-to-do family. Her father, Browse Trist, (yes, everyone in the story has an odd name!), was a vicar at Bowden near Totnes and her grandfather, also called Browse, had been the area’s Member of Parliament for many years. Browse and his wife Agnes had three daughters, Elizabeth, Susanna and Tryphena born in 1780. The choice of name for his third child was fairly unusual, even at that time, but it is a biblical name with Greek origins and means ‘dainty’ or ‘delicate’.

When her father died in 1791 Tryphena, then just eleven, and her two young sisters were left as co-heiresses of Bowden House which they eventually sold. It isn’t clear how or when Tryphena met her husband-to-be, Edward William Wynne Stackhouse Pendarves (I did warn you about the names!), but they were married in 1804 when she was 24 years old. Unfortunately I have been unable to locate a picture of Tryphena but below is a portrait of her husband in his fifties.

Edward William Wynne Pendarves by John Linnell, published by Dominic Charles Colnaghi, March 1836. Credit: National Potrait Gallery, London

At the time of their marriage, Edward was still known by his birth name, Edward William Stackhouse. Although he was not a particularly close relation to the Pendarves family, Edward was due to inherit the estate because the ancient lineage was without an heir. He adopted the Pendarves surname (and Wynne) as part of the conditions of his inheritance in 1819. Tryphena’s new husband was a magistrate and in 1832 he became the MP for West Cornwall, a position he held until his death.

tryphena pendarves
An old bridge which was once part of the driveway of Pendarves House

The 1851 census gives us a glancing view into the couple’s comfortable life. At that time the live-in household consisted of a butler, two footmen, a groom, a ladies maid for Tryphena called Eliza Kneebone, a cook, two housemaids and a kitchen maid. There would have been many more staff working in the gardens and on the estate itself which covered some 3065 acres, 3 rods and 6 perches in 1873. And while Tryphena and Edward never had any children I can imagine the running of the enormous Pendarves Estate would have kept her occupied while her husband was away on business in London. She also seems to have been involved with charity work locally as, alongside Lady Basset of Tehidy, Lady Pendarves was noted in the papers as raising funds for ‘the widows of Camborne’. Interestingly in addition to this Tryphena was apparently instrumental in the first reconstruction of Carwynnen Quoit when it collapsed in 1842.

tryphena pendarves
Carwynnen Quoit today

When Edward died in 1853 Tryphena took over the running of the house and estate, a task she seems to have been well-equipped for. She was described as ‘shrewd’ and remarkably intelligent, so perhaps not as delicate and dainty as her name would suggest. But this is about all we know about Tryphena Pendarves until her death.

Lady Pendarves’ Ghost

If someone in the Camborne or Redruth area has the misfortune to cross paths with a ghost, he need only say “Nummy Dummy” and the spectre will vanish!

(Nummy dummy is thought to derive from the Latin: In nomine Domini)

david Mudd, Down Along Camborne & Redruth, 1978

In 1842 Edward William Wynne Stackhouse Pendarves employed the architect, George Wightwick, to design and build him a mausoleum at Treslothan. Treslothan was a new village on the Pendarves estate that had been built the year before for the workers, complete with a small church, St John the Evangelist, and its own school. It too was designed by Wightwick.

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St John the Evangelist Church, Treslothan

All that remains of the grand estate of the Pendarves family, whose classic mansion and planted parks have disappeared, is this little early Victorian enclave among beech trees and park walls.  It consists of Tudor style village school and parsonage and lancet style church, all by George Wightwick, 1841.  They are a pretty group in silvery granite.  Inside, the church was skinned in 1880, but is rather impressive.  It has a fifteenth century font from Camborne.  Beside the Church is a elaborate Gothic mausoleum of the Pendarves Family. 

John Betjeman ‘A Shell Guide to Cornwall.’  Faber & Faber 1964 

George Wightwick was a Plymouth based architect responsible for a number of country houses in Cornwall and also the elegant Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society building in Falmouth. It seems that Edward wished to have a suitably grand final resting place and so Wightwick designed a sizable tomb in the Gothic style which is nearly as big as the church itself! (Slight exaggeration but you get the picture.) The mausoleum is constructed out of granite, it has a gabled front with beautiful sweeping arches and diagonal buttresses on all its corners.

tryphena pendarves
The Pendarves Mausoleum

After his death this is where Edward was laid to rest and when Tryphena died twenty years later that is where she was buried too. And of course this simply fact is where much of the confusion lies.

You see, it is said that Tryphena Pendarves’ ghost haunts the graveyard at Treslothan because she was not buried in the family tomb. And she was not buried there because of ‘her misdemeanours’. What those misdemeanours were is never elaborated on in any source that I have been able to find. Unfortunately for the ghost hunters however the newspapers at the time of her death quite clearly record her body being returned by train to Camborne, after she passed away in Totnes, and her remains being laid to rest with her husbands.

Royal Cornwall Gazette, 25th October 1873

The other problem is that a headstone inside the mausoleum carries an inscription of her name below Edward’s and states that she lies in the same grave . . . So where could this story of a ghostly Tryphena come from? Why would the idea of her unhappy spirit roaming the earth have made its way into local legend?

  • Tryphena pendarves

And quite clearly stories of her restless ghostly presence persist, in recent years ghost hunters seem to have been drawn to the churchyard. There are videos online recorded there in the dead of night, like the one below, in which the paranormal investigators try to make contact with Tryphena.

The graveyard is not the only focus for these ghost stories, there have also been sightings at the rectory close by as described below by Kym Martindale.

” . . . Another friend, an archivist, remembers going into the attics of the rectory, and seeing the moulds they used for the chimneys; there are two ghosts living in that house as well, he said, and I have seen one of them, Tryphena Pendarves, who was also seen once by a visitor to the rectory. ‘There is a woman in a white dress walking in your garden’ this visitor said in some astonishment to the then incumbent who showed no surprise however, and simply replied, ‘Ah, that’ll be Tryphena’, and the archivist smiled.”

Kym Martindale, Hinterland: cycling round inland Cornwall

Visiting Treslothan and what remains of the Pendarves estate has taken on an other-worldly inclination for many it seems. And although it may seem like I am dismissing the idea in many ways I must admit that I can’t disagree.

The Lost Gardens of Pendarves House

For me an integral part this ghost story has to be the ruined gardens of Pendarves House. I have been visiting them for years, they are now a nature reserve known as Pendarves Woods, and even before I had heard the Tryphena’s ghost story I have always found them a little strangely unsettling somehow.

Pendarves House. Borlase, 1758

Pendarves House itself has vanished entirely. It was built in the Georgian period, added to and expanded before it eventually being completely demolished in 1955. But according to Hitchens the house was ‘erected on a pleasing eminence, which commands an extensive view over the western part of the county. The southern front overlooks a large piece of artificial water which considerably adds to the elegance of the whole’. That large piece of water was almost certainly the boating lake which does remain to this day and is now a haven for water fowl.

In the hayday of the estate the gardens were extensive and well-maintained of course and only traces of that can be seen now. There was once a cave-like grotto, as well as the earliest known ha-ha in Cornwall and numerous species of trees and shrubs. The ideal place for an evening stroll for Mrs Pendarves. It is said that Edward WWS Pendarves did much to improve the gardens when he took over the estate, even getting a mention in the Gardener’s Magazine of 1837.

These days what remains of the grounds is cared for by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust and the woodland is usually fairly peaceful and a great place for bird-watching. Wandering around though it is still possible to detect a few remnants of that grand past. The boat-house on the edge of the lake still stands, there is a elegant arched bridge and gateposts near the entrance, a huge tunnel of rhododendrons and small granite footbridges with broken down metal railings crossing the streams within the woodland itself. So perhaps at night Tryphena can be seen walking here too . . .

Final Thoughts

Whether or not you believe in ghosts I think it is important to never discount local stories like this one, even if all the evidence points in a different direction. There are other possibilities rather than the supernatural worth considering.

Could it be that despite being buried in the family tomb Tryphena’s spirit is still restless for some other reason? Perhaps those so called misdemeanours, whatever they were, still haunt her. Or is it possible that this ‘shrewd’ old lady was not exactly a benevolent employer, perhaps local people weren’t too fond of Mrs Pendarves and this dislike is the source of the rumours of a ‘dark side’ to her personality and her damned soul? And these rumours have become a kind of curse from which the story of sad, wandering spirit has grown.

Further Reading:

Unusual Epitaphs in Cornwall

A Bizarre Ghost Story from 19th Century Falmouth

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9 thoughts on “The Ghost of Tryphena Pendarves

  1. My daughter was with me while I tended the grave of my mother in law which lies in the embedded cross that lies between the Pendarves morsalium and the main church door.A young girl dressed in period dress made an appearance to her…. I didn’t see anything myself but my daughter said she was there stood in the door way.

  2. Seen many a spooky thing in Treslothan graveyard at night, always around the mausoleum.

    I also read and understand that the river through Pendarves Woods once had the ancient ruins of river workings that were all destroyed when the woods were remodelled to suit the mansion owners. Possibly associated to the nearby quoit

      1. We saw a flame light in the church window (and this was after midnight) and then what looked like a flamed lantern carried by someone or something from the mausoleum through the graveyard and stopping at graves. On entering the nearby woods, what can only be described as a large unhappy present followed us and began chasing, causing us to literally run away until we got to the church entrance where it stopped. Whether you believe it or not, a group of 4 or 5 of us saw it and we never went back at night.

        And yes, ancient tin streaming that was destroyed when the grounds of Pendarves were formed and rivers diverted. The nearby Quoit and possible stone circle are related. Supposedly an ancient track ran through heading to Baripper, before splitting with one path heading to St Micheals Mount and the other heading to St Gothians at Gwithian. The remains of St La chapel (the Saint for St Ives) are further up stream in the woods near Praze and by a waterfall, sited next to the ancient track to increase footfall.

    1. I used to pop in and play the organ in the evenings in the church some 20 years ago. I’d also clean brass and attend to various small odd jobs. There where many occasions that I was spooked. On on occasion, whilst playing the organ I heard footsteps behind me. On another occasion whilst locking up at 11pm at night a figure in a light gown walked past the vestry window.

      I was told that in the 1970s a visiting organist practicing late in the evening for an upcoming service, fled the church and left all the doors open….

  3. Many years ago I used to accompany my Dad when he delivered groceries to Tripp Powning (not ure of name) Pendarves and we became quite friendly. We looked around the grotto and was entranced by the different stones. A lerge piece of quartz had broken free and Tripp gave it to us. I still have it in our garden. On another occasion my Father was admiring the granite “toadstools” Tripp said that if father could lift one into his estate car he could have it. To his dismay (?) father lifted it into the the car (A Standard 16 I think) He drove home happy but with a sore back! The toadstool was in our various houses in Pengegon and Carbis Bay and moved to Wiltshire when Dad came to live with us. Still with us in Swindon.

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