Cornwall LivingIssue #141

The final piece of the puzzle

We discover how a 200-year-old monkey puzzle tree from the Menabilly Estate is creating heirlooms for the future.

Menabilly, on Cornwall’s south coast, has been the seat of the Rashleigh family since the 16th century. In more recent times, the house and its grounds became known for their connection with the acclaimed writer Daphne Du Maurier who lived there for 25 years from 1943. Graham Hawken, founder of Rustic House with his daughter Emily, continues the tale: “I am very fortunate to have been a long-term tenant on the Rashleigh Estate and privileged to have been allowed to walk in its extensive woods. The Rashleigh family were some of the foremost plantsman and collectors in the south west and there are tree specimens in the woods at Menabilly which are simply incredible.

“One in particular always caught my eye; a mature monkey puzzle, or Araucaria araucana to give it its botanical name – a species very dear to my heart as I used to travel a lot to Chile where it’s the national tree. They take centuries to reach maturity and a few years ago this particular tree came down in a storm. Having been in the timber industry all my life, I knew this was a rare find and came to an agreement with Sir Richard to purchase the timber.”

The very top and bottom of the tree was sawn into rings while the remainder was cut longitudinally, giving unusually wide, long planks – some of up to four meters in length. “These are perfect for making beautifully tactile, live-edge tables, seating up to 12,” adds Graham, “unique in that they are made from a singular length. The monkey puzzle timber is available for bespoke commissions; we have selection of example pieces to view in our showroom including a spectacular hand-crafted, four-meter-long dining table.” Each piece of this amazing furniture is rooted in Cornish history and holds a unique literary connection.

To discuss a commission, contact Emily Birtwhistle at

Par Moor Road, Par  PL24 2SQ
01726 817567


At Rustic House you will find an extensive collection of individual hand-crafted furniture, lighting and accessories which can be viewed in the expansive and well-stocked showroom or online.