On Thursday 8 December 1853, Joseph ‘Joe’ Tremethick was born in the Cornish fishing village of Newlyn. He was the oldest child of mariner Thomas Tonkin Tremethick and his wife Patience Daniel Rowe [Patience is my link to the family], and would eventually have 9 younger brothers and sisters over the course of the next 2 decades: James, Grace, Thomas, Annie, John, Albania, Samuel, William and Patience.
At the age of 15, c1868, Joe joined the West Cornwall Railway. The next (1871) census describes him as a labourer living in Foundry Lane in the Street An Nowan area of Newlyn, so perhaps he started that way with the Railway company. In 1878 Joseph is based in Hay and railway records identify GWR [Great Western Railway]; this is possibly Hay Lane near Swindon, Wiltshire, rather than Hay-On-Wye in Powys, Wales. His father Thomas Tremethick died in February 1878; his grandmother Sarah Tremethick died in May 1879, so maybe he received the letters with that sad news there. By April 1881 he was back in Newlyn, in the Tolcarne area (just the other side of the small River Coombe from Street An Nowan).
By 16 April 1883 Joe had moved on again, to Devonport [Plymouth, Devon], when he married Elizabeth ‘Bessie’ Hutchings at St Stephen’s Church. However by 13 January 1884 when Bessie gave birth to their daughter Ethel, they were in Birmingham, Warwickshire. They were still in Aston [Birmingham] in November 1886 when their son Percy Gordon was born. In April 1891 the family were still in Warwickshire, with Joe working as a clerk at Bordesley Station; the family were living at Cooksey Road, Bordesley.
However, the 31 March 1901 census finds them living in Oxford. Their neighbours on Norreys Avenue were also various clerks and shop workers, a change from Newlyn where you would get whole streets of fishermen. Joe was still working as a clerk, with 17-year-old Ethel a pupil teacher.
On 27 March 1902 Joe and Bessie would have been proud when Percy joined GWR like his father; he started as a Lad Clerk in Exeter on a salary of 20 shillings a year. Maybe the whole family had moved to Exeter by then; they were certainly living there in 1911.
In March 1905 Joe would have heard that his brother James had died; James had also been living in Devon but about 40 miles away in Kingsbridge. August 1908 saw Joe’s mother Patience Daniel Rowe later Tremethick also pass away, back home in Newlyn.
On 28 April 1909 Ethel married in Exeter. Her husband was a Ireland-born bank clerk called John Foden.
Ethel and John would have been quite used to trailing round with their fathers’ work. The Fodens had also been a railway family; rather than being Irish, John’s parents Harcourt and Emma Foden were actually born in Lancashire (Harcourt) and Yorkshire (Emma). They too worked their way around, living at various times in Burnley and Blackpool before Ireland, then setting in Devon. Harcourt became a colliery agent and his probate record indicates that he appeared to do quite well for himself.
In April 1911 Percy was living with his parents still in Exeter; they had a visitor with them called Ida Passmore. Both Joe and Percy were railway clerks at that time, although Joseph was approaching retirement.
In September 1911 Joe and Bessie became grandparents, with the arrival of John Gordon Foden.
Percy got married later that year to Ida Passmore, the lady who had been visiting the family home back on census night. They married in St Thomas’ Church Exeter.
In March Joe was back in Newlyn for a family funeral; he is listed in the report as ‘Joe’ which is not something you always find out from a census.
During World War One Joe came out of retirement and worked in Lloyds Bank in Kingsbridge, the town his late brother James had lived in.
Joe and Bessie celebrated their golden wedding anniversary on 15 April 1933, still living in Exeter. Joe seems by then to be very much a pillar of the community, being honorary secretary to the Women’s Committee of Plymouth Central Hospital, and honorary treasurer of Plymouth Dickens Fellowship.
In 1934 Percy and Ida moved to Barnstaple when Percy took post as stationmaster; he had previously worked at Kingswear and Langport. They lived there until 1943, Percy enjoying singing with various choirs and enjoying church life, I think he was also in the Barnstaple Masonic Lodge.
Bessie died two years later in February 1936. Joseph died on 17 January 1942 at the grand old age of 88.
© Lynne Black, 16 November 2015
First published: https://starryblackness.wordpress.com/2015/11/16/joseph-tremethick/