On this Day 22nd April 1722

William Borlase Becomes Rector of Ludgvan

On 22 April 1722 William Borlase, aged 26, became rector of Ludgvan and so secured, courtesy of his father, a secure living for the rest of his life.

Borlase is now best remembered as a historian, antiquarian and naturalist but it was the secure position as Rector of Ludgvan and, from 1732 the additional living of St Just, which provided him with the wherewithal to pursue the interests by which he made his mark. Ludgvan rectory was the amplest accommodation of the parsonages in West Penwith at the time of the Hearth Tax in 1680 and remained so in 1727, no doubt maintained at least in part from the coffers of the wealthy and influential Borlase family.

The chief landlords of Ludgvan parish were the Duke of Bolton and the Earl of Godolphin, both, like the other leading property owners of the parish, were absentees leaving the rector as the main man of the parish. Whether the scholarly William Borlase relished this position is open to question but what is certain is that he used the opportunities afforded him to good effect and, to use his own words,

I collected mineral and metallic fossils, with which the rich copper-works of the late Earl of Godolphin, in Ludgvan parish, fortunately enabled me with the greatest ease to gratify my friends at home and abroad; whilst in return I received such information and encomiums on the productions of the Cornish mines, as encouraged me now first to think of studying the natural history of my native county…

The Ludgvan of Borlase' day was not so rural as today's parish. In addition to Earl of Godolphin's copper works, Wheal Fortune, there were other mining sites in same area around Truthwall and also in the valley running north up to Nancledra. In addition the parish also hosted a tin smelter which had recently replaced an old blowing house. The smelter was visited by Kalmeter on 26 November 1724 and he described it having two reverberatory furnaces erected just three months before his visit by William Cock and Company. A third furnace was planned. Kalmeter also says that the old blowing house had been erected in 1664, shortly after Penzance became a coinage town.

In his later correspondence Borlase frequently remarks on what a burden it is to the parish to be criss-crossed by so many roads, a situation which was doubtless made worse by the presence of a fair amount of industrial traffic with copper ore being carried to the coast and black tin being delivered to the smelter. In Borlase' time this traffic would all have been carried on pack mules. Borlase became a great advocate of turnpikes as the only way of relieving the state of the roads and by 1762 he had become a trustee of the Marazion Turnpike. But in 1722, when he entered into his living, turnpikes were unthought of in Cornwall and visitors to his door doubtless arrived mud bespattered, wet and irritated by the narrow Cornish lanes and the strings of pack mules.


P.A.S. Pool, William Borlase, Royal Institution of Cornwall, 1986

The Kalmeter Journal, translated by Justin Brooke, Twelveheads, 2001

Jenny Dearlove, Ways and Means: Road Communication in Eighteenth Century Life in West Cornwall, Penwith Local History Group, 2014

Veronica Chesher, The Parsons Evidence, in West Penwith at the Time of Charles II, Penwith Local History Group, 1998

For more on William Borlase see also On This Day 2 February 1696.

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