Background and early life
Ernest Cornwall was born on 28 January 1875. His father Andrew Cornwall of Lapford, Devon, was a police officer. He had two older brothers and one younger; one of them, Edwin (1863-1953), went on to become a politician, knighted in 1905 and created a baronet in 1918.
Ernest joined the staff of National Provincial Bank of England on 19 July 1892, as an apprentice at Whitchurch branch in London. He remained there as a clerk after finishing his apprenticeship in 1895. He passed his Preliminary Institute of Bankers' examinations in 1895 and his Finals the following year.
In 1899 he transferred to Manchester as a clerk. He was promoted to assistant accountant at Leeds in July 1905 and promoted again to accountant at Hull in 1907. In 1910 he transferred to Sunderland as accountant.
Later in 1910 he was called to head office and appointed inspector of branches. He later recalled his three years in this post as a particularly happy time; he usually travelled with his wife and formed many lasting friendships with fellow members of staff.
In 1913 he moved away from provincial banking when he was promoted to deputy head of the Advance, Security & Inspection Department in London. Soon afterwards, the First World War broke out, and Cornwall's department became responsible for distributing the Treasury-issued banknotes which the government had introduced as one of its wartime measures.
From June 1917 to March 1919 he served as deputy manager of London City Office.
Cornwall returned to Advance Department as its head in 1919. In December 1921, after 30 years with the bank, he was appointed joint general manager. In February 1934 he became chief general manager.
When he retired from the bank's top executive role in October 1945, he was elected a director. He remained a director until his death in 1966, by which time he had served the bank for a total of 74 years.
Ernest Cornwall enjoyed motoring and golf. He continued to play golf into his eighties.
He was married.
Ernest Cornwall died on 30 April 1966 at his home at North Gate, Regents Park, London, aged 91.