This beautiful little chest, or Victorian writing slope, belonged to one of Falmouth’s ship and boat owners, Captain Albert Edward Benney. The Benney family were synonymous with the operation of ferries to and from Truro, as well as operators of pleasure trips in and around the area.
Falmouth had long been a place of importance due to the operation of the Packet service and then as a port ‘for Orders’. It was the arrival of the railway to Cornwall and Falmouth, which increased the number of visitors to the town. These early holiday makers would enjoy the beautiful gardens and beaches and would often take an excursion from Falmouth to the little creeks around the area, or to Fowey, the Lizard and ports and villages between Penzance and Looe. It was the influx of these visitors that prompted the local tug owners to operate pleasure craft with towage becoming a secondary interest and source of income. The Benneys’ were one such family.
Benney was the Captain of the Queen of the Fal. Theo Beckett, a contemporary states:
‘Captain Benney would go to sea (Mevagissey or Fowey) in an easterly half-gale with a small trysail rigged abaft the funnel to steady her and there were tales of passengers who were abjectly terrified as well as seasick’. We can gather from this that Benney was certainly very intrepid.
This writing slope could be used aboard ship, but was probably more regularly used at home in Benney’s capacity as Chairman of the River Fal Steamship Company. It was a treasured remembrance of Falmouth for Benney’s daughters, one of whom emigrated to Canada with her children, and it crossed the Atlantic as it was passed through the family. It has finally found a home here, back in Falmouth, where it was first used.