Gilbert, Charles Sandoe (DNB00)

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GILBERT, CHARLES SANDOE (1760–1831), historian of Cornwall, son of Thomas Gilbert, was born in the parish of Kenwyn, near the city of Truro, in 1760. In conjunction with a Mr. Powell he became an itinerant vendor of medicines in Cornwall and Devonshire, where Gilbert & Powell's pills plaisters, tinctures, and drops were considered the universal remedies, and brought in much wealth to their proprietors. On Powell's retirement 'Doctor Gilbert' continued the business alone, but afterwards took in a Mr. Parrot. Later on he had establishments at 29 Market Street, Plymouth, and at Fore Street, Devonport, being assisted by a staff of six travellers, who continually visited the towns and villages of the two counties. His medicines were also extensively advertised in the local newspapers. About 1810 Gilbert acquired information which led him to believe that he might claim descent from the Gilberts of Compton Castle, Devonshire, and under that persuasion he applied himself to the study of antiquities, genealogy, heraldry, and the collateral sciences, which ultimately led him to undertake a general history of Cornwall. Henceforth in his journeys through Cornwall he took notes of all he saw and heard, and also made his travellers collect information respecting local occurrences. After 1812 he was accompanied in several of his annual excursions in Cornwall by Henry Perlee Parker, since well known as an historical painter, who aided him by his pencil. After years of assiduous labour the first volume appeared in 1817, bearing the title of 'An Historical Survey of the County of Cornwall, to which is added a Complete Heraldry of the same, with numerous Woodcuts,' 592 pages. The second volume came out in 1820, 962 pages, and is generally found bound in two parts, the latter commencing after the conclusion of the heraldry at p. 373, where a half-title is found embellished with a view of St. German's Church, and the words 'Historical and Topographical Survey of the County of Cornwall.' As a parochial history, taken as a whole, it is an admirable work, and is still one of the best and most useful of the numerous books on Cornwall. Copies are seldom met with, and when found command high prices. In the majority of instances the twenty-five engraved plates of coats of arms are wanting. During the progress of the 'Historical Survey' Gilbert appears to have neglected his business, and, although he was patronised by successive dukes of Northumberland, and obtained a number of subscribers, the work cost double the estimate, and on 29 Oct. 1825 he was gazetted a bankrupt. In the following year he removed to London, where, taking Gilbert Morrish into partnership, he opened a chemist's shop at 27 Newcastle Street, Strand. Here he was interviewed by the Rev. John Wallis (Wallis, Cornwall Register, 1847, p 312); and died at the same address 30 May 1831, being buried in the churchyard of the Savoy, where a head-stone was erected to his memory.

[Notes and Queries, 4th ser. ix. 141; Journ. Royal Inst. of Cornwall, 1879, pp. 343-9, by Sir J Maclean; Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub. pp. 173. 1194; Davies Gilbert's Hist, of Cornwall, 1838, i. xiii-xiv.]

G. C. B.