Col. Camborne Haweis Paynter
1864 - 1949

 Relationship to me: 3rd Cousin twice removed Gen -2
Born: 1864  
Died: 1949  
Age 85  
Father:      Reginald Hearle Paynter 1831 - 1875
Mother: Mary Davies Haweis m. 1858 1837 - 1905
Siblings: Hugh Haweis Paynter 1865 - 1934
Married:  Ethel Nina Patience Venning c1880 - 1933
Children: Elizabeth Narcissa Marie (Betty) 1907 - 1980

Outline his Life: See Chapter 9 of Boskenna and the Paynters by Jim Hosking. However for a more revealing (and amusing) account of his later days, read "Wild Mary" by Patrick Marnham (Chatto and Windus 2006), a fascinating biography of the novelist Mary Wesley. The following excerpt gives a taste of Col Paynter and life at Boskenna under his care (it's worth reading!):

"West Cornwall in the 1930s was a long way from London, and people still had their own way of doing things. At Boskenna the tenants paid their rents to the Colonel once a year and in person, after which he entertained them to a raucous dinner. As time passed, his leases became more whimsical. They might be granted on condition that the tenant had served in the army, or was not a Roman Catholic (Camborne Paynter had no time for `Popery') or could play bridge. Some of the most singular leases were granted to the colony of artists the Colonel encouraged to settle on his land at Lamorna Cove, which became a centre favoured by painters such as Laura Knight and Alfred Munnings, and was well known to Stanley Spencer, Russell Flint, Ruskin Spear, Rodrigo Moynihan, Henry Lamb and others.

Colonel Paynter's daughter Betty was once reported to be engaged to Guglielmo Marconi, who had become one of her admirers while working in West Cornwall on his celebrated radio transmitter. For some reason the Colonel was irritated by this story and horsewhipped the pack of newspaper reporters who gathered at Boskenna for the next meet of the Western Hunt. He was an enthusiastic motorist but had little time for the Highway Code. In the 1930s Betty also had a motor car, they were the only two drivers in the neighbourhood, and they once met and collided at Boskenna Cross. The Colonel alighted, instructed Betty to stay with the cars, walked home and telephoned the police, telling them to arrest his daughter and charge her with dangerous driving. He heard the case himself and imposed a driving ban of several months. His own driving habits were notorious in the parish of St Buryan and beyond. Once, as he sped down the lane, a terrified delivery boy leaped off his bicycle and jumped into the ditch. `Foolish boy, foolish boy,' said the Colonel as he flashed past. `I've nearly run him over once already this morning.'

Boskenna was said to be full of ghosts. Mary's friend Pat Morris, who stayed in the house in the 1940s, remembers it as being `very haunted' but not unpleasantly so. `You just knew that everyone who had been there was walking about.' The Colonel took the ghosts for granted. Once, when a guest complained that there was a strange man sitting in a chair in the library, the Colonel said, `Get Aukett to offer him a drink. That usually gets rid of him.' Aukett was George Aukett, the butler, who had originally worked for the Colonel's grandfather. Aukett played the violin at private recitals and `rendered popular ditties with great sense of humour' according to The Cornishman.

Mary described Colonel Paynter as `an eccentric, hospitable and incredibly tolerant father'. He in turn adored Mary and it was largely due to him that Boskenna became her ideal house. The imaginary ideal house, or `great house in the West', that appears repeatedly in her fiction, notably in The Camomile Lawn, Not That Sort of Girl, A Dubious Legacy and Part of the Furniture, was clearly inspired by Boskenna. It is typically a house from which the sea can be heard breaking on the rocks at the foot of the cliff, where an owl patrols the cliff path and where you lie in bed and hear the cawing of rooks or the clatter of horses' hooves in the early morning, or watch the firelight flickering on the bedroom ceiling late at night. The fictional Henry, master of Cotteshaw in A Dubious Legacy, whose father had enjoyed droit de seigneur in the neighbourhood, bears some resemblance to the real-life Paynters of Boskenna, whose distinctive features were said to crop up regularly among the children of St Buryan. In extreme old age Alice Grenfell happily recalled the time when as a young girl she had received her first wages from the Colonel and he had smiled at her and said, `You belong to me now, Alice.'

The Colonel's tolerance was partly due to the fact that Betty's mother had died in February 1933, after which the house lacked any conventional governing influence. The extra-legal funeral arrangements made for Mrs Paynter were very much in character. She was said to have died after a short illness. In any event, as one friend of the family put it, `They didn't get on.' No undertaker was involved since the Colonel had his wife's body taken to St Buryan church on the back of the estate lorry. The coffin was plain oak with iron handles. After the funeral service the coffin was taken back to the Boskenna estate and Mrs Paynter was supposedly buried with her dog at her feet in a private grave on the cliffs between her Japanese garden and a flower farm. Others remember a service on the rocks below the cliff, where the Colonel scattered his wife's ashes into the sea and then turned to the mourners, rubbed his hands and said, `Well, that's that. Now who's for a game of bridge?' There was no inquest.

His wife gone, the Colonel, whether through grief or high spirits, dedicated himself to a second youth. He spoke French, Italian, German and several other languages, and his daughter Betty was encouraged to make Boskenna the centre of a cosmopolitan circle of friends, young people from London who were looked on unfavourably by those who were trying to keep the estate going. Mary described it as `an entirely new set of people, sophisticated demi-monde'. A new neighbour, Wylmay Le Grice, was taken by her husband to visit the Paynters and donned twin-set and pearls for the occasion. They rang the doorbell of Boskenna and after a long wait the door was flung open by a statuesque and naked young lady who said, `How-do you do? I'm Paula.' The Colonel had brought her down for the weekend, from the Windmill Theatre in London."

Col Paynter (right) in the garden of Boskenna circa 1946

Last updated 20 Oct 2006