The Branwells resided in that neighbourhood for two centuries before Thomas Branwell's day, and their name, under the various guises of Bramwell, Bramble and Bromwell, is to be found in the registers of the parishes adjoining Penzance. The earliest mention of this name that I can trace in Cornwall occurs in the Parish of Sancreed in 1605. A former incumbent of the adjoining parish of Paul, John Trernearne, saw his church in the hands of the Spaniards in 1595, when four of their warships made a raid on the Cornish coast. From him was descended Jane Tremearne, who, on July 2nd, 1705, married Martyn Bremble, presumably the son of John Bromwell, whose marriage to Constance is recorded on March 13th, 1657-8, at Madron. Martyn Branwell's will, dated April 22nd, 1719, and proved July 29th, 1719, exists at the Probate Registry at Bodmin. He is described as of Penzance, and a butcher by trade; and he mentions his sons, Martyn, Richard, and Joseph, and three daughters, Maudlyn, Margery, and Alice. To his wife, Jane he bequeathed the fee simple of the house and gardens, etc., wherein he dwelt, and also another house. From the terms of his will it is evident that Richard, Joseph, Margery, and Alice were minors. Of these children, Richard, baptised at Madron Church (the mother church of Penzance), on February 26th, 1711, is of greater importance in our special quest than the others. He married in 1742, at the same church, Margaret John, daughter of Thomas John, blacksmith of Penzance, and by her was the father of four sons and four daughters. Of these sons, two, named Martin, died young; the other two were Richard, the eldest child, from whom descended the Branwells resident at Penzance today, and Thomas, the father of Maria Brontë. Of the four daughters, Margaret, the eldest, married Joseph Coren in 1772, and by him had a son, also named Joseph, described as a scrivener in his grandfather's will, dated February 9th, 1792. The next daughter, Elizabeth, married John Keam, who is described as a shop-keeper. In The Wesleyan Magazine for 1826 (page 68), there is an obituary notice of this worthy by the Rev. Wm. Pennington Burgess. Therein it is stated that he died in the sixty-eighth year of his age, and that for thirty-six years, "he had been a steady and upright member of the Methodist Society, and was generally respected and esteemed." Alice, the younger daughter, married John Williams, gentleman, of Redruth. I have not been able to ascertain anything concerning the descendants of these three daughters, Mrs. Keam, Mrs. Coren, and Mrs. Williams. With Jane, the third daughter of Richard Branwell and Margaret John, the case is different. She married, at Madron in December, 1790, John Fennell, a schoolmaster, some nine years younger than herself. When, in the early part of 1812, Mr. Fennell was appointed to the headmastership of the residential school for the children of Wesleyans at Woodhouse Grove, at its inauguration, Mrs. Fennell became the matron of the establishment. She died at Crosstones Vicarage, near Todmorden, well past the Psalmist's span of life. On the tombstone in the churchyard, besides the date of her death on May 26th, 1829, are the following lines, a loving tribute from her husband:
Farewell, blest saint, thou dear and faithful friend,
Beloved in life, lamented in thine end,
Instructed long in sharp affliction's school
To make submission to thy lord thy rule,
To find, when every hope of life was past,
Thy blest, thy choicest comforts, were thy last.
Thou now eternally with him shall dwell,
Blest saint, thou dear and faithful friend, farewell.
RICHARD BRANWELL (1711-1792) was baptized at Madron on 26 February 1711. He married around 1742. He married Margaret John at Madron in 1742. "He with his partner Mr Hambleton were the premier builders of Penzance, and built the Assembly Room in the Union Hotel (first assembly 1791), where the gentry (à la Poldark) met monthly to hold their balls. He also built 25 Chapel Street, and put in the Georgian staircase at Godolphin Manor. His work on the quay, however, was washed away, and he was criticized on this account." (correspondence with Lilian Oldham). Richard's will is dated 9 February 1792. He was buried eight days later, in Penzance. Richard and Margaret had eight children: