Penrose, Cooper (1736–1815), quaker and merchant, was born 12 April 1736 in Co. Cork, eldest son among four children of John Penrose, timber merchant, and Anne Penrose (née Cooper). His father died when he was 4 and Cooper moved to Carlow and then Dublin, where the family lived at George Lane. Educated privately, he took over his father's business, which had been managed by a relative, on reaching adulthood. In 1763 he married Elizabeth, the only daughter of John Dennis, a wealthy timber-merchant. They had seven children, but only two sons and two daughters survived to adulthood. Entering his father-in-law's business as a full partner, Penrose soon made a large fortune, which he used to buy a sizeable estate in Co. Cork, with a large mansion at Woodhill; when he died in 1815 he was receiving £4,000 a year in rents. During one visit to France to buy art he succeeded in persuading the French artist Jacques Louis David to paint his portrait (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).
A quaker, Penrose soon discovered that his wealth brought its own problems. The Society of Friends received complaints in 1786 that he had been to a horse-race, owned a billiard-table, and kept a musical instrument. These charges were investigated and Penrose pleaded that he had only attended the race to teach his children the folly of such events, kept the billiard table as exercise for his children, and bought the instrument as a toy. His explanations were neither convincing nor accepted, and there were further problems when it was revealed that he kept an armed servant. As a result he was disowned by the Society of Friends. In 1797 his niece, Mary Pike (qv), was abducted from his home while on a family visit. She was raped but escaped, and Penrose offered a large reward for the capture of her assailants. In 1803, following the collapse of Emmet's rebellion, Penrose offered a place of refuge for Sarah Curran (qv), who had been thrown out of her father's house. Sarah became close friends with Anne Penrose (1771–1827), Cooper's eldest daughter, and remained in close contact with her for the rest of her life; she later thanked her ‘Balm of Gilead’ for saving her after she had been ‘placed low by a cruel storm: you raised my head and spoke comfort’ (cited in Geoghegan, 30). Retiring from his business, Cooper Penrose spent his final years befriending artists, collecting sculptures, and tending to his estates. He died on 25 February 1815. His eldest son, James Penrose (1766–1845), married Louisa Fitzgerald in 1794.