Francis Fox went from Wiltshire into Cornwall during the Civil War After marrying in 1646 he lived at Catchfrench, a 16th-century manor house belonging to the Kekewiches. Catchfrench is about three miles from St. Germans, where Francis was a clothier; and it is about the same distance from Menheniot, where George Fox held his first Cornish meetings. George Fox brought the Quaker message to Cornwall in 1655; and it was then or a little later that Francis and his family joined the Society of Friends.

Francis's wife may or may not have been a Kekewich. But his son's wife was definitely a Croker; and from her the Foxes get. most of their small share of blue blood. The Falmouth Foxes are descended from two grandsons of this marriage. George Croker Fox and Joseph Fox.

George Croker Fox succeeded to his father's mercantile and shipping interests at Par. Settling first at Fowey, he extended them by "his amazing energy, ability, and courtesy"; and in 1759 he moved to Falmouth where G.C. Fox and Co., shipping agents, have flourished ever since. Besides shipping, this family were interested in tin-mining, a foundry, and timber, (One of them, Robert Were Fox, F.R.S., invented the dipping needle or magnesia deflector, used in mines and on Polar expedition.) Increasingly well off, they had town houses in Falmouth, and country houses, with notable gardens, a few miles outside; and they intermarried with other well-to-do Friends - Barclays, Gurneys, Lloyds. But already in their third Falmouth generation they were making (to quote Wilson Harris) ''a deep impression throughout West Cornwall by their public spirit, their business ability, their philanthropy, the variety of their interests and their unostentatious but uncompromising integrity."

The success of G.C. Fox and Co. as shipping agents came largely from the choice of Falmouth, in 1688, as the home port of the Packet Service carrying H..M. mails. By the 1820's no fewer than forty services linked Falmouth, with foreign countries, mainly in North and South America. And in days of sail, when travellers often had to wait a long time for the ship, the families, connected with the shipping agents had a good chance, if so disposed, to offer hospitality to people with all sorts of attainments. Some of the Foxes were so disposed; and, though they lived in a small town in the far West, they made some surprising friends. Robert Were Fox's daughter Caroline, a quiet but brilliant girl who was born in 1819 and travelled much with her father, seems to have known pretty well everybody - Wordsworth, John Stuart Mill, Elizabeth Fry, George Borrow, Tennyson, Landseer, Holman Hunt, John Bright, and (particularly well) the Carlyles. In a biography Carlyle wrote of the Falmouth Foxes.

". . . love of knowledge, taste for art, wish to consort with wisdom and wise men, were the tendencies of all: to opulent means superadd the Quaker beneficence, Quaker purity and reverence there is a circle in which wise men may love to be.'

So much for George Croker Fox's descendants. Those of his brother Joseph, our ancestor, were once just as much Falmouth Foxes. Having taken to Medicine rather than business, they were less prosperous, had less leisure, and are not included in Carlyle's eulogy.

When George Croker Fox was at Fowey, building up his shipping agency, Joseph was there too apprenticed to a local doctor. When this training was over, he set up a surgeon and apothecary at Lostwithiel. And finally he moved to Falmouth, which he reached in fact before his brother. He married a daughter of Richard Hingston, surgeon or apothecary at Penryn.

From Joseph (1729 - 1785) doctors have descended in the male line for (so far) seven generations.

See "Joseph Fox and his descendants".

* Based partly on notes left by R. Hingston Fox, M.D., and partly on "Caroline Fox", by Wilson Harris (London,1944).


Generation I


(1730 - 1785)

Joseph was the first Falmouth Fox, and founder of the medical dynasty. He was also a man of character, as is plain from the affair of the Prize Money.

His father, George Fox of Par,' had two small vessels trading with Bilbao in Northern Spain. And his brother, George Croker Fox, was later to found the firm of G.C. Fox and Co, the Falmouth shipping agents,. But Joseph preferred Medicine, and, after serving an apprenticeship in Fowey, set himself up in Falmouth as a surgeon. The girl he married, in 1754, was a daughter of Richard Hingston (1695-1748), who had been a surgeon-apothecary in Penryn.

Joseph was., we are told, skilful in his profession. But "the profit in country places in those days was small; and, having a large family he was glad to take small shares in mines, and held one or two with his. brother in Merchant vessels, and also in a Lisbon packet."

In or before 1775 he took a quarter share in two cutters of the type used by the Revenue; and when war with France broke out in 1778 the other proprietors decided to equip them as privateers for capturing French merchantmen

With all his might, Fox opposed this plan, as contrary to Christ's teaching as he saw it. As a Friend he held that "no human laws can authorise men to kill each other, or to take their property by force.

Because he would never profit by this unlawful trade, his income from the vessels would in fact cease; and he therefore proposed that his partners should buy him out - at much leas than the value of his share. But they refused.

This passage, and all that follows, is derived from a pamphlet, "The Prize Money Restored," written by one. of his children and published much later.

When the venture succeeded - the vessels taken being unarmed and knowing nothing of the war - the other partners changed their tune: in exchange for Fox's share they offered him "a very handsome Annuity for life." But by now he had decided to insist on having the prize money, so that when the war ended he could make restitution to the French owners. Not knowing what the profits were, he had to accept whatever his partners chose to give him. But, invested in the Funds, this amounted in 1784 to some £1200 or 1300

So painful to Fox was the whole episode that he never mentioned it to his sons or even to his wife, though she "had his entire confidence in other matters." The first intimation was in a letter to Edward Long Fox, who was just finishing his studies at Edinburgh, asking him not to settle immediately as a physician but go instead to Paris "to transact some business for me."

Edward and his wife reached Paris in October, 1784; but to find the people who had actually lost money by the privateering proved anything but easy. For a time he got explicit instructions from his father: "Be very circumspect and cautious in thy answers to the Claimants . . . I will do with the money what appears to me right, not as it appears to others. Keep vouchers and memorandums of every transaction to vindicate my reputation if censured, but be cautious; many will be on the watch to misrepresent things. - Be steadfast to thy principles regard not being thought particular. I know that all persons, let them say what they please, do in heart esteem those who act right, and most in character.'"

In February, 1785, an advertisement appeared in the Gazette de France, with a warmly appreciative note by the editor. But about the same time Joseph died from "a severe attack of pleurisy."

For various reasons, including the renewal of war, Edward could not discharge his obligations completely till 1817. By that time, thanks to compound interest, a substantial sum remained; and this was eventually used to establish a fund for the relief of aged and distressed merchant seamen in some of the French ports.

Generation II



Munk's "Roll of the Royal College of Physicians" tells us that this second Joseph, after practising in Falmouth for some years as an apothecary, "acquired by marriage and his profession a small independence" and decided to try his fortune in London as a physician. He studied at Edinburgh and in 1783 graduated M.D. at St. Andrews. Settling in London, he was admitted L.R.C.P. in 1788, and in 1789 was elected physician to the London Hospital. In 1792 the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. made nim a fellow.

In 1800 he was compelled by his increasing private engagements to resign his office at the London Hospital; and, having by that time accumulated a fortune fully adequate to the supply of all his wants, he soon afterwards quitted London."

He had conceived,. and partly compiled, "A New Medical Dictionary Containing a Concise Explanation of all the Terms Used in Medicine, Surgery, Pharmacy , Botany, Natural History, and Chymistry;" and the publishers, who had the. manuscript, arranged for its revision and completion by Thomas Bradley, physician to the Westminster Hospital and long editor of the Medical and Physical Journal. This workmanlike little book appeared in 1803, and in 1804 Joseph gave a copy to his nephew Richard Hingston Fox.

In retirement, he lived first in his cottage at Mylor, across the water from Falmouth; but his last years were spent in Plymouth.



Of the three medical brothers, Edward was to make the greatest name for himself. But Munk's Roll is brief. Having graduated at Edinburgh in 1784, he practised at Bristol; and, after a very prosperous career as a general physician, devoted himself to tho care of the insane. In 1804 he opened Brislington House, near Bristol, as a private asylum






In 1826, on June 29, between noon and 1 o'clock, before the medical faculty of the University of Leyden in Holland, Richard Fox defended his Latin thesis on various manifestations of oedema. (Presumably he not only wrote but also spoke in Latin). After which he we. approved for the degree of doctor of medicine.

The printed thesis begins with a dedication translated as follows (by his medical great -great -great-grandson Robin):

To Almighty God, and to the memory of my beloved father, Joseph Fox, surgeon, who was renowned for his philanthropy and for good reason dear to me and others,

Richard Fox dedicates this token of affection.

The preface says ;.

I am now advanced in years. But from the time I embarked on the study of Medicine it has been my ambition to prepare some account of my knowledge and experience, however humble. That is why I now present my medical ruminations, such as they are, for examination by the distinguished professors of the medical faculty. The title page describes him as "Britannus," and as a member of the Edinburgh Society of Physicians and Surgeons. Which strongly suggests that at some stage he had studied in the North. (Edinburgh and Leyden were closely linked.) But on the last page is evidence that he had also attended Guy's Hospital in London. Being about 62 when he took his degree, he had probably been practising in Falmouth for about Forty years. For we may suppose that when he married in 1786 he was already established there.

My grandfather, who was born in 1821, recalls his visits as a child to Richard's house at Little Arwenack, about a mile from Falmouth. Everything was kept so neat; the neat white gate at the entrance with a splendid hydrangea on each side . . . then the pretty jesamine-covered porch which, I recollect, harboured a wren's nest." The porch, it seems, consisted of half a boat, turned on end and supported by a post - which Richard had been known, in a wicked moment, to liken to the wooden leg of his wife Hannah. (Long ago, her Leg had been amputated after she fell from her horse near Penryn.)

From Little Arwenack they moved into town first to a house in Quay Street. and then to one in Arwenack Street. A Guide to Falmouth of about 1826 gives under, Physicians, "Richard Fox, Quay Street M..D. and licentiate of the college." After Hannah 's death in 1833, he moved to the white house at the Ropewalk" When he himself died in 1841 he was 76 or so but he had only lately retired from the post of quarantine doctor for the port.

One letter we possess, dated the 22nd of twelfth month, 1830, and sent through the post to "Joseph John Fox, Falmouth, Cornwall." The recipient was then 9 or 10 years old, and the letter is in Latin:

Greetings in the Lord. Tomorrow morning, if the weather is fine I propose to show you a shipwreck. All the sailors died in the water - some drowned, some killed when they were thrown on the rocks. Their clothes and possessions were also lost. This calamity, I'm sure, will make you very sad: to think of wives grieving for their husbands and children for their dead fathers, We ought to be thankful that we do not have to face the perils of the sea.

Generation III



The son who was expected to succeed Richard was the eldest, who bore the name of his father and his Penryn grandfather. But the young man's years of practice were few; for he died in 1818. Earlier in that year he had given a copy of The Rambler, in three volumes, to his slightly younger brother, Josiah Forster Fox.


( 1792-1861)

As Josiah was not a doctor, the mantle fell on the youngest son, Joseph.

In boyhood. Joseph had been sent away from Falmouth to a school at Southgate kept by his mother's cousin Josiah Forster. After he qualified he "was often very delicate and unfit for much practice." But happily he married a remarkable woman -Anna Peters Tregelles.

If I remember right, it was this Joseph who declared his love in a somewhat unusual way. Though he managed to get Anna to come and look at the livestock, he remained at first tongue-tied. But then passion overcame him."Shall we keep pigs?" he said. And she thought they should.

Anna's father, Samuel Tregelles, was earlier reckoned the richest and strongest man in Falmouth. "He used to laugh at the men struggling under the weight of a sack of corn, and take up a sack under each arm." Moreover, his seventeen children included one who was to become eminent in the Society of Friends *.

She herself was regarded by a teacher as the most talented young person he had ever met.

Her French master, in a not very exciting poem, said:

Elle a du jugement et beaucoup de mémoire.

Ses discours sont solides, ils sont beaux, plein d'esprit.

Elle parle, du moins, aussi bien qu' elle écrit.

And my grandfather (rather later) described her as truly brilliant.

Before her marriage, the Tregelles business had heavy losses. Some of the daughters started a girls' school for Friends, and Anna helped in this.

For their honeymoon she and Joseph stayed a few weeks at the cottage in Mylor belonging to the great-uncle who used to be physician to the London Hospital. This, we are told, was a happy and restful time: "he was fond of Nature, and quite a botanist, and my mother so fond of flowers."

Afterwards they had many trials. Few of their children were robust, and several died. But the parents must have taken pride in their sons, all of whom (said my grandmother) were "nice, sincerely affectionate, and gentlemanly young men - so genuine too". Four became doctors.

* Edwin Octavius Tregelles civil engineer and minister of the Gospel. Edited by Sarah E. Fox. London, 1892.

Generation IV



Joseph John, the eldest, was brought up at home. "Joseph John Fox, Falmouth School, August 15th, 1833," is written at the front of his "Florilegium Poeticum;" and at the back are some elegant experiments in curlicues and copperplate, conveying the same message.

Sis years later he set off for London by coach, bearing an introduction to the great Quaker physician Thomas Hodgkin. The first thing to do, Hodgkin told him, was to matriculate at London University; and three weeks later he did so, with honours in chemistry and mathematics. From University College Hospital he won the gold medal for chemistry in the 1st M.B.; but he was never to sit for his degree. With his M.R.C.S. and L.S.A., he went into practice, in 1843, at Stoke Newington , then a rural suburb of London. There he soon found almost too much to do. Within two years he had founded the Stoke Newington Mutual Instruction Society which arranged lectures on scientific literary, and social topics, and is said to have been

the first of many societies of the same kind. Enjoying mathematical calculation, he followed attentively the deductions of his friend William Farr from data obtained by the registration of births and deaths. Between 1856 and 1859 he wrote a series of papers on the Mortality of the Metropolis; and he gave the statistical Society, of which he was a fellow his observations on the vital Statistics of the Society of Friends. These were followed in 1861 by a short book on the causes of the Society's decline - written in competitions for a prize. He did not win this; but if the winners did better they must indeed have done well. For the long essay by J.J. Fox, F.S.S., is remarkable both for its penetration and its style. Though a deeply convinced Friend, he was not one to see his particular Church as the sole repository of Christian truth.

In his early years he wore the plain Quaker dress - no easy thing to do in a medical school. But his book concludes that a peculiar costume for Friends was no more than an expedient. From middle life he abandoned this external badge, though his clothing remained a little old-fashioned.

From him 40s he had been more and more disabled by Meniere's disease, with deafness; and in 1880 he had to give up practice altogether. In retirement one of his scholarly hobbies was the collection of material for Murray's great dictionary; and he retained the interest in people - what they did, what they were like, and where they came from - that went with his taste for genealogy.

That taste came out in the names given to his sons - such as Courtenay, Hingston, Tregelles, and Fortescue. Though the two eldest had a spell at boarding-school (Sibford), he took a big part in the. education of all six who survived infancy. Five qualified as doctors, and two of these, late in life, became fellows of the College of Physicians.



In 1836, as a boy of 10 staying at Marazion, Henry writes to a sister that Grandpapa (?Tregelles) took him to Plymouth by steamer. And he went riding too.

Some three years later he was first (top boy) at Sidcot School in Somerset. And he seems to have lived, or stayed, with his Tregelles aunt in Wales; for in taking over Joseph John's book of Latin verse he wrote inside: "Henry Tregelles Fox, Neath Abbey, 10 mo., 1840".

Having studied at University College and its hospital from 1846, he practised from 1850 to 1853 at Great Dunmow in Essex, where he. was district medical officer. Then he set off from Liverpool as surgeon of the Prince Arthur; bound for Australia. The ship was crowded and poorly equipped for medical work; but of the 600 people on board "only 10" died during the fourteen weeks' voyage. The passengers gave Henry three testimonials to his work under difficulties, expressing, it is said, "high apprediation of medical skill, Christian deportment, suavity, etc."

In Australia, in 1854, he married Melita Abrahams and settled in practice at Kew, a suburb of Melbourne. Eight or ten years later he heard of a favourable opening at Beechworth, about 140 miles away as the crow flies. After a very weary journey by wagon,. with his wife and children, he arrived to find the medical prospects actually very, poor. But ho stayed and made the best of them; and when his nephew Hingston Fox stayed with him in 1877 the tide had turned and he was prosperous. In 1888 he was able to retire; but unfortunately he lost property in the Australian land trouble.

At Beechworth he had been for twenty-five years medical officer of the Benevolent Asylum and hon. surgeon to the district hospital, and for eight years he was medical officer of H.M.Gaol. In 1868 he reported a case of carcinoma of the oesophagus relieved by gastrostomy.

Of his children, Alice, the eldest, came to see us in England when I was a child; and she kept in touch. We have a précis of Raymond Fox's lecture of Miners' Disease, to the Miners' institute at Stawell in 1903.

Marshal, was a surveyor in Western Australia; and Charles Alexander, the youngest brother, went to join him and became a victim of the Western Australian desert. As one of a party surveying for wells he contracted typhoid; and, though his companions did their best to move him across the waterless country, he died suddenly at a station on "350 miles from civilisation."



Samuel succeeded to his father's practice in Falmouth. He showed himself "able and of good repute;'' but he died of tuberculosis at 30. His nephew Hingston speaks of "his case book and microscope book (beautiful figures)." Tall, with sidewhiskers and spectacles, he was my grandmother's favourite "among the Foxian brothers.

And as to his dress he hardly seemed ever to think of it!

In a letter to Henry in Australia, written from 2, Russell Street, Mile End, in 1854, Samuel says:

Before I left Falmouth Mamma desired that I would send thee a message when I wrote next. I have felt rather unwilling .. . That thou would'st strive after humility and seek to be a useful but not a prominent character.' Thou wilt receive this message as coming from Mamma. It is applicable to all of us. I feel it so to myself especially."

This letter also shows. that Samuel had been at Sidcot School. He asked to be, remembered to Alfred Clemes. "He and I were at one time warm friends at Sidcot. I have met him since at Liskeard and at their own house at Austell when he was recovering from an attack of tetanus."

My grandmother, in 1906, comments on what she calls his conscientiousness "do thee see he says Austell not St. Austell."



Nathaniel, too, was to have been a doctor; but his health was thought unequal to it. Instead, he was apprenticed to an ironmonger at a house in Market Street originally built by Samuel Tregelles, his grandfather. He married the owner's daughter, Elizabeth Cox, and his father bought the business for him.

Instead of being a professional man like his brothers, he was now a shopkeeper; and one, moreover, who depended on his wife to keep things going whenever he was ill. In the early years he had to spend much of each winter in bed in a warm room, while Elizabeth interviewed tho travellers and saw to the shop. Happily she was "a most able nurse. . . . and a never failing inspirer of hope." So well did he recover that at the age of 30 he was mayor of Falmouth.

Official duties were only a small part of what he eventually undertook; and his children were early accustomed to their parents' numerous Christian activities.

In those days Falmouth often held many ships waiting for orders or better weather; and Nathaniel and his wife tried to help the idle crew by holding meetings, providing books, and inviting them to their home. "Total abstinence." was part of their message.

Another abiding concern was education. Nathaniel was one of the managers of the National School, and an active vice-president of the Royal Cornwall Orphans Home.

In the. Society of Friends he was for ten years clerk of Devon and Cornwall Quarterly Meeting. (He was one of a deputation from Yearly meeting which waited on Edward VII at his accession.) In politics an uncompromising Liberal, standing for Temperance, Peace, and Freedom, he was also, with his son Frank, a steadfast passive resister. They often suffered distraint and the loss of goods, both for the old rector's rate and for school rates. But in the end this became a sort of game played to rules. The bailiffs always took a very nice silver tea-caddy, and there was no cheating.

On his retirement from the town council in 1887, forty leading townsmen asked him (unavailingly) to stand again, because of his "'great: business experience and watchful care over the finances of the council." In later years he was a Justice of the Peace.

The house in Market Street contained much woodwork from a ship of Captain Cook's. It was "crammed with furniture" - both family possessions and some collected by his uncle Josiah Forster Fox. But all was lost in 1870 when the house and shop were destroyed by a fire spreading from next door. The family (then seven children) were lucky to escape in their nightclothes; and Nathaniel had the risky Job of extricating warm barrels of gunpowder from his cellar and rolling them into the sea. Last century an ironmonger's shop had to keep a large variety of things its customers might require; and gunpowder was needed for shotguns. Compared with today, tho ironmonger had to make far more of the things he sold; and Nathaniel employed plumbers and a tinsmith.

After the house was rebuilt, he accumulated some good pictures, much good furniture, and a great many curios. In a seaport, sailors were always arriving with things they had picked up abroad. And in Falmouth "there was a wonderful institution called the Old Curiosity Shop, run by an old rascal called Burton, whose rooms were packed with everything from Chinese ivories to poisoned assegais and shrunken heads. Old Burtoc used to pick Nathaniel's brains about his acquisitions and gave him the chance to pick up many nice things." Among his special interests were china and Japanese netsukis, of which he had a great collection.

To Hester Rutter, who stayed for a time at Market Street after her mother died, the house seemed to be something of a museum. Once it had been overflowing with young life; but now it had a strict regimen and what we should nowadays regard as excessively high standards "Grandpapa was most particular: his umbrella must be folded just so; his hat brushed; all of us inspected before we set off to Sunday meeting . . . Children have very clean eyes for some things and no knowledge of others; and, being a child, I did not understand that poor health makes one irritable and impatient." Sometimes he would read aloud -"The Water Babies" or "Wee MacGregor" - or would show treasures from his cabinet. "In the back parlour was a large telescope trained on the shipping; also a huge globe. Our picture books were old numbers of the Studio - an education in itself. And I remember his excitement when we found a blue pimpernel, growing by a heap of Mendip chippings used for roadmaking."

Hester's heart went rather to her grandmother. "Grannie was lovely - good-looking, and able, and very kind, and full of fun. Her grandchildren adored her. (And so did he.) . . . She had green fingers. But all her garden (apart from a small conservatory) consisted of tubs on The Deck, as they called the long tarred ant sanded roof over the shop. The Deck overlooked the harbour, and gulls were fed on a platform at the end of it. There was a beehive wicker chair, like those on the Belgian coast, where she used to sit out of the wind."

In another grandchild, Nathaniel too inspired lasting affection. "I loved him, and he was always very kind to me,. Marshall Sisson says. "He was a man of considerable culture and taste, and immensely well informed on many matters; and I owe him a great debt for arousing and encouraging my interest in many things that have be important to me in life. He was a very clever draughtsman, and I still have some delightful sketches of animals, ships, etc., done for me when a child. I suspect that he noticed even in a small boy, some indications of interests similar to his own. He was so kind in showing me things and giving information. For example, I well remember him explaining the three-colour process of reproduction to a fascinated boy. In writing this I am becoming more acutely aware not only that he was a formative influence in my life but that any artistic or creative ability I may have must have been inherited from him, largely if not entirely."

It was probably Hingston Fox, a nephew, who wrote: "The character of Nathaniel Fox was in many ways typical of the results of Friends' training. He was reserved, self-contained, never putting himself forward, humble in his estimate of himself, yet very firm in his convictions, and tenacious of what he thought right. Under his retiring manner there was a strong will and a kind heart, as well as a keen sense of humour and a love of all that was beautiful in Nature and in art. Such men when they become known, have to bear weight in the community and are relied on by weaker and more impulsive natures."

Some may feel that, with a little less of this training, Nathaniel might have been less austere, and happier. Perhaps, too, part of his reserve was the defence of a proud and sensitive man whose social position (it was then felt) had been lowered by going into "trade."

But the last word is with Marshall. "I have the happiest recollections of my grandparents' home - especially the wonderful Christmas family parties (with my friend and cousin Willie of course) and the house full o of interesting and mysterious things."



A letter from Alexander from Australia in 1864 says that he is sailing for England in the Naval Reserve, and speaks gratefully of a visit to Henry - probably at Beechworth. Elsewhere he is. described as surgeon, of Auckland, New Zealand, and U.S.A", and in 1864 he could have been on his way, home after a spell in New Zealand. He married in 1869, and I do not know where he settled in America. But, in reporting his death from pneumonia in 1876, his widow wrote from "Shortlands."

That Nathaniel and Henry liked him is suggested by their giving the name Alexander to their (three) youngest sons.



Marshall too visited Henry at Beechworth - in 1865. He wrote of possibly going to Adelaide if he ever left England again. But he died in that same year.


Home Page |  What's New |  Most Wanted |  Surnames |  Photos |  Histories |  Documents |  Cemeteries |  Places |  Dates |  Reports |  Sources