The London Gazette of 30 January 1810 records,
At a Council of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, held at Carlton House on the 1st Day of February, 1810, Richard Oxnam, of Penzance, Esq. Was appointed Sheriff of County of Cornwall for the Year 1810, by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales in Council.
Richard Oxnam, one of the original partners in Penzance's first bank, leading merchant and investor in mines looks as if he's made it. The office of High Sheriff is regarded as one of the key stepping stones taking a man from bourgeois merchant to landed gentry. By 1800 the office seems to have been one which the landed gentry actively avoided, probably due to the costs involved. Thomas Rawlings of Padstow preceded Richard Oxnam as High Sheriff in 1803, he was also a merchant and by 1820 both men were bankrupt.
Oxnam was born 20 December 1768, the second son of Richard Oxnam. His father was a Penzance merchant and associate of the Dunkin brothers whose smuggling activities were described by Charlotte MacKenzie (Troze, vol 7 no. 2 Dec 2016). Oxnam senior died in 1793 and the following year his son married Mary John, daughter of Thomas John.
Oxnam had an influential web of contacts: via the Penzance bank he was closely associated with John Batten and William Carne, both of whom had mining and smelting interests. He was a shareholder in numerous mines including Wheal Neptune, Wheal Reeth and Ding Dong where he again shared interests with John Batten and also with Batten's collaborator at Levant, Louis Charles Daubuz. Batten, Daubuz and Carne also owned shares on Oxnam's trading vessel Susan. Like Batten, Oxnam also owned and leased land and stamps in St Just. Beyond the world of mining Oxnam was not only Sheriff of Cornwall, he was also Lieutenant Colonel of the Mount's Bay Militia in 1814 and sat on the boards of various 'good causes'.
In 1814 he moved into his new house at Rosehill, built for him by Robert Hichens, but it looks like this was as good it got for Richard Oxnam. His wife had already died in 1812 and in 1817 his financial problems landed him in the King's Bench debtors prison in London at the suit of George John the Penzance solicitor and at various times mayor of Penzance, alderman and town clerk. The pages of the Royal Cornwall Gazette in 1817 chronicle the fall of Richard Oxnam, part of whose estate was acquired by James Halse (see 7 January 1835) who went on to found his own business empire and built the planned village of Halsetown.
The same Gazette which provided sale details of Wheal Reeth also enumerated the many attractions of Rosehill, “a large and handsome modern-built dwelling house with coach house and stables adjoining; and also with very large and extensive walled and other gardens, now in their prime, with a green house therein, stocked with the choicest vines, in the highest state of cultivation……….Rosehill is delightfully situated within three parts of a mile of Penzance and commands one of the best views of Mount's Bay….. “
Richard Oxnam died at Wellington Terrace, Penzance on 23 August 1844 aged 75 years.
P.A.S. Pool, The history of the town and borough of Penzance, Corporation of Penzance, 1974
Charlotte MacKenzie, Merchants and smugglers in eighteenth-century Penzance: the brothers John and James Dunkin, Troze, Vol 7 number 2, December 2016
In and Around Penzance during Napoleonic Times, Penzance Local History Group, 2000
Births, marriages and death data is largely from the Cornwall Online Parish Clerk