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Williams Family Tree

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The family tree of one of Cornwall’s most prominent families has been brought up to date and is now on display at Caerhays Castle.

The Williams family is synonymous with mining in the county and that branch of the family with Caerhays connections has been recorded in a bound volume with entries starting in 1760.

Charles Williams, the current owner, wanted the book brought up to date. When it was created by his predecessor – J C Williams* – it recorded the family history up to 1904.

The new pages that have been added – on vellum, to match the originals – bring the family tree right up to the present day.

Although the completed book will be on display at Caerhays, visitors to the castle will be shown facsimiles if they want a close look.

“The risk of accidental damage would be too great if we were to let all visitors’ leaf through it,” said Charles.

Information recorded on the new pages has been garnered largely from research carried out by Col. George Torquil Gage Williams – a war hero – who died earlier this month, aged 92, following a fall at home.

“I have had this project in mind for a while – some 20 years – but there were things that distracted me, inevitably,” said Charles.

“Visitors are keen to know something of the family tree. How long-lived certain people were, where they came from; recent events are of importance too.”

Finding someone to create the new pages, using the correct materials and in an appropriate style, involved some research.

In the end, the task fell to Nadezhda (Nadia) Lisak, who runs her calligraphy service from her home in Penzance.

Her task was to record the information in the leather-bound volume so that it complemented, rather than imitated, the original.

The result is a stunning piece of work, illuminated partly in gold-leaf lettering and all created on vellum – the calf-skin pages which Nadia prepared with her own mix of traditional gesso**.

“Family trees are interesting and I enjoyed the work. Charles gave me a lot of information about all the characters and it was good to hear the stories,” said Nadia.
From start to finish, the project has taken almost four years and from Charles Williams’ point of view it has been worthwhile.

“I have taught myself a lot more than I knew before about our family history. I learned a lot from my parents of course but getting to grips with it in detail and on paper, throws a new light.

“I am very pleased with the finished product, which sets the record straight for generations to come.”

*J C Williams became owner of Caerhays at the age of 18, in 1880, when his father died.
**Gesso is a white paint mixture consisting of a binder mixed with chalk, gypsum and pigment in quantities as required.

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