Lostwithiel is one of my favourite towns in Cornwall. It is peaceful even at the height of the summer season and wonderfully historic with many interesting buildings. There are also lots of antique and curiosity shops to nose about in. A beautiful Norman bridge crosses the river Fowey here and there is Restormel, an ancient motte and bailey castle, just outside the town. In the centre the rather imposing Exchequer Hall was built in 1272 and was once home to the ancient Stannary Courts.
But of course I came to Lostwithiel looking for something far less grand and dare I say a lot sillier!
Not far from the corner of North Street and Queen Street there is a little square house with an inscription quite high up on its walls.
The granite plaque wraps around one corner of the building. It appears to have been built into the actual wall of the house, not added on later. It reads:
Walter Kendal of Lostwithiell was founder of this house in 1658. Hath a Lease for Three Thousand Yeares which had beginning the 29th of September Anno 1652
Now this was a man with long term goals I feel! A man thinking ahead . . . far, far ahead! I am really not sure what Walter thought would be happening 4652 when his lease finally expires!
The National Archives at Kew still hold the original agreement which was made between Francis Buller and Walter Kendal for the “mansion house” in Lostwithiel.
Walter it seems was part of a impressively well-to-do family in the small town. His relations were members of parliament, Royalist army heroes and Masters of the Cinque Ports. The Kendals built Pelyn House near to the town in 1601 and the family are still there to this day. What Walter did, other than build his rather smaller abode and sign up to extraordinarily long leases, is not entirely clear.
He was born in 1608 to Thomas Kendal and Elizabeth Arscott and was the eldest of their eight children. They are all represented praying in multi-coloured relief in an impressive plaque on the wall of St Bartholomew’s Church. I think we can assume our Walter is the one on his knees just behind his considerably larger father.
Walter was married to Margaret Symon in 1642 and they had three children, Richard, Walter and Elizabeth. Sadly I haven’t had any luck finding out what Walter actually did during his life although when he married Margaret at St Winnow Church he recorded himself as a ‘Gentleman’.
Walter Kendal died in 1693 and was buried at Lostwithiel. His lease still has 2636 years to run at the time of writing!
For more great Cornish characters try: