Riches to Rags: The Bankruptcy of Thomas Daniell of Michaelchurch Court, Lord of the Manor of Ewyas Lacy
By Bob Steele
1835 - 1851
Thomas Daniell, “formerly of Trelissick, in the County of Cornwall, afterwards of the City of Bath, since of Michaelchurch Court in the County of Hereford, and subsequently residing at Boulogne, in the Kingdom of France, Copper-Smelter, Dealer and Chapman” , and Lord of the Manor of Ewyas Lacy, was declared bankrupt on 16th April 1835  .
Portrait of Thomas Daniell [the elder] titled 'Gentleman and a Miner' by John Opie, 1786
He was the grandson of Thomas ‘guinea-a-minute’ Daniell, a tin and copper mine owner who made a huge fortune and came to be seen as the head of ‘a great Truro merchant dynasty’ in late eighteenth century Cornwall  . Thomas the elder married the heiress to the Allen family of Prior Park, Bath, and their son, Ralph Allen Daniell, inherited substantial interests in the highly profitable Great Towan and Gwennap mines in Cornwall alongside his other business ventures as a prominent Truro merchant. It seems likely that Ralph Allen, like his father, was a ruthless operator since he acquired the extensive family estate at Trelissick following legal action against the former owner who owed him money. His son Thomas Daniell seems in contrast to have lived as a wealthy gentleman of leisure in the society life of Bath and perhaps resided at Prior Park, his grandmother’s estate. This was apparently not sufficient for him, however, and he, or perhaps his father on his behalf, seems to have purchased Michaelchurch Court, the associated Estate and the Manor of Ewyas Lacy when it was put up for sale in 1818  . This allowed him the status of a landed gentleman and Lord of the Manor of Ewyas Lacy. Although there is no record that he ever took up residence in Michaelchurch, it is reasonable to assume that he would have furnished and stocked Michaelchurch Court and the Estate accordingly.
On the death of Ralph Allen Daniell in 1823 the Cornish estates including Trelissick passed to Thomas, who by 1825 had commissioned an architect to redesign the house, gardens and grounds and thus laid the foundations of a spectacular landscaped estate there that remains an attraction to this day. In contrast, his estate in Herefordshire seems to have been let out and largely ignored. However, his extravagant expenditure and the agricultural and mining depressions in the early 19th century left Thomas Daniell's fortune in ruins. He mortgaged both the Michaelchurch and Trelissick Estates heavily in an attempt to shore up his finances, but to no avail. In 1835 he was declared bankrupt with debts that turned out to amount to nearly £40,000, a huge sum in those days, and he fled to Boulogne in France presumably in an attempt to evade his creditors and, perhaps, a Debtor’s prison.
The fall-out from his bankruptcy lasted many years and is chronicled in the Cornish newspapers of the time. The principal events are summarised below with links to photographs [where available] of the original newspaper cuttings held elsewhere on the Ewyas Lacy Study Group website. Collectively, they suggest that the fall of the Daniell dynasty had a substantial impact on the economic and social life of Truro and Falmouth.
In Ewyas Lacy, by contrast, Daniell’s bankruptcy seems to have excited little comment in the local press, perhaps because as an absentee landlord with a relatively short period of possession of Michaelchurch Court and Estate he had made little mark on the local community. However, it was in Ewyas Lacy that the first substantial actions appear to have been taken by his creditors. The Monmouthshire Merlin advertised in its 6th June 1835 edition the auction sale at Michaelchurch Court of all of the bankrupt Daniell’s farming stock, equipment, furniture and effects. The inventory of these given in the advertisement includes a Grand Piano and a set of 14-foot Mahogany dining tables, and casts an interesting light on the style in which a ‘country gentleman’ of means was accustomed to live in those days. Since the Fiat of Bankruptcy was only issued mid-April 1835, the seizure of his Michaelchurch assets and the arrangement of a sale within 6 weeks or so represented a pretty dramatic response to events given the difficulties of communication and logistics in those days, and is perhaps a measure of the desperation of his creditors.
However, nothing is reported of the fate at that time of the land and properties comprising the Michaelchurch Estate itself, which does not appear to have changed hands until c.1847 when it came into the possession of Richard Watson Barton, Esq.  It is also unclear whether the sale at that time had any connection with the continuing bankruptcy proceedings against Thomas Daniell. Because the estate was heavily mortgaged [an arrangement that would have been secured on the property] it may have been protected from the demands of his general creditors and taken into the possession of the mortgagee  following Daniell’s default on the interest payments. This interpretation is perhaps reinforced by the fact that [unlike Daniell’s personal effects at Michaelchurch] no public sale notice has been discovered for Michaelchurch Court or the Estate during this period, although the exact nature of the change[s] of ownership or tenure between 1835 and 1847 remains obscure.
In any event, the collapse of the Daniell fortunes does not seem to have caused the sort of upheavals in the local community hereabouts that took place in Cornwall. Surviving financial accounts for the Michaelchurch Estate around this time  show business continuing much as usual, although it is obviously not merely coincidence that a full professional survey of the estate  was undertaken in 1835, the report on which still survives in Herefordshire Record Office in a package of related papers and accounts that may have formed part of a legal brief of some sort.
Bankruptcy proceedings seem to have been pretty tough and peremptory in the 1830s, judging by the press reports. Certainly the various public notices and proceedings seem to have paid no deference to the Daniell family’s previous social eminence, and one can imagine that it must have been a highly traumatic experience for someone of Thomas Daniell’s privileged upbringing. Other eminent Cornish families seem to have been sucked into the situation too, notably Lord Falmouth who it appears was involved in a legal suit by Daniell’s creditors relating to his involvement with the Trelissick estate. Overall, though, the creditors had a long wait for any money. It was not until 1851 that final financial settlement was reached, which may suggest that Thomas Daniell was not altogether cooperative with the commissioners and assignees who conducted the bankruptcy proceedings. One may surmise that he took up residence in Boulogne to give himself some protection from their attentions and slow the process down. In the end, though, there was no escape as his assets were seized and sold one by one. Even so, his creditors came off badly. Repayments finally added up to a little less than seven shillings in the pound on debts of nearly £40,000.
The principal stages in the saga, as reflected in the local newspapers, are highlighted below. Follow the links to see photographs of the original cuttings.
Royal Cornwall Gazette May 2nd 1835
1. Notice of Bankruptcy of Thomas Daniell , copper smelter, Michaelchurch Court, Herefordshire
2. Public notice dated 24th April 1835 issued by the commissioners named in a Fiat of Bankruptcy against Thomas Daniell requiring him to surrender himself to them at Pierce's Hotel, Truro to make full discovery and disclosure of his estate and effects, for creditors to come forward and prove their debts, for Assignees to be appointed, and for the examination of the said bankrupt to be concluded.
Monmouthshire Merlin 6th June 1835
Auction sale at Michaelchurch Court of all of the bankrupt Daniell’s farming stock, equipment, furniture and effects.
Royal Cornwall Gazette July25th 1835
Notice of meeting of the creditors with the Assignees of the estate and effects of Thomas Daniell, bankrupt, to be held on 4th September 1835, to approve several proposed law suits and other actions to recover any part of the assets, including a suit against the Earl of Falmouth in connection with a contract to purchase the Trelissick Estate.
Royal Cornwall Gazette August 15th 1835
Notice of meeting of the commissioners in a Fiat of Bankruptcy issued against Thomas Daniell on 16th April 1835
West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser 16th December 1836
Advertisement - The Creditors who have proved their debts under a Fiat of Bankruptcy, awarded and issued forth against Thomas DANIELL, formerly of Trelissick, in the County of Cornwall, afterwards the City of Bath, since of Michaelchurch Court, in the County of Hereford, and now or late residing at Boulogne, in the Kingdom of France, Copper-Smelter, Dealer, and Chapman, are desired to meet the Assignees of his Estate and Accounts on Thursday, the Twenty Second of December instant.... in order to consider the opinion of Counsel which has been taken upon the effect of the Settlement made upon the marriage of the Bankrupt's Son upon the Estates of the Bankrupt, and in regard to the several incumbrances thereon, and to determine the course to be pursued in consequence thereof.... Dated, December 15, 1836
Royal Cornwall Gazette January13th 1837
Notice of sale by public auction of the Trelissick Estate , late in the occupation of Thomas Daniell.
West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser 13th January 1837
Properties for Sale:
Trelissick Farm, in the Parish of Feock, late in the occupation of Thomas Daniell, Esq. but now of the right Honorable Earl of Falmouth, Mr. John Bray, Mr. William Martin, Mr. Peter Oliver, and others.
Helston - Trelissick Estate in the Parish of Feock Sold at the Angel Inn, Helston, the estate called TRELISSICK, otherwise RESUGGANS, NANCASSICK, and NAMPHILLOWS, late in the occupation of Thomas Daniell, Esq. but now of the Right Honorable the Earl of Falmouth, Mr. John Bray, Mr. William Martin, Mr. Peter Oliver, and others Includes Farm houses, King Harry's Quay, thirty acres of valuable Plantation, and Meadow land. Grylls, and Hill, Solicitors, Helston
Royal Cornwall Gazette June16th 1837
Notice of sale by public auction of the Tregew Estate belonging to the Earl of Falmouth, by order of the assignees of Thomas Daniell, a bankrupt.
Royal Cornwall Gazette September 20th 1839
Notice of sale by public auction on 21st October 1839 of the Tregew Estate, together with the Tithes of corn and grain from the Barton of Trelissick and sundry other farms and lands, by order of the assignees of Thomas Daniell, a bankrupt, and under the authority of the High Court of Chancery.
Royal Cornwall Gazette January 3rd 1840
Notice of sale by public auction of a half share of the sloop Ebenezer of the port of Truro by order of the Assignees of the Estate and Effects of Thomas Daniell, bankrupt.
West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser 8th December 1841
DIVIDEND, Thomas DANIELL, formerly of Trelissick, Cornwall, afterwards of Bath, since of Michael-church-court, Herefordshire, and now or late of Boulogne, copper-smelter, June 25, at twelve, at Pearce's Hotel, Truro.
Royal Cornwall Gazette January26th 1844
Notice of sale by auction of various tin mining interests , pursuant to an order of the commissioner of the court of bankruptcy for the Exeter district in prosecution of a fiat against Thomas Daniell, bankrupt.
West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser 26th April 1850
EXETER DISTRICT COURT OF BANKRUPTCY. - On the 17th instant, an audit was taken in the case of Thomas DANIELL, formerly of Trelissick, copper smelter, but now of Boulogne.
Royal Cornwall Gazette May 9th 1851
Report of the Exeter District Court of Bankruptcy dated Thursday May 1st, disclosing dividends paid and final debts proved of £30,046 5s 1d
West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser 16th May 1851
THOMAS DANIELL, copper smelter, Trelissick. First dividend of 6s. 8d. in the pound on new proofs, and a final dividend of 3 1/2 d. in the pound on all. Debts proved, GBP39, 096. 5s. 1d. Dividend, GBP613. 7s. 1d.
Additional information and background
Much has been written about the Trelissick mansion and estates, which remain today as an important visitor attraction in Cornwall. The following abstract  is from the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest:
“Trelissick appears to have existed as a farm by the late 13th century; in 1705 this was occupied by the Lawrence family, who had probably been established there since the mid or late 17th century. Edward Lawrence leased part of the manor of Trevilla including Trelissick in 1747 from John Willyams, and was succeeded by his son, John, in 1750. Soon after inheriting, John Lawrence built a mansion at Trelissick to the design of Edmund Davey and laid out a small park. When Lawrence died in 1790, the estate was divided, the larger portion being held by his widow. Trelissick was let to Francis Pender, while another portion of the estate, including King Harry Quay, was let to Ralph Allen Daniell. In 1802 Trelissick was described in the Royal Cornwall Gazette as standing 'much elevated', with grounds including a 'large walled garden well cloathed with fruit trees, a good orchard behind the house and a handsome lawn in front'.
The Lawrence family experienced financial difficulties after 1790, and in 1805 Trelissick was offered for sale as the result of legal action by the family's creditors, including Ralph Allen Daniell who now acquired Trelissick. He was the son of a wealthy tin and copper mine owner, Thomas 'Guinea-a-Minute' Daniell and his wife, the niece and heiress of Ralph Allen of Prior Park, Bath. R A Daniell expanded and developed the 18th century park, creating rides through woodland to the north and south of the house; these developments are shown on an estate plan of about 1821, which also includes a vignette view of the house and park from the south.
When Daniell died in 1823 the estate passed to his son Thomas, who in 1825 commissioned the architect P F Robinson to enlarge and remodel the existing house. Robinson's design was published as an example of a 'Residence in the Grecian Style' in his Designs for Ornamental Villas (1827). In the same year it was noted that 'the plantations and shrubberies round the mansion are extremely beautiful, especially the latter, which abound with many varieties of choice shrubs' (Ackerman 1827).
Agricultural and mining depressions in the early 19th century left Thomas Daniell's fortune depleted, and in 1831 [1835, see above - Ed.] he was declared bankrupt. Trelissick came into the hands of Viscount Falmouth of Tregothnan who held a mortgage over it; the house remained unoccupied from 1832 to 1844, and Lord Falmouth tried, unsuccessfully, to sell the property in 1837 and 1839. Finally, in 1844, he sold it to John Davies Gilbert (1811-1854) who had inherited the manor of Eastbourne in Sussex, which he began to develop as a fashionable resort.”
There are also substantial documentary archives relating to the Daniell family and Trelissick.
The National Archives A2A website entry refers to the Royal Institution of Cornwall catalogue as follows:
DANIELL OF TRELISSICK
The entire contents of this catalogue are shown below.
Royal Institution of Cornwall
Source of acquisition
Messrs Druce & Atlee, solicitors, London via The British Records Association, 2 Stone Buildings, Lincolns Inn, London WC2 [GIFT] 15 February 1939
Daniell, Thomas, fl 1820, of Trelissick, Feock, Cornwall
Correspondence, draft release, valuation, trust deed and other papers connected to trust funds relating to THOMAS DANIELL OF TRELISSICK, FEOCK.
Cornwall Record Office also holds archive documents relating to Trelissick and the Daniell family. The Abstract of title to the Trelissick Estate transcribed below  is one example, which covers the period of Thomas Daniell’s bankruptcy and was prepared in 1851, the year in which the bankruptcy proceedings were finally concluded.
Some or all of these archives may yield additional clues as to the exact nature of the links between the Daniell family and the destiny of Michaelchurch Court and the Michaelchurch Estate. From a local historical perspective, however, the most significant part of the Daniell legacy is probably the survival of a detailed survey of the Michaelchurch Estate in 1835, together with Estate and Mortgagee’s accounts [see endnote references]. These were almost certainly prepared as a result of Thomas Daniell’s bankruptcy and probably only survive in Herefordshire Record Office because they formed part of some long-forgotten legal dispute associated with or triggered by the bankruptcy proceedings. Be that as it may, they provide a unique insight into the social and economic history of the area in the early nineteenth century. From a personal perspective, it is also curiously satisfying to know that the Lords of the Manor of Ewyas Lacy numbered a bankrupt in their ranks  alongside kings, princes, nobles, traitors and a regicide.
 Abstract of Title to the Trelissick Estate [Cornwall Record Office]
Abstract of the title of John Davies Gilbert, esquire, to the Trelissick Estate
15th September 1851
Recites: Part 1 - Trelissick Estate: indenture of release, dated 27 June 1844, between 1) The Right Honorable George Henry Earl of Falmouth, 2) The Reverend George Treweeke, clerk, 3) Edmund Turner and Ralph Allen Daniell (the creditors and assignees of the estate and effects of Thomas Daniell, esquire, then late of Trelissick but then of Baden Baden in the Duchy of Baden, a bankrupt) and Francis Hernaman (official assignee under the fiat in bankruptcy issued against the said Thomas Daniell), 4) the said Edmund Turner and John Fenberthy Magor, bankers, formerly carrying on business at Truro under the firm of 'Magor, Turner and Company', 5) the said Thomas Daniell and Lucy Maria, his wife, 6) Anne Frances Countess of Falmouth (the widow of Edward Boscawen, late Earl of Falmouth, deceased), and 7) John Davies Gilbert, and reciting numerous documents dating from 1773 to 1844, with schedule of lands, the Manor of Trevilla and mansion of Trelissick, and schedule of documents 1729-1811; indenture, dated 27 June 1844, between 1) John Druce, 2) John Vivian (administrator of John Edwards, deceased), 3) The Right Honorable George Henry Boscawen, Earl of Falmouth, 4) The Reverend George Treweeke, 5) Edmund Turner and Ralph Allen Daniell (the creditors and assignees of the estate and effects of the said Thomas Daniell) and Francis Hernaman (official assignee under the fiat in bankruptcy issued against the said Thomas Daniell), 6) the said Thomas Daniell, and 7) John Davies Gilbert, and reciting numerous documents dating from 1744 to 1839. Part 2 - Roundwood, Feock, part of the Tregew Estate: indenture of release, dated 27 June 1844, between 1) Edmund Turner and Ralph Allen Daniell (the creditors and assignees of the estate and effects of the said Thomas Daniell) and Francis Hernaman (official assignee under the fiat in bankruptcy issued against the said Thomas Daniell), 2) Thomas Daniell and Lucy Maria, his wife, and 3) John Davies Gilbert, reciting documents dating from 1800; indenture, dated 27 June 1844, between 1) John Magor the younger and 2) John Davies Gilbert, reciting the last mentioned abstracted indenture of release, and documents dating from 1844; indenture, dated 27 June 1844, between 1) Sir Charles Lemon, baronet, and 2) John Davies Gilbert, and reciting the first mentioned abstracted indenture of release. Part 3 - Tithe Rent Charge: indenture, dated 27 June 1844, between 1) Edmund Turner and Ralph Allen Daniell (the creditors and assignees of the estate and effects of the said Thomas Daniell) and Francis Hernaman (official assignee under the fiat in bankruptcy issued against the said Thomas Daniell), 2) Thomas Daniell and Lucy Maria, his wife, 3) Theophila Gwatkin, widow, and 4) John Davies Gilbert, reciting documents dating from 1807 to 1844; indenture, dated 27 June 1844, between 1) Thomas Gwatkin, 2) John Gwatkin, and 3) John Davies Gilbert, reciting the last mentioned abstracted indenture, with schedule of documents dating from 1741 to 1804; deed poll, dated 27 June 1844 under the hand and seal of The Right Honorable George Henry Earl of Falmouth, reciting lease and release of 1825; indenture of release, dated 19 July 1844, between 1) John Davies Gilbert, and 2) Charles Franks Michael Gibbs Dease Barnewall and Charles Perkins; indenture of assignment, dated 19 July 1844, between 1) Arthur Walford, 2) John Davies Gilbert, 3) Charles Franks Michael Gibbs Dease Barnewall and Charles Perkins, and 4) Charles Druce the younger, reciting documents dating from 1744 to 1844; indenture, dated 8 April 1846, between 1) Charles Druce the younger, 2) Charles Franks Michael Gibbs Druce Burnewall and Charles Perkins, 3) John Davies Gilbert, and 4) Arthur Walford; indenture, dated 9 April 1846, and endorsed on the aforemention indenture of 19 Jul 1844, between 1) Charles Franks Michael Gibbs Dease Burnewall and Charles Perkins and 2) John Davies Gilbert. Part 4 - one fourth of Hugo's Nanphillow, Feock: indenture, dated 25 December 1844, between 1) Elizabeth Hugo, and 2) John Davies Gilbert. Part 5 - Mount George and Croft Tenement, Kea, part of the Tregew Estate: indenture, dated 12 February 1845, between 1) Paul Clark, 2) Oliver Vincent, and 3) John Davies Gilbert, reciting indenture of 1842. Part 6 - part of the Barton of Tregew, Feock: indenture of release, dated 24 Mar 1846, between 1) William Eustis, 2) William Eustis the younger, and 3) John Davies Gilbert, reciting documents from 1810 to 1841. Part 7 - Little Tregew, Feock: indenture, dated 25 March 1846, between 1) John Magor, and 2) John Davies Gilbert, reciting indenture of 1841. Part 8 - Barton and farm of Tregew, Feock: indenture, dated 25 March 1846, between 1) John Magor the younger, and 2) John Davies Gilbert, reciting documents from 1841 to 1844; indenture, dated 29 September 1849 and endorsed on the last mentioned indenture dated 25 Mar 1846, between 1) John Major the elder, 2) John Major the younger, and 3) John Davies Gilbert. Part 9 - Frogmoor and Brick Moor, Feock, part of the Tregew Estate: indenture, dated 29 September 1846, between 1) James Crowle, and 2) John Davies Gilbert, reciting indenture of 1841, and with schedule of lands. Part 10 - Tenement of Loe, Feock: indenture, dated 5 October 1846, between 1) Sir Charles Lemon, baronet, 2) John Buller (who survived his co-trustee Thomas Wildman, deceased), and 3) John Davies Gilbert, reciting indentures of lease and release and settlement, dated 1795. 110 pages.