Richard Quiller Couch

Front view of house in Chapel Street Penzance
The house in Chapel Street, Penzance where Richard Quiller Couch lived

Richard Quiller Couch was Q’s uncle. He was the eldest son of Jonathan Couch. Like his father and brothers, he studied medicine at Guy’s Hospital in London. He spent three years in London and then moved back to Cornwall, living first in Polperro and then in Penzance.  In addition to his work as a doctor and his investigation of occupational diseases, he gained national recognition as a naturalist.

Some basic biographical information is given below. For a full discussion of his life, see the study ‘The Life and Writings of Richard Quiller Couch.’ 


1816, 4 March: Born Polperro, eldest son of Jonathan and Jane Couch.

1836–1839: Training at Guy’s Hospital, London.

1841: Wins silver medal for ophthalmic surgery.
Surgeon apothecary, Lansallos Street, Polperro (census).
First of 5 contributions to the Reports of the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society.

1842: First of 6 contributions to the Reports of the Royal Institution of Cornwall.

1843: Moves to Penzance according to Thomas Q. Couch. 

First of 13 contributions to the Transactions of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall. 

First of 11 contributions to Newman’s Zoologist.

1844: Publishes A Cornish Fauna, R.I.C. companion to the collection in the Museum, Truro.

1845, August: Establishes a medical practice at 10 Chapel Street, Penzance, according to the Dictionary of National Biography and Bertha Couch.
12 September: Elected as secretary and curator of the Natural History and Antiquarian Society of Penzance and addresses the General Meeting.
First and only contribution to Annual Natural History.

First of 30 contributions to the journals of the Natural History and Antiquarian Society of Penzance.     

1846: Penzance Corporation establishes a Public Health Committee 

Elected to committee of Penzance Library, established 1818.

1847: Richard Q. Couch of Chapel Street, one of nine surgeons in Penzance.

1848: First and only contribution to the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of  London.

1849: G.T. Clark’s Report on the Sanitary Conditions of Penzance published.

September: Penzance Corporation constitutes a Local Board of Health.

1851: Lodging with Miss Ellen Catherine Swain (Elizabeth elsewhere), Post Mistress. She later moved to 50 Chapel Street (1872).

1853, 25 June: Marries Lydia Penneck Pearce, eldest daughter of Richard Pearce, J.P., of Chapel Street, Penzance.

1854: Birth of Maria J. Couch.

1856: Birth of Sarah L. Couch.

1857: First and only contribution to the Reports of the British Association.

First and only contribution to the Natural History Review.

6 September: Death of Jane Couch of Polperro, mother.

1858: Birth of Richard Pearce Couch.

23 October: Jonathan Couch, father, marries Sarah Roose.

1860: Birth of Margaret T. Couch.

1847-61: A Statistical Investigation into the Morality of Miners. A Report of the Miners’
Association of Cornwall and Devon by R.Q. Couch.

Translated into French and given as a report by the French Institution.

1860-1: Health seriously impaired through an unguarded nail-spring inoculating him with poisonous matter from a tumour. Nursed for some weeks by father.

1861: (Census) Surgeon in General Practice. Living at 37 Chapel Street, Penzance.

Devon and Cornwall Directory for 1862 gives:
Surgeon of 22a Chapel Street. Penzance Public Dispensary, Richard Pearce, secretary, A. Berryman & R.Q. Couch, consulting surgeons. Open Tuesday & Friday. Founded 1809 & located in upper storey, the lower being the office of Richard Pearce, between the Wesleyan Chapel and Vounder Veor Lane. 1848-1873, run by George and Ann Wright.

1863, April: Attends committee meeting of Penzance Library.

1863, 8-9 May: Richard dies a few minutes after midnight.

15 May: Buried in the cemetery at Penzance.

1871: (Census) Lydia Couch, with three daughters and son, at 23 Chapel Street.


Professional and other positions held

  • Surgeon for the Western Battalion of the Duke of Cornwall’s Rifle Volunteers
  • Surgeon for the West Cornwall Railway Company
  • Cornwall Assize, subpoened for professional opinion
  • Corporation of Penzance, member
  • Royal Geological Society of Cornwall, secretary and curator
  • Penzance Literary Institute, president
  • Penzance Natural History and Antiquarian Society, member
  • Penzance Library (now known as Morrab Library), committee member



14th Mar 1816
9th May 1863