yeovil people

John Penkivil

Yeovil Surgeon


John Penkivil was born on 1 January 1774 at Devonport, Devon, the son of bricklayer John Penkivil (b1736) of Plymouth Dock Yard and his wife Mary (b1750). John Jnr was baptised at the Morice Square Chapel (Baptist), Devonport, on 22 February 1787 (see Gallery).

Nothing is known of his early life other than he qualified as a surgeon and, on 5 January 1802, married Martha Jones (d1824) at St James, Bristol. John and Martha were to have four children, all born in Stoke Damerel, Devon; William Jones (1807-1858), Mary (1809-1900, later to marry Yeovil solicitor John Slade in 1830), Joseph Cottle (1811-1811) and Richard Savage (1811-1879). Martha died on 28 August 1824.

During the 1820s, after the death of  Martha, John moved to Yeovil where he married Elizabeth Shorland (1784-1839) on 26 June 1828 at St John's church. Elizabeth was the youngest daughter of Yeovil surgeon Thomas Shorland Snr (1745-1817) and his third wife Eunice née Warry (1746-1820). During the 1830s John and Elizabeth lived at Hendford Hill Cottage (latterly known as Swiss Cottage) on Hendford Hill. Elizabeth died here on 25 September 1839, aged 54, after a long illness (see Gallery).

Pigot's Directory of 1840 listed 'John Penkivil, Physician of Hendford'.

In the 1841 census 65-year old John was still listed at the cottage on Hendford Hill, with just a female servant and a male servant. He gave his occupation as 'MD'. On 10 June 1845 at St Thomas' chapel, Edinburgh, Scotland, at the age of 71, he married 44-year old Jane McVicker Black (1801-1861) the only surviving daughter of "the late Rev. David Black, of Lady Yester's church, Edinburgh."

In 1846 John was listed in the Poll Book of Yeovil by virtue of "lease for years of houses" in South Street.

Hunt & Co's Directory of 1850 listed 'John Penkivil, Surgeon of Hendford'.

In 1851, John was noted as an investor in the South Western Railway Company.

In the 1851 census John and Jane were listed at the cottage on Hendford Hill together with three domestic servants. In the 1861 census John and Jane were listed in a house with two other families at 13 Strand, Dawlish, Devon and his daughter Mary Slade was a visitor. John, by now aged 87, listed his occupation as a physician.

John Penkivil died in Yeovil on 16 July 1861, aged 87. His will was proved in September 1861 and his estate was estimated at under £1,000 (just in excess of £1 million at today's value). Jane died at Perth, Scotland, in November 1861, aged 60.




The entry of John's baptism in the register of the Morice Square Chapel (Baptist), Devonport, Devon.


From the Cave Collection (colourised), Courtesy of South Somerset Heritage Collection

Swiss Cottage on Hendford Hill, probably photographed in the 1950s. During the 1830s this was the home of John Penkivil and his wife Elizabeth. Elizabeth died here on 25 September 1839.


The report of Elizabeth Penkivil's lingering demise from the 10 October 1839 edition of the Wiltshire Independent.


The notice of John and Jane's marriage reported in the 14 May 1845 edition of the Western Flying Post.