The Zimapanners

 

 

 

 

                                                

 

The Tenant of Tregullow House

Biography 
 
Charles Augustus Vansittart Conybeare (1853-1919)


Barrister's son
Charles Augustus Vansittart Conybeare was born on 1 June 18531 in Kew, Surrey, England. He was the eldest son of2 John Charles Conybeare, a wealthy barrister (1819-1884), Cropredy, Oxfordshire, and Katherine Mary Vansittart (b. 1828, Berkshire).
 

Charles A.C. Conybeare (MP for Camborne)

 
Charles A. V. Conybeare's great grandfather was William ConybeareFT, the Rector of Bishopsgate. 
 
Education (1868-1872)
Charles Conybeare was the eldest of four sons in a family of seven children. By 1861, he had moved with the family from Kew to Grange in Coulsdon, Surrey, a household with six domestic servants. At that time, Charles Conybeare, aged 7, was being brought up in a household employing a 19-year-old German governess, Sophia Maurer. By 1871, the Conybeare family had moved to Dry Hill, Tonbridge, Kent, a move that had probably taken place earlier in around 1868, to enable John Charles Conybeare to send three of his sons, Charles, Henry and William, to be formally educated as day boys at Tonbridge School, a public school founded in Kent in 1553. While at Tonbridge, Charles Conybeare met six of the Pattisson brothers there including James Jollie Pattisson
 
Higher education (1872-1877)
In 1872 Charles Conybeare won the Smythe Exhibition to Christ Church College, Oxford, where he excelled academically (two degrees), in particular, a first class honours degree in Classical Moderations (Logic, Aristotle's poems, Greek Drama and Latin lit. & prose), and in the sport of fencing, by winning the 'Prize Foils' competition at the Oxford Gymnasium. After a spell of teaching at Manchester Grammar School as assistant master between 1877 and 1878, he went on to study for the bar examinations. While at Manchester, Conybeare completed an essay entitled The Place of Iceland in the History of European Institutions, a project that he had begun researching while a Late Junior student at Christ Church College in 1876, and which won him the Lothian Prize in 1878.

Chambers in Chancery Lane (1881)
In 1881, while Conybeare was still living in his retired parents' home, St Leonard's Grange, Back Lane, Fryerning, nr. Ingatestone, Essex, he was called to the bar. He had chambers in 40 Chancery Lane, London.3

Conybeare embroiled in two law suits (1882)
In 1882, Charles Conybeare was involved in two law suits. One was a Chancery suit, which he commenced at the instigation of his father, and involved blocking the payment of the agreed remuneration to the trustees of what became the New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio Railway, in which Conybeare and his father had had substantial investments. Apparently, the amount of the agreed remuneration did not correspond with the amount that had been set out in a deed that John Charles Conybeare had drawn up in 1875, while chairman of the Bondholder's Protection Committee.

Conybeare sues the 'World' for libel
In a separate but related action, Conybeare instigated a libel suit against the World newspaper for publishing what he regarded as 'libellous' statements which claimed that he was a litigious individual, that he had obstructed the payment of trustees' remuneration (Chancery suit), that he gave the impression he represented the bondholders by taking out a legal injunction to restrain payment, and that he was "an ill-mannered, cross-grained splutterer". Conybeare felt insulted by these statements, and therefore took action against the publisher of the statements, to vindicate his good character. The case was heard by Lord Coleridge, the Lord Chief Justice of England, in the High Court of Justice, Queen's Bench Division, in London. Conybeare, who had recently qualified as a barrister, lost the libel case on the grounds that the defendant had already paid one shilling as nominal damages for printing the so-called libellous statements, which the jury considered was already too much. Moreover, the defendant had not intended any malice, and the article concerned was found to have been true in substance. Conybeare was ordered to pay the defendant's costs. For a complete annotated version of the libel proceedings as reported by the Press, click Conybeare v. Yates.

Married Women's Property Act (1883)
In 1883, Charles Conybeare co-published a treatise with colleague barrister W. R. Andrews on the Married Women's Property Acts, following the passing of the Married Women's Property Act of 1883.

Conybeare does time in Irish prison (1889)
Conybeare became deeply involved in the plight of the Irish tenants who he and many others believed were being wrongfully evicted from their homes by unscrupulous landlords looking for a new use for their land. He helped distribute bread to destitute, evicted tenants at Falcarragh, Donegal—a criminal act under the Irish Coercion Act of 1887. Conybeare and other MPs were imprisoned for their involvement, Conybeare getting three months in Derry Gaol. Conybeare complained about the insanitary prison conditions, particularly the lice4, to well-connected friends, thereby ensuring that his own plight in prison was brought to the attention of other Honourable Members of the House. 

Conybeare purchases 'Tregullow Offices' (1889)
By means of the 2nd 1889 Indenture, Charles Conybeare purchased the 'Tregullow Offices' (aka Zimapan) on 20 December 1889 from Edward Carleton Holmes, who had owned the property for less than a day.

Conybeare mortgages Tregullow Offices (1891)
In March 1891, Charles A. V. Conybeare granted a mortgage over the property in order to raise £3,000 from some old school friends. The mortgage was not just over the 'Tregullow Offices', but included a number of other properties as well.

Tregullow House (1891)
In 1891, or perhaps as early as 1885, coinciding with his election as MP for Camborne, Charles Conybeare either purchased or leased Tregullow House in Scorrier, Cornwall, a large country house that had originally belonged to Sir William Williams, 1st Baronet of Tregullow. The 1891 England Census shows that Conybeare was already head of Tregullow House. Conybeare will have used the house frequently until c. 1895 while working as the local MP, commuting between the House of Commons and Cornwall. Conybeare's career as a Cornish MP ended in 1895, after which there would have been no need to retain a Cornish base for constituency purposes. However, he is thought to have held on to Tregullow House, probably using it on and off as a country retreat until shortly before his wife died5, after which he probably sold back (if owned) or returned (if leased) the house to a member of the Williams family.

Conybeare employed three members of the Stevens family to run Tregullow House up till 1896: a housekeeper, a domestic servant and a carpenter, all of whom lived-in and were Cornish-born. Conybeare would have known and met John Williams 5th who lived in Scorrier House just a stone's throw away from Tregullow House.  
 
Liberal MP for Camborne (1885-1895)
In 1885, he stood as an Independent Liberal (radical) candidate and was elected MP for Camborne in Cornwall, a post he held for 10 years. He raised frequent questions in the House of Commons on many issues, sometimes relatively trivial in nature, such as the theft of a bankrupt's shoes by a court official6, but often on weightier matters concerning the Irish question7 and mining issues8 which affected his constituents in Cornwall. Conybeare lost his Cornish seat to Arthur Strauss in 18959, and was defeated again in 1900 when he failed in his attempt to be elected MP for St Helens.10 For the results of General Elections for the Camborne Division of NW Cornwall between 1885 and 1895, click election results.

Marriage (1896)
In 1896, he married Florence Annie Strauss who was 19 years his junior and for whom he had created a marriage settlement the day before the wedding.11 They were married in the Theistic Church in Piccadilly, London. After marrying, the couple had a joint interest in Zimapan. Their married home was in the fashionable part of London—Cheyne Walk, Chelsea. Sylvia Pankhurst, campaigner for Women's Rights, lived at No. 120! Charles and Florence Conybeare were both actively involved in the Women's Suffrage Movement, and Charles himself was actually a member of the Men's League for Women's Suffrage.12 Charles Conybeare was among the first directors to be appointed to the International Women's Franchise Club which held its first meeting at 66 Russell Square, Bloomsbury, London, in February 1910. As a result, he made and attended speeches on the subject, and was a member of many social and political clubs, including the Savile in London, the National Liberal.
 
England Census of 1901 
The census records show that Charles Conybeare and his wife were not registered as living in Tregullow House at the time of the 1901 England Census (31 March), nor were their domestic servants (the Stevens family). Instead, George Payne (60) and his wife Alice Mary Payne (40), had been engaged to look after the house and gardens, and to act as caretakers during their absences.

Conybeare's CV (1901) 
If Charles Conybeare would have had to apply for a job in 1901, his curriculum vitae might have looked something like this.
 
Conybeares sell Zimapan (1902)
The Conybeares sold off their beneficial interest in Zimapan to Charles Rule Williams, a Cornish mining engineer who had returned from working in Mexico. For further details, see the 1902 Indenture. It is also thought that he terminated the lease of Tregullow House around the same time.

Oakfield Park, Wilmington, Kent (1905-1916)
Charles Conybeare eventually moved back to Kent, the area in which he had grown up and attended public school. Apart from his London home in No. 3 Cheyne Walk, London, Conybeare also owned or lived in a property in Kent. Conybeare bought or leased Oakfield Park in 1905. The house was situated within the grounds and estate of Oakfield Park, and the house is listed in Snowden's Directory of 1913.

The two 'Oakfield Parks'
In fact, Oakfield Park (the grounds and estate) were never owned by Conybeare because in 1901 Wilmington Parish Council bought them and used them as an open air park. Conybeare owned Oakfield Park (the house) until the death of his wife Florence Annie in February 1916.13 The house was bought by John Thomas Martin Wheeley in 1919. The building survived until the 1930s, when it was demolished and the land used for a housing development.14

Lost contest in Lincolnshire (1910)
In 1910, Conybeare unsuccessfully contested the Horncastle division of Lincolnshire15, as a result of what he believed had been corrupt practices, according to one of Conybeare's obituaries, something which had been very close to Conybeare's heart, as he had spent almost two years (1882-84) writing a complete guide to the law and practice of preventing Corrupt and Illegal Practices in parliamentary elections. 
 
Other Conybeares in Dartford (1908-1916)
Two other members of the Conybeare family were also living in Dartford during Charles Conybeare's period of residency there: Miss Conybeare, who lived at 63 Egerton Gardens and later at 33 Hereford Square, Dartford, and the Reverend W. J. Conybeare, who lived at Newington Rectory, Kennington Park Road, Dartford.16 

Holiday in South America (1914)
In 1914, Charles Conybeare returned First Class to Southampton from Buenos Aires, Argentina, on the ss Asturias, on 4 April, aged 60, accompanied by Conybeare's first cousin Ethel Mary Conybeare (51). The Duke of Northumberland, 67, was on same voyage.17

Ethel Eva Conybeare visits Conybeares in Dartford (1915)
Charles Conybeare's first cousin once removed, Ethel Eva Conybeare (23), arrived in Plymouth on 6 September 1915 on the ss Cymric (2nd Class) from New York, destined for Dartford. Ethel Conybeare visited the Conybeares at 'Oakfield Park, Dartford', as this address is recorded in the ship's manifest.

Bradbourne House, Bexley, Kent (1916-1919)
Charles Conybeare lived at Oakfield Park until the death of Florence Annie in February 1916. Charles Conybeare moved away from Dartford to live in Bexley, Kent. Bexley's 1918 electoral roll shows that he was registered as resident at Bradbourne House18, a Victorian villa, demolished shortly after a sale of its contents in 1958.19 

Brogueswood, Biddenden (1919) 
Charles Conybeare died in Brogueswood, Biddenden, Kent, 44 miles from Bexley, on 18 February, aged 65. Brogueswood was the home of his sister and brother-in-law. The cause of death was a cerebral embolism and aortic disease of the heart. B.E. Bennett of St Michaels, Tenterden, was present when he passed away.20 There were no children from his 20-year marriage to Florence Annie Strauss. Like the other members of the Conybeare family, Charles Conybeare was buried in the cemetery of St Mary the Virgin Church, Fryerning, near Ingatestone, Essex, close to his parents, but in the same tomb he had erected for Florence three years earlier.
 
Probate
Probate was granted on Charles Conybeare's will in London on 29 April, to Charles's youngest brother, Henry Grant Madan Conybeare and Algernon Bathurst, solicitor. He died an affluent man, leaving effects totalling £2,612 5s 0d, which in today's money is equivalent to £55,406, considerably less than his wife Florence left.21 

Conybeare's signature

Conybeare's signature


Footnotes
1. Birth Certificate of C.A.V. Conybeare, 12 Jun 1853, GRO.
2. England Census 1861, Coulsdon.
3. Wikipedia.org.
4. The Harcourt Papers, Bodleian Library, Oxford.
5. Although the couple had several addresses after marrying in 1896, namely, 3 Carlyle Mansions, Cheyne Walk (London) [marr. cert.], Tregullow House (Cornwall), and Oakfield Park (Kent), the couple is thought to have continued their use of Tregullow House right up until Florence died in 1916. This is suggested by the inscription that Charles Conybeare had carved on Florence's memorial in Ingatestone, Essex, which refers to her as "late of Tregullow"; 'Tregullow' was shorthand here for Tregullow House, as found in several Kelly's Directories of that period.
6. Question raised in House of Commons about a Court official's lack of probity during the public examination of a bankrupt, whereby the official removed a pair of shoes belonging to the debtor without paying for them, The West Briton & Cornwall Advertiser, 16 Jun 1887.

7. Irish question: Home Rule Meeting, Helston. Meeting of 23 Nov 1887 infiltrated by meeting wreckers carrying whiting and flour; Conybeare's statements were regarded as "invective and unconvincing",The West Briton & Cornwall Advertiser, 23 Dec 1887.
8. Mining issues — adapted from The West Briton & Cornwall Advertiser:

  • Proposed changes to the Stannaries Act, which would end the system whereby miners had their pay shared out in a public house, and protect miners from mine agents who randomly broke contracts of employment, 26 May 1887 
  • Renewal of China-clay leases, 14 Jul 1887 
  • Mortality in Cornish Mines: mortality in mines was higher among Cornish miners due to "unsanitary conditions", proposed introduction of a [ed. mines] inspector drawn from the working miners, 17 Feb 1887. 

9. Wikipedia.org.
10. Wikipedia.org.
11. The 1896 Indenture.
12. The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928, by Elizabeth Crawford, UCL Press, 1999.
13. Conybeare's obituary in the Dartford Chronicle.
14. (i) Dartford Borough Museum; (ii) Jean Radford, 2009.
15. Who's Who of British MPs, 1978.
16. British Phone Books 1907-1916.
17. UK Incoming Passenger Lists 1878-1960.
18. Who Was Who, online edition, Oxford University Press, Dec 2007.
19. Bexley Local Studies & Archive Center, 2009.
20. Charles Conybeare's death certificate, Tenterden, Kent, 19 February 1919.
21. National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills & Administrations) 1861-1941; TNA's currency converter.

Cartoon of Charles A. V. Conybeare by Harry Furniss, 1889