Information related to Thomas Tonkin

Thomas Tonkin of Trevaunance 1678-1742- some biographical notes

Born: 20th September 1678; second but first surviving son of Hugh by first wife Frances, daughter of Walter Vincent of Treleavan. Educated: a school in Exeter, matriculated Queens College, Oxford 12th March 1693, Lincoln Inn 20th February 1695, and then privately under Mr Francis Thompson, a celebrated mathematician. At Oxford he was friends with Edmund Gibson later Bishop of London, and also with Edward Lluyd who roused his interest in Celtic languages. Thomas’s mother died of smallpox in 1690. Of her seven children six survived her. Hugh remarried in 1691 to Ann, daughter of Adam Bennet a merchant of Truro. ‘Proved suitable to that most unfortunate day was the occasion principally of the ruine of his family.’ (Hals, 1723). It was said Ann’s extravagant tastes encouraged the renovations of Trevaunance Barton. Hugh on advice from his brother Michael (also his steward) set out to improve the family estate. He purchased the Manor of Fentongimps, Lambourne, and Allet and from the Dean and Chapter of Exeter the title of St Agnes and Perrenzabuloe and from the Duchy of Cornwall a lease of half of the Toll Tin. (CRO EN 195-2) Married: 1699, to Elizabeth eldest daughter and eventual heiress of James Kempe of Penryn. It was said she brought £10,000 to the marriage. (CRO EN 195-2). Thomas Worth Jnr of Penryn, and Samuel Kempe of Carclew were Thomas’s brothers in law. In 1700 Thomas, particular interested in natural history, language and culture begins his History of Cornwall. Birth of first child, Frances, who married Charles Foss of Mitchell. In 1701 his first son Hugh was born. He grew up to be clever at Latin. He died of consumption 23 April 1717. In 1703 Joanna was born, she remained unmarried and died in 1749. In 1704 Elizabeth was born, she married Revd James Doucett of Gorran. In 1706 his second son James was born and later educated at Truro Grammar School and Kensington School. He married Elizabeth daughter of the Revd George Lewis. Of their five children, son and heir George died before James. InThe London Gazette, 22 September 1743 an extract appeared, ‘The creditors of James Tonkin (formerly a prisoner in the Kings bench) who did not meet the Assigners and the rest of said Tonkin’s creditors on Wednesday 21st inst. Pursuant to Notice published in The London Gazette…to apply to Mr Thomas Vaughan on or before the 23rd Day of October next.’ In 1708, Mary (Maria), the youngest of his daughters is born; she also remains unmarried and is named in her sister’s Joanna will in 1749 as her executrix, and is left what is remaining of Thomas Tonkin’s estate. In 1709 third son Thomas was born, he later joined the Royal Navy. In 1711 the fourth son Walter was born and died of smallpox in 1714. On his father’s death (1711), Thomas inherited estates that had been mortgaged to Samuel Enys; an attempt was made to foreclose on him in 1713. (CRO EN 195-14) Thomas took an active part in the politics of the County and in the Convocation of Tinners. He also advocated that copper should be smelted in Cornwall, and brought under Stannary Laws. Thomas stood for parliament for the Borough of Helston at the by-election of April 1714, and defeated Samuel Enys. On 30th April Enys petitioned against the return, alleging that Tonkin was without qualification when elected; Trevaunance having passed out of his possession. (CRO EN 196-9) Enys also complained that Tonkin, since his election had insisted upon parliamentary privilege. Thomas was classified as a Tory, but had no real parliamentary record in the one year he served as Helston’s MP; however he was a voice deploring the demise of Cornish parliaments under George 1. He was friendly with Alexander Pendarves, and a colleague in parliament. Courtney described them as, ‘Cornish squires of high Tory repute.’ Thomas got himself deeper into debt by continuing with the harbour and quay, and was financially ruined by law suits brought against him by Enys, ‘carried on by him with the greatest cruelty and oppression both to myself and tenants’, Tonkin, A History of Cornwall (1739). He also asserted that in 1718 Enys, ‘like a dog in a manger not being able to procure a new lease of which he strenuously endeavoured, forced me to suffer my cousin Vincents to take it over my head so that I am forced to trust to their courtesy of it.’ (CRO EN 195-1,6,29) At the conclusion of the Chancery Case, 1719, the debt to Enys was £9104. 12s. 6d, and on 28th December Enys took possession of Trevaunance. (CRO EN 196-11,14,16,29). Douch maintains that Tonkin had finance and resources to pay the interest on the mortgage. He suggests and agreement had been made with John Coster for a smelting house the Quay for a lease of £500 per annum. See also CRO EN 196-4 for a lease with Coster, and Tonkin’s relationship with him. Add to this the lease of half of the toll of tin would release £300 per year, which were not part of the general mortgage, and sources both contemporary and recent research show that Tonkin could have made payments. From 1720 Thomas lived at Trelevan, Mevagissey until the death of his cousin Nicholas Vincent (MP for Fowey) in 1726. He moved to Polgorran in the parish of Gorran, a small estate he held by right of his wife. In Tonkin’s Commonplace Book, and referenced by Whetter, suggestions are made that in 1734 Boscawen, a long political enemy, was to bury the hatchet, and to help Tonkin to reclaim his losses from Enys. Boscawen died on 25th October 1734. In 1736 Thomas claimed that Enys had seized assets of £8538 which he was not entitled to, these having been carried in the original mortgage, but he was unable to reclaim his losses. His wife, Elizabeth, died in24th June 1739. Thomas daughter Elizabeth looked after him; she had come to live nearby upon the death of her husband James. An interesting postcript noted by Whetter was that in October 1739 Tonkin tried to disrupt the marriage plans of Luce Basset to John Enys by writing an ode to her. Thomas died in 1741 and was buried on 4th January 1742 at Gorran. Douch has written that Tonkin had feelings against the ‘new man’ whom he considered to have risen on the misfortunes of others. He was a loyal Tory, who saw the death of Queen Anne, the loss of much that he considered good and solid in society. Samuel Enys died at Lambriggan 1st September 1744, at the house where Thomas and Elizabeth had begun their married life!! Tonkin’s Lands. Document CRO EN 197-3 a copy of Tonkin’s rental of 1714 are a good indication as to the extent of his lands and leases. Later secondary sources note, Mr John Jago, and Mr Hugh ley are now possessed of two thirds of the Manor of Trevaunance, and a portion of the Manor of Lamborn. Penweneck had been sold by the Basset’s to the Tonkins in 1705; by 1736 this was in possession of John Nance Useful references for this aspect of Thomas Tonkin’s biography are; Revd. Daniel and Samuel Lysons, Magna Britannia (1814), and Joseph Polsue, Lakes, Parochial History of Cornwall (1867). Notes taken from: BD Henning(ed) A History of Parliament, The House of Commons (Secker and Warburg, London 1983) HL Douch, Thomas Tonkin: An Appreciation of a Neglected Historian, JRIC Vol iv, (1962),p145-180. J Whetter, Thomas Tonkin- Historian, The Cornish Banner, February 1994, 75, p22-29. T Tonkin, A History of Cornwall (1739) MSS Courtney Library, Truro, Cornwall. WP Courtney, The Parliamentary History of Cornwall to 1832, (London, 1889). We are grateful to The Cornwall Records Office and Miss Angela Broome at The Courtney Library for help with references.

Tonkin’s Lands

Hugh Tonkin, born in 1652, inherited and acquired lands in and around the Parish of St Agnes during the course of his life.  He was educated at Exeter College, Oxford, and Middle Tempe and in 1673 married Frances, the daughter of Walter Vincent of Treleaven in 1673.  Thomas their eldest son was born in 1678.  Frances died in 1690, and the following year Hugh remarried, this time to Ann, daughter of Adam Bennet, a merchant from Truro.

There is much speculation as to the sums of money Hugh spent on the additions to the barton of Trevaunance, and to building of the Quay.  The Mortgage deed (EN 192) lists the leases and amounts added to in the course of borrowing money from James Kempe, Thomas’ father in law, and the eventual mortgaged estates to Samuel Enys.  When Hugh died on 1st June 1711 the estates passed to Thomas.

Document DDEN 197/3– a copy of Tonkin’s rental of 1714 itemised by Thomas for a statement needed against an objection made by Samuel Enys when Tonkin stood for parliament for Helston in May 1714 lists:

Porth Chappel, Bolster, Inner and Outer Goonvrea, Trewartha, The Manor of Trevaunance, The Manor of Penwannack, The Manor of Lambourn (part of), The Manor of Fenton Gymps (part of), Chyton and Chyvaunder (partly in hand).

There are listed those who leased land or property, pay rents, and the considerable value of the land from tin rights.

The map,(photocopied extract), Joel Gascoyne, Map of Cornwall (1699)- a reprint, copyright from The Lanhydrock Estates, shows some of these lands.  Attached to the map is an advertisement for the sale of the eststes that appeared in The London Gazette 27th May 1718.

Later secondary sources list Tonkin’s lands as; ‘ Mr John Jago, and Mr Hugh Ley are now possessed of two thirds of the Manor of Trevaunance, and such portion of the Manor of Lamborn’ (p.9)

‘Mr Tonkin speaks of Chyton and Trenethick as a tenement of his manor.  Chyton was purchased by Hugh.  It is now partly the property of the heirs of Tonkin, and partly of Francis Enys, esq.’ (p.10).

‘Peneweneck- sold by the Basset family to Thomas Tonkin in 1705.  These three parts were till later years rented to the heirs of Tonkin. The fourth part which had belonged to John Nicholls was in 1736 the property of John Nance.(p.10)

‘Trevillis, a tenement of the Manor of Tywarnhale it was the seat of the Crocker family, it belonged afterwards to Joseph Donnithorne, and now it is the property of Mr Chilcott. (p.10)

From, Revd. Daniel and Samuel Lysons, Magna Britannia (London, 1814)-similar text also in Joseph Polsue, Lakes, Parochial History of Cornwall (Truro, 1867) also contains extracts of Thomas Tonkin, A History of Cornwall (1739)

Ian and Shirley Clarke



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