Falmouth Packet Archives 1688-1850
Daniel GWIN, Packet Agent (1689-1698)
Daniel Gwin - The first Agent of the Falmouth Packet Station
In the late 1680's the growing estrangement between France and England finally gave way to war in 1689. Postal communication to Spain and the Mediterranean, which had formerly gone through France, was interrupted. The government decided, in 1688, to set up a packet service from Falmouth similar to that already in existence at Harwich for continental mails and at Holyhead for Irish mails.
Daniel was the eldest son of Thomas and Margery Gwin. The Gwins were a sober, honest, hardworking [Quaker*] family of what would now be called the lower middle class.
(* Judging by the dates below, Daniel
would appear to be the brother of Thomas Gwin Jr., who published a Memorial to Anne Gwin
, his daughter, thus Daniel's niece, who died in 1715)
Thomas [Sr.] his father, was a man "as well beloved and respected for his justice and honesty, and prudent demeanour and good understanding as for his diligent serving a principall office" he was Mayor of Falmouth in 1676, 1679 and 1685.
Daniel married Katherine in the late-1670's. In the 1670's and 1680's Daniel was in business in Falmouth as a small trader. Humphrey Pellew of Falmouth said he knew him "before he became agent. He was then a shopkeeper and in general estimation supposed to be worth £200."
When in charge of the Packet station in 1689, his main work appears to have been to manage the victualling of the packet boats. From 1689-1698 there were two boats, the Spanish Alliance and the Spanish Expedition, going to and fro between Falmouth and Corunna [a.k.a. Passages] in north Spain.
In the following years Daniel acquired other offices. He became Collector of the Customs at Falmouth, Postmaster and Collector of the Salt Duty. He achieved a position of responsibility and authority in the town.
1689: Daniel Gwin, appointed as the first packet agent in Falmouth. (salary of £70 per annum).
[Eldest son of Thomas Gwin, Mayor of Falmouth 1676, 1679 and 1685]
1691: Mr. Herne and Mr. John Butcher, tide surveyor [for H.M. Customs] complained to the Customs Commissioners of frauds being committed by the customs officers in Falmouth. Daniel Gwin was suspended, but acquitted, and Butcher dismissed from his office.
1693: He wrote an essay on the pilchards caught in Cornwall and the amount of salt used in the fishery. Daniel was later accused of making illegal shipments of salt and other goods on the packets.
1694: Letters of his survive in the State Papers reporting on the movements of ships.
[Bibliotheca Cornubiensis, Vol.1, under Daniel Gwin; PRO SP 42/4 ff.778, 782, 820 ].
1698: A petition addresses to the House of Commons from the inhabitants of Falmouth complained of the abuses committed by the agent of the packet service.(3) Daniel was suspended from his offices.
1699: A committee of the House of Lords resolved that he be "displaced and made incapable of any enployment in the government, and, that Mr. Attorney-general doe prosecute him"
Witnesses said he had been deducting one shilling in the pound off accounts with local tradesmen, which, he said, were 'poundage' due to him out of right. Losses to tradespeople included John Daniell, butcher, who thought it "not proper to continue to furnish the pacquett boats with beefe anymore." Thomas Slade, a mariner on the Expedition said he was ashamed to see "the fraude and abuses putt upon the Kings Majestie" by [Gwin's] management of the packet boats, as agent. Edward Pearce said that when Daniel Gwin received the stores for the packets he usually kept the best joints, "the sewett in the Hindquarters of Beefe, Marabones of beefe, the Head and Leggs and Lard of Hoggs."
Martin Lister Killigrew considered the evidence of the prosecution witnesses "villanous false informations," but the Court of the Exchequer found the main charges proved. Daniel was dismissed from his offices and fined £10,000. Before the court case he had clearly become a wealthy man. [to have been able to settle the fine!]
1702: The year his mother died, Daniel Gwin made his Will.
1703: He appeared to have started up again as a shopkeeper, and was acting in some position under his successor as agent of the packet service, Daniel Jones.
[Whetter, p.318, qf. Calendar of State Papers 1703-4, pp 260-261]
1705: 15 May, Katherine, Daniel's wife died
1705: 29 November, Daniel Gwin died following a fall. He was buried in Falmouth on 28 November.
Daniel Gwin made enemies by profiteering by his office. He aroused the jealousy of powerful men in the Falmouth and Penryn neighbourhood, including a big merchant, Robert Corker, and his associates, Edward Pearce and Walter Quarme. The charge of profiteering was the same tune played by Penryn's senior citizens who complained vehemently that Killigrew, when he was granted the farm of the Customs, was smuggling goods via the Helford river.
1: Whetter, J.C.A., qf. PRO E134, 12 Wm 3 Mich 30.
2: Norway, Arthur H. The History of The Post Office Packet Service Between the Years 1793-1815 p.18. Macmillan, London & New York (1895).
3. Whetter, J.C.A. Daniel Gwin -The First Agent of the Falmouth Packet Station,
OLD CORNWALL Magazine (pp 314-318), Vol. VI. No.7, Published Autumn 1964. Price 2/6
4. Whetter, p. 316, qf. Journal of the House of Commons, Vol. XII, Nos. 540,667,676,580.
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