Basset of Cornwall (DNB00)

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BASSET of Cornwall, Family of. The Bassets were amongst the early Norman settlers in England (one Thurstan Basset appears in the roll of Battle Abbey), and they have been, from at least the days of the Plantagenets, associated with Tehidy, the seat of their present representative. According to Hals, a Basset held some military post in Cornwall as early as the time of Robert, Earl of Mortain: but Lysons (who had a good opportunity of forming a sound judgment, from his personal acquaintance in the early part of the present century with Sir Francis Basset, first Baron de Dunstanville) says that the Bassets (who seem to have been first settled in Oxfordshire and other of the midland counties) can scarcely be said to have become Cornish folk (although they may have held property in Cornwall earlier) until the marriage of Adeliza de Dunstanville with Thomas, Baron Basset of Hedendon, Oxfordshire, in the time of Henry II; her ancestor, Alan de Dunstanville, was lord of the manor of Tehidy as early as 1100. Mr. G. P. Scrope, M.P., in his 'History of the Manor of Castle Combe, Wilts,' corroborates this account. This Thomas Basset appears to have been a descendant (probably a greatgrandson) of Henry I's justiciary (Osmund Basset), and himself held a like post under Henry III. Other members of the families of Basset and De Dunstanville also intermarried in the reign of Richard I; and in fact it is extremely difficult to trace the details of the first settlement of the Bassets in Cornwall. But, once settled in the county, they have steadfastly remained there, at Tehidy, near Camborne, up to the present time; and the bones of many generations of Bassets lie in Illogan church. They intermarried with Trenouth, Trengove, Trelawny, Marrys, Enys, Carveth, Godolphin, Prideaux, Grenville, Pendarves, Rashleigh, and others, many of which families are now extinct, and their blood is thus intermingled with that of most of the prominent Cornish fnmilies. Amongst the early Cornish Bassets may be cited Sir Ralph, who was summoned from Cornwall to attend, with other knights, Edward I in the Welsh wars at Worcester in 1277, and it was probably he or one of his sons who obtained from Edward III a patent for certain markets and fairs for the neighbouring town of Redruth, He also procured a license to embattle his manor house of Tehidy in the year 1330–1 (Rot. Pat. 4 Ed. III, mem. 10), and Leland mentions it as 'a castelet or pile of Bassets.' The name of a William Basset appears in the time of Edward II (1324) amongst the 'nomina hominorum ad arma in com. Cornubiæ' (Carew), and another Basset of the same name held a military fee at Tehidy and Trevalga in 3rd Henry IV. During the reigns of the 6th, 7th, and 8th Henries the Bassets were frequently sheriffs of Cornwall; and during the reign of Edward IV, according to William of Worcester, a Sir John Basset held the castle, the ruins of which still stand, on the summit of Carn Brea, not far from Tehidy. Their 'right goodly lordship,' as Leland calls it, extended over the parishes of Illogan, Redruth, and Camborne, the advowsons of which pertained to the manor of Tehidy, and the livings were occasaionally held by some member of the family; but their wealth has in later times been mainly derived from the enormous mineral riches of this part of Cornwall, albeit they likewise had considerable property in the north-eastern part of the county. The names of the earlier Bassets are little known in history, save that in the time of Henry VII a John Basset, then sheriff of Cornwall, found his posse commitatus too weak to suppress 'the Flammock rebellion.' About the middle of the sixteenth century the Bassets seem to have divided into two branches, one becoming a Cornish and the other a Devon family, the latter of which became extinct at the dose of the last century; but the Cornish branch was continued by George Basset, M.P., whose son married a Godolphin, and whose mother was a Grenville of Stow. Amongst their descendants were the two most distinguished members of the Basset family, viz. Sir Francis, vice-admiral and sheriff of Cornwall [q. v.] in the time of Charles I and another Sir Francis first Baron de Dunstanville [q. v.] in the time of George III. The little port of Portreath was formerly named after this family Basset's cove The Bassets were staunch royalists during the civil wars and held St Michael's Mount till 1660 when it was acquired from them by the St. Aubyns. A most amusing account of Francis Basset (under the pseudonym of Bassanio), grandfather of the first Baron de Dunstanville, and a sketch of Tehidy life 150 years ago, will be found in Mrs. Delany's 'Autobiography.' vol i. passim, and vol. iii p 431

The present representative of the family is Gustavus Lambart Basset, Esq., of Tehidy (late lieutenant of the 72nd Highlanders).

[Notices of the Basset family will be found in Playfair's British Family Antiquity (1809), ii. 430, and a very full pedigree in Vivian's Annotated Visitations of Cornwall in course of publication. See also in Mrs. Delany, iii. 450, iv. 300., v. 359.]

W. H. T.