Philip Melvill

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Philip Melvill (7 April 1762 – 27 October 1811)[1] was a nineteenth-century philanthropist of Falmouth, Cornwall.[2]

He was born in 1762 in Dunbar,[2] in East Lothian on the southeast coast of Scotland.

Military service[edit]

He served in India, as a lieutenant in the 73rd regiment [3] in the war against Hyder Ali's forces. In 1780, he was wounded and captured. He was held prisoner for four years under bad conditions.[2] On his release, he was promoted to Captain. However, he was still very ill and stayed with his brother in Bengal until 1786, when he was much recovered.[1]

On his return to England in 1797, he was appointed the commander of an invalid company based on Guernsey, where he married Miss Elizabeth Dobree. He set up a school for the children of soldiers in his command.

He was then appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Pendennis Castle and served until 1811. He formed the Pendennis Volunteer Artillery, a local militia.[2]

Marriage and family[edit]

He married Elizabeth (1770–1845), youngest daughter of Peter Dobree of Beauregarde, Guernsey.[4] They had nine children,[1] including at least two daughters.[5][6]

Their eldest son, John, was drowned, aged 19, off Madeira, in 1808.[1]

Their second son died at the age of 12.[1]

Their third son, James Cosmo (1792–1861),[4] was Secretary of the East India Company.[7]

Their fourth son, Philip (1796–1882), became Military Secretary to the East India Company in 1837.[8]

Their fifth son, Henry (1798–1871), was a Church of England clergyman, who became principal of the East India Company College, Haileybury and then a canon residentiary of St Paul's Cathedral; he was also rector of Barnes, Surrey and a famous preacher.[9]

Another son, Peter (1803 - 1895),[10] became a Major General, KCB and was military and naval secretary to the government of Bombay.[4]


In 1807, he founded the Falmouth Misericordia Society "for the relief of poor strangers and distressed persons of the town".[11] He also helped found a Church Girls' School in 1802 and a Boys' School in 1805.[12]

Death and legacy[edit]

He died on 27 October 1811 at Pendennis Castle. Memoirs of him were published in 1812[1]

The Falmouth Misericordia Society was still in operation in 1887.[11]

"Melvill Road", connecting the A39 road with Falmouth Docks is named after him.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Memoirs of the Late Philip Melvill, Esq. Lieut. Gov. of Pendennis Castle, Cornwall : With an Appendix Containing Extracts From His Diaries and Letters Selected by a Friend...together with Two Letters and a Sermon, Occasioned by His Death; London : Hatchard, 1812. 322 pages. It is available online at Internet Archive. The memoirs, by an anonymous evangelical friend run to page 178, Melvill's death being recorded on page 153, the deathbed scene being described on many pages before that. The list of Subscribers is 18 pages long.
  2. ^ a b c d Gay, Susan E. Old Falmouth; London, Headley Bros, 1903 p.28-30, portrait of Melvill, facing p. 29.
  3. ^ The first battalion of the Regiment was raised in 1778, according to an Account of the start of the Regiment, which lists Melvill's name as a First battalion Lieutenant.
  4. ^ a b c ODNB article by E. I. Carlyle, ‘Melvill, Sir James Cosmo (1792–1861)’, rev. Katherine Prior, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [1] accessed 18 Sept 2007.
  5. ^ West Briton, 21 October 1853: Death notice:

    "At Grove Lane, Camberwell, on the 18th instant, Elizabeth CAREY, youngest daughter of the late Philip MELVILL, Esq., Lieut.-Governor of Pendennis Castle, aged 43 (45?) years. "

  6. ^ The family has been documented: De La Ferte,E.J The Melvill family: a roll of honour of the Descendants of Captain Philip Melvill, Lieut.-Governor of Pendennis Castle and their immediate connections by Marriage, in the Years of the World War, 1914-1918. 1920. Offered for sale at Ambra Books Accessed 18 Sept 2007.
  7. ^ Brendon family genealogy p. 34 accessed 18 Sept 2007):

    "Rachel, wife of Rev. W. E. Brendon (p. 17), was the youngest daughter of Sir James Cosmo Melvin, K.C.B., F.R.S., Secretary to the Hon. East India Company, and after 1857 Secretary to the India Board, by Hester, daughter of Rev. W. M. Sellon. Sir James was son of Captain Philip Melvill, Lieut.-Governor of Pendennis Castle, Cornwall, who as Captain in the 73rd Foot was severely wounded at the

    Battle of Seringapatam in the fight with Tippoo Sahib. A brother of Sir James was the Rev. Henry Melvin, Canon of St. Paul's and Golden Lecturer at St. Margaret's, Lothbury. Another brother was Major- General Sir Peter Melvill, K.C.B., Military Secretary to the Bombay Government. Mrs. Brendon's brother, Sir William Henry Melvin, Kt., was Solicitor to the Inland Revenue Department. He married

    the Hon. Elizabeth Theresa Lister, daughter of the second Baron Ribblesdale." [Note: The transcriber has used "Melvin" instead of "Melvill" in this document]
  8. ^ The Role of Honour of the Melvill Family
  9. ^ ODNB article by G. C. Boase, ‘Melvill, Henry (1798–1871)’, rev. H. C. G. Matthew, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [2], accessed 18 Sept 2007
  10. ^ National archive website - date of death
  11. ^ a b West Briton, 1 April 1836:

    "Our readers will perceive, by an advertisement in our third page, that an exhibition and sale of fancy work, in aid of the Misericordia Society, is to be held at Falmouth on Tuesday next. This valuable society deserves the support of a Christian public - its funds are dispensed by ladies, who themselves visit the abodes of poverty - enquire into the causes of the distress, and alleviate as far as possible the sufferings they witness." .

    The Society was still in operation in 1887, according to West Briton, 18 August 1887.
  12. ^ Dunstan, Bob The Book of Falmouth and Penryn: the story of two towns; Chesham Buckinghamshire, Barracuda Books, 1975. ISBN 0-86023-002-3. pp.34-35.