Trewithen and its Cornish Context in the Early Eighteenth Century

Essay by Jonny Yarker

Cornwall is not a county of great agricultural estates or treasure houses. There are no ducal seats and the majority of its country houses are, like Trewithen, modest buildings, erected by gentry families. Yet during the eighteenth century Cornwall occupied a uniquely powerful political position and was one of the first areas of sustained industrial growth in the country. Fortunes were made in mining tin, copper and china clay, property speculation and politics, this prosperity leading in turn to house building. Trewithen was constructed and remodelled by successive generations of the Hawkins family in the first half of the eighteenth century as the result of just such a new fortune. The purpose of this essay is to place Trewithen, the house, its owners and its collection in their Cornish context.

A detailed portrait of Cornwall in the middle of the eighteenth century survives in the form of William Borlase’s The Natural History of Cornwall, first published in 1758. Borlase was a cleric and antiquarian, a native of St Just on the Penwith coast. In 1754 he had published a chronological account of the antiquities of the county.1 His Natural History of Cornwall was, however, the first book to describe, illustrate and classify the flora, fauna and mineralogy of the region. Borlase’s text presents the county in its rich historical context, while his geological observations point to the region’s prosperity and future industrial expansion. Throughout the text, the modern reader can discern the political and economic structures of the county; Thomas Hawkins features prominently as a subscriber for ‘6 Copies’ and the recently built Trewithen appears in a handsome plate (fig. 1), engraved at Hawkins’s expense.2 It comes as no surprise, therefore, to learn that Borlase knew Trewithen and its owners well, and even advised on the remodelling of the house. He was a school friend of Philip Hawkins II (TN32 and TN33), who remembered him in his will, through an annuity of £20, stating also that he was ‘now living with me’.3 Borlase also acted as tutor to the young Thomas Hawkins (TN22) the nephew of Philip Hawkins II, to whose father, Christopher Hawkins (TN53), he dedicated a plate in his Observations on the Antiquities Historical and Monumental, of the County of Cornwall ‘with great respect’ (fig. 2).

in William Borlase, <em>The Natural History of Cornwall</em> (Oxford: W. Jackson, 1758): pl. 23.

Figure 1.
Trewithen, in William Borlase, The Natural History of Cornwall (Oxford: W. Jackson, 1758): pl. 23.

Digital image courtesy of Internet Archive. (CC BY-NC 4.0)

in William Borlase, <em>Observations on the Antiquities Historical and Monumental, of the County of Cornwall</em> (Oxford: W. Jackson, 1754): pl. 13.

Figure 2.
Plate inscribed “To Christopher Hawkins of Trewinard in Cornwall Esqr./ This Plate is with great respect inscrib'd by Wm Borlase.”, in William Borlase, Observations on the Antiquities Historical and Monumental, of the County of Cornwall (Oxford: W. Jackson, 1754): pl. 13.

Digital image courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum, London. (CC BY-NC 4.0)

The Hawkins fortune was comparatively recent. Philip Hawkins I had prospered as a local lawyer in the employment of the Godolphin family, thus enabling his son, Philip II (TN32 and TN33), to purchase the Trewithen estate in 1727.4 Being a lawyer in Cornwall in the eighteenth century was a lucrative business. Borlase, in a section on ‘ill manners’, noted: ‘the lower sort of people is reckoned litigious; the truth is, that in mining as well as fishing there are very numerous minute subdivisions of property’, explaining that ‘those little adventures do oftentimes shift hands, are bought and sold, and bought again: this produces wranglings, and frequent application to the law-courts.’5 Borlase goes on to explain the byzantine local court structures, from the Duke of Cornwall in Council to Stannary-Courts ‘held every three weeks for tin-causes’. He adds: ‘By means of all these there is too open and easy access to law-contentions for the advantage of private families.’6 He further specifically articulates the distinction between Cornwall and ‘counties where husbandry is the chief or sole employ’, stating that the problem lay with the wealth being in so many hands. The Hawkins family were direct beneficiaries of the property structure and the unreformed legal system.7

Borlase’s observation that the economy of Cornwall was not primarily agricultural is significant; mining – both tin and copper – and fishing were of equal importance. Surveying the Hawkins’ relations and neighbours is instructive for seeing how diverse the sources of their wealth were. The Boscawens of Tregothnan derived a considerable income from copper mines at Chacewater and Gwennap.8 The Basset family of Tehidy owned profitable mines, including Dolcoath which Borlase describes as ‘very considerable’ and Cook’s Kitchen near Camborne. The St Aubyn family of Clowance and St Michael’s Mount owed their wealth to property: they owned the manor of Stoke Damerel, near Plymouth, which was leased for Devonport dockyard and generated considerable rents.9 The Edgcumbe family similarly profited from the expansion of Devonport, developing their land around Stonehouse. A pair of roundels by William Tomkins, preserved at Mount Edgcumbe, celebrates the family’s industrial and infrastructure interests around Plymouth, specifically the shipyard and ferry at Cremyll. Several families, such as the Rashleighs at Menabilly, made money from fishing.10 Cornwall’s economy was therefore unusual in its diversity. But as with counties where the wealth was based largely on land ownership, wealth enabled participation in local and national politics.

Geographically distant from London, Cornwall was nevertheless politically important throughout the eighteenth century. Before the reforms of 1832, there were twenty-one boroughs each electing two members, as well as two knights of the shire who were returned for the county. Cornwall therefore had a total of forty-four members of parliament, only one less than the whole of Scotland.11 By the eighteenth century few if any Cornish boroughs had competitive political elections in the modern sense: competition, where it occurred at all, was on the basis of personal influence or pecuniary advantage. With his acquisition of Trewithen, Philip also secured a controlling interest in the borough of Grampound for which he sat as MP from 1727.12 His expenses for the 1727 election survive and they show that the astronomical sum of £1292 8s 6d was spent to secure the two seats.13

The death of Philip Hawkins II in 1738 left a political vacuum in Grampound. His heir, Thomas Hawkins, the son of his kinsman Christopher Hawkins and his sister, Mary (TN63), was still in his minority so the Prime Minister’s agent in Cornwall, Richard Edgcumbe, secured the vacant seat for the administration. Politically Cornwall had another anomaly, in the form of its largest landowner, the Duchy of Cornwall – estates which automatically belong to the heir to the throne. In 1738 this was Frederick, Prince of Wales who had aligned himself with the opposition, employing Thomas Pitt as his election agent with the intention of returning opposition candidates. Christopher Hawkins kept a keen eye on his son’s political patrimony and entered an antagonistic partnership with Pitt to return opposition members for Frederick. Pitt was given the sinecure of Assay master of the Stannaries and Christopher Hawkins became vice-warden, until his son Thomas was old enough to claim the seat in 1747.

Politics was frequently dynastic and in Cornwall family connections often trumped ideological concerns. Philip Hawkins had been a concerted dynast, marrying his children into a series of prominent local families; it is a network played out through portraiture at Trewithen. As the 1824 History of Cornwall noted: ‘in their descent, the branches of this family have formed marriage alliances with the co-heiresses of several of the most respectable names in this county.’14 Philip’s son John married Rachel Rashleigh (TN51), daughter of Jonathan Rashleigh of Menabilly, an MP and powerful local landowner whose second wife, Sarah, was the daughter of Sir John Carew of Antony House. Philip’s daughter Ann was the second wife of Sir Edmond Prideaux, fifth Baronet (TN67); their daughter, also called Ann (TN25), married John Pendarves Basset (TN26) of Tehidy. Another daughter, Elizabeth, married Thomas Carlyon of Tregrehan and Philip’s granddaughter Jane Hawkins (TN24), sister of Thomas, married Sir Richard Vyvyan of Trelowarren.

Marriages could be nakedly political. In 1717 the seventeen-year-old Mary Granville married the sixty-year-old member for Launceston, Alexander Pendarves, a union orchestrated by her uncle, the politician George Granville, Lord Lansdowne.15 As Mary wrote in her autobiography: ‘Lord Lansdown, rejoiced at an opportunity of securing to his interest by such an alliance one of some consequence in his country, whose services he at that time wanted, readily embraced the offer and engaged for my compliance; he might have said obedience, for I was not entreated, but commanded.’16 Shortly after her marriage, Mary travelled to Alexander Pendarves’s seat, Roscrow Castle overlooking Falmouth, for a round of important local calls, both social and politically strategic.17


Country houses were important political centres, statements of wealth and taste that formed the backdrop for necessary electioneering and entertainment. As William Borlase noted: ‘The gentry have the reputation of keeping up hospitality in their country, and though so remote from Court shewed formerly (and it is hoped do still shew) such an aptness as well as capacity for the business of the state, that Queen Elizabeth used to say, “that the Cornish gentlemen were all born courtiers with a becoming confidence”.’18 Based largely in London before standing for parliament in Grampound, Philip Hawkins II had little need for a large and costly house. The remodelling of Trewithen was therefore probably born of political expediency as well as the demands of hospitality.

Despite its political importance, it is notable that Cornwall had few grand mansions. An exception was Stowe, the Granville seat at Kilkhampton. Stowe was built by John Granville, who had been made Earl of Bath by Charles II in recognition for his loyalty and the role he had played in the negotiations that led to the Restoration. Granville accumulated a clutch of powerful local positions – warden of the Stannaries, lord lieutenant of Cornwall and military governor of both Plymouth and Pendennis.19 It was a position which demanded the construction of a prominent house. The result was Stowe, completed around 1685, which Borlase called ‘by far the noblest house in the west of England.’20 We know from several sources that Stowe took the familiar form of Roger Pratt’s Clarendon House (figs. 3 and 4) – two principal storeys built over a basement, with two projecting bays, a central cupola and pediment, with dormer windows in the roofline for the attic. Built in brick, Stowe was an imposing Carolean power house which conformed closely to the design of other houses still surviving today such as Belton House in Lincolnshire, in both its exterior appearance and interior magnificence. Defoe visited and left a description of its interiors: ‘as to Finishings within, not inferior to any in England. The Carvings, especially those of the Chapel; the grand Alcove, and some of the best Rooms, were done by the Hand of Michael Chuke, and are not excelled by Gibbon himself. The Landscape, and Sea-pieces, of which there were a great Number, (particularly in the great Stairs, a Prospect of Plymouth, containing 22 Feet by 12) were the Work of Vandiest.’21


Figure 3.
Edmund Prideaux, Stowe, circa 1720. Drawing. Prideaux Place, Cornwall.

Digital image courtesy of Dave Penman. (All rights reserved)


Figure 4.
Edmund Prideaux, Stowe, circa 1720. Drawing. Prideaux Place, Cornwall.

Digital image courtesy of Dave Penman. (All rights reserved)

The author Samuel Richardson’s comments were published in the third edition of Daniel Defoe’s Tour, where he noted dolefully, ‘the Owners have disposed of the Materials, and it is now (November 1739) pulling to Pieces.’22 Stowe had passed, after a legal battle, not to the male head of the family, Lord Lansdowne, but to the first Earl of Bath’s daughters, who decided to demolish the house. Elements of the ‘Finishings’ were sold in 1739, when they were repurposed. A portrait of Charles II by Kneller (TN55), evidently acquired by John Granville, was bought by the Hawkins family and was seen by James Boswell on a visit to Trewithen in 1792.23 The fittings from the chapel were acquired by Richard Temple, first Viscount Cobham, and installed in the chapel of his new Buckinghamshire house, also called Stowe. Interior elements from Stowe were purchased by the Corporation of South Molton in Devon, who were in the process of constructing a new guildhall. At least one complete room from Stowe was bought by Edmund Prideaux, who installed it in his house, Prideaux Place near Padstow (fig. 5).24 What remains at Prideaux Place confirms Richardson’s statements; the quality and profusion of ornament is exceptional, a cornice of swirling gilded acanthus leaves, overdoors and carved putti with garlands of fruit, flowers and foliage apparently forming part of the ‘grand alcove’. In the overmantel is a painting of the Rape of Europa by Adriaen van Diest.

The Reading Room

Figure 5.
The Reading Room, Prideaux Place, Cornwall.

Digital image courtesy of Country Life Picture Library. (All rights reserved)

Prideaux was an amateur draughtsman who produced records of the houses he visited over his lifetime: a remarkable resource, they offer a kind of visual reconstruction of the state of many Cornish houses in the first half of the century.25 Most were modest manor houses, gentrified in the seventeenth century. It is notable that Christopher Hawkins’s house, Trewinnard, remained untouched during the century; with the family’s political power focused around Grampound, Trewithen received the attention. Trewinnard, furnished with seventeenth-century tapestries, remained something of a relic.26 Boswell, who dined there with Christopher Hawkins is 1792, observed: ‘I liked this place much better than Trewithen. It is situated in a better part of the Country, and there is an air of antiquity and cultivation about it. The house is indeed a collection of strange rooms huddled together with a number of inconvenient passages and narrow staircases.’27

The early eighteenth century saw a building boom across the country and Cornwall was no exception, with a large number of houses undergoing works. In a drawing dated 1727, Prideaux shows the Elizabethan Antony House finished with its elegant Palladian facade of ashlar constructed in local Pentewan stone (fig. 6). The work had been begun by Sir William Carew in 1718 and completed shortly before Prideaux made his drawing. Antony is an early example of a political family upgrading their Elizabethan house in the more modish, metropolitan Palladian style. At about the same date a number of other houses were being built or remodelled. The Pitts, like the Hawkinses at Trewithen, had acquired their estates comparatively recently. Pitt’s father, Thomas, had bought the estate of Boconnoc in 1717 after a profitable career in the East India Company, for whom in 1698 he had been President of Madras. Boconnoc was Elizabethan, but during the 1720s Pitt employed the builder John Moyle to remodel the house in a sedate Italianate style.28 Moyle was a local contractor, who seems to have been involved with the construction of both Antony and Powderham Castle in Devon.

Antony House

Figure 6.
Edmund Prideaux, Antony House, Drawing, 1727. Prideaux Place, Cornwall.

Digital image courtesy of Dave Penman. (All rights reserved)

The nature of interconnectedness among West Country patrons meant that architects and workmen, such as Moyle, were frequently employed at multiple neighbouring houses. Another example is the architect Thomas Edwards ‘of Greenwich’. Edwards, who had possibly been a pupil of James Gibbs, seems first to have been employed by John Pendarves Basset shortly after he attained his majority in 1736, to remodel Tehidy.29 Edwards built a new house in a neo-Palladian style; he designed a central block with a rusticated basement, central pediment and four quadrant pavilions. The facade of the house is known only from an engraving made by Borlase and published in The Natural History of Cornwall (fig. 7).30 Basset married Philip Hawkins’s niece Ann in April 1737 and shortly afterwards Edwards started work at Trewithen. Pamela Dodds has suggested that Hawkins’s decision to remodel the house was in part motivated by Basset’s work at Tehidy; a plan entitled ‘Mr Bassett’s intended house’ survives among the Trewithen estate papers.31

in William Borlase, <em>The Natural History of Cornwall</em>, (Oxford: W. Jackson, 1758): pl. 10.

Figure 7.
Tehidy, in William Borlase, The Natural History of Cornwall, (Oxford: W. Jackson, 1758): pl. 10.

Digital image courtesy of Internet Archive. (CC BY-NC 4.0)

The precise chronology of Edwards’s work at Trewithen is discussed in the essay by Rodolfo Rodriguez but it is important to point out that it continued after Philip Hawkins’s death in 1738. Edwards seems to have been the architect of choice for Cornish patrons and he developed something akin to a local Palladian vernacular, constructing compact, elegant houses faced with native Pentewan stone. Edwards as surveyor with the builder John Potter worked at Nanswhydyn for Robert Hoblyn and Carclew House for the successful merchant and mine owner William Lemon; he also built a number of spectacular townhouses in Truro as well as St Michael’s church in Helston for Francis, second Earl Godolphin.32 Not permanently based in Cornwall, Edwards visited for ‘about 5 or 6 months yearly’, giving him the metropolitan outlook that would appeal to Cornish patrons, who were themselves compelled to commute to London for parliament annually. Edwards was therefore the obvious choice to continue working at Trewithen following Thomas Hawkins’s marriage in 1756.

Thomas, who, as noted, was tutored by Borlase, turned to him for advice, stating, ‘I have not a soul in the neighbourhood who knows anything about it [architecture].’33 Borlase was used to offering advice, for example in 1756 when he made detailed observations on one of Edwards’s proposed plans for the sixty-foot east front of Trewithen.34 He seems to have been a consistent figure in encouraging patrons to remodel or rebuild their houses. Sir John St Aubyn, third baronet, a school friend of Philip Hawkins II, consulted Borlase on his plans for restoring the picturesque island house, Saint Michael’s Mount. His son, also Sir John, had been tutored by Borlase and was also reliant on his advice.35 With his principal seat at Clowance, Sir John could indulge in exotic decoration, creating a series of gentle Gothic interiors complete with fireplaces from designs by Batty Langley. Metropolitan finish became increasingly important and this probably explains Thomas Hawkins’s decision to look beyond Edwards and employ Sir Robert Taylor to finish the interiors at Trewithen. The work at houses such as Antony, Tehidy, Trewithen, St Michael’s Mount and Pencarrow – rebuilt by Robert Allanson in the 1760s – resulted in new interiors all of which needed furnishing.

Collections and display

Although, as noted earlier, Cornwall contained no ‘treasure houses’, there was at least one great collection of old master paintings in the county. It was formed by Sir William Morice (fig. 8) and hung at Werrington Park, near Launceston, and contained an exceptional group of seventeenth and eighteenth-century landscape paintings.36 Richard Pococke, who visited Werrington in October 1750, noted: ‘in the old house are some good pictures, as the views of Canaletti, two pieces of Salvator Rosa, Lucretia by Guido . . . two or three pieces of Poussin, and his capital piece a land storm, which cost 500l.’37 The two Canalettos on copper were acquired by Morice from Owen McSwiny, probably in the 1720s when he also bought fourteen of a series of twenty-four allegorical paintings of tombs which McSwiny had commissioned from Canaletto and others.38 Morice owned two Poussins, which he had acquired from the Dal Pozzo collection – The Mystic Marriage of St Catherine (National Galleries of Scotland, Edinbugh) and Landscape during a Thunderstorm with Pyramus and Thisbe (fig. 9), described by Pockocke as ‘a land storm’. He also owned Claude Lorrain’s Ariadne on Naxos (Arnot Art Museum, Elmira, New York), along with a landscape by Gaspard Dughet, The Temple of the Sibyl, Tivoli (Hatton Gallery, University of Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne). The Salvator Rosas were two considerable works – St John the Baptist preaching in the Wilderness (Saint Louis Art Museum, Missouri) and St Philip baptising the Eunuch (Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia).39 Some measure of the quality of this collection – which has hitherto been overlooked completely – is evinced by the number of pictures that were engraved in Morice’s lifetime.40 In concert with this collection, Morice also created a remarkable landscape garden at Werrington. Pococke described seeing ‘a building to represent a ruinous castle’, ‘a Temple of the sun’, ‘a triumphal arch’, a ‘hermitage, like that at Richmond, and beyond it is a model of what is called the Tomb of the Horatii, near Albano.’41

1729-30. Pastel, 51 × 42 cm. Private Collection.

Figure 8.
Rosalba Carriera, Sir William Morice, 3rd Bt of Werrington, 1729-30. Pastel, 51 × 42 cm. Private Collection.

Digital image courtesy of Private Collection. (All rights reserved)

1651. Oil on canvas, 191 × 274 cm. Städel Museum, Frankfurt.

Figure 9.
Nicolas Poussin, Landscape during a Thunderstorm with Pyramus and Thisbe, 1651. Oil on canvas, 191 × 274 cm. Städel Museum, Frankfurt.

Digital image courtesy of bpk / Städel Museum / Ursula Edelmann. (All rights reserved)

The collection, along with the house, passed to Morice’s second cousin Humphry. He spent little time at Werrington and sold it in 1775 to Hugh Smythson, first Duke of Northumberland. Morice, who never married, was blackmailed for being homosexual and died in Italy in 1785, at which point his collection was acquired by John, second Earl of Ashburnham.42 Later in the century Francis Basset, first Lord de Dunstanville formed a significant collection of paintings on two successive Grand Tours which he installed at Tehidy.43 However, other than isolated paintings – such as Rembrandt’s Daniel and Cyrus before the Idol of Bel, which was at Port Eliot by 1773 – there were no other substantial collections of old master paintings visible in the county during the century.

On the whole it was portraiture that predominated in Cornish houses. Portraits acted as important markers of dynastic ties and family aspirations as well as statements of political loyalty. Following the Restoration, the display of royal portraiture became ubiquitous. The inveterate country-house tourist John Loveday of Caversham visited Stowe in June 1736 and noted particularly a painting of ‘Charles II Riding over the sea in a triumphal Car.’44 John Granville had every reason to celebrate his patron, Charles II, since at the very moment he was furnishing Stowe he was also presiding over the construction of the fort of the Citadel at Plymouth, built to dominate not only the harbour but also the town; it was the only one in the west that never fell to the Royalists during the Civil War. The painting (fig. 10), which survives in South Molton Guildhall, is derived from a composition by Verrio in the Royal Collection and shows the monarch wearing classical armour, being driven through the water by Neptune in a chariot – a nautical triumph probably alluding to the end of the third Anglo-Dutch War in 1674.45 Despite a Jacobite rising in Cornwall in 1715, the display of royal portraiture largely morphed from the political to the decorative, but it could still convey meaning.

after 1764. Oil on canvas. South Molton Guildhall, Devon.

Figure 10.
After Antonio Verrio, The Triumph of Charles II, after 1764. Oil on canvas. South Molton Guildhall, Devon.

Digital image courtesy of South Molton Guildhall, Devon. (All rights reserved)

As we have already seen, Thomas Pitt acted as Frederick, Prince of Wales’s election agent in Cornwall. During the general election of 1741 Pitt was instrumental in ensuring that Frederick had a parliamentary party of about twenty-five. The prince’s members helped bring the majority of the Prime Minister, Robert Walpole, down to twenty-six, and assisted in forcing him from office early in 1742. In the political fall-out that followed, William Pulteney emerged as the prince’s advocate, negotiating an agreement with George II that gave Frederick £100,000 per annum as an independent allowance. In gratitude Frederick commissioned a full-length portrait of himself from the fashionable French painter, Jean-Baptiste van Loo at a cost of £60 and presented it to Pulteney, who was made Earl of Bath the same year.46 Frederick gave a copy of his portrait to Pitt who displayed it prominently at Boconnoc (fig. 11).47 The portrait, which shows Frederick spectacularly attired in gold-embroidered costume, acted as a political advertisement, reminding viewers that he now commanded an income sufficiently large to ‘secure offices or seats in Parliament for his supporters.’48 That message would have been particularly potent to a Cornish audience.49

1742. Oil on canvas, 238 × 145 cm. Plymouth City Council: Museum and Art Gallery (PLYMG.1973.31).

Figure 11.
Jean-Baptiste van Loo, Frederick, Prince of Wales, 1742. Oil on canvas, 238 × 145 cm. Plymouth City Council: Museum and Art Gallery (PLYMG.1973.31).

Digital image courtesy of Plymouth City Council: Museum and Art Gallery. (All rights reserved)

Portraiture could act as a visual marker of family and kinship. At Trewithen, Vyvyans, Rashleighs and Bassets are all displayed alongside Hawkins family portraits. Copies of portraits enabled this proliferation; thus we find multiples of pictures in houses across the county. Dynasticism and antiquarianism were frequently combined in their display; at Port Eliot the dining room was arranged with a group of sixteenth and seventeenth-century portraits charting the rise of the family.50 As the century progressed, house owners frequently commissioned historical depictions of illustrious ancestors whose portraits may not have survived. In about 1730 Edmund Prideaux commissioned a portrait from Enoch Seeman of his sixteenth-century ancestor Honor Fortescue of Fallapit (fig. 12) to hang as a pendant to a period portrait of her husband, Humphrey Prideaux of Soldon, joining portraits by Seeman of Prideaux and their sons.

Honor Fortescue of Fallapit

Figure 12.
Enoch Seeman, Honor Fortescue of Fallapit, by 1744. Oil on canvas. Prideaux Place, Cornwall.

Digital image courtesy of Dave Penman. (All rights reserved)

The building boom of the early eighteenth century also saw the creation of numerous new interiors that required furnishing. This could be less systematic and more opportunistic than is frequently described. Was it a sense of historical continuity or decorative expediency that prompted Thomas Pitt to hang a series of portraits of the Jacobean owners of Boconnoc, the Mohuns, in his drawing room? Pitt was in no way related to the Mohuns and the outdated provincial portraits must have looked conspicuous in his Palladian interiors.51 Equally the need to furnish new rooms could mean that patrons turned to the wholesale picture market in London. Portraits were occasionally site-specific. In the late 1740s Morice had the staircase at Werrington decorated with delicate swirling Rococo plasterwork, placing his own portrait by Thomas Hudson in a permanent frame at the centre of the scheme. It is an idea close to the dining room at Trewithen where, as Emily Burns notes in her essay, Vanderbank’s bravura full-length portraits of Philp Hawkins II and his wife Elizabeth (TN33 and TN31) are placed in similar stuccowork.


Trewithen embodies an important aspect of British society that flourished during the early eighteenth century. Built with a fortune based on the opportunities of both burgeoning commerce and industry, rather than agriculture, it was used as the base for exercising political power at a local level. In essence, the Hawkins family built a modest Palladian farm, fronted with local Pentewan stone and containing a personally relevant group of portraits. They were not aristocrats but upwardly mobile gentry. Politically active throughout the eighteenth century, they represented the kind of affluent families who drove taste and fuelled the increasingly mass market for luxury goods.


  • Jonny Yarker is a director of Lowell Libson & Jonny Yarker Ltd. art dealers based in London. He completed a PhD at Trinity College, Cambridge and has an international reputation as a scholar of British art and the Grand Tour.


  1. William Borlase, Observations on the Antiquities Historical and Monumental, of the County of Cornwall. Consisting of several essays on the first inhabitants, Druid superstition, and remains of the most remote antiquity, in Britain, and the British Isles, Oxford: W. Jackson, 1754. He corresponded widely with natural historians, supplying them with mineral samples he discovered in Cornwall. He also corresponded with the Oxford physician John Andrew who passed Borlase’s Cornish samples to Carl Linnaeus. Borlase also supplied samples of Cornish minerals to the poet Alexander Pope, who used them to decorate the grotto in his garden at Twickenham. For Borlase see P. A. S. Pool, William Borlase, Truro: Royal Institution of Cornwall, 1986.

  2. William Borlase, The Natural History of Cornwall: The Air, Climate, Waters, Rivers, Lakes, Sea and Tides; of the stones, semimetals, Metals, TIN, and the Manner of Mining; the Constitution of the Stannaries; Iron, Copper, Silver, Lead, and Gold, found in Cornwall, Oxford: W. Jackson, 1758, p. xiv, pl. 23.

  3. Copy of the Will of Philip Hawkins II, 24 August 1738, Truro: Cornwall Record Office, CRO CY/872.

  4. As is explained elsewhere, there were two branches of the Hawkins family. The senior branch was based at Trewinnard. The two lines were conjoined when Christopher Hawkins married Philip Hawkins’s daughter Mary in 1716.

  5. Borlase, 1758, p. 307.

  6. Ibid.

  7. Ibid. Defoe noted on his visit to Cornwall, writing about Launceston, ‘there are a pretty many Attorneys here’: Daniel Defoe, A Tour Thro’ the Whole Island of Great Britain, Divided into Circuits or Journies, 3 vols, London, 1724–7, vol. 2, p. 8.

  8. For the history of mining in Cornwall during the eighteenth century see D. B. Barton, A History of Copper Mining in Cornwall and Devon, Truro: Truro Bookshop, 1963; Crispin Gill, The Great Cornish Families: A History of the People and their Houses, Tiverton: Cornwall Books, 1995, p. 77.

  9. Gill, 1995, p. 77.

  10. Christopher Hawkins also owned a profitable pilchard seine at Pentewan, St Austell. His papers point to the personal diversity of his income: he owned mineral rights, lent money, invested in lotteries and owned stock in the South Sea Company and a receipt dated 1720 shows he purchased £1000 of stock in the Royal African Company: Hawkins Family of Trewithen, CRO, (accessed 22 March 2018).

  11. For the breakdown of Cornish electoral seats during the eighteenth century, see (accessed 1 March 2018).

  12. Edward Porritt noted: ‘the long notorious Grampound, a name which even to-day, after an interval of eighty years from its disfranchisement, always recalls the unreformed House of Commons, and is yet a synonym of electoral squalor and corruption’: Edward Porritt, The Unreformed House of Commons: Parliamentary Representation before 1832, vol. 1, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1903, p. 16.

  13. ‘An accompt of the charges attending the election of two MPs. For Grampound’, 1727: Courtney Library, Royal Institution of Cornwall, Truro, HH/13/8a.

  14. Fortescue Hitchins, The History of Cornwall: From the Earliest Records and Traditions, to the Present Time, 2 vols, Helston: William Penaluna, 1824, vol. 2, p. 571.

  15. Granville had been MP for Fowey before the death of his uncle, John Granville, Earl of Bath. He managed Cornwall for the administration of Edward Harley, first Earl of Oxford, before petitioning Harley for a peerage, which he was granted in 1712. For Lansdowne see Clarissa Campbell Orr, ‘Mrs Delany and the Court’, in Mark Laird and Alicia Weisberg-Roberts, eds, Mrs Delany and her Circle, exh. cat., New Haven: Yale Center for British Art, 2009, pp. 40–64.

  16. Lady Llanover, The Autobiography and Correspondence of Mary Grenville, Mrs Delany: With Interesting Reminiscences of King George the Third and Queen Charlotte, 3 vols, London: Richard Bentley, 1861–2, vol. 1, p. 26.

  17. Mary Granville called Roscrow Castle ‘Avernus’ and described it as being ‘built of ugly coarse stone, old and mossy, and propt with two great stone buttresses . . . I was led into an old hall that had scarce any light belonging to it; on the left hand of which was a parlour, the floor of which was rotten in places, and part of the ceiling broken down; and the windows were placed so high that my head did not come near the bottom of them.’ But she records that her husband gave her ‘the liberty of fitting up [the house] conveniently to my own fancy, which helped to amuse me greatly’: ibid., pp. 36–7.

  18. Borlase, 1758, p. 304.

  19. For a detailed discussion of the destruction of Stowe and the repurposing of its furnishings and interiors, see Michael Trinick, ‘The Great House of Stowe’, Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, vol. 8, part 2, 1979, p. 90; John Harris, Moving Rooms, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2007, pp. 14–15.

  20. Borlase quoted in Rev. Daniel Lysons and Samuel Lysons, Magna Britannia; being a Concise Topographical Account of The Several Counties of Great Britain, 6 vols, London: T. Cadell and W. Davies, 1806–22, vol. 3, p. 165.

  21. Daniel Defoe, A Tour Thro’ the Whole Island of Great Britain, 4th edn, 4 vols, London, 1748, vol. 2, p. 6.

  22. Richardson was a friend and correspondent of Mary Pendarves, the first Earl of Bath’s granddaughter, and she may have suggested that her friend visit the house.

  23. Trinick, 1979, p. 90; James Boswell, Friday 31 August 1792, ‘Journal of a Jaunt to Cornwall’, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University: GEN MSS 89, Box 47, Folder 1028, f. 20.

  24. There is a distant Hawkins link with Stowe. The Earl of Bath’s elder sister, Elizabeth, married Sir Peter Prideaux of Netherton, who was grandfather of Sir Edmund Prideaux, husband of Ann Hawkins. It may have been this link that prompted Edmund Prideaux to purchase elements of the interior decoration for his own house.

  25. The drawings survive in the collection of Mr Peter Prideaux-Brune. They were catalogued and published: John Harris, ‘The Prideaux Collection of Topographical Drawings’, Architectural History, vol. 7, 1964, pp. 17–108.

  26. For a history of Trewinnard manor, see Stephen Tyrrell, Trewinnard: A Cornish History, Constantine: Pasticcio Ltd, 2012.

  27. Boswell, Thursday 6 September 1792, ‘Journal’, Beinecke Library, GEN MSS 89, Box 47, Folder 1028, f. 28.

  28. Marcus Binney, ‘A Restoration inspired by History: Boconnoc, Cornwall’, Country Life, vol. 202, no. 47, 19 November 2008, pp. 44–9.

  29. For Thomas Edwards at Tehidy see Pamela Dodds, ‘The Hawkins of Trewithen and Thomas Edwards of Greenwich’, Journal of the Royal Institute of Cornwall, n.s. 2, vol. 3, part 2, 1999, p. 47. For Edwards’s connection to Gibbs, see H. Dalton Clifford and Howard Colvin, ‘A Georgian Architect in Cornwall: Thomas Edwards of Greenwich – I’, Country Life, 4 October 1962, pp. 774–7; ‘A Georgian Architect in Cornwall: Thomas Edwards of Greenwich – II’, 18 October 1962, pp. 959–62.

  30. Tehidy was described in 1801 as ‘chiefly of Cornish freestone, and consists of a square and spacious dwelling-house in the centre, and four detached pavilions at the angles. These pavilions contain the domestic offices and a private chapel’: John Britton and Edward Wedlake Brayley, The Beauties of England and Wales; or, Delineations, Topographical, Historical, and Descriptive, of Each County, 18 vols, London, 1801–15, vol. 2, p. 506.

  31. CRO, Trewithen Papers, J/2/46.

  32. There is some evidence to suggest that Edwards operated like many painters, only visiting Cornwall for half the year. In the ‘Memorandum Touching Mr Edwards’ Chare of Surveying the Reparations at Trelowarren’, he states that he ‘usually spent in Cornwall about 5 or 6 months yearly’: Dodds, 1999, p. 56. For Edwards’s other work in Cornwall, see Clifford and Colvin, 4 October 1962, pp. 774–7 and 18 October 1962, pp. 959–62.

  33. Thomas Hawkins to Borlase, [date unknown], Morrab Library: WB OL, vol. 5, p. 228.

  34. Dodds, 1999, p. 56.

  35. In 1750 Sir John St Aubyn wrote to Borlase, ‘Next Monday I begin to build a little kind of a Study in the Dining Room court, at the Eastern End of the Chapel, the Plan of which I have enclosed, and as I am certain I can’t consult with a more proper Person than your self about its Inside I shd be glad to have yr opinion and Plan together. I intend to have it as plain as possible, and mean it only for Morning Room’: quoted in John Cornforth, ‘St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall’, Country Life, vol. 187, no. 22, 3 June 1993, p. 85.

  36. Morice has received remarkably little critical attention. His heir, Humphry Morice, has incorrectly been assumed to have formed the collection. See for example Edgar Peters Bowron on Morice’s portrait by Batoni where it is stated: ‘Expanding the collection become one of Morice’s principal activities. Landscapes were a particular interest, and works by Salvator Rosa, Claude Lorrain, Nicolas Poussin, Gaspard Dughet, Jan Frans van Bloemen, Canaletto, and others were kept at his villa, The Grove, near Chiswick’: Edgar Peters Bowron, Pompeo Batoni: A Complete Catalogue of his Paintings, 2 vols, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2016, vol. 1, p. 298.

  37. James Joel Cartwright, The Travels Through England of Dr Richard Pococke, Successively Bishop of Meath and of Ossory, 2 vols, London: Camden Society, 1888–9, vol. 1, p. 134.

  38. For Owen McSwiny and his project for paintings of contemporary worthies, see T. D. Llewellyn, ed., ‘Owen McSwiny’s Letters: 1720–1744’, Lettere artistiche del Settecento veneziano, vol. 4, 2009, pp. 13–142.

  39. See Caterina Volpi, Salvator Rosa (1615–1673), pittore famoso, exh. cat., Rome: Ugo Bozzi Editore, 2014, pp. 502–3, cat. nos 188 and 189. Volpi misses Sir William Morice from their provenance. Morice may have acquired them in Rome around 1729–30 from Marchese Luigi Costagui who, as Volpi notes, was a previous owner.

  40. The Claude was made into a print by Francis Vivares and published by Arthur Pond in 1742. Vivares in collaboration with Jean Baptiste Chatelain also made a print of the Frankfurt Poussin, from a drawing made by Joseph Goupy before 1750. Goupy made two impressive prints after the Salvator Rosa canvases in 1724.

  41. Cartwright, 1888–9, vol. 1, p. 134. The ‘Temple of the sun’ was drawn by Francis Towne in a watercolour (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven). The model of the Tomb of the Horatii is visible in the background of the small full-length portrait of Sir William Morice by Thomas Jenkins (Royal Albert Museum, Exeter).

  42. Rictor Norton, ed., ‘He Heard the Word “Buggerer”, 1759’, Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 15 April 2015, (accessed 1 March 2018). For Ashburnham’s acquisition of the Morice collection, see John Ingamells and John Edgcumbe, The Letters of Joshua Reynolds, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2000, p. 160.

  43. Basset’s first buying trip to Italy proved unsuccessful as the contents of the merchant ship transporting his purchases back to Britain was captured and the contents sold in Spain: Maria Dolores Sáncgez-Jáuregui and Scott Wilcox, eds, The English Prize: The Capture of the Westmorland, an Episode of the Grand Tour, exh. cat., New Haven: Yale Center for British Art, 2012. For the Rembrandt see Ernst van de Wetering and Carin van Nes, A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings: Rembrandt’s Paintings Revisited – A Complete Survey, 6 vols, Dordrecht: Springer, 2015, vol. 6, pp. 172 and 529, no. 102.

  44. Sarah Markham, John Loveday of Caversham 1711–1789: The Life and Tours of an Eighteenth-Century Onlooker, Salisbury: Michael Russell, 1984, p. 532.

  45. Oliver Millar, Tudor, Stuart and Early Georgian Pictures in the Collection of her Majesty the Queen, Oxford: Phaidon Press, 1963, cat. 297, p. 133.

  46. Ibid., cat. 536, p. 178.

  47. George Lipscomb, A Journey into Cornwall, through the Counties of Southampton, Wilts, Dorset, Somerset & Devon: Interspersed with Remarks, Moral, Historical, Literary and Political, Warwick: H. Sharpe, 1799, p. 240. The painting was acquired from Boconnoc by Plymouth Art Gallery in 1973.

  48. Kimerly Rorschach, ‘Frederick, Prince of Wales (1707–1751) as Collector and Patron’, The Walpole Society, vol. 55, 1989, p. 10.

  49. Richard Eliot of Port Eliot also voted with the opposition and proudly displayed a pair of portraits of Prince Frederick and Princess Augusta at Port Eliot: Lipscomb, 1799, p. 286.

  50. Ibid., pp. 286–7.

  51. Ibid., p. 241. The three portraits of the Mohuns survive in a private collection.



by Jonny Yarker
20 November 2020
House Essay
CC BY-NC International 4.0
Cite as
Jonny Yarker, "Trewithen and its Cornish Context in the Early Eighteenth Century", Art and the Country House,