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THE CORNISHES OF PENZANCE
in the 18th & 19th century.

What a wealth of information can be obtained from well kept family Bibles, diaries and letters. Beyond the bare bones of the family tree lies another world which these records bring to life. We have been fortunate to have access to a family Bible relating to our branch of the Cornish family. Our research, to date goes as far back as RICHARD AND ELEANOR CORNISH, married in St Erth on 7th April 1757. We believe these were the parents of RICHARD & JOHN CORNISH born in 1758 & October 1759.

Richard is reputed to have joined the Royal Navy, sailed with Admiral Jervis and to have died from wounds after being struck in the face with a splinter. The writer (unknown) also records that SIR SAMUEL CORNISH

of Sharnbrook, Vice Admiral of the Blue, was their great uncle, something we have been unable to prove and view with some suspicion!

JOHN CORNISH from whom our branch is descended is described as a gentleman and merchant in the firm of Cornish and Borlase of Gweek. We know from the records of Madron Church (the parish church of Penzance) that "JOHN CORNISH gent and MARGARET HOSKEN both of the town of Penzance within this parish married in the church, by licence dated 5th January 1790, on 7th January 1790 by WILLIAM BORLASE vicar, in the presence of ANN HOSKING and GABRIEL HOSKEN"

They had, among other children, a son FRANCIS JOHN CORNISH born in Penzance 27th June 1792. He married ANN ROBERTS, daughter of HENRY and ELEANOR ROBERTS on 15th October 1818 in the parish church of Madron. This is the first recorded marriage of a Cornish to a Roberts - an extensive family originating from the St Levan area of Penwith.

FRANCIS JOHN CORNISH is said to have been a master mariner and ship owner residing also at Broad Street, City of London. Sadly he was lost at sea in February 1824 and his wife ANN died only four years later on 29th September 1828 aged 31. It seems very likely that the children of this marriage: HENRY ROBERTS CORNISH born 22 December 1820 and FRANCIS JOHN CORNISH born 6th March 1822, were brought up by their grandmother ELEANOR ROBERTS and possibly also by her step-daughter MARY ROBERTS. Eleanor's husband HENRY ROBERTS had died in 1807 when she was 42 and Mary 27. Eleanor died in August 1847 aged 83, by which time her grandsons had married.

HENRY ROBERTS CORNISH married ALICE ROBERTS at St Levan on 21st May 1844. FRANCIS JOHN CORNISH married her sister JANE ROBERTS. The girls were great grand-daughters of THOMAS ROBERTS by his first wife. The boys were great-grandsons of the same THOMAS ROBERTS by his second wife. What a tangled web!

HENRY ROBERTS CORNISH was a chemist and druggist of 24, Market Street, Penzance. He died in Penzance on 8th October 1888. During his lifetime his entries in the family Bible range from reports on the births, lives and deaths of his eight children and other members of his family, to reports on historical events. He records that his wife's youngest brother JOSEPH ROBERTS sailed in the Great Britain Screw Steamship from Liverpool on 20 August 1861 and arrived in Melbourne on 23 December 1861 after a very pleasant voyage and in good health weighing an illegible number of pounds!

His eldest son THOMAS ROBERTS CORNISH (my husband's grandfather) was born on 26th December 1847. He later sailed to Buenos Aires to work with WILLIAM STEPHENS whose firm is said to have manufactured steam engines and built iron ships. Certainly we have a copy of a press cutting from "The Standard and River Plate News." dated Tuesday 18th April 1876 reporting on the trial trip of the steamer Isobel, owned by Mr Stephens.

THOMAS ROBERTS CORNISH married WILLIAM STEPHEN's daughter ELIZABETH ANN STEPHENS on 8th April 1874 in Buenos Aires, and in 1876 HENRY CORNISH reports the birth of his first grandson on 29th February in Weybridge, Surrey whilst THOMAS and WILLIAM were in Buenos Aires. Together with this report are references to the Indian tour undertaken by H.R.H. the Prince of Wales in 1876, to the declaration of Queen Victoria as Empress of India and to the appointment of the Rt. Hon. Benjamin Disraeli as the First Lord of the Treasury.

JOHN HEWITT CORNISH second son of HENRY ROBERTS CORNISH was we believe, Henry's business partner. Henry reports that John was taken ill on board the Scilly mail steamboat "Queen of the Bay" on 22 April 1876 and on arrival at St Mary's was put to bed at Captain Tregarthen's hotel. Sadly after his return home he died on 1st August 1876 aged 26.

Henry's only daughter, MARY CORNISH was born at Penzance on Saturday 10th May 1862. She was confirmed at the church of St Mary, Chapel Street, Penzance on 13th October 1876, her father had returned from London by night mail to be present. Mary died in hospital at Hayle on 29th January - but when? The undated press cutting un which there are many known mistakes quotes her age which is almost certainly wrong.

HENRY ROBERTS CORNISH was the last person to write anecdotedly in the family Bible. Press cuttings about births, marriages and deaths are there, but, as with the above mentioned, vital dates are often missing.

Daphne Bingley