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National Maritime Museum

Cornwallis, Admiral The Hon. Sir William (1744-1819)


Reference code(s): GB 0064 COR

Held at: National Maritime Museum

Title: Cornwallis, Admiral The Hon. Sir William (1744-1819)

Date(s): 1759-1818

Level of description: Collection

Extent: 7ft; 213cm

Name of creator(s): Cornwallis | Sir | William | 1744-1819 | Knight | Admiral


Administrative/Biographical history:

Cornwallis entered the Navy in 1755 and served in the Newark in North America and the Dunkirk in the Channel, 1759 to 1760. He became a lieutenant in 1761 and a commander in 1762, the year he took the SWIFT to the West Indies where he remained until 1765, when he was promoted to captain. His next ship was the GUADELOUPE, Mediterranean, to which he was appointed in 1768, going in her to Newfoundland in 1769 and thence to the West Indies until 1773. From 1774 to 1776 he went on two commissions to West Africa and Jamaica in the Pallas. Between 1777 and 1778 he commanded the Isis in North America and in 1779 was appointed to the LION, remaining in her until 1781, in the West Indies. He was present at the battle of Grenada, 1779, and was at both the battles of St. Kitts, 1782, and the Saints, 1782, in the Canada. In 1788 he became Commander-in-Chief, East Indies, in the Crown and towards the end of his command reduced Pondicherry. He was promoted to rear-admiral in 1793 and to vice-admiral in 1794, when he was appointed to the EXCELLENT in the Channel, from which he moved quickly to the CAESAR and then to the ROYAL SOVEREIGN. In 1796 he commanded an expedition to the West Indies but after a collision Cornwallis turned back: he was court-martialled but acquitted. In 1799 he was made an admiral and in 1801 succeeded Earl St. Vincent to the command of the Channel Fleet. With the exception of the period of peace he maintained the blockade of Brest in the Ville de Paris until he was superseded by St Vincent in 1806. He saw no further active service. Cornwallis was Member of Parliament for Eye in Suffolk from 1768 to 1774, 1782 to 1784 and 1790 to 1807 and for Portsmouth from 1784 to 1790. The papers were used by John Leyland ed., Dispatches and letters relating to the blockade of Brest Navy Records Society, 1898, 1901). There is a biography by G Cornwallis-West, The life and letters of Admiral Cornwallis (London, 1927).


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Sir Willaim Cornwallis including logs, 1759 to 1760, 1789 and 1792 to 1793; admiral's journals, 1794 to 1796 and 1801 to 1806; letterbooks, 1768 to 1771, 1777, 1788 to 1794 and 1795 to 1815; order books, 1789 to 1791 and 1801 to 1806 and a purser's wine book, 1789 to 1795. The loose papers are mainly letters from the family, 1761 to 1779, 1790 to 1799 and 1800 to 1818 and there are some from Nelson, 1788 and 1803, Lord Hood, 1790 to 1791 and other naval officers, 1770 to 1818.


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Finding aids:

Detailed catalogue online at the: National Maritime Museum website .


Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The papers were purchased in three sections in 1932, 1934 and 1948. The first two sections were acquired from the Wykeham-Martin family and these have been examined by the Historical Manuscripts Commission (Various Collections, vol. VI, 1909, pp. 297-434). The greater part of the present collection was purchased at the Harmsworth sale at Sotheby's in 1948.



Archivist's note: Edited by Sarah Drewery, Jun 2011.

Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: 2011-05-13

Napoleonic Wars (1800-1815) | Wars (events)
Naval affairs | Military affairs | Military science | Social sciences
Naval operations | Military operations | Military engineering
Ships logs | Primary documents | Documents | Information sources

Personal names
Cornwallis | Sir | William | 1744-1819 | Knight | Admiral
Hood | Alexander | 1726-1814 | Viscount Bridport | naval officer and politician
Nelson | Horatio | 1758-1805 | 1st Viscount Nelson of the Nile and Burnham Thorpe | Vice-Admiral

Corporate names
Royal Navy