The Corns Family

Corns – derives from Old English Cweorn meaning a "handmill." The surname being a metonymic for the maker or user of a handmill.

("A Dictionary of English Surnames" OUP)

The origins of the Corns family of Wolverhampton can be traced back as far as the middle of the eighteenth century. William Corns established his business making various items of wrought iron goods, such as coffee and pepper mills, in 1790. It can be reasonably assumed that he was aged between 25 and 35 when he formed the business. This would put his date of birth between 1755 and 1765. At some stage he was joined in the business by his son and the business became known as "William Corns & Son." Bearing in mind the derivation of the surname "Corns", the business founded by William Corns was very appropriate. Was the making of "handmills" in the genes?

Family Tree

We do not know for certain the name of the "Son" of the business. However, the 1851 Census records a John Corns living at 144, Tettenhall Road, Wolverhampton. The occupation of John Corns is given as "Mill Maker". We also know that a John Corns, closely connected with the family (there is a memorial card in the family archive), died on January 27th 1869 at the age of 82. This would put his date of birth at around 1786/7. It would seem likely from these facts that John Corns is the son of William, the founder of the business.

We also know from the family archives that William Corns (the father of Samuel born in 1845) was born in 1795/6. He was probably the brother of the John Corns who went into the business with his father. William junior (as we shall call him) may not have gone into the family business since he is described as a "Gentleman" in his son Samuel’s Indenture of Apprenticeship to an architect in 1860. A direct line of succession from the original William Corns of the 18th Century through to the descendants of Samuel William Corns and his sister Harriet Corns (who married Henry Jones) can be followed (see the family tree).


The business of William Corns & Son exists to this day. It is now a limited company, and their main line of business is steel stockholding and merchanting.

By a felicitous quirk of fate the business is situated on the site of the old ECC factory in Showell Road, Bushbury.

William junior married twice. He first married Mary Stewart on October 19th 1818. They had three sons. Henry born in 1819, William born in 1823, and Joseph born in 1825. There may have been other siblings. On March 5th 1832 William junior married Jane Hughes. One can assume that his first wife, Mary, had died relatively young. William junior and Jane had two sons. The eldest Thomas Summers Corns died on January 30th 1889 at 68 Norman Street, New Normanton, Derby without leaving any children. We know this from the Will of Harriet Corns (née Newton) the wife of Thomas’s younger brother Samuel Corns (whom we shall call Samuel Corns Senior). In the Will it was necessary for Harriet, who by then was a widow, to state that Thomas had died leaving no issue in order to deal with some property in Cannock Road, Wolverhampton. This property had been in a trust for Thomas and Samuel, and a life interest in the half in trust for Thomas passed to Harriet upon the death of Thomas and his wife Hannah leaving no issue.

Samuel Corns Senior and Harriet Corns had four children – Samuel William, Hannah Jane, Harriet Mary and Helen Louise. Helen Louise died at the age of three. It was mentioned earlier that Harriet Corns’s maiden name was Newton. It has long been family lore that she was descended from Isaac Newton. This, however, is probably not strictly true since Isaac Newton never married, but he could, of course, have had an illegitimate son. The more likely connection is that Harriet was descended from a brother or cousin of Isaac Newton.

Samuel Corns Senior was indentured to an architect, one George Bidlake, at the age of 15. As we have already noted, the Deed of Indenture, dated April 15th 1860, describes William junior (Samuel’s father), as a "Gentleman" of Penn Fields near Wolverhampton. This rather suggests that the fortunes of the Corns family had prospered to the extent that William junior did not need to work. William junior may have had some interest in the business but left the day to day management to elder brother, John. Further evidence of the prosperity of the Corns family at this time is that a premium of £99 and 10 shillings was paid to George Bidlake for Samuel Corns Senior to be indentured to him – quite a considerable sum in those days.

Whether or not Samuel Corns Senior ever practised as an architect, we do not know. What we do know is that he formed his own business as a Builders’ Merchant in Lower Stafford Street, Wolverhampton. The business, which also dealt in coal, coke and lime, eventually moved to Littles Lane, North Road, Wolverhampton adjacent to the canal, obviously a convenient location for shipping heavy goods.

Samuel Corns’s son, Samuel William Corns, became an electrical and mechanical engineer and worked with the Metropolitan Railway. As we have seen earlier, Charles Jones (born 1870) also joined the Metropolitan Railway and became its Chief Locomotive and Electrical Engineer. It would seem very likely that Samuel William Corns (born 1878) joined the Metropolitan Railway via his connection with Charles Jones. Harriet Mary, his sister, was married to Charles Jones’s younger brother, Henry. Furthermore Samuel William Corns worked at the ECC in Bushbury between 1898 and 1903 during the time when Richard Jones, the father of Charles and Henry, was the Works Manager. Samuel William Corns joined the Metropolitan Railway in 1904, one year after Charles Jones.

Hannah Jane Corns, the sister of Samuel William and Harriet Mary, never married. She lived at 86, Waterloo Road, Wolverhampton, where her mother Harriet (née Newton) had lived before her. Hannah Jane, in the entrepreneurial spirit of the Corns family, ran her own haberdashery shop.

Return to the
Jones family tree
Return to the
Proceed to Coffee
and Pepper Mills