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Celebrating Hampshire's Historians

Cornwallis-West, George

1874 - 1951

George Cornwallis-West was the great-great-grandson of John Whitby, the flag captain of Admiral Sir William Cornwallis (1744-1819) of Milford-on-Sea. He was an unlikely historian, but his two historical works are of considerable value. Educated at Eton, he was more interested in hunting, shooting and fishing than academe. He was a champion army horse rider, and his later book on fishing is highly regarded in the sport.

The fracture in relations between his grandmother, Mrs Theresa West, and his father, William, resulted in his meeting his grandmother only once, as his autobiography reveals. Starved of maternal love (his flirtatious mother is thought to have been a favourite of Edward VII), he sought solace in women many years older, marrying in turn Lady Randolph Churchill (thereby becoming the step-father, although born in the same month, of the future Sir Winston), the actress Mrs Patrick Campbell and a South African banker’s widow of whom nothing more is known.

He served in the Boer War - invalided home with sunstroke - the Great War, and with the British forces in Ireland in the troubled 1920s, accepting a lower rank at various times in order to serve.

His interest in the stage led to promotion of West End plays and financial ruin. He was able to discharge bankruptcy only by selling the family estate of Newlands in Milford-on-Sea, and most of its heirlooms, which had been inherited by Mrs West from her godfather Admiral Sir William Cornwallis).  In turn, it was his financial ill-health that caused him to take up writing.

The biography of Cornwallis is factual and derived directly, and almost exclusively, from the Cornwallis correspondence Mrs West had retained. It lacks the more outlandish fantasies of many family histories of his time, but the context suffers in part from his having no more than a standard schoolboy’s knowledge of British and world history. At the same time, the extensive correspondence with Mrs Whitby binds Cornwallis to Milford and its later development.

His autobiography is written without self-pity, and provides a fascinating insight into the lives of upper class families of his time. There is a lightness of touch, and evidence of a zest for life which was to be ruined in post-war Britain in the 1940s by a world he no longer recognised, made worse by Parkinson’s Disease. Having arranged his affairs, he died by his own hand on All Fool’s Day 1951, no doubt with a wry smile on his face as he did so.


  • George Cornwallis-West The Life and Letters of Admiral Cornwallis London:R. Holden & Company Limited, 1927.

  • George Frederick Myddelton Cornwallis-West Edwardian hey-days or A little about a lot of things London: Putnam, 1930.


George Cornwallis-West

From Edwardian Hey-Days

Contribution to county’s history

The only work on Admiral Cornwallis based on the full set of his correspondence, much of which remains in private hands. His autobiography is a fascinating account of the life of someone born into wealth and his subsequent life and vicissitudes over succeeding decades.

Relevant published works

  • Eileen Quelch Perfect Darling: The Life and Times of George Cornwallis-West London: C. & A. Woolf, 1972. (Quelch was his literary agent.)

  • George Cornwallis-West Edwardians Go Fishing: Or, Many Days on Many Waters London: Putnam, 1932.

  • Barry Jolly: ‘Cornwallis and Hampshire’ Hampshire Studies: Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society Vol 74 2019

Critical Comments

Other Comments

Collection of his writings and his archive are held at Winchester College


Barry Jolly, 02 03 22


Cornwallis, Milford-on-Sea, Cornwallis-West, Fishing

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