Chaplet/Wreath of LaurelsChaplet/Wreath of Laurels FranceUKSpain


Home Contents Back Next

The Pellowes of Penryn
a Family History by Dr E. F. Pellowe, 1964




(10) In considering the early records, we have two biographies of Edward Pellew 1st. Viscount Exmouth to help us. Edward Pellew was born 1757, and died in 1832 and his first biography was written in 1835 by Osler 1 who states 'the Admiral was descended from a family which was settled in West Cornwall for many centuries but originally came from Normandy where the name is still met with. After the close of the Napoleonic war he received a letter from a family there claiming kindred and offering the name and armorial bearings in proof. "Pelleu" was retained until a comparatively recent period. They are said to have landed at Pengersick Castle near St. Michael's Mount and appear to have remained until the early 17th century. They had a family tomb in Breage where they owned land and they still possess a small estate there.'

This is a good place to begin our story for there is a great deal of truth in Osler's statement.

Binns, referring to the Norman Conquest, states that there were many Bretons in William the Conqueror's Army and that Cornwall was granted to Brian of Brittany, several Bretons occurring as holders of manors in Domesday Book.

It would be quite conventional, therefore, to say the Pellowes, Pellews or Pelleux, came over with William the Conqueror but it would not mean very much.

It is better to say that at this period, before parish boundaries had been defined, and indeed before nationalism had become important, the Bretons and the Cornish had a common language and life, and the contacts across the Channel were between kinsmen.

The name Pellow or Pellowe comes from a place named Pillor or Pellour or Pellowre, once a manor in the Parish of Breage in the Hundred of Kerrier, about two miles west of Helston, five miles from St. Michael's Mount and twelve miles from Penryn. The present day Ordnance Maps still show a small farmhouse of this name not far from Breage church.

The first member of the family in the record is Johannes de Pellor. We find him in the Cartulary of St. Michael's Mount. This document which has been in the hands of the Cecils at Hatfield since 1612 has just been carefully printed 2 and on approximate translation of folio 69 is given below. It is a letter to the prior from John de St. Sydinus asking him to receive Gilbert de (11) Pellour as tenant for the tenement John (his father?) held in chief in Marazion.

 'Because I have given to Gilbert de Pellour my total tenement in the town of Marazion, situated between the tenement of Odo of Taluian and the tenement of Oliver of Marazion to be held in chief from you and your successors.'

Given at Marazion Jove's day on the morrow of St. Katherine the virgin in the fifteenth year of King Edward son of King Edward (Thursday 26th Nov. 1321).

Five years later 3 we come up against Gilbert de Pellor again who in 1326 brought an action against his brother Fabian about some land at Pellor. Fabian admitted the land to be his brother's who then granted him the property to hold for life provided Fabian rendered unto Gilbert one rose at the feast of St. John yearly.

We come across Gilbert again in 1341 4 when in action in the King's Court, the rents and services of Gilbert de Pellor and his heirs for lands held in Guarl by Mahasyou are mentioned. The latter is the old name for Marazion near Breage. Somewhere about this time 5, Nicholas Arundel of Trerice married a daughter of John Pellow, Lord of the Manor of Pellor and this daughter Elizabeth was heiress to the Manor.

These few clues suggest that in the 14th Century the Pellews were landowners in the parish of Breage. The alliance with Arundel may have done the family no good for some three or four generations later, came the Prayer Book Rebellion of 1549, the implication and fall of the Catholic Arundels and the ruin of many people in the parish of Breage.

In 1359 6, there is a reference to Vincentius Pellou and Nicholas Pellou who were on a jury at Liskeard but whether these were members of our family or not it is impossible to say.

In 1362, we find Sir William Pellour as Vicar of Breage and he probably died of the Black Death which raged in the extreme west in that year. Colthard refers to him as 'one of the numerous family of Pellors'. Colthard himself. was the Vicar of Breage and although there are many entries in the parish registers from 1550 to 1650, I do not know what evidence he had for making this statement for a date as far back as 1362.

A little later, in 1376 7, we find Peter Polleyo defending himself in an action at the Court of Penryn. This little port was at this time, half alien (i.e., out of 300 inhabitants 150 were Breton) and Peter may have been Breton.

Towards the end of the 14th century, there is an action 8 by Martin Pellour about land in Pembro next Trenewth, i.e. in Breage parish not far from Pellor itself. An earlier reference in 1338 (12) to Pembro shows that no Pellow was then in possession, and later Subsidy Rolls indicate that ownership was short lived. At this time though, it seems that there was more than one family of Pellows in Breage. This same Martin was juror at Launceston Assizes in 1401.

A list of Members of Parliament for Helston taken from the returns to House of Commons has recently been published by Lawrance 9.

Thomas Pellour was member for Helston in 1411, the last Parliament of Henry IV.

In 1422 10 a commission was issued to Thomas Pellow and others to hold inquisition as to a complaint by John Burgeoys of Ossent (Ushant) in Brittany, master of a ship called La Katerine which was captured on the sea and taken to Penryn and there unloaded and cargo sold contrary to the truce concluded between the King and the Duke of Brittany.

Here we have a connection between the Pellows of Breage and Penryn.

In 1438 11 a kinswoman and heiress of Thomas Pellow (the above or his son?) was summoned for not appearing before the justices to answer the Abbot of Hayles about a debt of 107. The Abbey of St. Mary in Hayles, Worcestershire, was founded in 1246 by Richard Earl of Cornwall and King of the Romans, and endowed with the tithes of Breage, so Thomas Pellour lived in this parish and was a contemporary of Martin above.

A commission is recorded in 1427 12, to William Bodrugan, Knight. Thomas Pellor and others to take into the King's hand and keep safely until further notice, all the lands in the County of Cornwall were of John Cheynduyt was seized on the day of his death and to make inquisitions.

The above concludes what medieval evidence there is, and it is fair comment to say that during the 14th and 15th centuries, the Pellows were people of some standing in the parish of Breage and there were quite a few of them.

The modern biography of Lord Exmouth (Metheun 1934) by C. N. Parkinson which was based on the authorative naval papers not available to Osler in 1835 says 'The Pellowes of Breage were probably yeomen who owned land and bore as their coat of arms-argent, a chevron gules, azure on a chief of the second three mascles voided of the first.'

He goes on to say that the branch of the family with which he is concerned left Breage in or before the 17th century and took to trade and seafaring. In his preface, Parkinson acknowledges his debt to Canon Coulthard who was an authority on the parish of Breage. (13)

Parkinson was probably correct in his statement about this but where else in the 16th and 17th century could any trade or seafaring be found in this area but about Penryn? It looks as if all the Pellowes in the parishes of St. Gluvias, Mabe, Mylor and Budock can follow Parkinson back to Breage and the same coat of arms. There is, however, more detailed evidence pointing to the same conclusion.


It is fortunate that the Rolls of the Hundred of Kerrier are in good order and the table below lots the actual Pellow entries, for each of the Parishes, against the date of the Rolls.

Date Breage Mabe Budock Penryn &   Gluvias
1524 1 Nil Nil Nil
1544 3 Nil Nil Nil
1545 2 Nil Nil Nil
1548 1 Nil Nil Nil
1558 1 Nil Nil Nil
1559 1 Nil Nil Nil
1571 Nil Nil Nil 1
1584 1 1 Nil Nil
1597 Nil 1 1 Nil
1613 Nil 4 Nil Nil
1624 1 2 Nil Nil
1625 1 2 Nil Nil
1641 1 3 Nil Nil
1660 5 7 Nil 3
1662 Nil 13 9 1 3

Hearth Tax

It is pretty obvious from the above that there is a diminishing of Pellowes in Breage and an increase in other places, notably Mabe. (see also p. 42.)

At Breage, except in 1544 and 1545, there was generally one yeoman farmer paying for one farm if we are to judge by the (14) amounts paid, but in 1660, although there are 5 entries for Breage, an examination of the amounts indicate that 'John Pellow, his wife Mary, and Jonas and William Pellow and Florence of Godolphin in Breage' paid a shilling each, and were poor and landless people.

At the same time in Mabe, we find in the same roll, Robert 'The Younger' and his wife Anne, paying a shilling, Thomas 5/- for 12 10s. Matthew 4/- for 10 and Henry also. Charitie, a widow pays 2/4 for 5 14s. Robert pays 2/- for 5/- and Julian 4/- for 10. Whereas the Rolls show no entries for Pellowes for the 47 years 1524-71: in this small parish of some 60 families, 90 years later, they were operating at least 4 or 5 farms. Since all the higher ground around the estuary was pasture land ideal for fattening the cattle imported from Spain to Penryn, we must agree with Parkinson that the family took to seafaring and trading when they left Breage.

In the Subsidy Rolls, we find Stephen Pellow, probably at Pellor 1520 to 1540, followed by James and Hoskyn (two brothers, one at Pembro?) and John in the next parish of Germoe, in 1544.

The next generation was a large one. Robert is at Mabe in 1584. Matthew is in the Tower of London in 1579, Jenkyn remains at Breage and appears in the parish registers and also in the Subsidy Rolls. Thomas the Elder, at Mabe, appears in the Subsidy Rolls and dies in 1624. Bennet appears in the Breage registers and his daughter marries at Constantine.

The fact of the family dispersion is there to see, but the motive so long after, is more difficult to find. Does the clue lie with Matthew Pellow in the Tower?

 In the Catholic Record Society 14 we find the following:-

1. Michaelmas 1576, Matthew Pellow in the Tower from Sept. 9th to the 30th, 'three wickes at 6/8 a wicke equals 20 sh. fewell and candell at 2/6 the wyke equals 7/7 amounting to the sum of 27/6.

2. Christmas 1576, Matthew Pellow from 1st. Oct. to 23rd. Dec. 12 wicker at 6/8 the wicke, fewell and candell at 2/6 the wyke equals 5 10s. Midsummer 1577, Matthew Pellow from - to June 25th, 5 19s. 2d.

Now there is no doubt why Matthew was in the Tower of London in 1576, he was a recusant i.e. he was practising his Catholic religion after it had been declared illegal to do so.

To get an explanation of this, we must go back to the Prayer Book Rebellion of 1549. Earlier than this, the County has seen the 1497 Rebellion in favour of Perkin Warbeck but this hit the parish of Breage only lightly since it was fined only 4 marks compared (15) with 623 for the whole county 15. The disturbance due to the Reformation affected every family. In 1548, various yeomen for St. Keverne murdered William Body as he sat in commission at Helston. This revolt was soon quelled and the ringleaders hanged in the castle at Launceston.

A year later, the matter flared up again, this time a full scale rebellion culminating in the siege of Exeter. Many of the principal contestants came from the Breage area. The Sheriff of Cornwall, Milliton, lived at Pengersic. Godolphin was one of the Royal Commissioners and Humphrey Arundel was leader of the rebels, owner of St. Michael's Mount and much of Breage, and Lord of the Bishop's Manor of Penryn.

The rebellion is described in full detail elsewhere 16, and was put down by Russell, the future Earl of Bedford; the rebels were hung, drawn and quartered, save for Arundel who was ultimately executed in London.

Russell left the tidying up to Sir Anthony Kingston, his Lieutenant, and 'he left an unsavoury name behind him in Cornwall. We have no account of what happened in those grim and tragic days; darkness draws down, lit only by lurid lights here and there . . . ' 17

 Years later in the reign of Elizabeth, there was some religious tolerance but it did not last. The excommunication of the Queen by the Pope was followed by compulsory attendance at the reformed Church, and the English Catholics had the dilemma of either being traitors to their land or their religion.

In the 1570's, Cuthbert Mayne, a renegade priest, was captured and condemned, and his friend and protector Francis Tregian, and many others were imprisoned. Matthew Pellowe was one of these. What happened to him ultimately, we do not know, but a small yeoman family could ill afford to pay fines for long. Ever since his day, right up to our own times. there has been a Matthew Pellowe in each generation.

Before leaving Breage completely, there are three other points worth considering:-

1. There is a valuation of the Hundred of Kerrier for 1522. No Pellowes existed in Mabe, Gluvias or anywhere else except Breage. Again, in 1569, we have John and William and Jenkyn for Breage and none anywhere else.

2. The spelling of the name in the Breage registers is John Pellowe (sic) in 1578., and in 1590: Henry Pelowre the son of John. In 1625, we find Joanna Pelleow and Gracia Pellour her sister.

3. The growth of tin mining in Breage is worth examining. as the following table shows:- (16) 

Weight of Tin in lbs 18

Coinage Town 1305 1577 1607
Bodmin 166,329    
Lostwithiel 450,329 128,688   69,290
Liskeard 153,843 384,794 426,492
Helston   13,644 356,464 454,372


It will be seen that at Helston, the coinage town for Breage the output increased 30 times in 200 years and from being the smallest producer in 1305, it becomes the biggest in 1607. A glance at the 1909 6 inch O.S. map will confirm this. I have counted about 200 disused mines, shafts and quarries in an area of five or six square miles or a possible land wastage of 30 to 40 per cent. This may have had its influence. At least one Pellowe was a miner in this parish and his will is at Bodmin. He left quite a lot of money but died young and unmarried. (17)


  1. The Life of Viscount Exmouth. Osler 1835.
  2. D & C Record Soc. New Series Vol. P. L. Hull.
  3. Cornwall Feet of Fines.
  4. Cal. Inquisitions PM Vol. 8, pp.238-9.
  5. Visitations, p.11
  6. Just St. 1.125.
  7. (5 p11)
  8. (6 p11) 
  9. Lawrance Parliamentary Representation of Cornwall, 167-75.
10. CPR 1472-79.
11. CPR p. 113.
12. CFR p. 169.
13. E. 179/244/44.
14. E 101/516/27 and 28.
15. JRIC Vols. 17, 18, 19. Blake.
16. Tudor Cornwall A. L. Rowse Cape.
17. (elsewhere 1 p15)
18. JRIC R.56 1874.



Home Contents Back Next