The Egyptian House: 1st Floor

Chapel Street, Penzance, Cornwall

Overview

One of three apartments set behind the most extraordinary façade. The Egyptian House is in the centre of Penzance: a perfect base from which to explore West Cornwall. This unusual house is a rare and noble survivor of a style that was in fashion after Napoleon's campaign in Egypt in 1798.

  • CotCot
  • Fire or StoveFire or Stove
  • ShowerShower

Beds 1 Single, 1 Twin

Sleeps
3
4 nights from
£181 equivalent to £15.08 per person, per night

Originally built as a museum and geological shop

The first floor apartment is the smaller of the three Landmarks within the Egyptian House. It dates from about 1835 and the front elevation is very similar to that of the former Egyptian Hall in Picadilly, designed by P. F. Robinson. Robinson or Foulston of Plymouth are the most likely candidates for its design, though there is no evidence to support the claim of either. No matter who designed it, today you can enjoy The Egyptian House as a base to explore everything that bustling Penzance and West Cornwall have to offer; such as Chyauster Ancient Village, St Michael's Mount and the Botallack mine.

An eye-catching shop front

It was built for John Lanvin as a museum and geological repository. Why was there a geological shop here? Although picked over by Victorians, the beaches at Penzance still hold every kind of pebble, from quartz to chalcedony. When we acquired the building in 1968, its colossal façade, with lotus bud capitals and enrichments of a proprietary artificial stone, concealed two small granite houses above shops, solid and with a pleasant rear elevation but very decrepit interiors. During our work to the front, we reconstructed these as three compact apartments, the highest of which has a view, through a small window and over the chimney pots of the town, of Mounts Bay and St Michael’s Mount.

The first floor apartment is the smaller of the three Landmarks here. See all our Landmarks at Egyptian House

Floor Plan

‘No photograph or drawing can depict the astonishing and eccentric elevation of the Egyptian House.’

‘We’ve enjoyed our "Flight into Egypt".’

From the logbook

Map & local info

The Egyptian House stands in the heart of the vibrant town of  Penzance, with its variety of restaurants, shops, attractions and activities to suit all tastes. Head south a short way out of town, along the coast road through Newlyn, to visit the charming, tiny fishing village of  Mousehole

"The jewel in Cornwall's crown", St Michael's Mount, is just 15 minutes drive from Penzance around Mounts Bay. Explore over one thousand years of history on this island steeped in myth and legend, and enjoy fresh local food in the island cafe or Sail Loft Restaurant.

Trewidden  and Tregwainton Gardens are both excellent days out for plant lovers, or if you are simply looking for some peace and inspiration.  

Discover Tate St Ives just twenty minutes drive from Penzance; look out for children's art days as well as adult workshops and special exhibitions throughout the year.  

The world famous open-air Minack Theatre is an easy drive from Penzance; their summer season of productions runs from May until September.   

From Penzance there are many secluded and very beautiful beaches to explore. Don't miss Prussia Cove, the location for the film Ladies in Lavender, and Lamorna Cove, feautured in the 2013 film Summer in February.

Take a look at our Pinterest Map for more ideas and things to do during your stay at Egyptian House. 

Please Note: The Landmark Trust does not take any responsibility and makes no warranties, representations or undertakings about the content of any website accessed by hypertext link. Links should not be taken as an endorsement of any kind. The Landmark Trust has no control over the availability of the linked pages.

See all our Landmarks at Egyptian House

The Egyptian House: 1st Floor
Chapel Street, Penzance, Cornwall
Clear directions

‘No photograph or drawing can depict the astonishing and eccentric elevation of the Egyptian House.’

‘We’ve enjoyed our "Flight into Egypt".’

From the logbook

FAQs

    What you need to know about this building

  • Does the property allow dogs?

    No.
  • How is the property accessed?

    Directly from the street.
  • What is the nearest railway station and how far away is it?

    Penzance – 0.5 miles.
  • Is there car parking specifically for Landmark guests?

    No, however there is on street parking (at cost). In summer you may have to park some distance from the property.
  • What type of heating does the property have?

    There are electric night storage heaters and also a gas fire.
  • What are the kitchen facilities?

    The kitchen is fully equipped with all plates, cutlery, fridge etc. There is also an electric cooker.
  • What are the bathroom facilities?

    There is one bathroom with a free-standing shower.
  • Does this Landmark have steep, narrow or spiral stairs?

    The stairs are steep, spiral and very narrow.
  • Is there a garden or outside space?

    No.
  • Is there higher than expected background noise?

    Yes, the property is in the town centre and you may experience a level of noise associated with an urban location.  Noise can also travel between the flats.

    Booking and Payment

  • What happens if I can’t get to the Landmark due to bad weather?

    If the weather is bad, please contact our booking office who will be able to tell you whether the Landmark is accessible. If the housekeeper can safely get to the building to prepare it then we consider that it is open and available for guests. However if we cannot undertake a changeover then we will do our utmost to transfer your stay to another Landmark, depending on what we have available. It may not be of a similar size or in the same part of the country as your original booking. If the building is accessible but the customer cannot travel due to poor weather in his/her local area then please be aware that Landmark will not provide a refund. However the customer may be able to claim on his/her own travel insurance. We recommend that all guests take out travel insurance when they first secure a booking.
  • How can I pay?

    We accept Maestro (if issued in the UK), Visa, MasterCard, direct transfer and sterling cheques drawn on a UK bank. Cheques should be made payable to the Landmark Trust except for Lundy stays and boat/helicopter tickets which should be payable to The Lundy Company Ltd. All payments must be in sterling.
  • How do I create an account?

    If you have not used the Landmark online booking facility before and you wish to register in advance, you can set up an on-line account by following the instructions below:

    Go to the Landmark home page and click on Gift shop (located at the top of the home page in red).

    Select a gift (e.g. Landmark Handbook or Anniversary Mug) and complete the ‘Amount required’ box. There is no need to complete the purchase but this step is necessary in order to bring up the registration page.

    Click ‘Next Step’ at the bottom of the page.

    This will bring you to the ‘Your details’ page.

    Please complete all the fields (name, address, contact details and create an account). Click on the green ‘Create Account’ button once you have finished.

    At the top of the page headed ‘Your details’ there will be a grey box saying ‘Signed in’ and underneath this it will say ‘you are currently signed in as ….

    Here you will also have the option to ‘Sign out’. Please do so and that is your registration completed.

    Please return to the Landmark home page.

    To check your registration or update your account details at any time please ‘Sign in’ using the icon in the top right-hand corner of the home page.

    If you experience any problems in registering or setting up your on-line account please contact webmaster@landmarktrust.org.uk.
  • How do I pick up the key?

    There are various arrangements for picking up keys. To arrange to get into the Landmark, please contact the housekeeper at least two days before your stay
  • Can I pay a deposit?

    If your stay starts more than three months from the date you make the booking, you are required to pay a deposit of one third of the cost of your stay (or £100 per booking, if greater) at the time of booking. Camping on Lundy must be paid for in full at the time of booking.
  • How can I cancel or change my booking?

    If you wish to cancel or change your booking, please contact our Booking Office on 01628 825925
  • Do you accept payment in other currencies?

    At the moment we only accept payment in sterling.
  • What if I arrive late?

    Please let the housekeeper know if you are going to arrive late and s/he will leave a key for you in a suitable place.
  • How far in advance do I need to book?

    It depends. Some of our most popular Landmarks are booked up a long time in advance, but many can be booked at short notice. We will always have Landmarks free for the coming weekend so it’s always worth checking our availability list.
  • Do you have to be a member to book a Landmark?

    No, Landmarks are available to be booked for anyone.
  • Do I need a Handbook to be able to book?

    No, all the information you need can be found on our website, although we’d like you to buy one anyway as it will be a pleasure to own!

    Staying at a Landmark

  • Are Landmarks accessible for people with disabilities or limited mobility?

    Some of our Landmarks are suitable for people with disabilities or limited mobility. However, many Landmarks have steep or narrow staircases, uneven floors and thresholds, changes of level, low ceilings or beams, as well as indistinct colours on steps and in corridors. We recommend that you call Booking Enquiries on 01628 825925 if you would like to find out the suitability of a particular Landmark for anyone with a specific disability.
  • Are Landmarks only available as self-catering accommodation?

    Yes, Landmarks are only available as self-catering accommodation. We do not offer bed and breakfast.
  • Do you provide catering?

    Landmark does not provide catering, but we can recommend Greycoat Lumleys who can arrange for expert and well-trained staff to cater for one evening or for your entire holiday. Their cooks and chefs are able to work with you to meet your specific requirements
  • Do you allow dogs?

    You may bring up to two dogs to properties where dogs are allowed (please see specific property details for exemptions however dogs are not permitted on Lundy except assistance dogs). They must be kept off the furniture and under proper control.
  • Can I bring a pet?

    Apart from two dogs (see above) no other pets are permitted.
  • Am I insured if I break something?

    We do not carry insurance for breakages. However we appreciate that accidents do sometimes happen. If you have a breakage during your stay, please let the housekeeper know and if appropriate we reserve the right to invoice you accordingly.
  • Are Landmarks suitable for children?

    Yes, most of our Landmarks are perfect for children, with gardens to play in and secret places to discover. Our furniture is surprisingly robust and we positively encourage families to stay. However, some of our buildings may not be suitable for small children; for example, some of them have steep or uneven spiral staircases. We recommend that you call the Booking Enquiries team if you would like to find out the suitability of any of our Landmarks for young children.
  • Can I get married in a Landmark?

    Unfortunately, most of our Landmarks are not licensed for weddings. However, you may get married on Lundy.
  • Can I hold a big party in a Landmark?

    All our larger Landmarks are perfect for gatherings of family or friends. You may invite an additional two guests to visit you during your stay, however they must not stay overnight. This is very important because our fire regulations specifically note the maximum number of people in any one building. In addition our properties are prepared, furnished and equipped for the number of people specified and greater numbers cause damage and excessive wear and tear to vulnerable buildings. Should this condition be ignored we shall make a retrospective charge per person per day (whether or not they stay overnight) for each guest over the permitted limit, the charge being pro-rated on the total cost of your booking.
  • Are there televisions in the buildings?

    We deliberately do not provide televisions and find that most people appreciate this.
  • Why are your access tracks sometimes difficult?

    One of the challenges of restoring unloved buildings is gaining access to them. We frequently have to negotiate rights with our neighbours and share tracks with them. In many cases tracks do not belong to us and we have no right to maintain them. Wherever possible we work with our neighbours to provide you with a good quality surface, but where this is a problem then you will be warned at the time of booking.
  • Will there be sockets for my electrical appliances?

    Yes, we have standard electricity sockets for UK appliances. If you are coming from outside the UK, you will need to bring your own adaptor plug(s). If you are visiting one of our European properties we have standard European electricity sockets. If you are visting from the UK, you will need to bring your own adapter plug (s).

    Facilities

  • Are the kitchens and bathrooms restored to a modern standard?

    Sometimes our kitchens and bathrooms have to be imaginatively fitted into the available space in buildings where before there were none, but they are all planned and equipped to a high and modern standard.
  • Is linen provided?

    Yes, Landmarks are fully equipped with sheets and towels. All the beds are fully made up for your arrival.
  • Are the kitchens fully equipped?

    Yes, our kitchens are well equipped with cookers and fridges. There are freezers and dishwashers (in larger buildings) and, where space allows, microwaves as well as a wide and standard range of utensils. A full equipment list is available at time of booking.
  • Do you provide logs for the open fire/stove?

    Logs are provided at many of our Landmarks for an additional cost.
  • Will there be a mobile signal in the Landmark I book?

    Mobile coverage varies. Some Landmarks have an excellent signal, but others have none at all. If you are concerned, you can check with the housekeeper before your arrival.
  • Is there Wi-Fi in your buildings?

    No. At the moment, we have decided not to implement Wi-Fi in our buildings following a consultation with our customers. Many said that they would find it useful, but many also felt that it would somehow damage the experience of staying in a Landmark. As the responses were so split, and as we have so many other initiatives requiring funding, we have decided to put this on hold for the time being.
  • What should I bring with me? Are there lavatory rolls, soap, shampoo, milk, teabags, coffee, hairdryer?

    A welcome tray with tea and sugar awaits your arrival and you will find a pint of milk in the fridge. We also provide lavatory rolls and a bar of soap, per basin but no other toiletries. We do not provide hairdryers.
History

Remarkable pseudo-Egyptian facade

In 1834 John Lavin, a bookseller, of Penzance bought two cottages in Chapel Street for £396 and proceeded to raise the height of the building and to add to its street front the present remarkable pseudo-Egyptian facade. The Royal Arms on the building suggest that it was complete before the accession of Queen Victoria in June 1837. John Lavin sold maps, guides and stationery in the Egyptian House, but his main business was in minerals which he bought, sold and exhibited here.

The exotic building must have been intended to emphasise the bizarre and beautiful side of geological specimens and to draw into the shop visitors to the town. At the time there was a great deal of enthusiasm for the study of minerals and fossils, particularly in Cornwall. Not only were the railways and the fashion for the seaside bringing the beginnings of tourism (Cornwall’s principal business today) to the Duchy, but because of the mining industry the county was also a centre of scientific knowledge and enthusiasm. Cornish miners and engineers were carrying their expertise all over the world. Many of the rare specimens sold by Lavin in Chapel Street were found by Cornish miners while at work in the county, but others were brought back to him by those who came home from overseas. He is supposed to have been guilty of the occasional deception!

John Lavin married Frances Roberts in 1822 and they had two children, Edward and John. John, the younger, emigrated to Australia where he was a biscuit-maker. He died in 1881. Edward ran a stationery, bookbinding and printing business in the Egyptian House beside the mineral shop renting the premises from his father. Perhaps he was not keen on geology, because in 1863 a few years after his father’s death, he sold the entire collection of minerals for £2500 to the great Victorian philanthropist, Angela Georgiana, Baroness Burdett-Coutts. With the proceeds he built a large hotel on the esplanade at Penzance, which he called Lavin’s Hotel (now the Mount Bay’s House Hotel).

Motifs derived from the Egyptian style of architecture (obelisks, pyramids, sphinxes etc.) can be found throughout the history of European architecture. The association of so much Egyptian architecture with death meant that it was often used for monuments. With the development of more accurate scholarship, a greater range of forms and ornaments became available to architects especially after the French occupation of Egypt in 1798-9. One of the most prominent English exponents of the style was Thomas Hope (1769-1831) who designed furniture and interiors which were described in scholarly books. But the Egyptian style also appealed to those looking for novelty and publicity and the Egyptian House would seem to be one such example.

Despite much debate on the subject it has never been proved which architect, if any, was responsible for its design. Peter Frederick Robinson and John Foulston are the names most often mentioned. Robinson, who advised the Prince of Wales on the Chinese furnishings at the Brighton Pavilion, was a pupil of Holland and was a successful country house architect. He designed an Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly, London for a collection of curiosities. Again its purpose was largely advertising for its owner William Bullock. But there is no more than its affinity with the Egyptian House to link the two. John Foulston was closer to hand, practising in Plymouth in a great range of different styles. His Classical and Mathematical School, built in the Egyptian style and criticised at the time for being an imitation of Robinson, still stands somewhat altered as the Odd Fellows Hall. Again there is no other evidence to link Foulston to the Egyptian House.

Restoration

Little had been done to the building

The Lavin family continued to own the Egyptian House until 1910, while letting it to a variety of different tenants and shopkeepers. Then, after the death of George Lavin and his mother Georgina, it was sold to William and Fanny Legg (drapers) of 8 Chapel Street. It was sold by their heirs to the Cornish Stone Company in 1951, who sold it in turn in 1968 to the Landmark Trust, as a charity that specialises in the restoration of buildings of architectural and historic importance.

At this time it was divided vertically into two flats with two staircases. The shop in No. 6 was empty, and the flat above occupied by Mrs Crichton, who had lived there since 1962. Mr Duckham had a millinery shop in No. 7 and lived over it as he had done since 1960.

Little had been done to the building since the alterations made by John Lavin and the roof, with its small flaunched peg slates, was in poor condition. The walls - granite for the back and sides, brick chimneys and brick and stucco for the Egyptian front - were also in a poor state, with the front beginning to come away from the side walls. Much of this was in need of repointing. The front had been repainted at some time in the 1950s, but the plaster itself was cracked and some of the detail coming loose. Inside there was dry rot in the basement and ground floor and woodworm throughout.

Work began on the repair of the building in 1970 and its conversion into three flats, each running the whole width of the building, with two shops below. The roof was renewed completely, with a new frame designed to prevent the walls from spreading any further. The back wall had been rendered and this was stripped off, the stonework made good and repointed. The bow window of the staircase, part of Lavin's remodelling, was repaired and given an inner skin to make it more draft proof. A new window was made in the north wall of the third floor, to light the bedroom and the windows in the rear wall on all floors were enlarged, again to give more light.

Inside the dry rot was eradicated, the floors treated and also strengthened, and new floor made up where the extra and now unnecessary staircase had been. The remaining staircase was given a curved inner wall to balance the curve of the window. New kitchens and bathrooms were fitted.

Before doing anything to the front of the building it was carefully analysed in its existing state. This revealed that much of the ornament is made from Coade stone, a famous artificial stone manufactured at Lambeth in London. However none of the Coade catalogues for the 1830s survive, so it was impossible to trace them any further. Paint scrapes were also done and it was on the basis of these, and on research into the colours used in the Egyptian revival, that a scheme for painting was drawn up. Having done all this the plaster was repaired and the front repainted. The windows of the upper floors retained their original sashes and glazing bars and just needed minor repairs. However the ground floor windows had been altered quite early on - at least by the date of an engraving of c.1859, which shows them with plate glass. Luckily, the mortices were still there in the sashes and working from these and from engravings of Robinson's Egyptian Hall and Foulston's Library, the existing pattern of glazing was worked out. To complete the work, the Royal Arms were repainted, shining out to startle the seagulls in Lavin's showcase front.




                  

Availability & booking

Select a changeover day to start your booking...

What's a changeover day? and Why can't I select other dates?Explain MoreQuestion

A changeover day is a particular day of the week when holidays start and end at our properties. These tend to be on a Friday or a Monday but can sometimes vary. All stays run from one changeover day until another changeover day.