Samuel May Colenso & Mary Veale Thomas


Samuel May Colenso married Mary Veale Thomas in Penzance on the 27th August 1808. She was the daughter of William Thomas, a solicitor in Penzance. Her mother was Jane Veale, connected to the Veale Family of Trevaylor, near Gulval.


Samuel was described as a gentleman in the marriage record, but elsewhere as saddler. His business must have been reasonably successful as he served some time as a councilor for Penzance. He is also recorded as joining the Druid’s Lodge on the 3rd December 1809. This is the first record indicating the Colenso family’s long association with Freemasonry.


Samuel and Mary had ten children, with nine reaching adulthood.

*  William, born 1809, dying 15 July 1810.

*  William, born 17th November 1811, dying 10th February 1899 in Napier New Zealand. He emigrated to New Zealand in 1834 as a printer for the Church Mission Society. He was an explorer, naturalist, politician and student of maori-lore, collecting most of the NZ flora for the Kew Gardens.  He had two children by his wife Elizabeth Fairburn, and another son Wiremu as the result of a relationship with a maori woman called Ripeka.

*  Samuel, born 1813. He married Louisa Charles and had three daughters. After his wife’s death in 1852, he and his two surviving daughters disappear. However the will of Eleanor Thompson Brock Colenso, indicates that she married a Samuel Colenso around 1857 in Ontario Canada. He subsequently disappeared again, with the only clue an unclaimed letter in Australia around 1862. Samuel was a painter and glazier.

*  Richard Veale Thomas, born 13th May 1815, dying 5 Jun 1892 in Penzance. He married Susan Ann Edmondes, from Marazion,  in 1836 and they had 19 children. He was also a painter and probably started the Colenso & Sons business of painters and decorators.

*  John Williams, born 1818, dying 29th January 1853 in Penzance. He married Christiana Grey in 1847, but they had no children. He was a painter until his marriage, and then became a grocer. His death was attributed to epilepsy.

*  Jane Emily, born 1820, dying January 1896 in Penzance. She married John Montmorency Tucker in Paddington in 1848. In the 1881 census she is widowed and running a boarding house in London. In the 1891 census she is living as a lodger in Penzance. A number of letters from her brother William to his nephew William indicate that he was supporting her.

*  Elizabeth Frances, born 1822, dying 22nd December 1883 in Penzance. She married John Bramwell Sutherland Stevens, a master mariner. They had one daughter Mary Jane (Minnie), who was buried in Penzance with her parents in 1937, no indication that she married.

*  Ellen, born 1824, dying 14th March 1907 in Penzance. She was a dressmaker, working in London in 1871. She was living with her cousin Robert Edward Nicholas in 1891 and boarding in 1901, living on her own means.

*  Edwin, born 1827, dying 30 June 1897 in Geelong, Australia. He immigrated to Australia in 1848 and worked as a carpenter and then an undertaker. He married twice and had 15 children.

*  Mary Ann, born 1830. She married James Symons, a saddler from Liskeard, in 1856 in Birmingham. He ran a wholesale saddlery business in Walsall. They had 6 children, including Annie Colenso Symons and Edward William Symons, who both became teachers, with the latter becoming Headmaster of the King Edward VI School, Bath.

Samuel May and his wife were married in the established church and their first two sons were christened in the Penzance Parish Church, - St Mary’s. However there are no further christenings recorded and they were both mentioned on a memorial at the Heamoor Wesleyan Chapel. This suggests that they became Wesleyan. Samuel’s brother William was a lay preacher and actively involved in the Wesleyan movement.

They lived at 10 Alverton Street for most of their married life – a house that had been in the Colenso family for many years. Mary Veale Thomas died in November 1856, with Samuel May dying in April 1866.

Their portraits were taken by their son William to New Zealand and then returned to Penzance, via his nephew William Colenso, son of Richard Veale Thomas. The following is an extract from a letter, dated 5th June 1898, William wrote to his nephew concerning the portraits. This link will take you to a description of William’s early influences before going to New Zealand.

                      mary%20veale%20thomas                                            samuel%20may%20colenso

                              Figure 1: Mary Veale Thomas                                                            Figure 2: Samuel May Colenso

The original portraits are now at Shotley Manor, passed down through Susan Colenso, daughter of William’s nephew, who married Albert Arthur Greer Martell.

The first family tree that I saw described Samuel as “the bad old man”. Have never found any explanation for this title.