and his descendants

View of Earnley Church, 1808, from the South-East. See also here.

George Cornwall
1797 - 1874
Great-grandson of Peter Monamy

The Reverend George Cornwall's penchant for bestowing the Monamy name on five of his seven children is without doubt the main reason for the existence of this website. He was Rector of Earnley-cum-Almodington, West Sussex, from 1854 until his death in 1874. He married Elizabeth Eleanor Fry, recorded by one of her granddaughters as being a Quaker and hence rejected in an unfriendly manner by her family for marrying into the Church of England. Since George's mother was also surnamed Fry, some kinship, of which there is no record, may be surmised.

Whereas his brother Eusebius represents, to an extent, a more academic, aesthetic family strain, George's talents appear to have been of the solidly determined, practical sort. He was a sizar at Queen's College, Cambridge, and a sizar was an undergraduate who paid his way by waiting on other students. The entry below, from a directory of Cambridge alumni, almost confuses him with his half-brother, or his half-brother's son, of Chiselborough. George was indubitably Rector of Earnley, however.


The unreliability of the directory entry is duplicated by that of the note under the handsome ambrotype of the Reverend Rector, at right. This is in the self-assured handwriting of his youngest daughter May Louise, my great-grandmother, and not much can be made of it, regrettably. The somewhat tangled claims to kinship with both Vice-Admiral Philip Durell and Captain James Cornewall, who "won for himself, by splendid heroism, a place among the English immortals", are the figments of fevered wish-fulfilment, as was realised by Compton Reade, author of a work entitled The House of Cornewall, published in 1908. On the last page (264) of this substantial genealogical account he notes "Other unlinked lines deserve mention, more especially the Monamy Cornwalls, settled at Chelsea in the 18th century, and now represented by Rev. A.P.Cornwall, M.A., of Chichester." The lack of a discoverable link must have been a sore disappointment to eleven names in the list of subscribers, who between them accounted for 29 copies of the work. In his semi-autobiographical novel, Concerning Himself, Victor Whitechurch, also a subscriber, gently mocks his Uncle Albert's passion for ancestry.

Earnley Church 1971: from the North

Earnley Church 1971: from the West

These pictures, above right, come from the Earnley Church guidebook, 1973, which draws attention to the shape of the churchyard. Its author, Francis W.Steer FSA, comments that: "The church stands on a walled site raised several feet above the level of the road; note that the site is roughly triangular or, perhaps, it could be described as boat-shaped, but it would only be guessing to suggest if this has any significance." The significance to be guessed at is that the original ancient church was sited precisely on top of a pagan ship-setting from early Saxon times.

Before settling at Earnley-cum-Almodington (or Almanington, a hamlet too small to feature on the map), George spent some ten years, until about 1850, as curate of Whitley Batch, near Pensford, south of Bristol, where his first four children were born. Prior to that he had been curate at St Mary's, Bristol, and also curate at Wootton-under-Edge, where he had been helping his aged father run the Grammar School in 1828. Between 1850 and 1854 he was vicar at Stubbington, Titchfield, Hants, where there was a well-known boys preparatory school, later attended by several of his descendants, as well as inter alia Robert Falcon Scott, of Antarctic memory. In 1870 he retired with his family to Chichester, where they lived at Orchard House, Orchard Street. During his last days at Earnley he wrote his will.

The sole beneficiary and executrix of his will was his eldest daughter, Ellen Georgiana Monamy Cornwall, 1840-1910. She would have been 15 years old when her mother died (of pneumonia, according to the record, one year after the birth of her seventh child) and must have found herself taking her mother's place in the Rector's household. Her sister Charlotte, known as Lena, left a note saying that she "died on 10th November 1910 & was buried at Hastings Cemetery on 14th Nov. She died from virulent Cancer, after being an invalid for thirty years from Asthma & Bronchitis -- Her patience, amiability & accomplished education has left behind her ever remembered & grateful memories which can never decay."

The early death of Seth Monamy Cornwall, 1841-1860, is described by Lena as "a terrible calamity". "The eldest and favourite son of the Rector died suddenly, poisoned from eating fungi in mistake for mushrooms. This sorrow so greatly affected the Rector, he was never well afterwards. All tedious work had to be entirely abandoned, and a resident Curate kept." The ambrotype of the Rector, above, and that of his next son, Philip, on the following page, must have been taken shortly after this disaster, which perhaps is reflected in their father's notably grim expression. At a wild guess, the name Seth might conceivably remember the name of his mother's allegedly Quaker father, about whom nothing is known.

As the Rector's remaining five children led longer and more productive lives, their fates are recounted on the following page. Two things stand out in reflecting on the life of the Reverend George Cornwall: first is the strength of his commitment to the Monamy name, which has ensured the perpetuation of the painter's memory; second is the intensity of that Victorian mixture of piety, pride and sense of affliction in this vale of tears, which was bequeathed down the line to his children and even his grand-children. The late Victorian relish for death and tribulation is expressed by Lena Monamy Norman, when describing her sister's passing: "Her trust in her Saviour was perfect, & she ended her painful existence, blessing God for His mercies".

further descendants of george cornwall
descendants of eusebius cornwall
1725-1828       1783-1845
cornwall & durell
article 1981       article 1983
monamy website index

A watercolour of a church, circa 1922, by Selwyn Harrison, aged about 14.
At first I thought this was of Earnley Church, but it isn't.


© Charles Harrison Wallace 2002
all rights reserved