William Borlase was an antiquarian and naturalist of national significance though his publications and studies were largely restricted to the affairs of west Cornwall. Borlase wrote an autobiographical letter in 1772 in which he records the circumstances of his birth:
William Borlase (School of Allan Ramsay) Original in RIC, Truro
This photo of the original sourced from Wikipedia under Commons License
I descended from the family of Borlase, seated at the place whence they derived the name in Cornwall (though of Norman origin) from the time of William Rufus; being second son of John Borlase esq. Of Pendeen, in the parish of St Just, Cornwall, who served in two parliaments in the time of Queen Anne for the borough of St Ives, by Lydia, youngest daughter of Christopher Harris esq. Of Hayne in Devon. My grandfather married mary, the daughter of Richard Keigwin, by Margaret, daughter of Nicholas Godolphin esq. Of Trewarvenith.
William Borlase was actually born at Pendeen House on 2 February 1696. Pendeen House still stands, one field away from the Atlantic near Pendeen Head. Close by is Pendeen Vau, a fogou akin to to those at Chysauster and Carn Euny. Slightly to the east was the ancient tin bound of Calartha, first registered in 1502 as While an Cruen ton Gwyn, while the view to the south was dominated by Trewellard Bal where numerous tin workings were active and from which the Borlase family derived some of their income.
A short walk from Pendeen House would take the young William Borlase to the coppery cliffs of Trewellard, where Levant Mine now stands. A bit further along the coast and he'd arrive at Wheal Cock and Wheal Hazard, where the Mines Royal had produced copper ore back in the 1580s (see 28 February 1587). At Botallack young William would have encountered a significant complex of stone circles set among the growing burrows of mining waste which were becoming the dominant feature of the Botallack landscape. If his ramble was a circular route William could have returned home by way of the Tregeseal Stone Circle and barrows of Carnyorth Common. Plenty to feed his curiosity in a landscape where it was possible to move, with just a couple of paces, from the present to prehistory; from the stamping mills of the tin industry to the standing stones of the 'ancestors'.
Small wonder that William Borlase spent a long lifetime of 76 years fascinated by his surroundings in West Penwith.
William Borlase will figure again in On This Day!
William Borlase, P.A.S. Pool, Royal Institution of Cornwall, 1986
The Tudor Tin Industry, Allen Buckley, Penhellick Publications, 2009
Eighteenth Century Life in West Cornwall ed. Jenny Dearlove, Penwith Local History Group, 2014