Peter Monamy looks down on his great-great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter
just visible at bottom right. To the left, a painting entitled Outward Bound.

from 1725 to 1828

St George's Chapel, Mayfair: from Mid-Georgian London

Ann Monamy
born 1725

Ann was Peter Monamy's youngest child, baptised 3rd Sept 1725 in St Margaret's, Westminster, and she died after 1780. Why, on 14 February 1745, aged 19, she married Thomas Cornwall at St George's Chapel, Mayfair, and not in St Margaret's, awaits explanation, and is subject to conjecture. Thomas Cornwall, 1723-1789, apothecary of Marsham Street, Westminster, must have led a quiet life, and strenuous efforts by various family members to connect him with Captain James Cornewall, naval hero, have failed. The couple had another five children after their eldest, Peter Monamy Cornwall, but nothing is known about them, or their descendants, if any. Three of these, Robert (born 1749), Ann (born 1750), and Thomas (born ?), are mentioned in their father's will, executed 1789. Peter Monamy [Durell] Cornwall is not named. Was he disowned by his father, or considered already sufficiently well provided for?

Signature of P.M.Cornwall, aged 22. Letter to the Duke of Portland.
Follows a similar letter, Nov 1st 1767, to the Duke of Newcastle, who had died in 1768.

Peter Monamy [Durell] Cornwall
Baptised 19 Jan 1747 - Died 24 July 1828

The Reverend P.M.[D.] Cornwall's career was long, embattled, and progenitive. Much of it is well-documented, since he published several of his sermons, with combative autobiographical preambles, and long lists of distinguished subscribers. He was, in his own words, "elected off to the University of Cambridge from Westminster School in the year 1766, to Trinity College where I was chosen scholar the middle of last May". This comes from a letter written to the Duke of Newcastle, dated November 1st 1767, in which the scholar-elect echoes Defoe by describing himself as a "true-born British youth", and which is the first of succeeding "Petitionary Epistles" penned to the great in search of financial support and patronage. The letters make embarrassing reading today, but I have been assured that they are typical of the 18th century.

The Duke of Newcastle, Pelham-Holles, 1693-1768, educated at Westminster, was a trustee of the school from 1733. He was "Vice-Admiral of the coast of Sussex, a devout churchman, a patron of men of letters, an easy landlord, a kind master and a genial host" (DNB). Because of his part in the downfall of Sir Robert Walpole, the Walpole family members were his bitter foes. Here are the characters of these two political opponents, penned (I believe) by F.Hervey, 1779:

"Sir Robert Walpole and the Duke of Newcastle enjoyed all the power which the confidence of their sovereign could impart; the first was shrewd, sagacious, and indefatigable, whilst pursuing his pacific system. No minister before his time, had ever so openly and uniformly struck at the root of all public virtue, by purchasing from the representatives of the people an implicit concurrence in his measures. His abilities as a financier, and even as a legislator, must be acknowledged to have been distinguishing, but posterity ought to execrate the memory of that man, who, to gratify his thirst for power, made corruption constitutional in the nation. A minister, who in checking vice and profligacy, knows how to render them subservient to the purposes of government, deserves commendation, but he that makes them pillars on which his fabric of power rests, is no better than a Machiavel in politics. The object of those in power should be to promote good morals among the people, if, instead of attending to that, their influence takes a contrary direction, every one who views the transactions of the world with a philosophic eye, will not scruple to rank such statesmen among the most pernicious of the human race. The Duke of Newcastle was a man of very circumscribed abilities, and neither versed in foreign nor domestic policies. His parliamentary interest was very great, and a zeal for the House of Hanover, as it had led him to render essential service to the Protestant succession, so it had made him a minister in nature's despite."

An indication of the esteem in which Robert Walpole was held during his premiership, in many quarters, can be found in the diary (1734-1760) of Squire William Bulkeley of Brynddu, in Anglesey. The Squire refers to Walpole in these terms: "that infamous Minister of State", that "Monster", that "Vile Corruptor", "Untill there is in that House a majority of members that will think and act contrary to that Monster, farewell to our once glorious Constitution". See Mr Bulkeley and the Pirate, by B.Dew Roberts, 1936, p.15. Dew Roberts makes some interesting comments on class differences in the 17th and early 18th centuries, almost completely misunderstood by present-day Englishmen: "The eighteenth century, with all its respect for rank, was free from the false standards of gentility set by the nineteenth century. In days when --- at least in Wales --- it was the custom among the smaller squires to apprentice sons to some useful trade, to have a nephew who was a plumber or a glazier or a cousin's son who was 'in the jewelry business' was not necessarily a mark of social inferiority." (p.8). Nor, one might add, in "the painting business".

The significance of P.M.Cornwall's approach to the Duke of Newcastle, in the light of the above, is abundantly clear, and stems directly from political alliances formed by his grandfather, and the Durell family in particular. However, throughout his life, Cornwall's difficulties were as much a product of a combination of self-will and slender means, as of the constitutional corruption of the nation, and his success in surmounting them until his 81st (or 83rd) year can be attributed to his resilience and strong awareness of the interest attaching to the name of his grandfather. He often signed his own name in full. In a letter to William Scrope of Castle Combe, Wiltshire, prefixed to two volumes of sermons published in 1794, he relates that "he was forsaken by his nearest relations, because he forfeited (in the opinion of recluses) a most valuable fellowship at Trinity College, Cambridge, through marrying an amiable woman with a small fortune". Life as a celibate Cambridge Don held no appeal. The amiable woman died giving birth to their third child in December 1781, as noted in the Gentleman's Magazine, and he married again in 1783, fathering another eight children.

Fonthill Gifford Church, from Delineations of Fonthill, by John Rutter, 1823

In 1772 he took up the post of curate at Fonthill Gifford, an appointment coinciding with his marriage at Tisbury, Wiltshire, on the 25th June, to Mary Wyar, his amiable first wife. In many ways the Beckford dynasty of Fonthill represents a politico-cultural strain in 18th century society which was the exact opposite of that of the Walpoles. The formidable Alderman Beckford, 1709-1770, one of the richest men in the country, was a close friend of William Pitt, Lord Chatham, and the personification of the City of London's interest in trade, which in turn depended entirely on sea power. The Alderman's only legitimate son, the notoriously bi-sexual and socially ostracized William Beckford, was the obverse of Robert Walpole's son, Horace. Both were addicted to the "Gothic" taste of the times, but where Horace passed his gossipy life as a celibate aesthete of the maiden aunt variety, perfecting his connoisseurship in the cosy comfort of Strawberry Hill, Beckford's reckless and awesome profligacy effectively reduced tittle-tattle of any kind to stunned silence.

The Oxford Companion to Art, 1989, contains this comment on Beckford: "He formed a vast and largely tasteless collection of objects of every kind, both natural and artificial ..." This kind of worthlessly subjective opinion, in which the Companion abounds, can be safely disregarded. See William Beckford: An Eye for the Magnificent, Bard & Yale 2001.

Leaving the monkish Cambridge life behind him, P.M.Cornwall's career might have prospered with his cure at Fonthill Gifford, perhaps the most promising plum on offer to an ambitious young cleric of the day. The Alderman had died in 1770, and the genius of his 12 year old son, though yet to find its full extraordinary expression, was apparent. But Cornwall's aptitudes were unsuited to the necessary political infighting, and he only lasted three years at Fonthill. The reasons for his departure are obscure, but twenty years later his experiences there still rankled. In 1794 he wrote: "Some disaffected Magistrates in Wiltshire could scarcely spell, read or write. Two of them used the Author extremely ill, on which occasion he wrote a song entitled The Pig with One Ear, which the public shall see in print if they wish to have their curiosity gratified. The Detractors and Maligners, had represented the Author to the late Bishop of Winchester, as a Methodist and inimical to our Government, by which means he was disappointed of the living of Fonthill Bishop." Regrettably, The Pig with One Ear does not appear to have seen the light of day. The uninhibited literary cut and thrust of the eighteenth century makes entertaining reading in these piping times: see here for the full swingeing text of the Reverend's letter of 1794.

After departing from Fonthill Gifford, by the 4th December 1775 Peter Monamy Cornwall was installed as curate in Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire, where he remained for the next thirteen years. In 1781 he preached a sermon before the Gloucestershire Society at St James's in Bristol, which he published in 1782 and republished in 1783, with a longer list of subscribers. Among these were William Beckford (aged 21), the Rev Mr Lettice (Beckford's tutor), Lord Hawke, Lord Bulkeley, Sir Matthew White Ridley, Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, the Hon. John Townshend, Member for Cambridge, a Matthew Lewis, a Captain Charles Cobb, and, in the second edition, 213 others. I have been informed that William Beckford's appearance in a subscribers' list of this sort must be unique. Perhaps Mr Lettice put his name down for him.

His wife died very soon after he had preached the sermon, and by the time of its second edition he had married Sarah Fry of the parish of Tisbury, who must have been of a more robust constitution. Life does not appear to have been easy for him during these years, but the vicar of Wotton under Edge was an old schoolfellow, William Dechair Tattersall, who clearly sustained him in various ways. In 1788 he was appointed Head Master of the Katherine, Lady Berkeley Grammar School at Wotton (or Wootton), endowed in 1384, as old as Winchester and considerably older than Eton. Another patron was Dr Scrope, since he mentions in his Sermons of 1794 that this man's "instructive conversation and ready protection (as a fully qualified patriotic magistrate) infused courage and fortitude into him". The Rev Dr Richard Scrope (1728-1787), was Rector of Castle Combe and Lord of the Manor, and Cornwall addresses his prefatory letter to "William Scrope of Castle-Combe, Wilts", the son of this late Reverend Doctor Richard.

Castle Combe today

The letter pays tribute to Scrope's support, stating that this "learned and worthy" person had "served him in so handsome a manner that he esteems it his duty to acknowledge, in this public address, that by the liberality of Dr Scrope, for many years, he scarcely felt the weight of any disappointments." Cornwall's first son with Mary Wyar was named Peter Monamy Scrope Cornwall (1779-1844), in honour of his benefactor. I have been told, however, by a present member of the Scrope family, that Dr Richard had assumed the Scrope name, and was not related to them.

If so, it does not seem to have deterred the Doctor, since it is reported of him that he "took much interest in examining and arranging his own collection of family MSS and appears to have entertained at one time the expectation that the title to the barony of Scrope of Bolton .... might be claimed by .... his branch."

April 2006. Much to my astonishment and delight I have now been contacted by a descendant of Walter Miles and Mary Anne Monamy Cornwall, named Diana Hill, now living in Australia. It is clear that there is a lot more detail to be filled out in the line of descent from Mary Wyar, P.M.D.Cornwall's first wife. Walter Miles was headmaster of the Blue Coat School, Wootton under Edge. He had at least four children with Mary Anne Monamy Cornwall. One of his grandchildren was a subscriber to The House of Cornewall, published in 1908. Her name at that date was Mrs A.E.King. She gave her address as "Scrope", Ravensbourne Gardens, West Ealing, and her maiden name would have been Agnes Hill. Her precise date of birth has not yet been discovered, but it was probably about 1840. (There may be some genealogical confusion here.) A new page on the proliferation of descendants is in the offing.

For descendants of P.M.D.Cornwall and Sarah Fry click here
For descendants of Mary Ann Monamy Cornwall & Walter Miles click here.
For descendants of Peter Monamy Scrope Cornwall click here.

Peter Monamy Scrope Cornwall (1779-1844) and Peter Monamy Cornwall (1815-1852) were both clerics, which, together with the name of their progenitor, has caused some confusion in the pages of Crockford, and other directories. Perhaps the Reverend Peter Monamy (Durell) Cornwall adopted his third name of Durell late in life in a bid to clarify, but its choice remains unexplained.

This entry in an Oxford University directory is in fact for Peter Monamy Scrope Cornwall, who was a vicar at Chiselborough, Somerset, but the omission of his third name makes for confusion with both his father and his eldest son, Peter Monamy Cornwall, also a parson, who died unmarried at the early age of 37. In a similar directory one of them is again confused with George Cornwall. The church was well-stocked with Cornwall clerics, as there was yet another family of Cornwalls, based in Gloucestershire, who also provided it with several members.

John Cornwall (born 1817) was a doctor. His wife's name was Sarah Elizabeth Hodgson (1815-1893). In the census of 3rd April 1881 John and Sarah presided over a household at The Manor House, in the village of Meare, Somerset. This consisted of themselves; John Cornwall's brother-in-law, John S.Hodgson, born 1813; a boarder, and five servants. Dr.John Cornwall was born in Chiselborough, Somerset; Sarah Hodgson was born in Battersea, Middlesex; and her brother John Hodgson in Meare village.

November, 2007. New information! After resigning myself to total ignorance about any further descendants of Dr John Cornwall and Sarah Hodgson I have been contacted by Andy Juniper, with the agreeably surprising news that he is Dr John Cornwall's great great great grandson. This will require some revision of existing pages, and preparation of a new page. Meanwhile, Andy's website is at: Use the search box to find John Cornwall.

March, 2008. Still more information! Amazed to hear from Australia of yet another line of Monamy descent. Mary Jane Cornwall married Peter Langdon on 12 Jan 1843. He was a widower, aged 27, born in Chiselborough, and he was a stonemason, or stone-cutter. His father is named as Edward Langdon, a parish clerk. The couple must then have moved to St Helier, Jersey, where their son, James Henry Cornwall Langdon, was born on 5 Feb 1853. He came to Adelaide, aged 22, on 5 Dec 1877, and had a son called Monamy Burnet Langdon. M.B.Langdon's grand-daughter, Judith Langdon, has provided these details; and may be providing some more. She writes to say that at last she has discovered the reason for her grandfather's strange name: Monamy.

next page: from 1783 onwards
from 1725 backwards
descendants of Mary Ann Monamy Cornwall & Walter Miles
descendants of Dr John Cornwall & Sarah Hodgson
cornwall miscellanea
article 1981       article 1983
detailed monamy chronology
artistic range
monamy website index

fonthill abbey: the fall of the house of beckford


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