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THE CORNISHES OF ST GERMANS, CORNWALL

by Anne Hall (Mem. No.80) In St Germans on 26th May 1540 a will was made by Ralph Bligh and his wife Thomasine who "granted and released to their son all their rights in the mill at St Germans". Robert Cornish was a witness to this will, and he "confessed" to the Mayor of Saltash that he was also at the sealing of the will. No further information is available at present of Robert Cornish, but Robert was used as a Christian name for two generations in the early part of the next century.

The Parish Registers of St Germans show Cornishes throughout the 16th and 17th centuries beginning with Edmund Cornish entered as the father of Edmund Cornish baptised in the Parish Church of St Germans and married there to Anne Horthe on 19th May 1591, and either Edmund or Anne was interred in St Germans churchyard on 29th May 1596. The first Edmund could have been the son of Robert who witnessed a will in 1540.

Edmund and Anne had six children whose baptisms, marriages and burials all took place in St Germans. They were: Robert, Alice, Elizabeth, Dorothy, Oliver and Johanna.

A note about St Germans:

St Germans was originally two manors - St Germans being the King's Manor or Borough, and Cuttenbeake being the Bishop's Manor dating right back to days when St Germans was the seat of the Cornish Bishop in the 10th and 11th centuries. This separation continued for over six centuries until about 1625. It was not until 1800 that the Earl of St Germans bought the land and rights to the Manor of Cuttenbeake for 10,000 that any legal separation was dissolved although the two had long since been in effect one town. There were four cornmills in St Germans from early records:- Bonialva, Cutmere, Heskyn Bridge and Criffle, and there are records that Criffle was being sold by John Cornish in 1839.

Queen Elizabeth I had a Roll drawn up of everyone who could be called on to fight. This was completed on 12th March 1569. No Cornish is listed in St Germans but there was a John Cornish in Talland who could provide a bow and 12 arrows ....

The Muster Rolls for Devon are also very complete and indicate the surname Cornish being used in various pockets all relatively near the lower Tamar at Tavistock, Milton Abbot, Eggbuckland, and also at Thurlestone, Ugborough, Mary Tavy, Aveton Gifford and Plympton St Maurice.

Cornish records at St Germans for nearly 50 years from 1540-1591 are possibly lost. A possible reason for the name of Cornish not appearing in the Church Registers for a few years during the Civil War and The Commonwealth 1642-1660 could be that the Cornish people were Royalists and in opposition to the Puritan cause under Oliver Cromwell.

We find Robert Cornish living in St Germans in 1642 for his name appears on the Protestation Roll.

William Cornish my 3 x great grandfather, the husband of Mary Statton was named on 13th April 1789 as an overseer of the poor of St Germans, along with the Church Wardens and one other. He was a miller at Criffle. His eldest son John (19.06.1775 - 21.03.1852) sold Criffle Mill in 1839. He died in Metheril and was buried in St Germans. In the 1841 Census he was the miller resident at Looe Mills, Liskeard.

SALE NOTICE: CRIFFLE MILLS - JOHN CORNISH PROPRIETOR

Extracts from the "West Britain and Cornwall Advertiser" 6 Dec 1839 - printed in Truro.

Excellent Water and Grist Mill For Sale

To be sold by public auction at the Eliot Arms Inn, St Germans, on Tuesday 17th December 1839 at 3 o'clock by Joseph Conder auctioneer, all those Capital Water Grist Mills called Criffle Mills ... now in the occupation of Mr Martin Pascoe whose tenancy terms expire at Michaelmas 1842 ....... for further particulars to Mr John Cornish, miller, Liskeard, the proprietor.

This John was the brother of James Cornish who married Anna Sambell from whom our branch of the family has descended. It carries on the tradition of the Cornish's occupation as millers.

James Cornish (09.06.1794 - 07.06.1822) is described as a miller at his wedding to Anna Sambell (27.09.1810). Witnesses at the wedding were: John Sambell, Elizabeth Cornish, Thomas Cornish, and John Wotton. He is also described as miller of Tilland Mill at his daughter Mary Ann Cornish's baptism (03.06.1814).

Tilland House was rebuilt by James Cornish immediately before Lady Day (March 25th) 1815. He also constructed a new mill leat which enabled a new wheel to be used which was of the overshot design, with cast iron wheel sides and wooden slots or buckets. (This wheel was still in existence in September 1990). The mill buildings were modified to accommodate the new mill wheel.

The mill leat as cut by James Cornish is reported to be the longest in S. E. Cornwall - some 1.5 miles long with several launders (guttering to carry the water) over depressions in the ground between the intake and the mill wheel, necessary to give it the height to work the overshot water wheel. The water was drawn from the river Tiddy which also flows very near the mill house.

When James Cornish took over the mill in 1815 he was only 21. He took a mortgage of 850 from Liskeard Bankers, Robins, Foster & Co. to cover his mill house building, machinery etc. Two of the partners of this bank were members of the Bolitho family who became founders of Barclays Bank when it was constituted as an All England Bank in 1892.

Subsequently James Cornish assigned his mill lease to his father-in-law John Sambell a yeoman of St Germans for 1400 which more than cleared his mortgage.

James drowned and his tombstone at St Germans reads: In memory of James Cornish who was drowned by accident in the Polbathic River 7th June 1822 aged 28 years. Also in the same grave lie the remains of Jane Cornish daughter of William and Joan Cornish of ...?... Mill in the Parish of St Mawes who departed this life ? May 1821 aged 7 months.

It seems that James' original "3 lives" on his conventionary lease continued i.e. his wife Ann and his two eldest children John and Mary (as is mentioned in a reversionary lease of 5th January 1869 to Benjamin Sambell James' brother-in-law. Note: the mill house had 5 bedrooms, an indication that it was not a mean undertaking.

James' eldest son John Cornish who was baptised at St Germans 7th August 1812, and who married Eleanor Rawling on 17th December 1835, carried on at Tilland until some time between July 1840 and June 1842. He then moved to Liskeard for his name is mentioned in a sale notice of Boduel Grist Mills on 2nd April 1841. It would appear that John and Eleanor next moved to the paper mills at Liskeard for their children James Cornish and Ellen Maria Cornish were born there in 1842 and 1845 respectively. Their younger children, Mary Matilda (07.07.1851 - 16.06.1852) and John (my grandfather) born 10.05.1852 were born at Frogwell Mill. Their eldest child William Cornish was born at Tilland in Quethiock.

Sale Notices of excellent Water Grist Mills - Boduel Liskeard.

West Briton 2nd April 1841

...by auction at the Commercial Inn, Moorswater, near Liskeard, Thursday 15th April 1841 at 3 o'clock ..... for the remainder of a term of years of which 48 years are unexpired ..... now in the occupation of John Cornish the proprietor ..... subject to the conventionary rent of 8 a year. etc.

It would seem that John Cornish left the Liskeard Mill (Boduel) at about the time he became the proprietor of Frogwell Mills. Frogwell was advertised for sale on 17th March 1848. He died at Frogwell Mill on 31st January 1868.

Notes on the children of John Cornish and Eleanor Rawling

1. William Rawling Cornish baptised 10.08.1837 at St Hugh's Quethiock, married Lydia Kernick of Little Saltram, Plymouth. Migrated to Australia 1868 and died in Adelaide, South Australia in 1871. Lydia died in Australia in 1920.

William was suffering from tuberculosis before his father's death early in 1868. He wrote to his sister Ellen from New Riverhead on 31.01.1867 of his visit to the doctor there who told him that the second lung was affected. He also was very concerned about his father's health ... "But be sure and let John telegraph from Liskeard to me at once on the receipt of this if Father is not better. ... Write every day ... Mind, don't fail for heaven's sake ... " The prospects of better health moved William to emigrate to Australia. On 27th September 1868 just 8 months after his father's death, William and Lydia set sail on the Duke of Sutherland arriving at Port Adelaide on 25th December 1868.

In 1869 William and Lydia settled in Jeffcote Street, North Adelaide. William had a position as traveller for the firm of Guild Chapman & Co., Warehousemen. As winter came on Lydia was very concerned for his health as he was away on long journeys up to 250 miles, for four weeks at a time. "I drive a four wheel trap and a pair of horses - they call them buggies here" wrote William to his mother. About a year later he left that job and opened a store down at the port where he died in less than a year.

William's death on 15th January 1871, aged 33 years and only two years after his arrival in Australia changed Lydia's life. John's (my grandfather) care of her and their baby Nellie brought out the fine character of the young man of 18 as we read the very lovely letter he wrote home to his beloved mother in Frogwell Mill.

"Dear Mother, it is with a sad heart that I write to you of the passing of poor Will .... Although we have only been in the port some nine months you would have been surprised at the number of private traps, therefore, dear Mother, I think we ought ot be thankful to think that poor Will was so much respected...."

Nellie Cornish, William and Lydia's only child, was only two years old when her father died, and she died when only twenty in 1888. Lydia did not remarry. She lived at times with John's family in Melbourne and also returned to Devon occasionally.

2. James Cornish born at the paper mill, Liskeard, baptised 31.07.1842 was the tenant miller at Frogwell after William went to Australia in 1868. Later he was the owner of Market House Inn, Fore Street, Callington, and West Gate Hotel, Launceston. He married Jemima Sambell Pearn in 1870. She was born in 1854 and died in Launceston on 10.07.1910 and was buried in Callington. James died a fortnight before her on 27.06.1910. Their children were:

(i) Eleanor Cornish (Nell) baptised at Callington 26.07.1872

(ii) Joseph Pearn Cornish born 1874, was a butcher and miner in S.Africa. He married Florence Emma Skews in 1905 and died at Callington on 28.07.1908. They had two children: (a) Ethel Florence Cornish born 13.09.1906 who married Irving Daniel in 1927. Their only child Avril Daniel (13.09.1906) married Peter Stanning. Avril lives at Trevadlock, Cornwall, and has two children Andrew (1957) and Catherine (1959) who has two daughters. (b) Joseph Pearn Cornish (03.05.1908) died Callington in February 1987, married Frances Mary Symons. They lived on the Launceston Road, Callington and had one son Adrian Pearn Cornish born Callington 09.12.1948. He married Pauline Richards and they have two children Rachel Tamsin Cornish born 26.04.1971 and a son.

(iii) Ethel Cornish born 1882 and died 09.09.1906.

(iv) John Cornish (Jack) born 19.11.1884, married Freda and died at Launceston on 24.03.1931. Buried at Callington.

(v) Wilfred James Cornish born 1890, died 05.06.1910 and buried at Callington.

(vi) A son.

3. Ellen Maria Cornish born at the paper mill, Liskeard on 14.04.1845 and baptised on 22.06.1845, married David Watkins in 1873. Ellen died 02.08.1935 at Anderton. Before her marriage she worked at Miss Body's shop in The Street, Callington. David Watkins was a farmer at Greenswell near Callington. They later leased a very productive farm called Coombe Farm on Lord Mt. Edgecumb's Estate, Maker. Here five daughters and a son were born to them: Ellen, Winifred, Laura (died young), Marion, John (died in infancy), and Altha.

4. Mary Matilda born at Frogwell Mill, Callington 07.07.1851 and died there 16.06.1852. Buried at st Nary's Church, Callington.

5. John Cornish (my grandfather). Born at Frogwell Mill on 10.05.1852. He attended school at "The Academy" and sailed on 1st September 1869 in the "Orient" arriving at Port Adelaide, South Australia on 24th December 1869 aged 17 years. He joined his brother William and sister-in-law Lydia. When William died, John left his employment with Guild Chapman & Co. and went down to Port Adelaide to be with Lydia and baby Nellie. They managed William's store for a while longer, then sold out and returned to Adelaide. He then took up a position with the firm of Donaldson, Andrews and Sharland in Adelaide, which job, he later declared to his children that he obtained "by standing up straight and not leaning on the nearest post." He later opened a men's clothing business in Adelaide. He lived in Kensington, and named his house "Frogwell Villa" after his birth place. He married Sarah Elizabeth Pappin on her 21st birthday, 20.12.1876 in Adelaide. They had nine children. He was a founder member of the Commercial Travellers Association of Australia, became Victorian President, then United President. He was also a Grand Lodge Officer of the Washington Travellers Masonic Lodge. He died at his home "The Wattles", Malvern, Victoria on 23rd June 1933. Sarah died 18.09.1943.