Sunday, September 28, 2014

Falmouth Packet Captains

During our stay in Cornwall we took a trip to Falmouth.  This was a shipping port and still has many boats and docks and a Maritime Museum.  And seafood restaurants, of course.  A relative of our son-in-law became a packet captain in 1787 at the age of 22 which was considered quite young for such an honor.  His name was Edward Bayntun Yescombe and his ship was the King George.

Packets were boats used to carry the mail and dispatches from England to many parts of the world.  Remember there was a time when the sun never set on the British Empire, or so they say.  The captains were appointed by one of the Postmasters General and it was a very prestigious and lucrative post.  In addition to carrying the mail, they were able to take a few passengers and carry cargo.  The income from these ventures were paid to the captain and he covered all the expenses for the ship from this money and the money he made from delivering the "packet" of mail to various ports.   They were lightly armed in order to make quick runs and usually they tried to outrun any boarders rather than stand and fight.

The exploits of packet captains were read about in the newspapers and quick runs or exploits with pirates, privateers and the French Navy were big news.  They were wealthy and well known back in the day.  Similar, I guess, to the fictional Rhett Butler who used his ships to run the blockade of the Union during the Civil War.

During Captain Yescombe's time on a packet boat he was captured by the French, where he was given parole to lodge outside of the prison.  He maintained that he handed back his parole and then escaped.  I believe the French disputed this and he knew if recaptured he would not be well treated and gave up sailing for awhile.  Eventually, he returned to captain another packet boat and was indeed attacked by the French and later died of his wounds.

Coincidentally his home in Flushing is currently up for sale. 

St. Peter's Hill, Flushing, Cornwall, TR11 5TP
Guide Price £650,000

Ordinary, everyday people don't get a great marble plaque in a place of honor in a church!  Even if his middle named is misspelled in his own plaque!  So we will consider them extraordinary.

Trista's father-in-law had read about a few items bequeathed to the Ann Yescombe, daughter of Captain Yescombe,  from the wife of one of the owners of Pencarrow.  So we travelled to that home and took a tour.  It is still owned by the original family, the Molesworth-St Aubyns and used for their home, in addition to allowing tours and even the occasional movie or television show to be filmed there.  In one of the bedrooms on the tour we saw the portrait of the woman who Ann Yescombe cared for during her illness and subsequent death. And so one more link in the chain of history was added.

I think this means I know more about the Yescombe family history than my own.  But I do know that the Yescombe line goes back to the Earl of Rochester.  And my mother's line goes back to the Earl of Montague.  At one point a daughter of the Earl of Rochester married a son of the Earl of Montague making us related somehow. 

Is this proof of the six degree of separation thing? I don't know, but it was a fun part of our Cornwall adventure and I'm glad we went.


  1. So interesting! I enjoyed reading this.

  2. I always end up learning more about someplace we visit than knowing about things closer at hand. Maybe it's because my focus is better when on the road.