Nicholas Ennor 1796 - 1874

Every churchyard has some surprises; take a look at the ornate-sided tomb of Nicholas Ennor, very unusually perched almost on top of the hedge between the two entrances to the south side of the churchyard and was shrouded in ivy.

Nicholas Ennor's Tomb. Photo: John Ennor
After clearance of ivy (2013)

A larger than life character, Ennor was well known in mining circles during the 19th century and was a young manager of Treburgett lead mine during the first of its productive phases 1817 - 1826.

Nicholas Ennor was born on 28th December 1796 and was baptised in St Agnes, 12th March 1797. These dates were taken from St Agnes baptisms and it appears that the tomb (see photo) mas mistakenly engraved with the date 31st December 1797.

He was the eldest of several children of Martin and Alice Ennor (nee Carter). If he spent much of his youth at St Agnes, he would have been well aware of the importance of Cornish mining because the whole area was a hive of mining activity. During his work at Treburgett mine he must have lived nearby, but we have no indication of where. Later, the 1841 census shows that he lived in Delabole with wife Jane, four children† and a servant. His occupation was given as a quarry agent. A move back to mining apparently followed, for in the 1850s he was asked to advise on the prospects of lead mines in the Mendip Hills, Somerset and abroad*. The 1861 census shows him living in Wells, Somerset. In a move which was bound to be controversial, he also published an annual list of mines worth investing in.

Latin inscription on top of tomb: born 31 December 1797, died 23 May 1874.
The former date was probably in error - see text.

We can get a taste of his personality from an account in the Mining Journal by George Henwood, 27th June 1857.

Capt. Nicholas Ennor, Wiveliscombe, Somerset, is one of those extraordinary scintillae that appear once in an age, and has certainly done as much good to legitimate mining by his writings as any man living. His unsparing satire, his cutting though sometimes dogmatic remarks, have wrought a world of good; his straightforward mode of acting (never screening his opinions or remarks behind a feigned signature) has gained for him a celebrity few men have enjoyed. Before his scrutiny, humbug, deceit and pretension quail and hide their heads; for if Ennor come across them, he is sure to lift the veil and expose the barrenness of the land. His candour is too great to please all parties, as in all cases truth itself is not acceptable.

- a celebrity few men have enjoyed

Capt. Ennor has had ample opportunity for studying his favourite pursuit. At Treburgett he was distinguished as an able manager; at Drake Wells as a miner, and at Delabole as a quarryman, as he has sometimes been ironically termed. But to be an experienced slate quarryman is no slight accomplishment, or one easily attained or understood. It would be well if every mine inspector were thoroughly acquainted with the cleavage and characteristics of the slate rocks. The number of inspections with which Mr Ennor is entrusted has, no doubt, excited the envy, hatred, and malice of many who witnessed the success he really deserves; his integrity is unimpeachable; his ability acknowledged, and his writings testify he is guided by one principle in the main - to guard legitimate mining from fraud and impurities, whether found in the mine, the office, or on the Exchange. He carries on the war with a determined purpose against agents, accomplices, brokers etc. If he finds them out in a dereliction of their duties he at once exposes them, and boldly lets them know whence the shaft is sped, defying them to prove to the contrary. Long may Capt. Ennor enjoy health to carry out his great and good work.

More cutting remarks are to be found in obituaries in an editorial
in The Mining Journal, 30th May 1874

Nicholas Ennor - Whatever opinions may be entertained with respect to his views upon geological questions we are satisfied that there is not a reader of the Mining Journal but will regret that we shall no longer be able to number him amongst our correspondents. He died at his estate, St Teath, Cornwall on Saturday last in his seventy-seventh year. We cannot turn to a volume of the Journal during the last quarter of a century without finding communications from Mr Ennor upon subjects of paramount interest to practical miners. That his conclusions were at all times accurate we will not attempt to maintain, but it may be said without any hesitation that he has conferred a permanent benefit upon the mining community by recording so vast a mass of facts and observations. That one whose views upon geology were often extremely original (though his most imaginative notions would compare favourably with those of a member of the Geological Survey who has just taken it into his head to exclude, and attempt to justify the exclusion of, coal from the mineral kingdom) should have had energetic opponents is not a matter for surprise; but that his theories were not groundless may be judged of from the circumstance that there are now a vast number of practical men who have become converts to his opinions. He was unquestionably most laborious in research, as well as an acute observer during an extended period of years of practical experience.

The Late Mr Ennor

Sir, - Your notice of the demise of your indefatigable correspondent, Mr Ennor, has taken me and others by surprise. It was only a few days ago I was reading in the Mining Journal a letter of his, containing a series of interrogatories demanding solution.

his weakness
- his egotism

I agree with you that, notwithstanding his weakness - his egotism - he possessed a vast amount of mineral knowledge, acquired from observation and experience during a long and active life. Having acquired some years ago an independence, he has since been visiting and describing mines, and contributing to the journal as means of recreation. He seemed to glory in mining, and in writing about mines, lodes, cross-courses, slides, elvans, strata, and on all the phenomena of inorganic nature. He visited, I believe, nearly every mine in England and Wales. I think that there is only one gentleman that I know who has visited more.
Mr W J Henwood, F.R.S of Penzance.

Every reader of Mr Ennor's letters must have perceived that his cardinal weakness was an overestimate of himself, and those of your readers who are conversant with the sciences of geology and mineralogy must have smiled at some of the absurd theories proposed by him as incontestable truths. But most of your readers will regret the removal of a man who contributed so largely to their instruction and amusement. We shall have to wait a long time to find his like.
Truro, June 1, 1874. R Symons

This short account was prompted by emails from John Ennor of Bath, who is related to Nicholas Ennor, although not a direct descendent. John found that Ennor's will stated that he wished to be buried in a "Delabole Slate tomb with a full size foundation or last stone on my grave to rest on the Quarry not exceeding ten guineas". There is no inscription on the tomb other than his name and date of birth and death. In the 1871 census Nicholas is shown as living next door to the Methodist Church in Trevilley Lane at a house named Churchtown, which must be the building that now includes the shop of that name. His next door neighbour was a William Calloway. This must be the neighbour who is shown as informer and present at death on Nicholas Ennor's Death Certificate, suggesting that he lived there alone. Quite why he choose to live, perhaps alone, in St Teath again after such a long period away we can only surmise - perhaps the village possessed some of the qualities dear to us today - caring, friendly and a great community spirit.

We are greatly indebted to John Ennor for his interest and for supplying extracts from The Mining Journal and other information. Anne Perisic is thanked for discussions.

†His son Adolphus lived at Ennormeade, now Trevellan, between St Teath and Knightsmill for a short period. John Ennor's researches indicate that Nicholas had fallen out with his son Adolphus and most of the remainder of his children were living abroad. Perhaps this is the reason why he died alone in St Teath as his wife Jane died on 19th March 1867. In any case he died in considerable discomfort as his death certificate gives the cause of death as "Enlargement of Prostate duration not known. Retention of urine duration not known. Relieved by catheter 4 days. Coma 16 hours".

*There are several references to Nicholas Ennor in A K Hamilton-Jenkin, Mines and Miners of Cornwall, Federation of Old Cornwall Societies, 1970, Vol 15:p 68,75, Vol 16:p 39,40,43,48, which are publications from the Mining Journal, unfortunately not available at this time.