"I love their famous Trebah Flans, yummy!" P. Atkinson, Truro
Records of Trebah date back to the Domesday survey of 1085, when it was the property of the Bishop of Exeter. For six centuries it passed by sale or marriage through many old, noteworthy Cornish families, including the Killigrews and the Nicholls. The surviving Georgian house at the head of the valley was built by the Nicholls in the 18th century and pre-dates the garden. The Ordnance Survey map of 1813 shows Trebah as being a wooded valley within which the garden was subsequently developed.
The wonderful garden to be enjoyed at Trebah today is the cumulative result of almost 200 years of horticultural endeavour. Charles Fox, a wealthy Quaker, pioneered Trebah as a 26-acre pleasure garden, followed by his daughter and son-in-law. In 1907 Trebah was sold to Charles and Alice Hext, whose stewardship lasted until the outbreak of the Second World War and brought the garden at Trebah to its peak.
During the war years the garden maintenance was reduced to a minimum and the beach was used as an embarkation point for a regiment of 7,500 of the 29th US Infantry Division for the assault landing on Omaha beach.
At the end of the war there was a succession of changes of ownership, including the Martyn family, who cleared the moor at the bottom and introduced the massed planting of Hydrangeas and Donald Healey the racing driver and car designer who oversaw significant projects improving the lower lakes and reclaiming the beach, removing the infrastructure and concrete installed during WW2.
Major Tony Hibbert and his wife Eira Hibbert bought Trebah in 1981 as their retirement home but were persuaded by the Cornwall Garden Society to begin a programme of work to restore the garden to its heyday. Under their care the garden was vastly improved and opened to the public.
In 1990 ownership passed to the Trebah Garden Trust, an independent registered charity, whose key objective is to “preserve, enhance and re-create…for the enjoyment of the public” this remarkable garden.