Hals, William (DNB00)

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HALS, WILLIAM (1655–1737?), compiler of the ‘History of Cornwall,’ was born at Tresawen, Merther, in 1655. He was the second son of James Hals of Fentongollan and Anne, daughter of John Martin of Hurston, Devonshire. James Hals was son of Sir Nicholas Halse [q. v.], and served at La Rochelle in 1628, and afterwards in the West Indies, where, according to his son, he was governor of Montserrat; during the civil war he sided with the parliament. When living at Fentongollan in St. Michael Penkivel, Hals began about 1685 to make collections for a ‘Parochial History of Cornwall,’ which he continued for half a century, bringing it down to 1736. He died in 1737 or 1739 at Tregury, St. Wenn, of which he owned the rectorial tithes, having nearly completed the work. He married thrice, his wives belonging respectively to the families of Evans of Landrini in Wales, Carveth of Pewansand, and Courtney of Tremeer, but he had no issue (Parochial Hist. of Cornwall, 1870, iii. 323–6).

About 1750 Andrew Brice of Exeter [q. v.] published in ten folio numbers Hals's ‘Complete History of Cornwall, Part II being the Parochial History,’ containing accounts of seventy-two parishes, Advent to Helston. The first part was never published. Hence there is no general title-page. On the printed wrapper of the first number of the published second part it is stated that the work was to have been completed in one volume of two hundred sheets, to be delivered in weekly 6d. numbers of four sheets each; the second part was commenced first, ‘not only because the proper necessaries for the first part are not yet completed, but as considerable additions are preparing by a very great hand.’ It is believed that the scurrilous details inserted by Hals caused a discontinuance of the publication. Hals's incomplete ‘History’ is very rare. The most complete copy is in the Grenville Library at the British Museum. A note in that copy states that at Lysons's sale in 1828 his copy with manuscript additions was sold to the Earl of Aylesbury for 108l. (168l. Boase and Courtney, i. 204). The ‘Parochial History of Cornwall’ [see Davies, Gilbert] was founded upon the collections of Hals, with additional collections by Thomas Tonkins. Hals's digressions and gossip are chiefly omitted. The manuscripts of Hals's ‘History’ passed through various hands, and belonged at one time to Dr. Whitaker. They were given by Whitaker's daughter, Mrs. Taunton, to H. S. Stokes of Bodmin, Cornwall. Mr. Stokes transferred them to Sir John Macleane, from whom they were acquired in 1875 for the British Museum (Addit. MS. 29762). The British Museum possesses other manuscripts by Hals, viz.: (1) ‘The History of St. Michael's Mount;’ (2) ‘An Latimer ay Kernow, a Dictionary of the Cornish Language;’ (3) an amended transcript of Keigwin's ‘Mount Calvary,’ 1679–1680 (Addit. MS. 28554, ff. 51–8).

[Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub. 1874, i. 204, iii. 1214; Polwhele's Hist. of Cornwall, 1806, v. 203; D. Gilbert's Parochial Hist. of Cornwall, passim; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. xii. 22; Gent. Mag. 1790 pt. ii. pp. 608, 711, 1791 pt. i. p. 32; Lowndes's Bibl. Man. 1858, i. 525; Lysons's Magna Britannia, 1814, cv. 2; H. Merivale's Historical Studies, 1865, p. 357; Journal of Brit. Archæol. Assoc. xxxiii. 37; information from Mr. Stokes; see also note in Mr. Stokes's Voyage of Arundel.]

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