Louisa was born in 1854, the fifth of eight children of fisherman Benjamin Victor and his wife Alice nee Rowe. She grew up in the West Penwith area of Cornwall, England, in a small fishing village called Mousehole. Although her father was a quiet man, with seven brothers and sisters it can’t have been a particularly quiet home. Long before she, her parents’ fifth child within 10 years, was born her oldest brother Gamaliel was staying with his grandparents Victor [30 March 1851].
Louisa’s younger sister Agnes was born in early 1857, Agnes was the family’s youngest daughter although two more sons were still to come, with Benjamin born in early 1861 and Edwin Albert on 21 July 1866. The family were living at 15 Quay Street in March 1861. Mary Badcock, a retired baker and probably a relative from Bernard’s mother’s side of the family, was boarding with them.
When Louisa was 13 her family entered a tumultuous couple of years. On 18 September 1867 her oldest sister Mary Wright Victor married a naval carpenter called Edward Kelynack; they moved to neighbouring Newlyn (Edward’s home town) before heading off to Devonport when he was posted there.
The following spring, in May 1868, her eldest brother Gamaliel also married. He married Alice Vincent, a Mousehole girl, up in Paul Church. Tragically their marriage didn’t last long – Alice died that same summer and eventually Gamaliel moved home with his parents.
Louisa’s 2nd eldest sister Alice Daniel Victor died in September 1868 and also was buried up in Paul Cemetery on 13 September. She was only 20 years old.
There was further tragedy at home when younger sister Agnes, aged 11 or 12, died in autumn 1868; I think she may be the Alice Victor buried on 6 October in Paul Cemetery. Louisa was now the only one of Alice’s four daughters still living close by.
There was happier news for Louisa in 1869: she became an aunt when Mary and Edward Kelynack had a daughter named Mary in Devonport. By May 1870 Mary Snr had her second child, a son named Edward, in Newlyn. They were living with Louisa and Mary’s Aunt Grace, a milliner so Louisa and her parents would have felt delighted to have her back, especially after their recent losses.
By 1877 Louisa’s older brother John was working in Stoke Damarel [Plymouth] making boilers in the naval dockyards. He had met Eliza Jane Crews and they married that February; their first child, another Alice, arrived in May 1877.
Also in May 1877 it was Louisa’s turn to settle down. She, aged just 19, married William John Pentreath in Paul. William was a fisherman and the son and grandson of fishermen. Their daughter Louisa Jnr was born almost two years later, c Feb 1879.
Louisa’s brother Edwin married on 3 April 1887 and soon Louisa became an aunty again, this time to little Agnes Victor, perhaps named after their lost sister.
William and Louisa only had 16 years together: Louisa died aged approx 35 and was buried on 29 March 1889, in Paul Cemetery.
So poor Louisa Jnr was left without a mother at the age of 10. In summer 1890 Louisa’s quietly-spoken grandfather Bernard Victor also died.
At the time of the April 1891 census William and Louisa were living with her grandparents Pentreath in 1 Mount Pleasant, Mousehole.
It’s likely that her father William was courting again by then as in July 1891 he got remarried. His second wife was Mary Whitfield Harris, who’d been born in St Austell area in 1862 and was a mariner’s daughter. In early 1892 Louisa’s half-sister Isabella was born in Mousehole.
In 1894 Louisa’s other grandfather, William Pentreath in whose home they’d stayed after the death of his first wife, also died.
On 1 December 1900 Louisa married Thomas Henry ‘Harry’ Drew, a quarryman who’d been born up Lamorna (two and a half miles away), her father was one of the witnesses. In March 1901 Louisa and Harry were living in Mount Pleasant, Mousehole. There is still a big quarry up on the hill between Mousehole and Newlyn so perhaps that’s where he worked. This 1894 Stanhope Forbes painting The Quarry Team gives us a glimpse of how Harry’s working life may have been. Her father, step-mother and Isabella were still living in Mousehole in spring 1901.
In summer 1903 Louisa’s grandmother Alice Victor nee Rowe died aged 78.
In spring 1909 Louisa became a mother with the birth of her daughter Olive Louise. By April 1911 she and Harry were living in tiny Trungle, on the edge of Paul, which itself is only a small place.
By April 1911 her father and step-mother were living in Manaccan, near Helston (approx 17 miles away), where he was working as a fisherman, one of those changes of location which seem to come out of the blue when following a family story. The were living in Gwealangear, in Wendron parish, but I can’t find it on the map, just a few historical references, so it was maybe tiny and subsumed into another village or abandoned.
Isabella had left home and was working in the same parish. She was working as a scullery maid at Bosahan, St Anthony in Meneage. Her employers were industrialist, mine owner and politician Sir Arthur Vivian and his wife Lady Jane Vivian; a portrait of Sir Arthur is shown here. Bosahan had a private beach but I suspect she’d not have got to use it! I’ve been watching the Time Crashers ITV series this autumn which I’ve really loved, but at the time I thought how rubbish it must be to be a scullery maid; poor Isabella… She was actually listed as Isobel on the census, so either she preferred that or they couldn’t even get her name right.
With the lack of personal information from the 20th century the later facts of Isabella’s life are obtained sadly from various death indexes, records of gravestones and newspaper reports.
In late November 1916 her Grandmother Mary Pentreath died and was buried on 2 December 1916 in consecrated ground in Paul; she had reached the grand old age of 87 and would have been one of the central figures of Louisa’s childhood and possibly her life.
Her husband Harry didn’t live nearly so long, he died aged 54 in 1929, perhaps the years of quarry work taking their toll; Louisa was still just in her 40s when she was widowed.
Her stepmother Mary dies c May 1937; her father also died that year, leaving her just her daughter as immediate family, although there would have been many Victor and Pentreath cousins around in the parish.
Louisa lived on until summer 1963. There is a 1996 death reference for an Olive Drew, if Olive never married that may be her.
© Lynne Black, 12 October 2015.
First published: https://starryblackness.wordpress.com/