Boconnoc House:
Home of William Wyndham, Lord Grenville  (l759 - l834)

Elizabeth Fortescue

What plenteous stores of knowledge may contain
The spacious tenement of Grenville’s brain
Nature, in all her dispensations wise,
Who formed his headpiece of so vast a size,
Hath not, tis true, neglected to bestow
Its due proportion to the part below;
And hence we reason that to serve the state
His top and bottom may have equal weight.

(Anonymous satire c. l796)

William Wyndham was a member of  Pitt the Younger’s  government,  a relation of his by marriage and a great orator.   In l784, he succeeded Burke as Paymaster General and remained in Pitt’s cabinet until l80l apart from a brief period in l789 when he was elected Speaker of the House of Commons.   In l790 he was raised to the House of Lords as Lord Grenville and took over the Foreign Office in l79l.   In l792 he married Ann, the daughter of Lord Camelford of Boconnoc which they inherited in l804 after the death of the Half Mad Lord Camelford in a duel.

Pitt regarded himself as an independent Whig but he became progressively less enthusiastic about reform which made Grenville more and more impatient.  Parliamentary Reform and Catholic emancipation were particular bones of contention as were Pitt’s nervous assaults upon the Slave Trade and his lack of aggression in the war against France.   On those grounds Grenville resigned from office in l801 and joined Fox in opposition.   When William Pitt died in l806, George III asked Grenville and Fox to form a government, which they did, calling it the Government of All the Talents. Lord Grenville was a strong and outspoken opponent of the slave trade and proposed and managed the famous Slave Trade Abolition Act of 1807 which abolished the buying and selling of slaves in Britain and the colonies.  Although history rightly credits William Wilberforce with the achievement of this measure as leader of the national anti-slavery movement, it is now accepted that it was Grenville who made the decisive move in its favour at the parliamentary level.  Grenville made a passionate speech where he argued that the trade was "contrary to the principles of justice, humanity and sound policy" and criticised fellow members for "not having abolished the trade long ago".   

Grenville retired to his estates at Dropmore and  Boconnocl where an exhibition has been held this year to commemorate his life and work.

Elizabeth Fortescue, and her husband, Anthony, are owners of Boconnoc House