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Bosavern : History and Description

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Map of West Cornwall.jpg
Map of West Cornwall

Map of Bosavern Area.jpg
Map of Bosavern Area

Bosavern House.jpg
Bosavern House

History of Bosavern House

The hamlet of Bossavarne was listed in the survey of St Just in Penwith by Sir William Drake who was the Vicar during the years 1582-1612.  In his survey he recorded the names of all the inhabitants and their places of abode for the years 1588-1596.

 In Bossavarne itself the following named persons made up its inhabitants in 1589 (the 1588 list is missing):

Martyn Thomas, Cyprian Bobartes, Richard George, Martin Jephra, George Beryman, John Niclas alias Frank, Robarte Warde, Tegue the servant boy, Eliza Entrall, Margaret Carallack (wages 15s 9d), Sisly Tegue, Sibill Prior, William Bossavarne, Ed. Letheby, Reginald Rowman, Ric a manservant, Margery a servant (wages 10s) and Jane Simpson.

 During the years 1590-1593 William Bossavarne was the only one of that name recorded there, but in 1594 a John and Thomas Bossavarne were also included, alongside William, though it is not clear if they were related.  By 1596 only William remained, but one interesting item for both 1594 and 1596 mentioned Nurry a daughter.  The name of Margaret Carallack is listed as one of the inhabitants during 1589-1590.  It was common practice in those days to take the place of abode or birth as the surname, and Carallack being within the parish, was probably the “home” of Margaret where, as the survey showed, other Carallacks lived from 1589-1596.

 The Bosavern family was descended from the redoubtable John Thomas, sergeant-at-arms for King Henry the Eighth.  As the result of Warbeck’s rebellion, Anne the wife and Jane the daughter of Richard Pendyn, who was implicated in it, were compelled to surrender the Pendeen estate for a nominal sum in 1514 to John Thomas.  In 1523 the latter appears as “Johes Thomas Sargantt” among those who paid to the subsidy for lands at St Just.  As sergeant-at-arms in 1531 he apprehended William Kendall.  In 1537 he was appointed by John Tregian one of the overseers of his will.  It is not known when he died.  He was probably succeeded as owner of lands at St Just by his son Thomas Thomas, who appears as Thomas Bossavarne in the Herald’s Visitation.  In 1589 the greater part of Bosavern Estate was held by Martyn Thomas, who according to the Visitation married Jane, daughter of Richard Robartes of Truro, grandfather of the First Lord Truro.  The smaller portion of Bosavern was held by William Bossavarne, a nephew of Martyn Thomas.  The latter continued to be styled Martyn Thomas until 1592, when he is described in the Easter Book as Martyn Bossavarne.  In 1594 and 1596 he appears again as Martyn Thomas, although in the former year his son is styled John Bossavarne.  John, the son and heir of Martyn Thomas, under the name of John Bosavern, married Margery, daughter of Christopher Arundell of Camborne.

 In 1840 Bosavern House belonged jointly to J. N. R. Millett of Penzance and Mr Saundry who resided there.  The Millett portion passed through the intermediate possession of the Pendarvas family, and Mr Saundry’s portion was sold in 1724 by the Nicholls family of Trereife to Thomas Allen, who added to the house and later sold it to Mr Saundry (the father of the occupier of the 1840 period) in 1789.

 The Millett family had a long association with the St Just church.  James Millett who held the living (Patron, Charles the Second) from 1678 to 1732, a period of 54 years, kept the Church registers in his own hand up to a few months before he died, at the age of 85.

 Humphry Davy’s mother was Grace Millett.  Humphry Millett and his wife died of a fever in June 1757 leaving 3 children, Jane who married Henry Sampson, a watchmaker of Penzance;  Elizabeth who married her cousin Leonard Millett of Marazion;  and Grace who in 1776 married Robert Davy.  On the 17th of December 1778 Humphry Davy was born at No. 4 The Terrace, Penzance, not far from where Humphry Davy’s statue stands.

 The Millett connection with the Manor or Tenement of Lafrowda [1] came about through the Richards family of St Levan.  Nicholas Richards acquired a two-thirds part of the Manor in 1765, and in his will dated the 15th of May 1778 left instructions that Grace Marrack Broad, his niece, should inherit his estate.  The surviving children of Grace Marrack Broad, namely Grace Richards Marrack Millett (by marriage) and Wilmot Richards Hichens (by marriage) ultimately became part owners of Lafrowda.

 The Millett family were one of the principal families in the area during the time they resided at Bosavern, and their influence in local affairs has been well documented in the old Vestry registers.  The arms of the Bosavern family, three scallop shells impaled betwixt six martlets in pale with a crescent for distinction, can be seen in the restored “pew end” now fitted on one of the choir stalls.  The Bosavern pew was probably removed from the Church when it was refurbished in 1865.

 A fair proportion of the information given in these few notes has been obtained from the Statistical Account of St Just by the Rev. Buller dated 1842 [2], and from the Mercurial Chemist by Anne Treneer [3], also from the Easter Book by Sir William Drake and the Rev. Canon Taylor [4], who by careful research gave us the opportunity to delve into the history of our parish.

Source:  Bosavern House and the Millett Family [typescript, author and date unknown]


The family of Boson was established at Newlyn as early as 1584, when “Nicholas Bossen of Newlin, husbandman” purchased some land at Keygwyn and Bojuian (Bojewyan) in St. Yuste, from Thomas Keygwyn, of Plymouth, sailor, for £45.

 In 1634 “William Bosen, merchant” and Nicholas, his son and heir, granted a lease of his land to James Nycholas, “Tynner”. They sign their names “Boson”.  In 1657 “Nicholas Bosen of Newlvn, gentleman,” apparently the son of the last named Nicholas, having married Elizabeth the daughter of John Webber, gentleman, deceased, made a jointure settlement on her.  Her marriage portion had been £300. In return for this, her husband appointed John Oliver of Sithney, gent and Arthur Paynter of St. Erth, gent, as trustees to see that she received £30 a year for life if she survived him.  This annuity was to be raised from his lands in Treungle and Hellwyn in Pawle, Keigwin and Bosèuian in St. Just, Brane in Sankrett, Chirgwin and Raftra in St. Levan, Penzance, Mousehole, Newlyn and Brewinny in Paul.  She was to have the use of the mansion-house and gardens (in Newlyn) for her life.

 This Nicholas Boson was evidently the student of Cornish.  In 1663 he sold his lands in Keigwin to Martyn Angwyn of St. Just, gent., and in 1664 we have a deed whereby he conveys his two stitches of land (3/4 acre) in the close called Parke-an-Chappell in Bojewyan alias Bosuyan in St. Just, to Richard Angwyn of St. Just, gentleman.  This deed, signed “Nicholas Boson”, is an interesting link between the two students of Cornish.

 In a deed of 1670 “Richard Angwin of Bojewyan, gent.,” is described as son of one Martin Angwin of Bojewyan, who was alive in 1605.  In 1646 he married Grace the daughter of Thomas Fleming of Landithy in Madron. ...

 The original will of Richard Angwyn is dated October 4, 1671. ... The testator appears to have had no children, but made his sister’s son Emanuell Millett his sole executor and residuary legatee. ... To his nephew Emanuell Millett (son of his sister Honor by Christopher Millett) he left all his house and lands in Bojewyan, where he lived, with the residue of his property. ...

Source:  Henderson, Charles.  Nicholas Boson and Richard Angwyn.  Cornish-L Archives.


The hamlet of Bossavarne was surrendered to King Henry VIII in 1514 by the Pendeen Estate as a direct result of Perkin Warbeck’s rebellion [of 1497 against King Henry VII] and formed part of the Manor of Kelynack.  (There has never been a recognised Manor, or Manor House at Bosavern).  The land at Bosavern was presented to John Thomas – subsequently referred to as Thomas Bosaverne – by King Henry VIII as a reward for Thomas’s services to the King as a Sargeant-at-Arms.

 Bosavern House was built in 1625.  This is also the year in which the Bosavern family arms were carved in wood and fixed over the old Bosavern Pew in St Just church.  The carved pew end may still be seen today.

John Bosavern’s will of 1629 shows the House to have had the following rooms:  Hall, Parlour, Buttery, a little Study, Larder, Milkhouse and Kitchen, and five upper chambers.  There were also men’s and maid’s chambers.

 The house was sold to the Millett family a few years later and was then owned by them and their descendants for over 300 years.  The Millett family became one of the principal families in St Just and substantial land-owners.  It is said that at one time they owned all of the land which could be seen from any of the windows of Bosavern House. ...

Source:  Collinson, Corinne.  Bosavern House: a brief history.  Bosavern, 2006.  4 p.



Ownership of Bosavern


Bosavern was the residence of the family of that name in 1625. ... The property belongs now, partly to J. N. R. Millett, Esq., of Penzance, and partly to Mr. Saundry, who resides there.  Mr. Millett’s part passed through the intermediate possession of the Pendarves family.  Mr. Saundry’s portion was sold, A.D. 1724, by Nicholls, of Trereife, to Thomas Allen, who added to the house, and afterwards sold it to Mr. Saundry, the father of the present proprietor, A.D. 1789.

Source:  Buller, John.  A statistical account of the Parish of Saint Just in Penwith in the County of Cornwall, with some notice of its ecclesiastical and druidical antiquities.  Penzance, R. D. Rodda, 1842, p. 62.


The manor of Kalinack or Killenick was formerly very extensive, embracing several of the adjoining farms, viz: Bosavern, Hendra, Dowran, Letcha, Bosorn, and perhaps other tenements. ...

In the beginning of the last century the manor of Collinack or Killinack was in possession of John Nicholls, by whose trustees it was sold for the purposes mentioned in his will.  Mr. James Millett became purchaser of one part, by whom it was again sold to Mr. George Blewett in 1742, and by whose descendants it was conveyed to the present highly esteemed Proprietor, Joseph Carne, Esq., of Penzance, who has much improved the farm and the village.  To this gentleman I am indebted for this latter information.  There is still one bed room which had its ceiling a little ornamented, and over the chimney-piece are some mutilated initials;  an M is apparently that of a surname probably the James Millett mentioned above:  the date, 1691, is perfect. ... "

Source:  Buller, John.  A statistical account of the Parish of Saint Just in Penwith in the County of Cornwall, with some notice of its ecclesiastical and druidical antiquities.  Penzance, R. D. Rodda, 1842, p. 59-60.


At Bosavern a branch of the [Millett] family lived in one house from 1627 to the present time.

Source:  Stinchfield, John Clark.  History of the town of Leeds, Androscoggin County, Maine, from its settlement, June 10, 1780.  Lewiston, Me, Press of Lewiston Journal, 1901, p. 43.


Edwin Ley Millett took title to Bosavern on the death of his father John Nicholas Richards Millett in January 1885.


Edwin Richard Collingwood Millett, after serving in the Boer War, returned to England.  As the only surviving child he inherited Bosavern on the death of his father Edwin Ley Millett in December 1902, and sold it.

Source:  Millett, Iain. Millett of Penpol and Marazion.



Owners and Occupiers


This list may not be complete but it provides an interesting indication of the long period of history associated with Bosavern House.


early 16th C          The Bossavarne family was descended from one John Thomas who had been a sergeant-at-arms for King Henry VIII.  John Thomas is recorded in the St Just area between 1514 and 1537.  We have not yet found any records which link him directly to Bosavern House.


                              John Thomas was probably succeeded by his son Thomas Thomas, also referred to as Thomas Bossavarne.


1589                      The greater part of the Bosavern estate was held by Martyn Thomas, whilst a smaller portion was held by William Bossavarne, Martyn’s nephew.  Martyn is also referred to as Martyn Bossavarne in some documents.


1594                      Reference is also made to Martyn’s son, John Bossavarne.  This is the year in which the Bosavern family arms were carved in wood and fixed over the old Bosavern pew in St Just church.  (This pew end may still be seen in the church today).


1637                      By this date, the Millett family had taken over the ownership of Bosavern and Martin Millett was in residence.


1678 – 1732          James Millett, Vicar of St Just in Penwith.


1724                      Thomas Allen purchased the portion of the house which was owned by the Nicholls family of Trereife.


1789                      Thomas Allen sold his portion to Mr Saundry.


1840                      The house was owned jointly by J N R [John Nicholas Richards] Millett and Mr Saundry [son of the earlier-mentioned Mr Saundry].  At one stage, J N R Millett was the mayor of Penzance.


15 Jan. 1885         Edwin Ley Millett became the owner on the death of his father.


29 Dec 1902          Edwin Richard Collingwood Millett inherited the house upon the death of his father.


23 Oct 1923          John and James Philips (farmers) were taken on as tenants by E R C [Edwin Richard Collingwood] Millett.


1 July 1926           John Walters took over as tenant.


20 Jan 1950          Reginald B G Birtill took over as tenant.


17 Mar 1956         Mr J Streak inherited the House upon the death of E R C Millett in

                              South Africa [in 1949].


11 Oct 1957          William Hibberd bought Bosavern House (he was already living here –– as a tenant?)


25 Jan 1965          Stanton Noel Page, jointly with John and Pamela Ladd became the

                              new owners.


31 May 1965        Stanton Page became the sole owner.

                              September 1970 – obtained approval to build the garage.


31 Jan 1978          Dennis and Myrtle Marks took over ownership.

                              November 1981 – obtained approval to develop the caravan park.


25 July 1983         Edgar and Joy Treweek took over ownership.


27 April 1988       Bob and Alison Hartley took over ownership.


28 Feb 1997          Colin and Maria Lilley took over ownership.


1 Aug 2000           Allan and Corinne Collinson took over ownership.

10 July 2017         Martin and Helen Stevens


            Source:  Corinne Collinson.




Description of Bosavern House


The oldest part of the house is the northern end, i.e. the guests’ lounge, hall, stairs and two rooms over the lounge and hall.  Recent work on the roof at this end has enabled us to confirm that the roof timbers are the original ones – implying that this part of the house has always been its current size/height – suggesting it must have been quite imposing when it was first built.  This is also the part of the house which has the thickest walls – 3 feet of solid granite!  It was undoubtedly built on the site of an even older residence. …


Today, all of the house is very Victorian in its appearance – even the oldest part.  The Millett family used some of their wealth to invest in extending and “modernizing” the house during the mid 19th century.  This “modernization” would, of course, have included the old-fashioned earlier parts of the house.  It is probably during this period that the house was almost tripled in size by the addition of the east-west wing and the north-south wing.  The granite walls of these wings are only 2 feet thick!


The coach-house dates back to 1873 – with this date being carved on the front of the building, together with the initials W H M.  The ground floor room still has the beautiful curved wooden lintel which would have originally formed the top of the door into the building, through which coaches and carts would pass.  On the outside wall, there are still remains of the metal posts upon which the door hinges would have rested.


The wing between the main house and coachhouse, now the next-door farmhouse, was built in 1911 and separated in 1918.


At the back of the property, the small caravan and camping park is on the site of the old orchard.  We have been told that there was a tree-lined avenue leading from the house to the orchard.  The orchard was also surrounded by trees which were planted to provide a walk, called “Ladies Walk”.  This was used by the ladies of the house to take a walk in the shelter of the trees when the weather was bad.


At one time, there was also a building at the edge of the property, next to the road, where the palm trees are now located.  We understand this was the hamlet’s communal wash house – and it still appears in one of the photographs in our front hall.  This building was demolished during the late 1970s/1980s when the overall entrance to the property was widened in order to improve access.


It is common local knowledge that Bosavern House is connected to other properties (including Bosavern Farm and Cot Manor) and to the sea by underground smugglers’ tunnels.  Some of the other properties were also built by the Millett family.  Today, the exact route of the tunnels is not known, although sections of it are still in existence – but sadly not at Bosavern.  We are still looking!!


One of the oldest surviving members of the Millett family is living in South Africa and in her nineties.  She remembers going down to the sea as a child and into the cave where the tunnel started.  She even remembers the rings used for mooring the boats.


We have three wells within the grounds of the house and one is next to the house.  Unlike a traditional well, this is beautifully built with an arch which leads under the floor of our sitting room – maybe this is our tunnel entrance?!  For those visitors who are interested, we keep water divining rods available so that they may have some fun trying their skills at finding the springs and streams around our property.


Bosavern House is also reputed to have a friendly ghost called the “Grey Lady”.  She is a lady in a long grey dress, with long flowing hair.  She is seen in our house and our neighbour’s house and sometimes in Ladies Walk.  She is usually followed by a small dog and it is reported that the dog’s toenails can be heard clicking on floorboards as it follows her.  Apparently she is seen only by children.  We know one person who, as a child, woke up and found the Grey Lady looking at her toys in her bedroom.


Although we have never seen the Grey Lady, we often hear movement in the house when it is quiet and empty – especially footsteps above us!!  It never worries us because the house feels so very warm and friendly.


Source:  Collinson, Corinne.  Bosavern House: a brief history.  Bosavern, 2006.  4 p.




Memories of Bosavern House


By Mary Blanche (Molly) Cazalet, née Millett      


Transcription of email from Anne Haig to Corinne and Allan Collinson, owners of Bosavern House in Cornwall, dated 13 February 2001


Dear Corinne and Allan,


Thanks SO much for your email.  I am, once again, up in Zimbabwe with Jen until the 15th and have done some homework, so here goes ...


My cousin, Molly Cazalet née Millett, now aged 92, lived in Bosavern as a child until she was 13 and her memories are what I write.


The Milletts went to the U.K. from Brittany in 1066 and later to Cornwall – probably (?) built Bosavern and smuggled, using a huge cave on the coast in line with the house.  This, in Molly’s day, had a big iron ring in the rocks to attach the boats to (?) and unload onto a cart that went up the passage to the house (?) and used the fireplace to enter and unload (?).  This was a story she heard as a child.  Her father never allowed children to enter the cave as dangerous deep holes were found.  I myself stayed at Bosavern as a girl 64 years ago and my uncle, Richard Millett (Molly’s father) never allowed me to go near any caves for the same reason!


Richard Millett [5], wife Maud [6] and children Pat [7] and Molly [8], left New Zealand in about 1910 to live in Bosavern as Richard’s father died [in 1902] leaving the house to him.


Molly well remembers the ghost story of the Grey Lady dressed in a long cotton dress which swished as she walked and her little dog with claws that clicked on the floor as they went through the house, out the back porch, turned left to the coach house and apple loft and disappeared!!


Molly remembers her life there, going to school in Penzance and later to New Quay by horse drawn coach kept in the coach house beside the house.  Food was ordered by her mother every 6 months from Selfridges in London and came down by train.


There were four families (friends nearby two being Coopers and Taylors), and each mother took it in turn every Saturday to take all the children out for the day, each with little packs of food on their backs – leaving the other mothers to have a peaceful day!


There were seven bedrooms and no bathroom in the house!  Hip baths were carried by the two maids they employed to each bedroom daily and water in jugs, and they bathed behind a screen.


The Milletts owned all the surrounding land on their side of the road to Kynamic (a group of houses) to the clay pits – porcelain clay – on the way to Penzance and all the moor lands opposite the pits.  Do any signs of the pits still exist, I wonder?


After this, Molly was to have her lunch (she now lives in a retirement village in White River) so no more to tell you this time!!


I myself remember the house, spending holidays at Bosavern from school in Devon, where I was for two years, while uncle Richard and my aunt lived there.  It was a guest house then.  I remember being terrified of the ghost story and feeling someone was there in the garden which had lots of big trees and shrubs.  Inside the house I do not remember anything except my little bedroom at the top of the stairs – only lamps and candles to see our way.


Yes, Molly remembers the coat of arms on the church pew.


I had SO hoped with the fallen-in area next door that it led to the fireplace and cave but it must now be full of water??


Perhaps the history of the house might be found at the Records Office or, I believe, there is a BBC TV programme called “House Detectives” and they might be interested in the possibility of investigating the passage etc ... just a passing thought!


If you do find out any more facts, please let us know.


Kind regards,


Anne Haig

Nottingham Estates, Zimbabwe




I suppose one of the most exciting discoveries was to find “Bosavern House” which had been occupied by our branch of the family since the early seventeenth century and on the site of which there is reputed to have been a dwelling for more than 600 years.  The house is on the main road about one mile south of the Market Square of St Just and not far from Land’s End.  Among the buildings nearby is a barn with “WH.M. 1783” carved into the stone over the door.  In the Pedigree there are four William Milletts, any one of whom might have been the author of the carving!


When we visited the house we found that it had been sold out of the family in the early part of this century with the last Millett owner having gone to South Africa.  Now a Bed & Breakfast establishment, we stayed for a night there in a wonderful room with a view of the land that had once belonged to the family, sweeping down to a charming little cove on the west coast of Cornwall. It was a bittersweet experience!


Source:  Millett, Brian.  The Millett Family of Cornwall.  Yass, NSW, Australia, September 1990, p. 4.


[1]  Lafrowda is the ancient name for the church lands where the village of St Just-in-Penwith stands today.

[2]  Buller, John.  A Statistical account of the parish of St. Just in Penwith, in the county of Cornwall, with some notice of its ecclesiastical and druidical antiquities.  Penzance, R. D. Rodda, 1842.  118 p.

[3]  Treneer, Anne.  The mercurial chemist: a life of Sir Humphry Davy.  London, Methuen, 1963.  264 p.

[4]  Taylor, Thomas (ed.).  The Easter Book of St-Just-in-Penwith, 1588-96.  Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall vol. 20 pts. 3 & 4, 1917-1918, p. 213-294.

[5]  Edwin Richard Collingwood Millett, 1874-1949

[6]  Letitia Maud Maunsell, 1878-1922

[7]  Edwin Maunsell Millett, 1906-1990

[8]  Mary Blanche Millett, 1908-2006