Merchant House has got to be one of the oldest surviving buildings in the county town of Launceston. It sits in a prominent location on the edge of the Square having been a backdrop to events that have happened in Launceston for nearly 500 years. We believe that the building sits on a 14th century cellar which was then adapted to accommodate what we see now as a building from 1550/70 which has timbers within it which were growing at the time of the battle of Agincourt.
The building is grade 2* listed and it has been on the Historic England and Cornwall Buildings group “Buildings at Risk” register for many many years. It was last lived in in the 1960s by a Mrs Kneebone. It has been the home of many mayors of Launceston along with merchants surgeons and traders. As was typical in the Victorian era the building fell down the social scale and became a tea room, guest house and retail emporium. Some three years ago the building was put up for auction and didn’t reach its reserve. It was then sent to auction in London where again it failed to reach its reserve. It was purchased after the auction by someone who I believe were interested in gutting it and converting it to residential flats on the upper floors. Thankfully this never reached completion and I purchased the property just before lockdown. Within it was an amazing collection of untouched rooms with everything being papered with up to 12 layers of wallpaper! It was leaking. The roof had failed, internally it had dry rot wet rot deathwatch beetle woodworm and fungal growth throughout and structurally it was on the move. During the restoration works full records and drawings have been kept. The building has slowly revealed stunning fireplaces, plaster ceilings, blocked doorways and substantial oak floorboards. This is truly one of Launceston greatest buildings. It is our aim that the building should be available for use by the people of Launceston for meetings, courses, training et cetera. To that end we welcome the Causley Trust for this celebratory weekend. It is also hoped that the upper floors will be available intermittently as a holiday lettings unit so that visitors can experience the true character and peculiarities of living in a 16 century building within the centre of Launceston.
Words by David Scott, owner of the Merchant House