Porthledden House, St Just, Cornwall
In the early 20th century, Cape Cornwall was owned by Captain Francis Oates,
who began his working life underground at the age of 12 in Balleswidden Mine.
He was already a mine captain by the time he was 23 and a few years later went
off to seek his fortune in South Africa.
He started out as a mining engineer with diamond company De Beers but was
invited onto the board of directors after only three years. And was Managing
Director of De Beers in South Africa, then taking over as chairman of De Beers
from Cecil Rhodes.. He was a member of the Cape Legislature Assembly.
But he eventually returned to west Cornwall, where he built Porthledden House
in 1909 as his family home with an extensive garden landscape. Porthledden is
a 21 bedroom mansion with magnificent views across the Atlantic and a grand
There is a memorial to Francis Oats in St Just church but he died in South
Africa, stranded there by the First World War.
Francis’ son turned Porthleden House into hotel but it never really prospered,
and the house was sold to pay off family debts after he died in the 1950s.
It is currently being restored by private owners