1700 to 1800 AD

Find out more about Cornwall’s history through the Cornish timeline


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Sidney Godolphin becomes Lord Treasurer until 1710.

27th - 28th August:

A violent storm, the tail end of an American hurricane results in:

  • damaged houses
  • ships being driven ashore
  • the destruction of Henry Winstanley's Eddystone Lighthouse
Daniel Gumb is born at Linkinhorne. Raised as a stone-cutter, he makes a name for himself as a self-taught mathematician. He makes his home carving out a rock by The Cheesewring. The roof serves as an observatory, and the whole as a place where he can study uninterrupted but near to his work. He becomes more reclusive and the home also serves as a chapel for him as he was never seen to attend the parish church. His wife and several children also live in the rock dwelling.

Grant to Anthony Nicoll for 2 fairs or markets at St.Tudy.

Grant in fee for Robert Hooker, gent. of 3 fairs at Camborne.

The thatched Friends' Meeting House at Come-to-Good, near Feock is built.

Antony House, the home of the Carews at Torpoint, begins construction, and is completed in 1721.

5th November:

Charles Mohun, 5th Baron Mohun, is killed in a duel with the Duke of Hamilton. Mohun has previously been tried and cleared (1692-3) by the House of Peers for the murder of William Mountford.

3rd May:

"The most celebrated eclipse ever recorded in England. Totality passed right across England from Cornwall to Norfolk".

The Lizard lighthouse is built. It is altered in 1903.

Trewithen House near Probus is under construction, probably to the design of Thomas Edwards of Greenwich.

John Anstis, born at St. Neot in 1699, (MP for St. Germans (1702) and Launceston (1713)) becomes Garter King at Arms.   Author of a number of heraldic works.

27th January:

Samuel Foote, playwright and comedian, is born at Truro.

Thomas Newcomen comes to Cornwall to erect an atmospheric engine at Wheal Fortune in Ludgvan.

Thomas Pitt, otherwise known as 'Diamond Pitt', (1653-1726) purchases Boconnoc, near Lostwithiel, and other manors in Cornwall. He buys these with the proceeds of the sale of a famous 127 carat diamond. This was sold to the Regent of Orleans (later Louis XV) in 1716 for approximately £125,000. While Governor of Fort St George, Madras, he had bought it for around £20,400.

Thomas Pitt becomes the grandfather of William Pitt the Elder (statesman). He is also Great Grandfather of William Pitt the Younger (Prime Minister), and 2nd Baron Camelford (see 1775).

Ralph Allen devises the first cross-country postal service. Despite his birth in St. Blazey in 1693, he is known as 'The Man of Bath'. He beame Post Master in Bath, Contractor for Cross Posts (1722-1764) and Mayor of Bath 1742.

Dolcoath, near Camborne, perhaps Cornwall's most celebrated mine, is already working and by 1778 is 160 fathoms deep. By 1864, equipped with its ten engines, seven water wheels, and a man-engine, it employs about 1200 people. Underground working ceases in 1920 by which time the bottom level is at 550 fathoms, the deepest of all the Cornish mines.

Mining is in operation by this time at Botallack Mine on the cliff's edge near St. Just. By 1800 the workings extended to over 100 fathoms and a long distance beneath the sea. It becomes one of Cornwall's richest tin mines. Operations finally end in 1914.

John Knill who instigated the 5-yearly celebrations at his mausoleum near St. Ives, is born at Callington. He becomes Collector of Customs at St Ives. He is elected Mayor in 1767 resigning his Customs post in 1782. Around this time he arranges the erection of a mausoleum on Worvas Hill. This was because he "abhorred the practice of burial within the body of the Church". This practice prevailed in St Ives at the time. He moves to London and buys chambers in Gray's Inn Square and is called to the Bar in 1787. In 1811 he dies and is buried at Holborn, not St Ives.

Tehidy House, Illogan, is built for the Basset family to the design of Thomas Edwards of Greenwich. It is destroyed by fire in 1919.

The Sherborne Mercury newspaper commences publication in Dorset. It includes Cornish news and advertising, and circulates throughout the south west of England. It continues until 1867.

Expansion of deep copper mining in Cornwall.  This heralds the Industrial Revolution in Britain.

John Williams is born. He becomes a successful mining engineer, and manager of Poldice and Gwennap mines. He is noted for driving the County Adit from Bissoe Bridge to drain the mines of Poldice. This task lasts twenty years. The completed work is thirty miles long and takes in numerous branch adits and drains fifty mines. After profiting spectacularly from a sudden tin price rise, he builds Scorrier House. He enlarges the house substantially in 1845. After a serious fire in 1908, it is rebuilt.

John Wesley's Methodism becomes the dominant religious denomination. This is his first of forty visits to Cornwall.

William Cookworthy is a Kingsbridge Quaker who began a wholesale chemist's business in Plymouth around 1733. Having researched the Chinese manufacture of porcelain he obtains kaolin from Virginia in America. Around 1746 he locates china-clay and china-stone deposits on the western side of Tregoning Hill in Germoe parish, near Helston. On a later journey to Cornwall he finds much larger quantities in the vicinity of St Stephen-in-Brannel and St Dennis, near St Austell.

Admiral Boscawen wins fame at Cape Finisterre by singly engaging the French fleet until the English fleet arrive

Sir William Lemon, who becomes MP for Penryn (1769-72) and the County (1774-1824), is born in Truro. He dies at Carclew, Mylor, in 1824.

A new church, designed by Thomas Edwards of Greenwich at the behest of the Earl of Godolphin replaces the old one at Helston.

The Cornish Stannary Parliament is suspended. This followed a dispute with the Lord Warden, Thomas Pitt. The dispute was over the location of the Convocation in Lostwithiel. This was contrary to the wishes of the Stannators.

9th Sept:

William Bligh, grandson of John Bligh of St Tudy is baptised in Plymouth. In 1787 he sets sail as Captain of the 'Bounty' to procure bread fruit trees from the South Sea Islands.

Henry Bone, enamellist, is born at Truro. He becomes enamel painter to the Prince of Wales in 1800, a Royal Academician in 1811, dying in 1854.

1st November:

The Lisbon Earthquake strikes at about 09:40 hours. Its magnitude is somewhere between 8 and 9 on the Richter Scale, the epicentre being some 200 km West of Cape St Vincent. It has knock-on effects throughout Europe, mostly in the form of flooding. Further damage is done by a Tsunami hitting the city & this is followed by several massive fires. In Cornwall, at St Michael's Mount, at about 14:00 hours, the sea is observed to rise suddenly and then to retire. After 10 minutes the sea rises nearly 6 feet, very rapidly coming in from the South East. It then ebbs again to the West with the same speed for about 10 minutes. Following the ebb it is nearly 6 feet lower than before. It returns again, and falls again in the same space of time. It continues to do so for some 5 hours after. In Penzance the tide rises some eight feet. At Newlyn Pier some ten feet.  The same effect is reported at St Ives and Hayle somewhat later.

The old church at Redruth is taken down and replaced by a new building in the classical style. Its 15th century tower remains.

Rev. Richard Polwhele is born in Truro. He goes on to become:

  • the Vicar of Manaccan (1794-1821)
  • the Vicar of Newlyn East (1821-1838) and
  • the author of
    • a two-volume seven-part History of Cornwall
    • a similar work on Devon and
    • many other books

Admiral Boscawen dies. A hero of his time, he assists in the capture of Porto Bello in 1740. He commanded a party which stormed Carthagena in 1747 capturing two batteries. He became Commander-in-Chief of the Navy in 1758. With General Wolff, he captured Louisberg and in 1759 beat the French fleet in Port Lagos.

John Wesley first visits Gwennap Pit in 1762, and thereafter 18 times until his last visit in 1798 at the age of 86. In the entry in his Journal for Sunday 22nd August 1773 he estimates that 'two and thirty thousand' were present. On other dates he records upwards of 20,000 in attendance. The pit we see today was remodelled by local tinners and their helpers. It re-opened on Whit Monday 1807. The annual Whit Monday service is still a feature of the local Methodist calendar.

Pencarrow, near Washaway, is built in the Palladian style.

Davies Gilbert (Giddy) PRS FAS FGS is born at St Erth. He becomes:

  • a national figure of the Industrial Revolution
  • an antiquarian
  • the President of the Royal Society, and
  • MP for Bodmin.

He chairs several parliamentary committees concerning. These include:

  • the building of roads
  • steam power
  • feeding the population, and
  • the Poor Laws.

He moves in the same circles as Boulton and Watt, Peel and Canning, and Darwin, among many others. He is patron of Cornish inventors like Trevithick and Hornblower and he discovers Humphry Davy. 

John Smeaton, noted for the Eddystone lighthouse, constructs a pier at St. Ives, since lengthened.

William Cookworthy takes out a patent for the making of porcelain using Cornish materials. This and the establishment of a (short-lived) porcelain factory in Plymouth is greatly supported by the Hon. Thomas Pitt of Boconnoc (later Lord Camelford). Pitt grants Cookworthy a lease on his land in St Stephen.

The Bodmin to Launceston turnpike road is opened.

The 123 feet high obelisk commemorating Thomas Pitt, Lord Camelford, is erected at Boconnoc.

The St Columb Canal is proposed by John Edyvean. It is authorised and planned to run from Mawgan Porth through parishes inland and return to St Columb Porth. Its purpose is to import sea-sand for manuring to improve land. Two sections are built. One, from Trenance Point to near Whitewater. The other from Lusty Glaze to near Rialton Barton in St Columb Minor.

William Cookworthy passes his patent for making porcelain from Cornish china-clay to Richard Champion. This prompts the interest of Josiah Wedgwood, the distinguished Staffordshire potter. Following a legal battle, Champion loses his monopoly over the Cornish materials.

28th July:

Richard Hussey Vivian (afterwards General Lord Vivian) is born at Truro. During a distinguished military career he became:

  • MP for Truro (1820-25)
  • MP for Windsor (1825-30) and later
  • a Privy Councillor (1834),
  • Master General of Ordnance (1835) and
  • MP for East Cornwall (1837-41)

At this time he was created Baron Vivian of Glyn.

Sir John Call's mansion at Stoke Climsland is built.   It is demolished in 1912.

Thomas Pitt, 2nd and last Baron Camelford is born at Boconnoc, near Lostwithiel. He becomes a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy. He leads a short but remarkably adventurous life. He is mortally wounded in a duel with friend Captain Best in 1804, behind Holland House, London.

Dolly Pentreath, who dies in 1777, is often claimed to be the last speaker of Cornish. However, William Bodener who dies in 1794 knows five people in Mousehole who speak the language. Others claim knowledge of it as late as the 1890s. It is probably safe to say that the last native speakers are alive in the late 19th century.  However, the Education Act of 1870 makes the teaching of English compulsory in all schools.

James Watt erects his first pumping engine in a Cornish mine at Great Wheal Busy near Chacewater, one of the oldest of Cornwall's copper mines. It replaces a Newcomen engine installed by John Smeaton. By now, the mine has worked at various times from 1700 and continues to do so until 1900.

Scottish engineer, William Murdoch, (born in Ayrshire in 1754) comes to Cornwall in the employment of Boulton & Watt.

William Murdoch makes a small steam locomotion which he tries successfully in Redruth in Church Lane.

John Silk Buckingham, MP, journalist and reformer, is born at Flushing.

James Ruse, a Launceston man, arrives in New South Wales aboard the transport Scarborough. He is part of the "first fleet" of Australian convict ships.

Jonathan Couch, FLS, author and naturalist, is born at Polperro.

Bread riots in Truro at the outbreak of the French Revolution - the tinners are nearly starved

Mr Charles Rashleigh commences creation of the new port of Charlestown. It is intended for the shipment of china stone to Liverpool for Worcestershire or Staffordshire porcelain manufacturers.

Cornwall County Library is founded at Pydar Street, Truro. Nearly 30 subscribers pay the minimum subscription of 1 guinea. It survived until 1920. In that time the library moved to Princes Street and then to the Public Rooms, situated between Quay Street and the Green.

William Murdoch lights Redruth house by gas, the foundation for today's gas industry.

A public meeting is held at Bodmin which resolves that a canal linking the Wadebridge River to the Fowey River would be advantageous. Sir William Molesworth arranges surveying and costings and plans are sent to John Rennie for comment.   It all comes to nothing, but Marc Isambard Brunel surveys the Padstow - Fowey route in 1825 for a ship canal. He proposes one 13 miles long. This too is not taken further.

In Truro the building of Boscawen Street and Lemon Street is started.

Passing of the Truro Paving & Lighting Act enables the Corporation to improve Boscawen Street. They pull down Middle Row and lay out and build Lemon Street (named after Sir Charles Lemon).

Lanherne at St. Mawgan in Pydar, formerly the home of the Arundells, becomes a convent.

Billy Bray, Cornish evangelist, is born at Twelveheads, near Chacewater.

The American engineer and inventor, Robert Fulton, with the surveyor Charles Moody, examined the practicality of building a canal. This would run from the Helford River at Gweek to the Hayle River near St Erth.   It was not proceeded with.

"On Saturday 20th August at 20 minutes past 2 o'clock (p.m.) a slight Shock of an Earthquake was felt at St. Hilary, which lasted 2 or 3 seconds being in the middle space of a rumbling Noise which attended it and which lasted 6 or 7 seconds. The Motion was from East to West. The Air was still. The Thermometer at 70" - St. Hilary parish records.