Sir Rose Price, Trengwainton and Jamaica
Before Trengwainton came into the ownership of the Bolitho family in 1867, it was owned by Rose Price, a Cornish magistrate and descendant of a Cornish-Jamaican plantation-owning family.
Learn more about the early history of Trengwainton and the owner responsible for its transformation from a modest farmhouse to a landed estate.
Sir Rose Price of Trengwainton
In 1814 Rose Price (1768–1834) purchased Trengwainton, then little more than a large farmhouse. He was part of the Cornish establishment, a magistrate, and in the coming years was knighted (1815) and appointed inaugural president of the Penzance Library (1818), now known as Morrab Library. His wealth came from inherited sugar plantations in Jamaica which he spent creating a landed estate at Trengwainton by remodelling the house and laying out gardens in the picturesque style, alongside a celebrated walled garden.
The Price family rose to prominence on the island of Jamaica. They descended from Francis Price (1635–1689) who was believed to be a junior officer at the island’s conquest of 1655. Francis is first identified as merely ‘my loveing Kinsman Mr ffrancis Price’ in a document of 1663 bequeathing to him Jamaican plantations. Over the following decades he acquired further estates including in 1670 the 840 acres in St John’s Parish he named Worthy Park.
Francis Price’s younger son Colonel Charles Price (1678–1730) purchased Worthy Park from his sister-in-law, and he also acquired lands from the Rose family, through his sister’s marriage. Colonel Price’s son John Price of Penzance the elder (1712–40) was born in Jamaica and sent to England for his education. He was advised to stay in Cornwall due to ill health where he lodged with the Badcock family and married their daughter Margery. John Price of Penzance the younger (1738–97) inherited his father’s estate and others through his wider family. He was a true absentee owner, only visiting Jamaica once in his lifetime where he met his wife Elizabeth Brammer. They returned to Penzance to pursue his antiquarian interests and where their only surviving son Rose Price was born.
Rose Price (1768-1834) was educated at Penzance Grammar School, Harrow and then Oxford University, before embarking on a Grand Tour. In 1791 the family sugar estates were in trouble owing to unscrupulous local agents, so Rose Price travelled to Jamaica to assume direct management, where it is claimed he doubled their value. Rose Price made detailed records which survive in his ‘great plantation book’ covering the years 1792–6, now held by the Library of Congress. In this we learn he expanded sugar-cane cultivation by 25% within three years. He introduced adapted Cornish mining technology for mills and brought Cornishmen to assist plantation management. He also expanded the number of enslaved people from 355 to over 500. At Worthy Park enslaved people undertook many roles; in addition to agriculture there were carpenters and blacksmiths, a midwife and nurses, and in the ‘great house’ a 50-year-old cook named ‘Penzance’. Soon after arriving in Jamaica, Rose Price formed a relationship with Lizette, a 13-year-old enslaved girl, whom he freed, and who bore two children who later received their education in England.
Rose Price returned from Jamaica in 1795 and that year married Elizabeth Lambart, niece of Lord Sherborne in Gloucestershire. His income from Jamaican estates was then around £6,000 a year, and he continued to invest in further plantations. Rose Price remained committed to slavery after the abolition of the Slave Trade in 1807, publishing in 1832 a defence entitled Pledges on Colonial Slavery, to Candidates for Seats in parliament, Rightly Considered. He died soon after the Abolition of Slavery Act of 1833 and his executors later received over £10,000 compensation awarded to owners of formerly enslaved people. However, his finances were not sound; Rose Price had encumbered both his Jamaican and Cornish estates with substantial debts, and Trengwainton was sold by its mortgage holders in 1835.