December 28th Phillip Rashleigh (Birth)












Philip Rashleigh FRS FSA (1729 – 1811) was born on this day at Menabilly (below), which much later became, for twenty years, the home of Daphne du Maurier (May 13th).  An antiquary, he became celebrated for his collecting and writing about the Anglo Saxon ‘Trewhiddle Hoard’.

Educated at New College, Oxford but leaving without a degree, he inherited Menabilly (pictured below) from his father Jonathan Rashleigh III, MP and also replaced his father as member of Parliament for Fowey.  He sat continuously for 37 years (1765 – 1802) and at the time of his retirement, he was ‘The Father of the House’ as he was the longest serving member of the Commons at that time. Rashleigh’s studies of geology and mineralogy and his antiquarian studies led to him being elected as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1788.


The ‘Trewhiddle Hoard’ comprises 114 Anglo-Saxon coins, a silver chalice (pictured above left) and small gold and silver decorative objects which were found by tin miners in the Trewhiddle Valley just north of St. Austell.  The coins originated in Mercia and in Wessex in the mid 9th century, suggesting it was hidden to protect it from Viking invaders. Much of the collection is now in the British Museum and its decorations led to the concept of the ‘Trewhiddle style’.

Interestingly, in 2003, a massive lump of tungsten was discovered at Trewhiddle Farm which may be the earliest known example of smelted tungsten.   With a mass of 19kg, the ‘Trewhiddle ingot’ was initially used a doorstep. It has been speculated that it was produced at the nearby Happy Union mine by the chemist Rudolf Erich Raspe in the late 18th century which would have been a phenomenal achievement since the temperature needed for smelting the ore is at least 3000oC. This also occurred at the time that one of the blowing houses burned down and one possibility is that this occurred during the smelting experiments which led to the ingot being abandoned.

Rashleigh created a renowned mineralogical collection which is distributed between the Royal Cornwall Museum and the Natural History Museum. The Royal Cornwall Museum also displays a painting of Rashleigh by the renowned portraitist, John Opie (May 16th).

Rashleigh married his first cousin, Jane Pole (1720–1795) but, dying childless, the estate passed to Rashleigh’s nephew, William Rashleigh (1777–1855), who replaced his uncle as Member of Parliament for Fowey serving between 1812 and 1818).

Rashleigh died at Menabilly on June 26th, 1811 and was buried in  Tywardreath Church.


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