Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Penrose, Charles Vinicombe

PENROSE, Sir CHARLES VINICOMBE (1759–1830), vice-admiral, youngest son of John Penrose, vicar of Gluvias in Cornwall, by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Rev. John Vinicombe, was born at Gluvias on 20 June 1759. In February 1772 he was appointed to the Royal Academy at Portsmouth, and, after the full course of three years, joined the Levant frigate with Captain the Hon. George Murray (d. 1798), and served in her for four years in the Mediterranean. On 5 Aug. 1779 he passed his examination, and on the 17th was promoted to be lieutenant of the Sulphur fireship. This was probably for rank only; in November he was appointed to the Cleopatra, again with George Murray, for service in the North Sea, which was continued during the whole war. In January 1781 the Cleopatra was stationed between Gothenburg and the Shetland Isles to stop the American trade trying the northern route. The weather was intensely cold, the captain was sick, and Penrose, as first lieutenant, suffered greatly from over-fatigue and exposure. On 5 Aug. 1781 he took part in the action on the Doggerbank [see Parker, Sir Hyde, (1714–1782)], an account of which, with a severe criticism on Parker's conduct, he afterwards wrote (Ekins, Naval Battles, p. 139). In January 1783 the Cleopatra was paid off, and Penrose followed Murray to the Irresistible, guardship in the Medway, till the conclusion of peace. It is said that some of the burgesses of Penryn offered to use their political influence to get him promoted conditional on his taking part in some borough-mongering job, the details of which are not stated. He decidedly refused, and was still a lieutenant in the autumn of 1790, when he was again with Murray in the Defence during the Spanish armament; as afterwards in the Duke in 1793 in the West Indies, and in the Glory in the Channel. On 20 April 1794 he was promoted to command the Lynx on the North American station, under the flag of his friend and patron Murray, at this time a rear-admiral. On 8 Oct. 1794 he was posted to the Cleopatra, and in July 1795 was appointed to the Resolution, Murray's flagship. In June 1796 Murray, having had a stroke of paralysis, moved to the Cleopatra for a passage to England, Penrose accompanying him as flag-captain. From January 1797 the Cleopatra was attached to the western squadron of frigates under Sir Edward Pellew (afterwards Viscount Exmouth) [q. v.], but in July Penrose was obliged to quit her from ill-health. In May 1799 he joined the Sans Pareil, going out to the West Indies with the flag of Lord Hugh Seymour [q. v.] She, however, was detained in the Channel for six months, and arrived in the West Indies only in the following January.

On Seymour's death in November 1801, Penrose was moved to the Carnatic, in which he returned to England in July 1802. He was then suffering from the effects of a sunstroke. In 1804 he was appointed to the command of the sea-fencibles of the Padstow district, which he held till 1810. He was then appointed commodore for port duties at Gibraltar, from which he returned in January 1813, in weak health. In October he was appointed one of a small commission to revise the establishment of stores in Plymouth dockyard, and on 4 Dec. 1813 was promoted to the rank of rear-admiral, and appointed to command a squadron of small craft on the north coast of Spain and the coast of France, co-operating with the army. The service was peculiar and difficult; and the way in which the vessels under Penrose's orders made their way into the Adour, and afterwards forced the passage of the Gironde, destroyed all the French vessels in the river, and reduced the batteries, won for him the warm thanks of Wellington. He continued on this service till September 1814, and on his return to Plymouth was at once appointed to the chief command in the Mediterranean.

In 1815, however, Lord Exmouth resumed the command, Penrose remaining with him as second, and being again left as chief when, in May 1816, Exmouth returned to England. In August 1816 he was at Malta, and was left by the admiralty without notice of the expedition against Algiers, which he casually heard of, but too late to permit him to take any part in the action of the 27th. He naturally felt aggrieved, not only that he should be thus superseded on the station without being told of it, but still more that a junior admiral, a stranger to the station, should be sent out as second in command of the expedition. Lord Exmouth, however, succeeded in soothing his ruffled feelings, and, on his return to England, left Penrose to bring the business to a conclusion. On 3 Jan. 1816 he had been nominated a K.C.B.; he was now made a G.C.M.G., and continued in command of the Mediterranean, for the most part on the coast of Italy and among the Ionian Islands, till 1819. On 19 July 1821 he was advanced to the rank of vice-admiral; but he had no further service. During his retirement he lived at Ethy, near Lostwithiel, a place he had taken on a lifelong lease; and there he died on 1 Jan. 1830. He married, in 1787, a sister of his friend at the Royal Academy, Captain James Trevenen [q. v.] of the Russian navy, and by her had three daughters; the eldest of whom married, in 1819, Captain John Coode of the navy, and became the mother of Vice-admiral Trevenen Penrose Coode. While in command of the sea-fencibles, Penrose was a frequent contributor to the ‘Naval Chronicle,’ under the signatures A. F. Y., and E. F. G.; and after his retirement he wrote some pamphlets on naval matters, more especially one ‘On Corporal Punishment,’ which is even now not without interest. He wrote also a memoir of his brother-in-law, Trevenen, an abridgment of which was published by his nephew, Rev. John Penrose.

[Life by Rev. John Penrose, with portrait; Ralfe's Naval Biogr. iii. 211; Service-book in the Public Record Office.]

J. K. L.