Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: November 24, 2017.
Webpage updated: December 08, 2018

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When Commander James Cook set out from Plymouth aboard HMS "Resolution" on July 13th 1772 to explore and chart New Zealand he was accompanied by Captain Tobias Furneaux, Royal Navy, of Swilly House, aboard HMS "Adventure".  Captain Furneaux, who was born at Swilly House on August 21st 1735, had already been around the world once between 1766 and 1768, with Wallis.  When they arrived off New Zealand they parted company and Furneaux sailed south to explore and chart the coast of Tasmania.  He gave several places local Devonshire names, like Eddystone Point, Mewstone, and even Swilly.  Cook named the Furneaux Islands in his honour.  Furneaux brought back to England a native named Otaheite, who he presented to the King in 1774.

The Furneaux family acquired Swilly House by the marriage of John Furneaux (then spelt "Furneauxe") to Miss Emma/Emme Kemp on January 25th 1652.  The wedding took place at Stoke Damerel Parish Church.  Exactly who the Kemp, or Kempe, family were is not known.  A Tobias Kemp married Miss Joane Dawe at Stoke Damerel Parish Church on November 23rd 1607.  There is an Emme Kempe (sic) recorded in the Parish Registers as being baptized at Stoke Damerel Parish Church on March 20th 1615, whose father is given as Tobias.  But this one was also recorded as being buried on September 9th 1616, also at Stoke Damerel.  However, Tobias had another child baptized Emma/Emme Kemp (without the "e") on June 2nd 1622 and it would appear that this one survived.  It is assumed that this was the Emma Kemp who married John Furneaux but it must be borne in mind that there is a possibility, however unlikely it sounds, that there were a Tobias Kemp and a Tobias Kempe.

It is possibly not surprising that they named their first boy Tobias Furneaux.  He was born in 1658.  He married Miss Grace Rawe/Rowe at Landrake Parish Church, Cornwall, on January 8th 1690.  Tobias Furneaux died at Swilly House on November 30th 1740 and was buried on December 2nd 1740 at Stoke Damerel Parish Church.

Amongst Tobias and Grace's children was William Furneaux, born in 1696.  He married Miss Susanna Willcocks at Stoke Damerel Parish Church on October 3rd 1722.  They named their first boy after William's father, Tobias Furneaux.  He was born at Swilly House on August 21st 1735.  He joined the Royal Navy, became a Captain and went on to join Commander Cook in his expedition related above.  Captain Tobias Furneaux never married and thus had no heirs.  He died at Swilly House on September 19th 1781 and was buried at Stoke Damerel Parish Church.

Captain Tobias Furneaux had six younger brothers (William, James, John, Christopher, Philip, and Abraham) and three younger sisters (Susanna, Anne, and Judith).

John Furneaux, Susanna Furneaux and Christopher Furneaux all died in 1729 and Philip passed away in 1732.  William Furneaux died on December 8th 1747 leaving James Furneaux in charge of Swilly House.  He had been born at Swilly House on March 2nd 1725 and on May 16th 1751 had married Miss Elizabeth Rowe.  As James Furneaux died on April 26th 1785, again at Swilly House, they only had two children, both boys, James Furneaux, born August 2nd 1752, and William Furneaux, born July 29th 1754 and it was to James Furneaux that Swilly House passed in 1785.

Miss Anne Furneaux, in this case spelt without the final "e", married the Furneaux's next door neighbour, Mr George Couch (1725-1791), of Ford House, at Stoke Damerel Parish Church on April 23rd 1764.

The younger James Furneaux had only just got married, on September 5th 1784, to Miss Harriet Foot, at Plymouth's Saint Andrew's Church.  She was Cornish, born on August 10th 1765 in the Parish of Antony, near Torpoint, the daughter of Josias and Ambetta Foot.  It just so happened that the Reverend James Furneaux, as he then was, was the Vicar of the Parish she came from.

Harriet presented her Reverend husband with four boys and two girls.  The eldest, born on August 2nd 1785, was named James, after his father.  It is not known if he was born at Swilly House or not but Harriet (1787), William (1791), John (1793), Tobias (1794), and Arabella (1801), all were, as the family were by then resident at Swilly.  Unfortunately, the Reverend James Furneaux passed away at quite a young age, 50, on April 22nd 1802.

James Furneaux (1785) married Miss Anna Maria Romney at Midnapore, Bengal, India, on November 4th 1812.  Their first two boys were born in India: James Furneaux on October 31st 1813; and William Duckworth Furneaux, on August 2nd 1815.  The third boy, John Romney Furneaux, was born at the Cape of Good Hope on March 21st 1817.  Presumably the family were on their way home.  James (1785) may well have been ill as he died on December 2nd 1817.

Returning to James and Harriet Furneaux's family: daughter Harriet (1787) married Mr Richard Creyke in 1818; Tobias Furneaux (1794) married Miss Anne Richards in 1827; and William (1791) married Miss Maria Holmes in Quebec, Canada, in 1863. 

Mrs Harriet Furneaux, the former Miss Foot, James Furneaux's widow, was still alive and living at Swilly House when the census was taken in 1841.  Her age was recorded as 75 years.  There were eight other members of the family living with her and three female servants.  Brothers William and John were present, on half-pay from the Army and Royal Navy respectfully.  Arabella completed Harriet's immediate family.  Anna Furneaux and her son, James Furneaux, were there.  Maria Furneaux, formerly Miss Holmes, was there with her 15-years-old Devonshire-born daughter, also Maria.   And there was a six-years-old Richard Furneaux, too.  The three servants were 55-years-old Elizabeth Jago; 25-years-old Elizabeth Sargent; and Grace Brown, also 25.  The last named were both from Devon.

It would appear that Swilly House passed to both Captain John Furneaux RN, and James Furneaux, Harriet's grandson, who were listed as being at Swilly House in White's 1850 Directory of Devon.  By the 1851 census Harriet, as the head of the family, and the family were living at Lower Swilly and not at Swilly House.  Presumably this was smaller and it enabled them to rent out the House for income.  Both John (1794) and James (1813) were living with her.  But Harriet Furneaux was buried at Stoke Damerel Parish Church on March 15th 1853, John Furneaux died on February 14th 1865 at Albemarle Villas, Stoke, and James Furneaux passed away at Berkley, Somerset, on August 18th 1874, quickly followed by his son, the Reverend James Duckworth Furneaux on December 9th 1874.  It was thus that Swilly House passed to the Reverend William Mordaunt Furneaux, who was born  at Walton, Warwickshire, the eldest son of the now deceased Reverend James Duckworth Furneaux and Miss Louisa Dickens, who had married in 1846.  The oldest member of the family still alive at that time was Miss Arabella Furneaux, aged 75 years, who remained unmarried up until her death at Albemarle Villas, Stoke, on October 27th 1875.

But the Reverend William Furneaux never married and when he died on April 10th 1848 he left 50 to his servant, Edith Cooper, and Swilly House was put up for auction.  That was the end of the Furneaux family of Swilly House.


  With acknowledgement to the Devon Family History Society, the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office and Find My Past.