[The following is an updated entry from that of William Colenso (Wiremu) employed in Hardie (2009) Artists in Newlyn and West Cornwall, in which the wrong person (by the same name) was identified. These two William Colensos were cousins and brothers-in-law.]

Known primarily for his public service to the Penzance community in a wide variety of ways, including his election as Mayor in 1901, Colenso also had a flair for, and interest in, art and art education. Not only an Oddfellow for 70 years in the Order, but also a Freemason, he was one of the first to join the Volunteer Corps when it began in 1859, being a crack shot.

Decorating was the family business, and he went into the company with his father but taking a more artistic path, by pursuing art lessons at the Penzance School of Art (Norman GARSTIN being the Head Teacher). William Jr was the winner in 1864 of a Victoria Bronze Medal, in the examinations offered by the Art Department of the South Kensington Schools, for his drawings of plants. These exams were administered locally at the Penzance School of Art where he studied. Though he never pursued art as a career, he was later to become the Hon Secretary of the local Art School for many years – until it passed into the control of the town’s Corporation. Even then, however, he remained on the Management Committee. He exhibited from time to time in the amateur sections of the RCPS annual exhibitions.

He served in a similar capacity to the local Science Schools. Colenso was a governor of not only of the Art School when he died, but had been a governor of the Camborne School of Mines for over 30 years, and a Committee Member of the Penzance Hospital. Serving not only as member and President of the Royal Cornwall Geological Society, he also belonged to the Penzance Natural History and Antiquarian Society. Married in 1872, his wife predeceased him after 52 years of marriage, and he was survived by two sons and two daughters.  The family home was in Chapel Street, in a beautiful Georgian period house, now vacated by an Indian Cuisine restaurant and waiting for its next incarnation.


Painter, draughtsman, photographer and administrator

works and access

Access to works: b/w reprint of his Flower Study on p166 of Hardie (2009)

Colenso's Victoria Bronze Medal, awarded by the South Kensington Schools in 1864 is held at the Penlee Art Gallery & Museum.

Photographs by W Colenso form part of the photographic collection (Colenso scrapbook) at Penlee Art Gallery & Museum.


Penzance School of Art Annual exhibitions (no extant catalogues)

RCPS annual exhibitions (Amateur Sections)

2010: 'The Marvellous Everyday' Penlee House


Penzance School of Art, Secretary

Member, Penzance Town Council, Mayor (1901)

Royal Cornwall Geological Society (President)

Penzance Natural History & Antiquarian Society


Cornishman (Obituary) 31 Dec 1942;

Western Weekly News 22 Feb 1936

Ann Collins (family information) Colenso One-name Study Project, & Colenso Society;


RCPS Annual Reports; 

Waverly (2003) Penzance Art School

Waverly (2010) 'A Renowned Alumnus', Friends of Penzance Art School Newsletter, Issue 8, Dec


J Rice (2011) Curator's selection:  'The Marvellous Everyday' Exh Cat