In the 14th century, the de Cotheele family was one of Cornwall’s most powerful. Ralph and Hilaria de Cotheele, the orphaned children of this dynasty, were the wards of John, Earl of Cornwall, brother of the King, Edward III. In 1353, Hilaria, heiress to her brother’s estates, married William Edgcumbe and brought to the union her land at Cotheele.
The Edgcumbes, her new husband William’s family, actually originated from the Devon side of the Tamar, near Tavistock. In the 13th century, the family is recorded as living in the parish of Milton Abbot, where many buildings still bear the Edgcumbe name today. William Edgcumbe’s elder brother John, despite remaining in Milton Abbot, founded a second line of the family in Cornwall, with descendents based at Tregeare, near Launceston. Itis from this side of the family that this collection originates.
For five centuries, the Edgcumbes were based at Cotheele, near Saltash. Now owned by the National Trust, Cotheele is a Tudor mansion built by Sir Richard Edgcumbe and his son, Sir Piers, during the late 15th and early 16th centuries.
Until the end of the 15th century, the Durnford family owned vast amounts of land around Plymouth, Stonehouse and Rame. In 1493, Sir Piers Edgcumbe married the heiress Joan Durnford and created a deer park, marking the site of the new Mount Edgcumbe estate. His son Richard would later instigate work on a fine manor house overlooking the River Tamar.