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GRENFELL, George Bevil Granville (1778 - 1841)

GRENFELL, George Bevil Granville was baptised 24th May 1778 at St Hilary, Cornwall the fourth and youngest son of Pascoe Grenfell (1729-1810) and his wife Mary Tremenheere. He was educated at Truro Grammar School and then drawn (like his elder brothers, Pascoe, William and John) to the metropolis in pursuit of a career as merchant in metals. In early 1800s London he embarked on a partnership with George Pengree and George Granville in Upper Thames Street, which firm on its dissolution in 1808 described itself as “copper, tin plate and brass sellers”. The year of his relocation back to Cornwall with his family – George had married his cousin, Caroline Granville, in 1804 – is not entirely clear, but surviving leases dated September 1820 indicate his decision, despite the tin industry then being in a state of depression, to set up a tin smelting works in Hayle, adjacent to Harvey’s foundry. The concern must have been reasonably profitable for in 1824, with Henry Boase, he established a second tin smelting works in Truro, on ground adjacent to Garras Wharf. If George had yet to appreciate the full extent of “the absurdities” of stannary regulations when he first took up tin smelting, his establishment of a second works at Truro in 1824 implies a toleration of them while still able maintain a regular income. By the 1830s the grievances of Cornwall’s tin industry, under threat from the importation of tin from Malaysia, were aired being in the local newspapers, and George’s own outcry against the irrelevance of tin coinage in a letter of 1833 to a Devon MP is forceful in his denunciation of the centuries-old system that would be abolished in 1838.

In 1821 George had briefly forayed into copper smelting, becoming a partner in the newly established Swansea copper smelting firm of Fox Williams Grenfell & Co but had pulled out of the concern in 1823, under pressure from his brothers Pascoe and William. In 1824, the year of partnership with Henry S Boase as tin smelters at Truro (the firm of Grenfell & Boase), along with his son Pascoe he was admitted a partner in the Boase family’s bank, renamed Boase Grenfell Boase & Co; the offices of both smelting and banking firms were situated in Chapel Street, Penzance.

 George’s businesses were to prove short-lived. The dissolution in 1836 of the firms of G S Grenfell Browne & Co in Paris and of George Grenfell & Sons in London, followed in 1838 by the dissolution of his Cornish concerns, the bank (Boase & Grenfell) and tin smelters (Grenfell & Boase), testifies to his concerns coming unstuck. By 1838 George was resident in Merthyr Tydfil.

Gone was his Penzance mansion, Penalverne, completed in 1826, a visible proof of his early success. To escape the ignominy of his bankruptcy (brought on by his eldest son George St Leger Grenfell’s ill-advised speculations), he had slipped away to South Wales, briefly finding employment as manager of the Penydarren Iron Works. His tenure in Merthyr was of relatively short duration; in the West Briton of September 10, 1841 a brief notice announced that the 63-year-old George Grenfell, formerly of Penzance, had died at Holywell, in Flintshire.

  [Compiled by Penny Watts-Russell]. 

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