The National Trust is to take over Godolphin House, near Helston. Trust officials will be officiallly announcing the major new acquisition along with the launch of a major fundraising appeal this morning.

At one time, Godolphin was the foremost and most fashionable house in Cornwall, and today, the historic garden is heralded as one of the most important in Europe.

It was also used in the filming of the famous Poldark television series in the 1970s.

Mark Harold, Regional Director for Devon and Cornwall, said: "Godolphin is a unique historical treasure, so when the house, garden and outbuildings came up for sale, we felt it was vital to buy them although we knew we would need help from our supporters to fund the restoration work needed. And so today, as well as announcing the acquisition, we are also launching an appeal for £500,000 to help us deliver our conservation work at Godolphin.

"Today is a historic day for the Trust as it takes on the care of this beautiful old property from the ownership of the Schofield family, who have sensitively nurtured Godolphin through much of the twentieth century. In terms of the property's historical significance, the Trust has not acquired such an important building or garden in Cornwall since the 1960s."

Sarah Staniforth, the Trust's Historic Properties Director added: "Godolphin is one of Cornwall's most romantic houses, with elements from the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries - once seen, never forgotten, are the north front's massive granite pillars - an iconic image of Cornish architecture. The garden at Godolphin is a near-miraculous survival from the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries and it is so rare to discover one that has not been radically altered by centuries of changing fashions. It is now considered to be one of Europe's most important historic gardens."

The Trust has owned the surrounding archaeologically-rich 550 acres of the wider Godolphin estate since 2000. This acquisition reunites, forever, one of Cornwall's great historic estates.

It is a significant moment in the preservation of the Cornish landscape, as Godolphin is one of the distinct areas within the Cornish Mining' World Heritage Site, and contains evidence of the earliest tin and copper mines in the county.

Launched today is the Trust's Godolphin appeal will help fund a long term restoration programme for the property. The restoration work needed is challenging, and it is intended to take a low key approach over a long period of time, incorporating training programmes for students wishing to learn building conservation skills. The North range, for example, still needs extensive restoration work, but undertaken with a light touch' to maintain the unique feel of the property.

Before Godolphin closes in the autumn, the Schofield family will continue to open the house and gardens to the publlic and to run events. The Schofields, who have been committed to passing the property to the National Trust since 1970, will be remaining at Godolphin for a transitional period.

From next year, the National Trust will open the gardens, run events and allow limited access to the interior of the house, restoration work permitting.

The Schofield family were represented in the sale of the property by Savills. Mark Syrett of Savills Truro office said: " The sale represents a very fair and reasonable solution for the Schofield family who are delighted that the National Trust has acquired Godolphin House so that the both the house and surrounding land are now in the Trust's ownership."

Full details of the plans for Godolphin and its history are below.

The Trust's vision for Godolphin is to: 1 re-unite the estate with house and garden in recognition of its importance to the history of Cornish tin mining and its Word Heritage site status.

2 use volunteers and trainees to help with the conservation work at the property from an early stage.

3 discover the full significance of the garden through careful study and expert care.

4 open the property to the public in a way different to the traditional' National Trust approach.

It is also hoped to show more of the house and enhance the interpretation, allow people to enjoy the place by staying in holiday apartments and complete the restoration of the house by repairing the North Range.

The Trust's vision and proposed management for Godolphin will continue the successful philosophy and approach of the Schofields and provide access to a top quality visitor and learning experience whilst achieving the best standards of conservation in a new and innovative way - primarily phasing repairs over the longer term and delivering work in a low key, engaging manner. Important historical, architectural and archaeological features will be conserved and access will be improved. Outstanding repairs to the Grade 1 house will be completed.

Restoration work needed includes: structural repair and re-roofing of the north range urgent repair to outbuildings archaeological and historical surveys of the house and gardens A new approach will be adopted to carry out the conservation work and repairs to the various outbuildings. This approach is long term and low key and is appropriate to the needs of each individual building. Practical building work will be carried out by supervised trainees and supporters through participation and involvement in the future care and management of the property. Partnerships will be developed with training organisations, educational establishments and the construction industry to provide hands on conservation construction training which should benefit both the Trust's other sites in West Cornwall and industry generally.

Large scale replanting and restoration of the garden and grounds is considered inappropriate. Major restoration would be foreign to the spirit of continuing the quiet conservation at Godolphin and, in due course, more research including a Conservation Plan is needed. The favoured steady as we go' approach includes gradual consolidation of some garden structures, ongoing little and often cultivation of surviving features and a phased removal of the inappropriate conifer plantation which will improve the landscape to the north of the property.

Access Access to the garden will be all year round with a pay and display facility installed onsite for visitors to use outside of the events and opening days of the whole property. The house will be open in its entirety for 32 days a year, during and on either side of three or four major events during the year. Outside of these times, access to the house will be through the provision of two top quality holiday lets and parts of the house will be accessible through other smaller events. Overall this represents enhanced access to the house.

The People The Godolphins rose from the ranks of minor Cornish gentry to become figures of national significance. Their fortune was made in tin mining at Godolphin itself and grew as a result of royal favour. After passing through a succession of hands it was purchased by the Schofield family in the early 1930s. Since then the house has been managed and maintained by the Schofield family to the present day.

The House The current house is listed Grade 1. By the early 14th Century a fortified house, Godolghan Castle was built to the south of the existing site. In the late 15th or early 16th Centuries, a new house, with an impressive hall, was built to the north, the first phase of the present house. Sir William Godolphin's Hall was later incorporated into a much grander house.

The west range, which includes the King's room, was probably built 1530-50. The property's most distinctive feature, the massive granite Tuscan pillars on the north front was built by Sir Francis (1605-1667) in the early 1630s. These support a fine range of entertaining rooms, some of which have elaborate plaster cornices. These were arranged in a symmetrical manner either side of the dining room, which was very innovative plan in rural Cornwall or England at this time. In 1664 it was recorded as the largest house country, far bigger than Lanhydrock and Port Eliot.

During the 18th and 19th Centuries the house was neglected by its then absentee owners, the Dukes of Leeds, and descended to the level of a farmhouse. The great Hall and attendant anti and service rooms which formed a further courtyard to the south fell into disrepair and much of the stone was reused elsewhere in the neighbourhood. However, some of these walls and the elaborate main doorway of the hall still survive.

The Garden The formal garden, Grade II* Listed were laid out at the end of the 16th Century to the east of the house within the medieval enclosure. Such a formal early garden scheme is unusual and significant both nationally and in a European context. Given the garden's significance, English Heritage is supporting a re-listing to Grade 1.

The garden is divided into three, the forecourt and inner courtyard are both simple grass areas; the King's Garden to the West is planted in a low key way with shrubs, perennials, a box hedge and grass lawns; the east garden comprises several squares in various cultivations and includes two fine granite faced fishponds (now dry), raised walks overlooking areas formerly occupied by bowling greens, parterres and orchards, a "mount" and the remnants of formal avenues.

The King's Garden and the main garden area to the east of the house together form a remarkable range of early garden features - still intact because of the neglect of subsequent centuries. The skeleton of the garden are strong, and it is possible to see what appearance they might have had in their heyday. Being on a different alignment to the present house, they date to a time of its predecessor. In a county famous for its gardens, this is unlike any other and provides a fascinating contrast to the common wooded plantsmen's gardens now owned by the National Trust.

The remaining grounds comprise of a conifer plantation, remains of an orchard mostly now to grass and agricultural fields managed un-intensively, mainly with ponies.