1815 – 1897 Dr Richard Oke Millett

Dr Richard Oke Millett was the grandson of Richard Oke Millett (1749 – 1832). He was born on 18 Nov 1815 at Penpol, Hayle, the son of Revd. John Curnow Millett (1771-1848) and Mary Honey (1788 – 1859. However, in the census records he records his birthplace as Lansallos, some 55 miles from Hayle.

Although not directly in our line, I have added details of Dr. Richard Oke as he has quite a story to tell.

Dr Richard Oke became a member of the Royal College of Physicians in 1839 gaining the following qualifications:

  • MD at King’s College, Aberdeen (1845). (Doctor of Medicine)
  • LRCP at King’s College, Edinburgh (1860). (Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians)

In 1837 Richard Oke patented “Millett’s Improvements in Instruments for Extracting Teeth”. It is described as an instrument which “consists of a handle, shaft, lever, bolster claws and screws.”

On 26 March 1850, Richard Oke Millett was charged by George Vawdrey, a fellow surgeon of Hayle, Cornwall, of publishing “a scandalous libel upon him”.  On 29 October 1849, under the pseudonym H. E. Edwards, Richard Oke Millett had written to the Board of Health in London concerning medical practitioners’ behaviour during the cholera epidemic in Hayle in the second half of 1849 and stating that “The medical men are the scorn of the neighbourhood”.  While the Court found for the plaintiff (Vawdrey), he was awarded damages of just one shilling, and on the recommendation of the jury each party was required to pay his own expenses. 

An account of the case is given in the West Briton newspaper for 29 March 1850, with the following  update in the issue for 5 April 1850:

"VAWDREY v. MILLETT  A correspondent states that on the return of the defendant in this action from the Assizes, he was met about three miles on the road by a large number of the inhabitants of Hayle and the neighbourhood, with bands and banners.  After a hearty cheering, his phaeton was unhorsed, and he was drawn into Hayle by the people.  The precession drew up in front of the White Hart, Hayle Foundry; and afterwards he was accompanied to Penpol, where he briefly addressed the multitude, thanking them for their generous sympathy, which would cheer him onwards in unceasing efforts for the public good."

Another dramatic event in Richard Oke’s life took place early in 1864.  On Friday 1st January at Crotch’s White Hart Hotel, Hayle, a coroner’s inquest was held into the death of Jacob Curnow Millett.

Royal Cornwall Gazette 29 January 1864:

On Saturday, Mr. Richard Oke Millett, a surgeon of considerable means, living at Hayle, was brought before a full bench of magistrates, charged with having administered poison to his brother, Jacob Curnow Millett, with intent to cause his death. It appears that on the 30th of December, deceased, after partaking of a hearty dinner, was taken ill. He gradually became worse and died on the following morning. An inquest was held on the body, and a verdict of "Died from natural causes" returned. After the interment, suspicions of foul play were entertained, and the Home Secretary complied with a request to give an order for the exhumation of the body, certain portions of which were sent to the eminent Dr. Taylor, for analysis. Mr. Millett was arrested at his residence on Friday evening. The inquiry was commenced on Saturday. Mr. Roscorla, of Penzance, prosecuted; and Mr. Downing, of Redruth, defended the prisoner. We cannot find anything in the evidence given during the day inculpating the accused, nor any hint as to the particular poison supposed to have been administered. However, bail was refused, and Mr. Millett was consequently kept a prisoner until yesterday, the day appointed for a further hearing. Up to the time our parcel left, the case against the accused remained very weak. 

Richard Oke Millett married Elizabeth Ann Davy (1824 – 1899) on 14 August 1866 at Truro.

It is this R.O. Millett who we have to thank for drawing up the family tree in 1899, and even if there are a few discrepancies, his work of research is greatly appreciated.

On 20th September 1893, Richard Oke became a trustee of the Passmore Edwards Institute, a technical institute in the town of Hayle. (Pictured above) The Institute’s benefactor was John Passmore Edwards, a Victorian journalist and philanthropist, and a life-long champion of the working classes. He was a generous benefactor with dozens of community buildings being established as a direct result of his bequests.

Richard Oke died 1 March 1897 at 4, Penpol Terrace leaving his widow, Ann, £6,102 3s. 4d. Today, that is worth £978,056.00. 

He was buried 4 March 1897, Phillack.

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