Part of the Acorn Archive

Hearts of Oak



J H Bennetts, Penzance, Cornwall

Shipping – Coal Merchants - Shipowner


 J H Bennetts

JH Bennetts, Colliery Agent, Ship Owners and Broker, Albert Street, Penzance.

Besides having been a town Councillor for several years,

he was also a Guardian of the Poor for the Madron Union.

“He is a large importer of coal from Lancashire and other parts,

being sole agent for the well known Ellerbeck Collieries.

When Mr Bennetts commenced his business 14 years ago,

the whole of the coal was brought into Penzance by sailing vessels.

His two steamships, Ormerod and Vril 440 tons,

illustrates the new order of things,

under which contracts can be more advantageously made and more promptly carried out.




Edward Forward

My grandfather worked on the coal ships of J H Bennetts, and later (following injury received during WWI)

worked on Penzance Quay with a horse and cart, carrying the coals for J H Bennetts.

He also injured his foot, whilst pursuing a thief (he tripped over the edge of a pavement outside of St John’s Hall),

when he was a policeman for the Penzance Constabulary.

He served as a fireman, as many policemen did at that time. He started work at sea in 1898

(having left Salford – last address at George Street, following the death of his father at sea),

settled in Penzance in 1910, and remained a sailor until 1919.

At some time during his time in Penzance he was a fisherman, though I have not yet found any details.

He died in 1930, aged 48. My grandmother always blamed his illness and injury on The Admiralty,

something to do with Convoy work – a few convoys left Penzance for Brest.

The picture which was hanging over the fireplace showed a group of mechant vessels in convoy.

I have no particulars of the injury or the claims made by my grandmother.

She wrote interminably fighting for recompense.

It would be interesting to find out more about his activities during WWI,

as he was awarded some kind of accolade and received a presentation. He became an officer.

He sailed on other ships, I have no idea as to their names and

so I will not be able to find his service record for the Merchant Navy.

But certainly he worked on some of these ships owned by J H Bennetts of Penzance.

He served on sail and steam ships.

Edward’s brother Charles was killed in 1919 on the trawler THEBAN.

His nephew Charles (son of Charles Forward) was died as a result of injuries

when HMS LYNX was sunk by a mine.

Details elsewhere on this site.


72, Market Jew Street, Penzance


J H Bennetts have been around a long time in Penzance, I knew them in 72 Market Jew Street and the Coal depot in Coombe Lane, Treneere, Penzance. Coombe Lane ran from Treneere Manor to the main road at Chyandour. Coal trucks all the time could be seen anywhere around Penzance and district. 72 Market Jew Street was originally Penzance Café, then Rust Wholesale Fruit & Veg. Converted to J H Bennetts premises (architects Cowell, Drewitt & Wheatly), with offices over, the front being fitted with cream and black faience tiling, and bronze lettering. Eventually the firm closed, and the premises have returned to being a café and take-away.

The Coal Depot was also designed by Cowell, Drewitt & Wheatly.


Coombe Lane Coal Depot


James Henry Bennetts, in the 1881 census for Penzance, shows as a Mariner, aged 39, living at 36 Queen Street, with his wife Frances M Bennetts.

James Nicholls lived at 22 Queen Street with his wife Margaret Nicholls.


~~~~ The Ships ~~~~


SECRET           Period 1886-1892

ON 51314; Registered 14th December 1886

Nr 3 in 1886

Single deck, Two masted wooden schooner, square stern

Carvel built; figurehead full figure woman.

93.7 tons (including 15.86 crew space)

Sailing vessel; Built Malpas 25th October 1865; Registered Truro Nr 5 in 1865.

Built by Scoble of Malpas

81.6 ft x 21.7 ft x 10.5 ft

Owners James Nicholls [Master Mariner]

and James Henry Bennetts [Merchant] of Penzance.

64 Shares sold off to Francis Thomas – Master Mariner (St Ives) 20th February 1892.

Registry transferred to St Ives 20th February 1892.

Registered 24th February 1892; Nr 1 in 1892

Mortgaged to Lewis Thomas Gyles of St Ives  24th February 1892 in the sum of £90 at £5 percent per annum. Mortgage Discharged 29th January 1894. Francis Thomas died 17th March 1894 and the shares passed to Mary Thomas (widow) 7th May 1894.

Ship Standed at Troon; Broken up 12th February 1896

Registry Closed 21st February 1896


FENNA & WILLEMINA  Period 1890-1892

ON 85252; Registered 28th January 1882; Foreign built

Built Rotterdam, date unknown

86.2 ft x 22ft x 9.7 ft

Nr 3 in 1882

Signal Letters : NFPV

Ship was “purchased from a foreigner”

by Original Owners Frederick Charles Matthews (Shipbuilder)

and William Rule [Merchant] both of Camborne

122.5 tons (including 14.18 crew space and 6.14 break aft)

64 shares Sold to James Henry Bennetts [Merchant] 23rd September 1890; of 2 Trewartha Terrace, Penzance [ Managing Owner ]

Then 32 shares sold on to Edward Nicholls Master Mariner of Penzance; 5th November 1890.

Ship lost off the Smalls 21st February 1892; Registry cancelled.


ORMEROD                Period 1891-1912

1885  Launched as ORMEROD for Col. Sir J. H. Thursby, Baronet, Fleetwood.

1891  Sold to J. H. Bennetts, Penzance

ON 89704; Registered 29th April 1891

Nr 2 in 1891

Signal Letters : KHWL

Transferred from Fleetwood (Nr 4 in 1885)

Single deck, two mast schooner, elliptical stern, clinker built.

Iron Steam Screw ship.

171 ft x 25.1 ft x 11.6 ft.

484 brt; 273 nrt; 630 dwt

Registry : 425.74 tons

Built 1885 by Oswald Mordaunt & Co of Southampton (Yard Nr 222)

Owner James Henry Bennetts; Shipowner of Penzance.

Pair of Compound Surface Condensing Engines by Oswald Mordaunt 1885.

21 and 42 inch cylinders; 30 inch stroke; 70 nhp; 350 ihp

Shares were sold off (at £90 per share) by James Henry Bennetts [16]; to William Beckerleg [8] of Plymouth 25th September 1891; then on 4th November 1891 to  William Francis Rowe [8] of Penzance; William Edward Thomas Bolitho [8] and Richard Foster Bolitho [4] (Bolitho Bank); Richard Humphrys [4] of Bideford (Glamorgan Teacher);  Thomas Beckerleg [4] (Master Mariner) of Penzance; Barzillai Beckerleg [4] (Master Mariner) of Penzance; Thomas Richards Corin [4] (Butcher) of Penzance and Edward Christopher Corin [4] (Butcher) of Penzance.

The Corin’s shares were sold to the Bank in 1893; 1908 more shares were sold off

Registry Cancelled 14th November 1912.

1912  Sold to A/S Varulv (Valdemar Skogland & Johs. Østensjø), Haugesund.

Renamed VARULV [werewolf] (Signal Letters HMWQ)

1915  Sold to A/S Dysart (W. K. Frimann & H. Pedersen), Bergen

1915  Sold to A/S Varulv (Harald Henriksen), Kristiania

14th January 1916: Sunk at Nordsjøen, en route Brevik to Granton with a cargo of  props.

1 man lost.


CORNUBIA    [New Vessel]   Period 1893-1897

ON 96563; Registered 27th December 1893

Nr 5 in 1893

Signal Letters NKHW

Steel Steam Screw ship,

Single deck two mast ketch elliptical stern

Owner James Henry Bennetts [Shipowner] of 2 Trewartha Terrace, Penzance.

Mortgaged 56 shares to Bolitho Williams Foster Cooke Grylls Company Ltd., Bankers of Penzance, 17th February 1894.

Sold 8 shares to James Nicholls Master Mariner 15th December 1894.

Built 1893 by Anderem, Laverick & Co, St Peters, Newcastle.

125.6 ft x 24.15 ft x 8.7 ft

188.73 tons

Engine Room 26.4 ft

One compound surface condensing engine by Hedley & Sons, North Shields.

Two cylinders, 14 inch and 28 inch. 20 inch stroke 60 nhp; 230 ihp; 10 knots

Single steel boiler to 100lb pressure by North Eastern Marine Wallesend.

Registry closed 29th June 1897;

Vessels sold to Russia; Certificate of Registry given up through the

British Consul at St Petersburg, entry dated 7th July 1897.


VRIL                   Period 1897-1907

ON 87991; Registered 28th August 1897

Nr 1 in 1897

Transferred from Liverpool Nr 97 in 1884

Signal Letters PTKR

Two deck two mast schooner, elliptical stern, clinker built.

Iron Steam Screw ship.

Built 1884 McKnight & McCredie & Co of Ayr.

159.5 ft x 23.1 ft x 11.65 ft

302.72 tons

Engine space 31.7 ft

Two compound direct acting vertical inverted cylinders; Built 1884 by J & T Young, of Ayr; 20 inch and 40 inch cylinders; stroke 28 inch; 68 nhp.

Owner James Henry Bennetts, Shipowner.

31st August 1897, [8] shares bought by James Nicholls; another [8] by William Edward Thomas Bolitho, Banker of Penzance; 14th September 1897 [44] shares mortgaged with Bolitho Williams Foster Coode Grylls & Co Ltd of Penzance, in £2300 at 6 percent interest. Mortgage was transferred to Barclay & Co Bank 31st August 1905.

Mortgage discharged 14th June 1907.

Registry Cancelled 18th June 1907; Sold to Greek owners.


INDIA                Period 1899-1913

ON 67820

Registered 19th September 1899

Nr 4 in 1899

Transferred from Goole; Nr 4 in 1876

Single deck, two mast schooner, elliptical stern, Clinker built

Iron Steam Screw ship

Built 1876 by John Redhead & Co, South Shields, Co Durham

325.39 tons; Register Tonnage 186.04

160 ft x 23.8 ft x 12.55 ft

Owner James Henry Bennetts, Shipowner of Penzance

Shares sold 25th September 1899 to Richard Foster Bolitho[8], Eugene Chivers (Master Mariner) and Mary Chivers (wife) [8] of Tolver Road, Penzance, Richard Humphrys [4] Glamorgan teacher.

The Chivers’ shares were sold back again 10th September 1905 to James Henry Bennetts; Richard Humphrys shares passed on to Mary Chivers (widow) 10th April 1905. In 1912 shares were [52] JH Bennetts, [8] RF Bolitho and [4] Mary Chivers.

In 1910, she was involved in a collision with the MARY KATE, which resulted in the total loss of the MARY KATE and the loss of 19 lives. Details elsewhere on this site.

Registry closed 13th November 1913; sold to German subjects.

Certificate delivered up and cancelled 15th November 1913.


PIVOC   Period 1913-1919

ON 102467

Registered 8th December 1913

Name SIR EDWARD BACON; name changed to PIVOC 30th December 1913.

Nr 1 in 1913

Signal Letters RCGP

Transferred from Liverpool Nr 89 in 1912,

Previously registered at Whitehaven Nr 2 in 1899 as BIRKER FORCE


Single deck, three masts Fore and Aft schooner, elliptical stern

Three bulkheads, clinker built

Steel Steam Screw ship

Built 1899 by Irvine Shipbuilding Company, Irvine

320.17 tons; Register Tonnage 196.55

165 ft x 25.15 ft x 9.7 ft

Two Compound Surface Condensing direct action engines

Two cylinders 18 inch and 42 inch; 30 inch stroke

69 nhp; 550 ihp

Single Steel boiler at 140 lb pressure.

Engines and Boiler built 1899 by Hatson & Sons Ltd Glasgow.

Owner James Henry Bennetts of 17 Market Jew Street, Penzance - Colliery Agent and Shipowner.

64 shares Sold to Holman Coal & Shipping Company Ltd, Phoenix Buildings, Bate Docks, Cardiff, Glamorgan. 20th June 1919.

Mortgaged to Barclays Bank, London 20th June 1919;

Mortgage Discharged 17th August 1922.

Registry Closed 10th August 1922; Ship sunk in the River Seine (France) on the 22nd January 1922. After unsuccessful salvage operations the wreck was abandoned to the Authorities on 27th March 1922; Certificate delivered up and cancelled 14th August 1922.


MAUDIANNE            Period 1919-1922

ON 47152

Nr 4 in 1919

Registered 4th December 1919

Previous Registry as UGANDA Nr 3 in 1877 of Penzance.

Registered 16th March 1877

Owner John Williams [Shipowner] of Swansea, Glamorgan, Henry Williams [Merchant] of Truro and William Dusting [Master Mariner] of Penzance.

133.1 tons; Registered Tonnage 111.98 tons

Signal Letters VMKJ

Transferred from Truro Nr 6 in 1864

Sailing Ship

8th July 1878 William Dusting’s half of shares purchased by Rebecca Dusting.

Henry Williams died 8th August 1878, shares passed to Alice Williams 31st August 1878.

John Williams’ shares sold 8th October 1883 to Edward Starbuck Williams of Swansea.

Shares at 6th November 1883; William Dusting [24], Rebecca Dusting [24], Alice Williams [8] and Edward Starbuck Williams [8].

Upon the death of William Dusting, his shares passed to Helen Dusting 19th August 1897. Alice Williams sold her shares to William Dusting of Saltash 25th July 1879; On the death of Helen Dusting, her shares passed to William Dusting of Saltash 14th May 1901. Shares 26th June 1901 Rebecca Dusting [24] Edward Starbuck Williams [8] William Dusting [32].

Sold at Padstow by the Newquay (Cornwall) Mutual Marine Insurance Association Ltd, as a constructive total loss; Registry Closed 4th July 1912.

[I have yet to discover the details of the reason for the loss,

and details between 1912 and 1919]

Name changed to MAUDIANNE 21st November 1919.

Single and back deck, two mast schooner, square stern, carvel built

Figurehead Male figure

Oak built; two bulkheads

133.15 tons; Register Tonnage 92.65

Owner William Bennetts 72 Market Jew Street, Penzance Shipowner

Built 1864 by John Johnson, Bideford

92.5 ft x 21.1 ft x 11.5 ft

Re-Registered Nr 1 in 1920; Registered 12th February 1920

Signal Letters MJTC

133.10 tons; Register Tonnage 116.04

Length of Engine Room 9.8 ft

Single Internal Combustion Engine Heavy Oil Motor. Built 1919 by William Beardsmore & Co Ltd of Glasgow. Single shaft. Reciprocating Engines two cylinders 10.25 inches, 13 inch stroke. 16 nhp; 60 bhp; 5 knots.

Certificate Cancelled – Registered anew 12th February 1922, in consequence of material alterations.

Signal Letters KDFQ

Sold to The Falmouth Coaling Company (London) 8th August 1922.

Vessel converted into Breakwater January 1935 Registry Closed



Raymond Forward