Rashleighs and Treffrys have been the two major gentry families in Fowey since the Tudor period. The Rashleigh name has been traced back to a property called Rashleigh Barton in Devon which existed in 1196. The first mention of the Rashleighs in official documents in Cornwall is not until 1543, when a Philip Rashleigh (the younger son of John Rashleigh from Barnstaple, owner of Rashleigh Barton) was listed on a Subsidy Roll for Fowey.
It would appear the Rashleighs employed entrepreneurial skills to take full advantage of the dissolution of the monasteries by buying and re-selling the land acquired. They were also merchants and shipowners, with a house at Menabilly and a fine town house in Fowey (now the Ship Inn). John Rashleigh’s the Francis of Foy sailed with the explorers, Frobisher and Drake and was also part of the fleet in battle against the Spanish Armada in 1588. They were involved in the Newfoundland cod fishery and launched a ship, Success, in 1606 from Caffa Mill.
Throughout the centuries, the Rashleighs have married into wealthy Cornish families, thus strengthening their influence throughout the county. Until 1832 the family was closely linked with the political scene as Fowey had two MPs, many of whom were Rashleighs. Charles Rashleigh, who was born in Menabilly, was a trained lawyer who created the port of Charlestown to assist with the exports from the nearby copper mines. Philip Rashleigh was a noted mineralogist.
The beautiful mansion at Menabilly was erected by a John Rashleigh in the late 1500’s and is still the family home. Most famously it was leased by Daphne du Maurier for some years and features as Manderley, in her book, Rebecca.
Research Hazel Thomas
Sources: Cornwall Record Office: RS/86 Book of Pedigrees by E W Rashleigh; James C. Marshall. ‘Rashleigh of Devon’, Devon Notes & Queries, Vol. IV (1906/7), pp.201-16; J. Scantlebury, ‘John Rashleigh and the building of his ‘New Carvell’ the Success, 1606’, Journal of Royal Institution of Cornwall, Vol III, 1996; J . Keast, The Story of Fowey, (Dyllansow Truran, 1996).