Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: September 17, 2019
Webpage updated: January 02, 2020




The Woollcombe family had resided in the parish of Plympton Saint Mary since the time of King Henry VII. 

Henry Woollcombe was the son of a respected Plymouth surgeon, who died in 1822.  He is thought to have been born on May 1st 1778.

Nothing is known about his early education but it is thought that he attended the Corporation Grammar School at the time when Doctor Bidlake was the master because when that man died in 1814 Woollcombe wrote some disparaging remarks about him.

He was then sent to Holland to complete his education at the time when the French Revolution shut off much of Europe from Britain.  Henry wrote to one of his sisters from Haarlem in June 1792 but was back in Plymouth in 1793.

For about four years he worked in Plymouth, probably in his elder brother's solicitor's office, and then in December 1797 was articled to a solicitor in Lincoln's Inn, London.  By July 1798 he was back in Plymouth and had set up his own legal practice.

In time he was elected a common councilman and then an alderman.  He was very interested local history, the arts and science and in 1812 founded the Plymouth Institution.  The following year he was chosen as Mayor of Plymouth.  Over the following years he contributed greatly to the provision of the Athenaeum, of which he aid the foundation stone on his birthday in 1818.  He held the position of President of the Institution from 1827 until 1846 and just before his death was elected as Patron.

Mr Woollcombe was instrumental in founding the Plymouth Pubic Free School in Cobourg Street and was selected as Vice-President of the School in 1814, finally becoming President from 1829 until 1842.  In his will he left 50 to the School.

And as a faithful member of the Church of England, he presented a large and magnificent house in Frankfort Street for the use of the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge (SPCK) and other religious institutions.

Between 1833 and 1837 he was Recorder of Plymouth and took the opportunity to make the first ever catalogue of the records of the old Corporation.  He collected information with an intent to produce a history of the Borough but never completed the task.

During his lifetime he acquired Hemerdon House and was an active supporter of the South Devon and East Cornwall Hospital.  He was a Freeman of the Borough and acted as clerk and solicitor to the Plymouth Eastern Turnpike, the Tavistock Turnpike, the Stonehouse Turnpike and the Plymouth Embankment Company.

Mr Henry Woollcombe was found paralysed in his bed at his home in The Crescent, Plymouth, on the morning of Saturday February 13th 1847.  He passed away in the early hours of Sunday February 14th 1847.  He was 69 years of age.

He was succeeded at Hemerdon House by his nephew, Mr George Woollcombe, a retired Royal Navy Captain and magistrate.