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Polperro Family History

The JOHNS family of Polperro

One name that frequently occurs among the stories of smuggling in Polperro during the 18the century is that of William Johns, a local fisherman who was also one of the owners of the Swallow, a boat that was closely associated with the trade in contraband goods.

Born in 1742, William Johns married a local girl, Philippa Libby, and the couple had nine children.

By the time he was 40, William had become acquired considerable wealth from his privateering and smuggling activities, but while in command of the Swallow in 1783 he was unlucky enough to have his vessel and cargo seized by a naval man-of-war off Lundy Island on suspicion of smuggling.

After his death in 1802, a memorial to him was placed on the outside tower of the church at Lansallos to the west of Polperro where it can still be seen today.

    Richard Johns (1781-1873) Richard Johns (1781-1873)
One of William's sons, Richard, joined the Royal Navy at Plymouth in 1813 and served as Master aboard HMS Reindeer when she took part in a celebrated engagement with the American sloop Wasp the following year.

The Reindeer was captured in the action and Richard Johns severely wounded. He was eventually pensioned off on half pay, promoted to the rank of Staff Commander and continued to live in Plymouth until his death at the age of 93 in 1874.

Richard had married Priscilla Rowett in 1802 and a note on the Rowett pedigree records that he was known as "Her Majesty's Bad Bargain" on account of his having lived for so long on a generous naval pension.

Further details of the Johns 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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