Four Cornishwomen: Portugal, Penzance & Scilly. Pt1: Elizabeth Hessell

This is the 120-year story of a line of four Cornishwomen: Elizabeth, Rosanna, Jane and Emma.

Emma was the bride of a distant cousin of mine, John Wright Rowe Jnr, and grew up on a small island in the Isles of Scilly, off the south west of Cornwall. When I had a look at her story I found that not only did her ancestors flit between Penzance and the isles of Scilly, but that she had exotic genes from her great-grandfather Bernardo Peyshott.

Bernardo Peyshott and Elizabeth Hessell


St Madron’s Church, by Grassrootsgroundswell on Flickr

Elizabeth was born around the time of the French Revolution, c1789 in the reign of King George III and as a teenager would have cheered Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar.

Bernardo was a Portuguese mariner from the city of Porto. Over the decades and generations there have been several spellings of Peyshott, and the most modern one I’ve come across is Peychot.

On 2 November 1811 he and Elizabeth stood together to marry in Madron Parish Church and over the next 12 years they had (at least) 3 daughters and a son in that parish: first of all Amelia who was baptised in February 1814; this was the year before Wellington defeated Napoleon at Waterloo.

Their second child Katharine was baptised in August 1819 and William Henry was born c 1819.  Soon after his birth King George III died and so Rosanna, born c 1822 and baptised in March 1823, grew up in the reign of George IV, the former Prince Regent, after he acceded in January 1820.  By the time oldest daughter Amelia married she had lived in the reigns of four monarchs: George III, George IV, William IV and Victoria.

Victoria, who had considerable German ancestry, married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha on 10 February 1840 in the Chapel Royal of St James’ Palace, London. Half-Portuguese Amelia Peyshott married shoemaker Michael Perryman of Penzance on 16 February 1840 in Madron Parish Church. He was a custom man’s son, and her brother William was a witness at their marriage.

William himself married Mary Richards in Madron Church and became a cordwainer [fine shoemaker]. Mary, a miner’s daughter, was recorded in 1861 as helping in the business. Before their  marriage in 1846 William had been witness both to his sister Amelia’s marriage, and at a further shoemaker’s wedding (probably a friend or workmate). Together William and Mary had four daughters and a son; their son, born in 1856, was named Bernardo Peychot after William’s father.

Grandson Bernardo Jnr, also based in Penzance, was a ship’s carpenter and later shipwright who also drove the tugboat the Merlin. In December 1891 towing the Torbay Lass, full of coal from Penzance, he and the owners were accused of stranding the Torbay Lass on the Cressar rocks between Penzance and neighbouring Marazion. She was floated but then sank in deep water, with wreckage such as canvas and spars washing up in Marazion. Trinity House invited bids for the wreckage (spars etc) of this and also from the Viceroy which had sank off Godrevy Lighthouse to be sold off; tenders were invited by 26 December 1891.  The case went to court in June 1892 with the court finding for the plaintiff.

Bernardo Jnr married Mary Bennetts; their eldest child Mary was the first baby to be baptised in the new font at Penzance St John’s Church, on 17 April 1885. They also had a daughter called Emily Jane the following year.

Elizabeth Peyshott died in 1836 and was buried in Madron Chapelry; I can’t find information about Bernardo’s death, which may even have been back in Portugal.

Thank you…
Thanks to Gwen Attridge of Cornwall Online Parish Clerks for her patient answers to my confused questions this week.

Text © Lynne Black, 3 March 2016
Image of Madron Chapelry from History of Penzance by P.A.S.Pool
Photo of St Madron’s Church, by Grassrootsgroundswell Flickr, Creative Commons license
First published:


6 thoughts on “Four Cornishwomen: Portugal, Penzance & Scilly. Pt1: Elizabeth Hessell

  1. Pingback: Four strong Cornishwomen: Portugal, Penzance & Scilly – pt 2 – Rosanna Peychott | starryblackness

  2. Pingback: March 2016: Celebrating Women’s History Month in New Hampshire | Cow Hampshire

  3. Pingback: Four Cornishwomen: Portugal, Penzance & Scilly pt 3 – Jane and Emma | starryblackness

  4. Michael Hocking-Gill

    Hi there, the only information that I can add on here about Bernardo Peychot is that he lived until at least 1837, as his extensive maritime record shows him as being the captain of a number of vessels until this year. He was in charge of many ships including The Emanuel, The Marquis of Wellington and The Triumpho. He seemed to be mostly in charge of The Plymouth Packer, a postal service doing the run from
    Penzance up to Plymouth on a regular basis.
    Alas, despite a thorough search of Portuguese Baptismal records I can’t find his birth records, and his date and place of death still remains a mystery!

      1. Michael Hocking-Gill

        Hi there no, it was actually from the British News Archives. It has been a treasure trove of information about many members of my family.

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