Grenfell Family History



The Easter Book of St Just in Penwith 1588 - 1596

Transcribed from an article by Rev. Canon Taylor, Rector of St Just in Penwith 1900-1938 in the Royal Institution of Cornwall Journal No. XX published in 1919.

There are five families mentioned in the Easter Book, each of which requires a brief notice, viz. Busvargus, Bosavern, Ustike, Nepean and Grenfell. the first two are entered in the Herald's Visitation of 1620; the remaining three have gained distinction since that date. Not one of them appears under any of the names in the (Subsidy) Roll of 1523.

Busvargus as a family name was assumed by John Lethon, who acquired lands in Busvargus from Richard Halse and Mary his wife in 1567. In a grant of Tregaseal lands with a stamping mill made by Richard Crane in 1581 he is styled as John Lethon, otherwise Busvargus. His brother Bennet Lethon was vicar of St Just from 1557 to 1581. The family of Busvargus which has for its arms argent on a fess azure three bezants between two chevrons gules, became extinct in the male line in 1755. It is noteworthy as embracing among its descendants two famous men - Jonathon Toup the Greek scholar, rector of St Martin by Looe, whose mother was Prudence Busvargus, daughter and eventual  heiress of John Busvargus and Sir Nicholas Harris Nicholas, the antiquary and genealogist, who was a great grandson of the same Prudence by her second husband, the Rev John Keigwin, vicar of Landrake.

Concerning the family of Grenfell, it will be observed that two persons bearing the name are to be found in the Easter Book, viz John Grainfield and Martin Glandfield both of Truthwell and both unmarried in 1589. From the change in amount of their Easter offerings we conclude that John was married in 1590 and Martin in 1593. It will be noticed that during the period covered by the Easter Book, John’s name is always given as Grainfield and Martin’s as Glandfield. Whether this fact possesses any significance is impossible to say: it is certain to say that both surnames, within a very short time assumed the form Grenfell. It has been conjectured that the family was an offshoot of the Grenvilles of Stow, and it must be confessed that had the arguments put forward by the Rev J Buller and others in support of this hypothesis been valid it would have never been seriously questioned.

But when we read that the Grenvilles, Earls of Bath, held the manor of Kelynack in St Just, and that possibly in consequence of this a member of that family settled there, we are apt to take a prejudiced view of a supposition which after all may prove to have been well founded.

The Bouchiers, Earls of Bath, did hold the manor, but the Grenvilles upon whom that peerage was conferred in 1661, were only very remotely connected with them and never held that manor. It is, at present, impossible to say when the Grenfells came to St Just or whence they came. The name does not appear in the Subsidy Roll of 1523. It is therefore possible that John and Martin of Truthwell may be the common ancestors of the Grenfells of Penwith. Be that as it may, it is from Hercules Grenfield of St Just, who in 1631 married Jane Busvargus, that many eminent men bearing the name of Grenfell trace their descent. Indeed, few families, if any, have within the last century produced an equal number of strenuous and stalwart men who as athletes, financiers, soldiers and sailors have gained distinction. Two have been raised to the peerage, one of them a Field Marshall the other an ex-member of Parliament and a valued public servant; while two others, the Rev George Grenfell and Dr Wilfred Grenfell of Labrador, have won imperishable fame as intrepid explorers and Christian missionaries.

EASTER BOOK ENTRIES:

Treaffall 1588
John Grainfield
Martin Glanfield

Treaffall 1589
John Grainfield, bordman

Treaffall 1590
Martyn Glandfield   4d
John Grainfeelde

Treaffall 1591
John Grainfielde
Martin Glanfield

Kenniggiack 1592
John Grainfield       4d

Treoffall 1592
Martin Glandfield, bordman

Treoffall 1593
John Grainfield       4d
Martin Glanfield
(John Vean, his servant)

Treoffall 1594
missing

Treffall 1595
John Grainfield       4d 
Martin Glanfield      4d
Anes servant

Treaffall 1596
missing