Carne family of Penzance

The Carne family became leading Wesleyans in Penzance, making a significant contribution to the town's commercial and public life. Both William and his son Joseph have memorials in Chapel Street Methodist church.

William John Carne (1754-1836), born in December 1754, at Gwinnear, near Hayle, where his father was a mining captain. He moved to Penzance c1780 where he became a leading citizen and a prosperous banker. He was converted under the preaching of John Wesley and was known as a generous benefactor of good causes. It is estimated that he gave way £10,000 in his lifetime. He entertained Wesley at his Chapel Street home in 1789, on his last visit to the town, and has sometimes been called 'the father of Cornish Methodism'. He died on 17 July 1836.

His son Joseph Carne, born on 17 April 1782, was educated at the WM school at Keynsham. From 1807 until 1819 he was manager of the Cornish Copper Company at Hayle, then bacame a partner of its successor, Sandys, Carne and Vivian, producing iron ware. Along with his father he was also a ship owner. He became a public figure in Penzance, as first secretary of the Penzance Dispensary, founded in 1809, secretary and, from 1834, president, of the Penzance Library, treasurer of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall and president of the Penzance Natural History Society. From 1836 was a JP. He was a generous supporter of Methodist causes, donating the sites of chapels and Sunday Schools and contributing 500 guineas to the Centenary Fund in 1839.

His lifelong interest in geology led to his election as an honorary member of the Geological Society of London in 1807 and to his becoming a founder member of the Cornwall Geological Society in 1814. He became widely known for the papers he contributed on geological matters. He died of bronchitis in Penzance on 12 October 1858 and was buried in Phillack churchyard.

His collection of Cornish mineral specimens was inherited by his daughter, Elizabeth Catherine Thomas Carne (1817-1873), along with his interest in geology. Born at Phillack on 16 December 1817, she wrote books and papers on geological subjects relating to Cornwall and the French Alps, and contributed articles to the London Quarterly Review, some of them under the pen-name of John Altrayd Wittitterly. Despite her gender, she was elected a member of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall. She died at Penzance of typhoid fever on 7 September 1873.

The geological collection she inherited was in due course bought by Cambridge University and is now part of the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences.

Joseph's brother John Carne (1789-1844), born on 18 August 1789, became a local preacher, but later went to Queen's College, Cambridge and became an Anglican deacon. He was the author of a number of books, including lives of eminent missionaries and Methodist worthies.

William's youngest son, James Carne DD, Vicar of Charles parish, Plymouth, died with his wife Charlotte while tending cholera victims in the summer of 1832.

  • John Horner, Even in this Place: 19th-century Nonconformists & Life in the Borough of Penzance (2010)
  • Melissa Hardie, Bronte Territories Cornwall and the Unexplored Matenal Legacy (2019)
  • Oxford DNB