Valentine Enys (1653-1719)

Valentine Enys, third son of Samuel Enys and Elizabeth Pendarves,  also made his living from trade. He was apprenticed to a top London merchant, John Moore, in 1671. He went to the Canary Islands around 1678 and by 1681 was trading wine and pilchards. The Spanish-owned Canary Islands -paricularly Tenerife – were vitally important for trade as sailors and treasure ships passed through en route to the Americas. Their main export was wine, either sweet malmsey or the drier vidueno. Valentine would have had a pleasant life in the Canary Islands, with their temperate climate and abundance of luxuries.

However, in 1701, because of tensions caused by the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714) decrees were issued by Spain to demand the expulsion of all English merchants from the Isles. Valentine returned to Penryn and lived in his father’s Summercourt house while he tried to establish himself as a Penryn merchant, having lost many assets in the Canary Islands.

He struggled to make any huge successes although he traded in all sorts of commodities, from pilchards to tin, cloth to wine. His letter book (CRO reference: EN/968), dating between 1704 and 1721, is an invaluable source of information on his trading activities in this period, as well as casting light on the general mercantile situation of eighteenth century Cornwall. The letters reveal struggles with trading partners (including an ill-advised attempt to make sal-ammoniac [ammonium chloride] commercially viable), French privateers, who lurked in the waters off Falmouth Bay, concerns over ‘Turkish’ pirates once his ships were at sea (particularly after his ship, the Francis, was captured), as well as his own smuggling activities aboard the packet ships which left Falmouth at the time.

Valentine ended up being a relatively small trader and his finances were often caught up with bailing out his brother, Richard. He was taken seriously ill in 1719 and died two months later, although it took another three years for his nephew and clerk to wind up his all his business interests.

Information from Cornwall, The Canaries and The Atlantic: the letter book of Valentine Enys, 1704-1719, ed. June Palmer (1997)

Further reading

An extract from Valentine’s Letterbook, EN/968

Thomas Pellow

 Trade and Commerce

EN/872, Codicil to Valentine’s will, 1711







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