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Polperro Family History

The COUCH family of Polperro

The Couch family in Polperro dates back to the time of Henry VIII. Samuel Couch, who died in 1738, had 12 sons, eleven of whom left the village to seek their fortunes elsewhere. The remaining son, Jonathan, married Margaret Rowett in 1738 and their only son Richard was born on 30th April 1739.

Richard married Philippa Minards in 1788 and the couple's one and only child, Jonathan was born in Polperro on 11th March 1789. After attending the Dame School in Polperro, and later Bodmin Grammar School, Jonathan's education paved the way for study at medical schools in London where he was profoundly influenced by some of the best men in their fields.

      Dr. Jonathan Couch (1789-1870) Dr. Jonathan Couch (1789-1870)

When he returned to Polperro in 1810, he applied his newly acquired surgical skills to the dissection and study of the fish that were so vital to the welfare of his village. Besides being the local doctor and apothecary, often riding miles to visit patients, he was a zoologist, ichthyologist, botanist, archaeologist and classical scholar. He relied on knowledgeable local fishermen to help him in his research and he made hundreds of drawings of the fish he dissected, keeping a jet of water over each specimen so that he could paint their fresh brilliance before the colours faded.

A great deal of Jonathan Couch's varied work was published during his lifetime, but his major work was Fishes of the British Islands, published in four volumes between 1862 and 1865. The great work contained 256 water colours and drawings and is of considerable artistic merit as well as being a major contribution to scientific knowledge.

He married three times. His first wife, Jane Prynn Rundle died in childbirth in 1810. His second, Jane Quiller, produced six children, two of whom became doctors. After her death in 1857, Jonathan was married a third time at the age of 70 to Sarah Lander Roose, a local girl who was just 22. After his death in 1870 his Jonathan's grandson, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, described him as "a patient man of science who spent his life observing the habits of fish, without attempting to teach the Almighty how to improve them."

Click here for discover more about the remarkable Dr Jonathan Couch.

Further details of the Couch family of Polperro can be obtained from Jeremy Rowett Johns:

E-mail: jeremy.johns@polperro.org

Further information on the family would also be welcomed.

Jeremy Rowett Johns, Polperro Heritage Museum © 2000


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