Part of the Acorn Archive

Hearts of Oak



One of the great sons of Penzance was

Lord Exmouth - Edward Pellew


Letters to Earl Spencer,

First Lord of the Admiralty


Notes on the Family

His grandfather was George Pellew, great grandson of Humphrey Pellew, a Royalist, who had a house (plundered by Cromwellians) at Plymouth. George Pellew of Flushing, Mylor (near Falmouth, Cornwall) married Judith Sparnon and they had six children. The third was Samuel Pellew, born 1713; he became Commander of the Post Office Packet at Dover. He married in 1752 to Constance Langford (daughter of Edward and Catherine Langford of Paul, Cornwall; Catherine was daughter of John Nettle of Penzance); they had six children, also. When Samuel Pellew died in 1765, Constance Pellew moved back to Penzance, with her children. They lived at Hawkes Farm, Alverton; one of two thatched cottages that remain in Penzance to this day. The house was owned by her mother.


The six children could not avoid the naval connection.

1 Samuel Humphrey Pellew, born 1754, was Surgeon of Royal Marines, Assistant Surgeon HM Dockyard Plymouth. Collector of HM Customs Falmouth for 50 years.

3 Isaac Israel Pellew, born 1758, Went up through the ranks from 1771, to Captain in 1793, Rear Admiral 1810, Rear Admiral of Blue 1812, Rear Admiral of Red 1814; he commanded the CONQUEROR at the Battle of Trafalgar; Admiral 1830; Knighted 1815; Died 1832.

4 John Pellew; Ensign; killed in the Battle of Saratoga 1777.

5 Catherine Pellew, married Vice Admiral of Sweden Charles Louis, Count Jejerskjold;

she died on her way to Sweden.

6 Jane Pellew married Lieutenant Spriddle RN.



The second child was Edward Pellew. Born at Dover 19th April 1757.

Entered RN 1770; Lieutenant 1780; Captain 31st May 1782; In LA NYMPHE with 36 guns captured LA CLEOPATRA 40 guns 18 June 1793; Knighted at St James’ 28th July 1793; Saved the crew of the DUTTON East Indiaman at Plymouth 26th January 1796; Created Baronet 18th March 1796; Rear Admiral 23rd April 1804; Created Baron Exmouth of Cannonteign with a grant of £2,000 per annum at Whitehall 14th May 1814. G.C.B. 1815; Created Viscount Exmouth 21st September 1816 for services at the Battle of Algiers; Port Admiral Plymouth 1817-1821; Vice Admiral of the United Kingdom 15th Febraury 1832; Died 1833 Teignmouth.

He married Susannah Frowde of Wiltshire 28th May 1783.

Their children….

1 Emma Mary Pellew married Admiral Sir Lawrence William Halstead.

2 Pownoll Bastard Pellew was Captain RN 1806, and became MP for Launceston.

3 Julia Pellew married Captain Richard Harward.

4 Fleetwood Broughton Reynolds Pellew became Admiral;

he was Knighted at St James’ Palace 1836.

5 George Pellew became Dean of Norwich, another Cornish son to take that position.

Dr Humphrey Prideaux, Dean of Norwich; Full story of Dr Humphrey Prideaux here.

6 Edward Pellew became Vicar of Bury St Edmunds.




Whilst Sir Edward Pellew was in command of the frigate INDEFATIGABLE, on a cruising expedition with a squadron off the Isles of Scilly 1797-8, letters were exchanged.

He writes to Earl Spencer, First Lord of the Admiralty.


Scilly December 28 1797

My Lord,

Since my arrival here, I have been making every enquiry into the state of the Island, and how far the representation of your Lordships Correspondent Mr. Hall is correct in his statement, the result My Lord I have the honor to enclose for your perusal. Your Lordship will have much to encounter if you should be induced by any occasion to direct ships of the Line into this Port. The Ghost of Sir Clouesley Shovel will haunt the Admirals day and night, and realy my Lord the appearance of Scilly is rather terrific. I have seen four sail of the Line, 8 or 10 Frigates and above 300 sail of Ships here at once and certainly fifteen or 20 Ships of the Line may conviently lay here. If your Lordship has any idea of this place being pointed at by the Enemy, two rowing Gun Boats would be of very essential service indeed (I mean of the size of Flat Boats) to draw very little water; they would be more effectual in the protection of St. Maries than the Garrison can, and I hope your Lordship will order two to be sent over. I mean to sail in a day or two and on my return I suppose I shall meet the Vessels already ordered to join me.

I am my Lord with great Gratitude and Respect

Your Lordships Most devoted and most abliged Ed : Pellew.


He included the “Return of the Garrrison of Scilly Islands” dated

27th December 1797.

The Return being completed by

Henry Bowen, Major & Commander of the Royal Invalids

He notes “NB – The Captain of the Fencibles being hourly expected is returned Present. A reinforcement to compleat the Invalid Company to 100 R & F embarked at Chatham 31st October last in the RAVENSWORTH Transport.”

The Return includes a Staff Surgeon, a Master Gunner and six 2nd Gunners.

The “Royal Invalids” comprise a Field Officer, a Lieutenant, an Ensign, four Seargeants and two Drummers, together with 71 Rank and File Present for Duty and 6 in Hospital.

The “Scyly Fencibles” comprise a Captain, a Lieutenant, an Ensign, five Sergeants and two Drummers, together with 100 Rank and File Present for Duty.


Earl Spencer replies to Sir Ed : Pellew Bart:

Dear Sir,

I am very much obliged to you for your letter of the 28th Dec: and its enclosure, the subject of which shall immediately be put under the consideration of those of my Colleagues whose departments are connected with it.

I fear the season of the year will make it very difficult to remove the small Gunboats you mention, to your station, but we will endeavour

to concert such measures as may be found practicable.

I shall probably have occasion to write to you again soon & in the meanwhile

am Dear Sir, Your very faithful humble servant, Snd Spencer

Admiralty 6th January 1789



Off Scilly April 25th 1798

My Lord,

Upon my arrival here I found Capt O'Brien had arrived from Ireland and joined the CHILDERS and she is obliged to go to Falmouth for Provisions, the CAMBRIAN and CLEOPATRA I expect every day. I have received their Lordships directions for keeping a strict look out for the Enemy, which I should be extremely desirous of doing if from any fortunate information I should learn where to direct my attention, I trust whenever the Enemy are in motion your Lordship will do me the kindness to place us in a state of activity, as Scilly is not likely to be an object for a summer attack it is my earnest prayer to become one of the zealous instruments in repelling the attacks of our inveterate foe, and I shall in the hope of receiving your Lordship's Commands keep the post to Penzance as much open as possible by sending there every three or four days, considering the importance of the present crisis. I trust your lordships will approve of my doing so. I beg to congratulate your lordships on the capture of a ship of the Line the opening I trust to a successful Campaigne and to subscribe myself with the greatest Respect

Your Lordships Most grateful and most devoted humble Servant, Ed: Pellew.


Sir Edward Pellew later writes

regarding the mutinous state of the crew of the PRINCE.

Indefatigable Off Lands End April 30th 1798

My Lord,

The Relations of my brother's Wife, resided at Larne near Belfast, her sister writes word that she has seen several letters lately from men on board the PRINCE to their families in her neighbourhood, who from not being able to read bring their letters to her — the expressions contained in most of them I deem worthy your Lordship's Knowledge and are as Follows "They lament not being able to unite with their brethren on shore in the glorious cause of liberty, that on board a Man of War they dare not yet express their minds, but that they hope very shortly to be able to do so as they are gaining friends fast, that their prayers are constantly with the Party and that

they will join them whenever they can in the good work."

I need scarce mention to your lordship that certain death would follow the whole family if the least suspicion should be entertained of this breach of Confidence, and your lordships may think it necessary the officers of the PRINCE should be apprised of

the circumstance and this induces me send it.

I am my Lord, with all possible respect,

Your Lordships most Devoted and most Humble Servant Ed : Pellew


Then 22nd August 1798

Cawsand Bay

My Lord,

I had the honour of your lordships letter this moment, desiring to know of what discription the Convicts taken on board LA VAILLANTE are — the 25 Priests are only political Criminals most of whom have been confined a great while, the remainder were ordinary Criminals condemned to slavery for various offences, these have been disposed of by Capt Lane, the Priests continue still on board

the Corvette extremely anxious for their fate.

I have the honor to be my Lord with every sentiment of respectful gratitude,

Your Lordships Most obliged and most Devoted Hble Sert, Ed : Pellew




There is much available on this great man of Cornish descent,

so I will not dwell upon his career.


Edward Pellew used to rush down to the Quay, as a lad, in Penzance.

He would jump into any boat available, and was often collected by local sailors,

when he was out in the Bay, without an oar, or if he was in difficulties.

Sailors and fishermen alike took him under their wing

and gave him advice on seamanship …

 and boxing.

A great one for playing truant, he was often beaten back home (by elderly ladies),

where he found much support for his impish behaviour.

At 9 years of age, he took it in his head to follow a troop of soldiers,

marching all the way, from Penzance to Helston,

wound up with the “pomp and circumstance of glorious war".

His courage was second to none, when he discovered, as a youth,

that a burning house contained a store of gunpowder, he just dashed in and removed it.

It was at Truro Grammar School that Edward used his newly learned skill of boxing,

to the upset of his fellow pupils and the school.

Fearing a thrashing from the headmaster, he ran away and went to sea….


He was appointed the NYMPHE in 1793, upon the declaration of war with France.

The bulk of the crew were Cornish miners, 80 of whom joined at Spit-head.

On the evening of 19th July 1793, the NYMPHE came upon the French frigate CLEOPATRA, 40 guns, 320 crew.

The NYMPHE had 36 guns and a crew of less than 240.

After a 45 minute furious cannonade,

the Cornish crew had the proud pleasure of capturing the first frigate in the war.


In 1796, Sir Edward Pellew was on his way to a dinner party in Plymouth. He spotted the DUTTON stranded on the rocks off the Citadel, the seas were boiling and crashing all around. He just dived in and swam through the waves to reach the ship,

and saved 500 men.


The book of The Life of Admiral Viscount Exmouth
by Edward Osler
is available on line as part of
Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation
of free ebooks

Thanks to Steven Gibbs for that information.


Raymond Forward