Thomas Bond and The Mayor of Troy

 Introduction

Thomas Bond, having been resurrected from the short story ‘The Looe Die-hards’ is a secondary character in The Mayor of Troy. He appears as the historian Thomas Bond in Chapter I, but as AEneas Pond, Captain of the East and West Looe Voluntary Artillery, a company to which Jonathan Couch belonged, in Chapters IV to VII.

The real Thomas Bond was born in 1765, during the reign of George III, when the American colonists were still governed from London and the French had been expelled from Canada, as Q describes in Fort Amity. In Lady Good-For-Nothing (1910), Captain Oliver Vyell of Cornwall is His Majesty’s Collector of Customs at Boston, with his widow in 1775 having to flee back across the Atlantic to escape the ‘Revolution’ (Lady Good-For-Nothing,  Epilogue), one of the leaders of which was Richard Montgomery of Fort Amity (Fort Amity Chapter XXVII and Epilogues I and II).

When Bond was young the harbour at Looe was full of trading, privateering and smuggling craft, with share-based companies, run by wealthy and influential individuals, financing the operations. From the proceeds they were, no doubt, able to bribe the electors at Parliamentary and Mayoral elections. Looe sent four members to Parliament, two for East and two for West Looe. Cornwall sent 44 members in total, with most boroughs under the ‘patronage of some wealthy family’, as William Courtney (1889) describes in The Parliamentary Representation of Cornwall to 1832. The Quillers of Polperro ran a largely family-based smuggling and privateering operation with Looe and Fowey as their principal ports. Bond would have known this family well.

When Bond was 24 the Bastille in Paris fell and Jonathan Couch was born. Two years later, with the commencement of the ‘Terror’, Captain Harry Carter, from the family with which Mr. Pennefather came into conflict (Mayor of Troy, Chapter VI), was imprisoned in Brittany. Ten years later Bond might well have seen, with considerable apprehension, the Dragoons from Plymouth riding over the Looe bridge for Polperro as a result of the ‘Lottery Incident’, as described by Q in ‘The Haunted Dragoon’. Four years later, in 1803, Bond was Captain of artillery, with Jonathan Couch as eventually one of his lieutenants.

When Thomas Bond was an elderly man the town changed completely. No longer were the smuggling and privateering craft moored at the quays. The quays were now stacked with imported coal and timber for inland mines, while mineral ore, transported from Moorswater along the Looe canal, was piled high for export. The political influence of the great landed families had been curtailed by the Reform Act of 1832, with Looe losing all its Parliamentary representation. And the Anglican hegemony was receding before the advance of Methodism, with Jonathan Couch of Polperro one of its leading figures. By the time of his death Bond had become an anachronism, although a wealthy one. As Bond’s star fell, that of Jonathan Couch rose.

There is no biography of Thomas Bond. That he features in the Dictionary of National Biography is remarkable. From a number of sources it is possible to construct a short life. In part, this is because he was an associate of Davies Giddy (later Gilbert) who was an MP and President of the Royal Society and quite possibly a relative of Bond. Giddy and Bond appear to have had something in common. Q’s Mayor of Troy and ‘The Looe Die-hards’ almost certainly provide further evidence as his father and grandfather knew the man. Whatever the fictional elements of the story, Q is using family sources to construct the character of Bond. Thomas Quiller Couch, Q’s father, was born at Polperro in 1826 and became the second surviving son of Jonathan Couch. When Bond died in 1838 Thomas was 12 years old and might have attended the funeral at St. Martins with his father. Q was born in Bodmin in 1863, 25 years after Bond’s death, but with the memory of Bond very much alive in the area. This memory was not totally dead as late as the 1960s, as this present writer recalls. Q’s stories almost certainly provide an authentic snap-shot of the man in his pomp.

At his death Thomas Bond left a memoranda giving a few autobiographical details from which A.L. Browne (1904) quotes in Chapter XVIII of Corporation Chronicles. Bond’s father, also called Thomas, was born in 1735, 77 years after the death of Thomas Cromwell (1599-1658), but with the bitter memories of the Civil War still remaining. The Cornish tin-streamers were transforming themselves into miners and the Cornish language was still spoken in the west. He was ‘bound’ apprentice to Mr. James Tucket, Merchant and Grocer, of East Looe, and did sufficiently well to become a member of the Corporations of East and West Looe. Both he and his wife died in 1773, he being 38 years old.

Thomas Bond was born in 1765, with a Mrs. Giddy as his godmother, and was left an orphan eight years later. He appears to have been legally or otherwise adopted by the Giddy family of St. Erth in Penwith, where Edward Giddy was a curate and a speculator of tin, although more successful in the latter than the former. Edward’s son was Davies Giddy, later Gilbert, who became an MP and the President of the Royal Society. Thomas Bond was boarded at Mr. Saltren’s school in Liskeard, but presumably spent his holidays with the Giddy family in St. Erth, forming a lifelong friendship with Davies Giddy.

Thomas Bond was possibly with Davies Giddy at Perranuthnoe in 1779 when a Franco-Spanish fleet passed unmolested up the channel and anchored for three days at Plymouth Sound. The fleet was visible from Mounts Bay and again rounding Rame Head. This is the incident described by Israel Spettigew in The Mayor of Troy and at greater length in ‘The Looe Die-hards’.

In 1785, Davies Giddy was at Oxford, while Thomas Bond was apprenticed to an attorney at Looe. According to an obituary notice in the Gentleman’s Magazine, Bond was ‘nominally in the profession of the law, but he never sought practice, and lived on his own private fortune…’, although where this fortune came from is a mystery. It could scarcely have come from his father and certainly did not come from Edward Giddy. If The Mayor of Troy is to be believed, it came in part from dealing with the likes of M. Cesar Dupin of Guernsey.

Both the smuggling and the privateering companies required the sort of legal advice available through the likes of Thomas Bond. Keast (1950) informs us that with the threat of invasion in 1779, John Quiller of Polperro, Q’s great-grandfather, was able to obtain a ‘Letter of Marque’ from the government for his first brace of privateers, the Swallow and the Alert (SF. 7, 90). The Swallow had such a profitable career in the hands of John Quiller that J.R. Johns (1997) devotes a chapter of The Smugglers Banker to describe its activities. Profits were substantial, which was just as well as a refit in 1781 cost Quiller and his fellow venturers £1,500. In 1783, the Swallow was impounded by the customs, and a long legal battle ensued. Whether Bond was consulted is unknown, but the attorney to whom he was apprenticed in 1781 might well have been.

In 1789, Thomas Bond was appointed Town Clerk of West Looe and in 1790, through the influence of the Revd. W. Buller, was appointed to the same position in East Looe. Both were salaried. When the voluntary companies were formed in 1803, Bond was the obvious candidate to lead the one at Looe; although without military experience, which possibly accounts for the poor sitting of the guns on East Cliff, as alluded to in The Mayor of Troy and ‘The Looe Die-hards’. Bond captained the company for the six years of its existence, with every degree of acceptance by the men, if Q’s writings are to be believed. These present him as quietly spoken, authoritative and capable. As Browne (1904) indicates, Bond was the ‘most influential person in both boroughs’, that is outside the family of Buller.

Having gained his initial appointment at East Looe through the influence of the Buller family, Bond appears to have been at their disposal. The Bullers of Morval and Shillingham were Puritans and Parliamentarians at the time of the Civil War, standing in opposition to the Bevils of Killigarth and the Grenvilles of Stow, especially Sir Bevil Grenville, one of the heroes of The Splendid Spur. Sir Reginald Mohun of Boconoc, Recorder of East Looe in 1620, was another Royalist leader, although according to Q with divided loyalties. The ‘Squire Buller’ who addressed Israel Spettigew in 1778 was either James Buller, Mayor of East Looe in 1752 (and before that one of its MPs), or his brother John Buller, who was both Mayor and MP, and an ancestor of General Sir Redvers Buller, who commanded forces in the Boer War, a conflict that Q actively opposed. The Revd. William Buller was twice Mayor and in 1786 the Recorder. Sir Edward Buller of Trenant, who held similar positions in East Looe, captained HMS Malta in the English fleet of Sir Robert Calder, which eventually engaged the combined French and Spanish fleet in 1779.

Parliamentary Representation and Political Reform

As town clerk of East and West Looe Thomas Bond was at the centre of the town’s establishment, using his influence to protect its interests. Local landowners used Looe as the port for the export of wheat. The wheat fields of Farmer Tresidder of Talland feature in the short story ‘The Haunted Dragoon’. In 1793 there was a famine in Cornwall and Thomas Bond placed a canon on the main road to halt the advance of a party of starving St. Austell miners. Davies Giddy was visiting Bond at the time.

In Corporation Chronicles, A.L. Browne recognises Bond’s influence but qualifies it with the following statement: ‘…for political purposes, he was ranged with a party who successfully excluded the inhabitants generally from their proper share in the municipal life of the town’ (1904, p. 182). Although Browne claims to be uninformed as to the reasons, William Prideaux Courtney’s The Parliamentary Representation of Cornwall to 1832 throws light on this. It needs to be appreciated that what Courtney speaks of, Jonathan Couch lived through, and took part in.

In W.T. Lawrence’s Parliamentary Representation of Cornwall (pp. 81-3), the writer informs us of Cornwall, in 1830, falling under the influence of ‘extreme reforming agitators’, resulting in the more moderate ‘Reformers’ sending a written demand to the ‘High Sheriff’ to convene a meeting in furtherance of ‘Constitutional Reform’. The meeting was held at Lostwithiel in October 1831. It is far from impossible that Dr. Jonathan Couch, Thomas Bond and the Bullers attended. The distance by road from Looe to Lostwithiel was twelve miles in 1831, fewer from Polperro. Lord Valletort spoke against. Sir William Molesworth and Sir William Lemon spoke for, and carried the meeting. In a submission from the meeting to the King, it was claimed that the country had been ‘defrauded of the bill by a corrupt and factious oligarchy’ – Lord John Russell’s Reform Bill of March 1831 – but hoped for a similar measure to ‘promote peace, liberty and happiness of all orders and classes of society’. The Reformers were cognisant of the effect reform would have on boroughs such as East and West Looe and on the oligarchies that controlled them. These oligarchies Thomas Bond and Davies Giddy wanted retained, but Jonathan Couch wanted deprived of influence.

In his introductory chapter, Courtney (1889) states that prior to the Reform Act of 1832 Cornwall sent 42 borough members and two county members to each parliament, with the boroughs invariably ‘fettered by the patronage of some wealthy family’ and often bought with monies deriving from the ‘East India companies’. ‘…As spokesman of Warren Hastings, the pertinacious Major Scott sat for West Looe’ – presumably John Scott from 1784 to 1790 (Bond, 1823, Appendix). Bribery in the 42 boroughs was possible because in 1783, for instance, the total electorate was only 1050, approximately 26 voters per seat. Most candidates were placemen with no local connection.

A group of Cornish politicians met at Truro in 1783 to petition for a suppression of ‘bribery’ and ‘disfranchisement of corrupt boroughs’. Courtney suggests that by the time of the Napoleonic War, borough seats were going for £4,000 to £5,000, with the price subsequently dropping to a ‘thousand pounds’. Courtney shows that by the 1820s the situation in Cornwall was an open scandal. In 1823 a Mr. Creevey, speaking in the House of Commons stated that ‘peers’ travelled to Cornwall to ‘purchase’ electors and ‘take possession of boroughs’, making pointed reference to the ‘member for Bodmin’, Davies Giddy or Gilbert, and implicating the ‘notorious Marquess of Hertford’. This led in 1831 to a petition signed by ‘ten thousand Cornishmen’, one of whom would almost certainly have been Dr. Jonathan Couch of Polperro, and almost certainly not have been Thomas Bond of Looe.

In parallel with this a reform bill was placed before the House, supported by Charles Buller and Mr. Hawkens, members for West Looe and Mitchell respectively. Both men were ‘dismissed by their relatives from their seats’. Davies Giddy or Gilbert voted against and retained his seat in Bodmin.

Courtney’s introductory chapter then leads into an investigation of each borough. The boroughs of East Looe and West Looe sent two members each to parliament. The rights of election were vested in the mayor, the aldermen, of whom Thomas Bond was one, and the freemen of each borough, with most voters as non-residents. From 1741 the Buller family appear to have constituted the main influence in East Looe, with themselves or their placemen as MPs, mayors, aldermen and recorders. Ralph Daniell, with the support of the Bullers, was elected in 1805, 1806 and 1812, with each election costing about £5,000 (1889, p. 141). From 1802 to 1832 there were about 21 electors in East Looe, all but two non-residents. West Looe could have been little different.

In Bodmin, Davies Gilbert retained his seat, according to Courtney, ‘thanks mainly to the support of Lord de Dunstanville’ from 1806 to1832, although his lordship ‘left management to Davies Gilbert’ (1889, pp. 244–245). Gilbert, however, was not totally supine and did express views of the situation in Cornwall. Yet when the Reform Bill of 1832 was being discussed in the House he endeavoured, in the face of derision, to retain one MP for Looe, no doubt with the support of Thomas Bond and the Bullers.

While Giddy or Gilbert was building a reputation as a politician and a scientist, becoming a President of the Royal Society in place of Sir Humphry Davy in 1826, Bond was consolidating his position in Looe. In addition to being town clerk of East and West Looe and the captain, from 1803 to 1809, of the Voluntary Artillery, he was alderman and in 1789, 1794, 1798 and 1805 Mayor of East Looe. During this time the relationship between Giddy and Bond prospered, as is described by A.C. Todd in Beyond the Blaze. A Biography of Davies Gilbert (1967). Todd informs us that Giddy was in Looe, staying with Bond, in January 1793 and again in 1798, when he was made a freeman of East Looe, with the electors being bribed with a good meal (1967, pp. 37-39). In 1805, at the time Jonathan Couch was a pupil of John Rice, a medical practitioner of East Looe, possibly Bond’s doctor, Gilbert was in Looe for the ‘placing of Mr. Bond in the chair as Chief Magistrate’ (ibid., 141), a very useful position in those smuggling and privateering days. When Giddy married Anne Gilbert in 1808, changing his name in consequence, £10,000 of the marriage settlement came from him and £12,000 came from his wife, with Thomas Bond as one of the trustees (ibid. pp. 51 and 196).

Although as Browne (1904) states, Bond belonged to a dominant party in Looe, opposition did exist, and opposition of growing strength. Browne gives evidence of this in Chapter XVI, ‘A Parliamentary Election’. In 1796, John Buller and William Graves were elected Members of Parliament for East Looe, but had to face a petition by 14 Inhabitants, Householders and Free Burgesses, one being a certain Richard Couch. The petition failed but as the Napoleonic War came to a close opposition started to harden. In his printed lecture on Shelley, found in Studies in Literature of 1922, Q draws attention to the call for greater democracy which followed the ending of the war, the part played in this by the Romantic poets, and the repressive attitude of the government.

In relation to this, Browne (1904) provides an account of ‘The East Looe Mayoral Election in 1823’ (Chapter XXVII). The town was divided into a pro-Buller faction, which included Thomas Bond, and an anti-Buller faction led by ‘Mr. Keast’, the Mayor: presumably John Keast, who had also been mayor in 1813 and 1818. That Bond failed to become mayor after 1805 possibly reveals a decline in popularity in favour of individuals such as Keast. At the election in 1823, there were presentiments against Sir Edward Buller and Thomas Bond for irregularities. Behind the anti-Buller faction was a Mr R. Stephenson who was ‘nursing the boroughs for political purposes’, and who arranged a ball attended by ‘300 well dressed inhabitants’. Bond’s decline in political influence appears to have stemmed from the irregularities brought to light by the moral courage of the ‘Jury of the East Looe Court Leet, in September, 1823’. Shortly after this Bond resigned as Town Clerk. The whole business came to a head in the disputed parliamentary election of 1827, where a ‘petition against the successful candidates’ led to an inquiry before a committee of the House of Commons. This went against the ‘ordinary householders’ but the die of change had been cast and the days of the oligarchies and of Thomas Bond were drawing to a close.

At the conclusion of his biographical sketch, A.L. Rowse (1988) states that Davies Gilbert was a cousin of Thomas Bond, with his father as Bond’s ‘Guardian’. On Bond’s death in December 1837, Davies Gilbert sailed to Looe and slept in Bond’s house, now his own. The funeral took place in St. Martin’s church on Saturday, December 23, 1837. In the following September Davies Gilbert was made an Alderman in ‘Mr. Bond’s place’, having already been a Freeman for forty years. Todd informs us that Bond left Gilbert £25,000 (1967, p. 274), a tidy sum today but a vast one in 1837.

How Bond came by such a fortune is unclear but it cannot be accounted for by his salary as town clerk. The Mayor of Troy leads us to suspect other dealings, with the likes of M. Cesar Dupin. In this respect it is interesting that when Davies Giddy was showing Josiah Wedgwood around the far west in 1797-8, one visit was to John Carter of Prussia Cove, then at the height of his smuggling and privateering enterprises (Todd, 1967, p. 115). It is possible that something came to him from his mother’s side, the Chubbs. In John Rowe’s Cornwall in the Age of the Industrial Revolution, Thomas Bond is referred to as a ‘landowner and writer’ (Index), who held land at St. Pinnock (1993, p. 230) and was a writer of the ‘Romantic revival’ (ibid., p. 304).

In the final section of Beyond the Blaze, Todd informs us that except for an adherence to ‘Reason’ and political stability, Giddy’s or Gilbert’s personal beliefs remain a ‘mystery’. Although a formal Anglican he seems to have looked more to classical than to biblical thought. Giddy tinkered with political radicalism in his youth but quickly became a moderate Tory, who supported the Reform Bill of 1832 only at its final reading. His ultimate reflection on the bill was that it released deleterious ideas such as ‘equality’, ‘democracy’ and ‘popular education’ – all three of which Q firmly believed in. At a deeper level Gilbert believed in ‘an ordered universe’ reflecting a divine order, as had Sir Humphry Davy, whom he succeeded as President of the Royal Society, and in an ‘ordered human society’. Q thought likewise but considered equality, democracy and education as the best means to that end, not political repression, the rule of oligarchies and military force, as he forcefully argues in his lectures on the Romantic poets.

It appears reasonable to assume that Thomas Bond stood in the tradition of Davies Gilbert, while Q developed his thinking from foundations laid by Jonathan Couch. Jonathan Couch almost certainly liked Thomas Bond as a person, as Q’s stories suggest, but disagreed with him and Davies Gilbert on political and religious matters. It is noticeable that while Sir Harry Trelawney supported young Jonathan in his education and training, Thomas Bond and Davies Giddy, scientist that he was, did not, at least in any obvious sense. Nor did Davies Gilbert, as he became after 1808, assist (Sir) William Pengelly in his scientific development, although Jonathan Couch did; and William Pengelly was of a Looe family, being born there in 1812.

Academic historians have presented the movement for reform following the end of the Napoleonic War as something fought out in the House of Commons to the battle noise of urban, particularly London, radicalism. In fact, the forces of conservatism felt perfectly secure in their rural bastions, with Cornwall having 44 Members of Parliament and Looe four. It was when the bastions started to crumble, thanks to the courage of men such as Richard Couch, John Keast, the members of Looe Court Leet, Charles Buller and Jonathan Couch, that the conservatives saw the line beginning to fail and retreat necessary. This is what moderate Tory Davies Gilbert and a number of other Cornish members realised, making the passing of the Reform Act, rather than repression through the military, the eventual outcome.

Q did not inherit his radicalism from showmen like Thomas Paine or theoreticians like Karl Marx, but from those who had bravely confronted power and privilege in the home parishes of the Couch family. We learn from The Life of Samuel Drew by Jacob Drew that political debate was rife in Cornwall at the time of the American declaration of independence, with many taking the side of the colonists. This was true of Methodists in spite of John Wesley’s tracts against. With the coming of the French Revolution in 1789, debate was rekindled almost to the exclusion of everything else (Drew, 1834, p. 102).

Samuel Drew joined the Methodist society in 1785 through the preaching of Dr. Adam Clarke, someone who later influenced Jonathan Couch. As with Jonathan Couch and later Q, Drew was strongly influenced by empiricism, in Drew’s case through the reading of John Locke’s An Essay concerning Human Understanding of 1690. Locke concluded that knowledge could only be gained from sense-experience, which in itself was limited and had to be reinforced by faith (see The Oxford English Reference Dictionary). Having imbibed empiricism and political liberalism from Locke, Drew went on to read Voltaire, Rousseau, Edward Gibbon, MP for Liskeard, and Hume, in addition to Paine’s Age of Reason, apparently obtained from a bookseller in Truro (Drew, 1834, pp. 118-123).

That such literature was readily available and being read by the likes of Samuel Drew and Jonathan Couch, and with Modernism making the working population increasingly literate, shock waves must have reverberated through Davies Gilbert, Thomas Bond, the Bullers and the placemen in borough constituencies, one of whom was Edward Gibbon. Equally worrying was Cornwall’s maritime position, exposing it to ideas from America and the continent. It is noticeable that when an armed force of mainly working men formed in Looe, the Voluntary Artillery, in November 1803, its commander was Thomas Bond; its first lieutenant was ‘James Nicholas, Gent.’, mayor of East Looe in 1770, 1781, 1787, 1791 and deputy mayor to John Buller in 1772 and to the Rev. William Buller in 1774; and its second lieutenant was ‘Nathanial Hearle, Gent.’, mayor of West Looe in 1782, 1785, 1788, 1790, 1792, 1795, 1798, 1800 and 1803, with his son, ‘Nathanial Hearle, Gent.’ as ensign. The Establishment were firmly in control. When Jonathan Couch was eventually made lieutenant, it was probably to lock him into the governing class. The corrupt practices enacted in Cornish borough constituencies were not corruption for its own sake, but for the sake of warding off the rising tide of radicalism, democracy, nonconformity and working-class literacy by the political-anglican Establishment. Hence Davies Gilbert’s animosity to ‘equality’, ‘democracy’ and ‘popular education’.

Cornish Methodism

The influence on Cornish Methodism from abroad was both immediate and long lasting. In 1791, two years after the opening of the French revolution, many in Cornwall were calling for the democratisation of Methodism. Dr. John Rowe in Cornwall in the Age of the Industrial Revolution states that the ‘first Jacobins in Cornwall were the Methodists of Redruth’ and that Methodism was ‘nursing and rearing a more democratic society’ (Rowe, 1993, pp. 67 and 261). In 1799, the Rev. Richard Polwhele of Manaccan was publishing attacks on Methodism in the ‘Anti-Jacobin Press’ (ibid., p. 261); which were answered by Samuel Drew of St. Austell. In 1814, the Rev. Charles Valentina Le Grice of Penzance was attacking the recent revival. In this reply, Richard Treffry, a Methodist minister from Cuby, ‘virtually admitted the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers’ (ibid., p. 261). William O’Bryan of Gunwen was expelled from Wesleyan Methodism in 1810, because he would not accept the authority of the Methodist Conference. He went on to found the Bible Christians and formed a lasting relationship with Jonathan Couch. In 1834-5 there was a major schism in Wesleyan Methodism over Church authority led in Cornwall by Thomas Pope Rosevear and Jonathan Couch, resulting in the establishment of independent denominations. It is interesting that by this time radicalism tended not to be centred in West Cornwall, where Wesley’s influence had been strongest, but in eastern Cornwall and western Devon, basically from Truro to Exeter – the heartland of the old Dumnonian kingdom. The cry of the schismatics echoed back to the American War of Independence, ‘No taxation without Representation’ (ibid., p. 261). The significance of this would not have been lost on Thomas Bond, Davies Giddy and the Bullers.

In 1832, Davies Gilbert realised that the game was up. Bond probably realised this in the period between the Court Leet of 1823, which appears to have ‘led to his registration of the Town Clerkship’ (Browne, 1904, p. 182), and the disputed election of 1827. At the time of Thomas Bond’s death, at the age of seventy-two, in December 1837, he was an anachronism. Yet Jacob Drew’s biography provides evidence of a new consensus forming out of old antagonisms following the Reform Act of 1832. This was partly the response to a new political reality and partly the response to what was happening on the left wing of Methodism. Samuel Drew is one of those credited with giving Methodism an intellectual basis in the post-Wesley period, especially important as the movement was progressively throwing off its traditional allegiance to the Anglican Church. In 1800, Drew wrote a reply to Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason and shortly afterwards a riposte to an anti-Methodist pamphlet by the Rev. Richard Polwhele – a character in Q’s short story ‘Frenchman’s Creek’. In 1819, he moved to Liverpool as the editor of the Imperial Magazine or Compendium of Religious, Moral and Philosophical Knowledge, thus facilitating the publication of Jonathan Couch’s earliest writings, and in 1821 from Liverpool to London.

Because of his intellectual stature the Anglican Church, specifically the Very Reverend Archdeacon of Cornwall, endeavoured to draw him into Anglicanism. Although Drew refused to leave Methodism, his attachment to the Church grew as Wesleyans increasingly withdrew from its liturgy and sacraments. Yet as Wesleyan Methodism formed itself into a separate Church, it began to adopt certain aspects of Anglicanism, such as a formal clergy using the title Reverend. This was not to everyone’s liking, including Jonathan Couch.

A biography was published in 1834, a year after Samuel Drew’s death and two years after the Reform Act. A list of subscribers, found at the conclusion of the work, shows something of the consensus previously alluded to, bringing together a number of Cornish based politicians and religious figures who at one time would have been antagonists. One subscriber is Thomas Bond of Looe. Those who did not subscribe are as interesting as those who did.

The list of subscribers must have been gathered in 1833, one year after the passing of the Reform Bill, and two years after the schism in Wesleyan Methodism associated with Jonathan Couch and Thomas Pope Rosevear. The list contains Whigs and Tories, Wesleyans and Anglicans, but no one from the great Cornish radical families or from the Anglican hierarchy. The arch-Conservatives, Sir Richard Rawlinson Vyvyan and the Earl of Falmouth, who stridently opposed the Reform Bill, are included, but not Charles Buller or anyone from the radical Molesworth and Robartes families, and no one identifiable as a Bible Christian. Although the list appears diverse, it has parameters.

In order given:

  • John Buller of Morval, Recorder of East Looe in 1802, Steward of West Looe in 1816, and elected as M.P. for West Looe in 1826. Sir Redvers Buller, commander of British forces in the Boer War, was a great nephew.
  • Dr. William Box of Looe
  • Thomas Bond of East Looe
  • Mrs. Dr. Adam Clarke
  • Dr. Jonathan Couch of Polperro
  • Rt. Hon. Lord de Dunstanville, Sir Francis Bassett (1757-1835), elected for Penryn 1780, 1784 & 1790. Penryn was so corrupt that a Penryn Bill came before the House of Lords in 1828 but was opposed by Dunstanville.
  • Rt. Hon. The Earl of Falmouth, Edward Boscawen (1787-1841), elected M.P. for Tregony in 1807, a staunch Tory.
  • Davies Gilbert F.R.S.
  • Sir Charles Lemon, M.A., F.R.S (1784-1868), elected M.P. for West Cornwall 1831 to 1857. A Whig and a supporter of the Reform Bill.
  • E.W. Wynne Pendarves, County M.P. for West Cornwall 1826-1852, a Whig and a reformer.
  • Rev. Richard Polwhele of Manaccan, former opponent of Drew.
  • William Rashleigh of Menabilly, County M.P. for East Cornwall 1841-5.
  • Thomas Pope Rosevear of Boscastle
  • George Smith of Camborne, manufacturer and writer of an early history of Wesleyan Methodism.
  • John Hearle Tremayne, Sheriff of Cornwall, County M.P. for East Cornwall 1806-1826, a Whig.
  • Sir William Lewis Salusbury Trelawney (1781-1856), 2nd son of the Rev. Sir Harry Trelawney of Trelawne, County M.P. for East Cornwall 1833-7.
  • Charles Thomas, captain of Dolcoath mine at Camborne, a Wesleyan Methodist. Forbear of the late Prof. Charles Thomas.
  • Sir Richard Rawlinson Vyvyan of Trelowarren, County M.P. for West Cornwall 1825-1831, but beaten into third place by Pendarves and Lemon in 1831. Returned for Okehampton to fight the Reform Bill. Subsequently returned as an arch-Conservative for Bristol and Helston.

What we seem to discover in the subscription list for Jacob Drew’s biography of his father is evidence of a Tory-Whig and moderate Anglican-Wesleyan consensus, whose purpose after 1832 was to bring political and social stability. This was probably the desire of Davies Gilbert, who after representing Bodmin since 1806, under the patronage of Lord De Dunstanville, was never to sit in the House of Commons again, and Thomas Bond, whose influence at Looe, under the patronage of the Bullers, was coming to an end.

This consensus was more in evidence in west than in east Cornwall. While the two County Members for West Cornwall in the Reformed Parliament of 1833 were E.W. Wynne Pendarves and Sir Charles Lemon, reforming Whigs, East Cornwall elected Sir W.L. Salusbury Trelawney, probably a reforming Whig, and Sir William Molesworth, a radical. Fellow radical Charles Buller, who had been forced out of West Looe in 1831, was returned for the borough of Liskeard, with one of the sitting members, Lord Eliot, not daring to stand against him. This ended the domination of the borough seat by the Eliots of Port Eliot which had run from the election of Edward Eliot in 1722 to Edward Lord Eliot in the unreformed parliament of 1832. In 1835, Charles Buller secured 114 votes against his rival’s 64. Molesworth and Buller worked closely together.

The solidifying consensus of 1833 was not only challenged from a radical Whig left wing, but also from a high-Tory and Tractarian right. The former were stronger in the east and the latter in the west. The challenge in the east was strengthened when a year after the biography of Drew was published Jonathan Couch, Thomas Pope Rosevear and others withdrew from Wesleyan Methodism, complaining at the growing authoritarianism of the Methodist Conference and the elevation of preachers into a clerical hierarchy. As a consequence, a separate independent body was formed under the leadership of Couch and Rosevear, which by 1851 had 93 chapels in Cornwall and seven in Devon. However, the Wesleyan Association was itself being outflanked by William O’Bryan and the Bible Christians. The sect had come into existence at Lake Farm in Shebbear, just to the east of the Torridge River in north-west Devon. Shebbear College was its Mecca for many years. The Thornes ran its printing works in Plymouth. In Cornwall in the Age of the Industrial Revolution, Dr. John Rowe regarded the Bible Christians as sustaining the ‘qualities of democratic equality and independence’, with O’Bryan rousing a ‘spirit of radical egalitarian democracy’ (VI(i), 261.29). One might almost say liberty, equality and fraternity. It also permitted a degree of sexual equality by having female evangelists. By 1851 the Bible Christians had 182 chapels in Cornwall and 142 chapels in Devon. Most of these existed between Truro and Exeter. Its challenge was where the Anglicans were strongest and the Wesleyans were weakest, and became weaker with the defection of the Wesleyan Association. And its greatest appeal was to the working class. Thus were the seeds of radicalism sown in the working class to either side of the River Tamar that was to have lasting political significance.

Willian O’Bryan was a long-time friend of Jonathan Couch. When the Wesleyan Association chapel was opened in Polperro, O’Bryan, having returned from a spell in America, preached the first sermon. It is a remarkable fact that having been a lieutenant under Thomas Bond and having had his medical training arranged by Sir Harry Trelawney, who ended his life as a Roman Catholic bishop in Italy, Jonathan Couch led the Wesleyans out of Anglicanism in 1814, and the independent Methodists out of Wesleyanism in 1835, all in a quest for democratic accountability and religious freedom. In Jonathan Couch, the ideals of the American War of Independence and the French Revolution found full flower. Freedom from authority determined his religious, political and scientific thinking. At the time of Jonathan Couch’s death in 1870, political radicalism and religious radicalism were coming together to help gain a Liberal government under Gladstone in 1868 and to build a foundation for the great Liberal victory in 1906. Q was centrally involved in the Liberal campaign in Cornwall, in addition to publishing The Mayor of Troy.

In Corporation Chronicles, A.L. Browne gives an account of the death of Thomas Bond, quite possibly attended by the Dr. William Box previously mentioned. C. Davies Gilbert of Trelissick, a grandson of C. Davies Gilbert, President of the Royal Society and ‘cousin’ of Thomas Bond, made available to Browne notes relating to Bond’s funeral, which Gilbert attended as friend, relation and residuary legatee. The notes state that Gilbert was ‘elected an Alderman in Mr. Bond’s place having been sworn a Freeman forty years before’ on September 3, 1838 (Chapter XVIII). Browne concludes with a poem written by Gilbert following a birthday evening spent with Thomas Bond on February 6, 1832. What we see is the same person, cordial, sociable and popular, who appears in The Mayor of Troy and ‘The Looe Die-hards’.

 

Bibliography: Thomas Bond and the Mayor of Troy