Four strong Cornishwomen: Portugal, Penzance & Scilly – pt 2 – Rosanna Peychott


Market House and Humphry Davy statue, Penzance by Tim Green

This is Rosanna Peychott’s story; the second part of a 120-year story of Cornishwomen Elizabeth, Rosanna, Jane and Emma.

Emma was the bride of a distant cousin of mine, John Wright Rowe Jnr, and grew up on a small island in the Isles of Scilly, off the south west of Cornwall. When I had a look at her story I found that not only did her ancestors flit between Penzance and the isles of Scilly, but that she had exotic genes from her great-grandfather Bernardo Peyshott.

Rosanna Peychott and William Nance, Emma’s grandparents

Rosanna, born in Penzance c 1822 and half Portuguese, lost her mother Elizabeth Peychott nee Hessell when she was only 14, and her father Bernardo Peyshott, a mariner, is likely to have been away at sea much of the time. In her teens she was working as a tailoress and living near the harbour in Penzance.

NanceWilliamMastersCert1851sigWilliam was a pilot from Higher Town on little St Martin’s island in the Isles of Scilly, his father Matthias Nance was also a pilot, and in later life Matthias farmed 5 acres at the age of 71. William’s grandfather had also lived on St Martins, which in 1851 had 181 inhabitants.

He is likely to have met Rosanna when off island and they married in Madron Church (up above Penzance) on Thursday 2 September 1847.  Their first child, named Matthias for his grandfather, was born in May 1848 but up in St Peter’s parish, Liverpool, which made me quite glad their unusual combination of names had let me search a broad area easily.

They must have moved back to Cornwall soon after as sadly the death of their son is registered in the Penzance area early in 1849.

They went on to have two daughters: Jane (late 1849) and Roseanna (early 1854) both registered in Penzance.  In 1851 Rosanna Snr and Jane were living in Quay Street in what is now Penzance, but William wasn’t home that night.


British Council for Trade stamp on Master’s certificate

It turns out that he was either in, or on his way to, Liverpool where on 31 March 1851 he was presented with his Master’s Certificate of Service, British Coasting and Foreign Trade; Seaman, Mate, Master, in the merchant service in which he’d been for 10 years.

By April 1861 William had moved the family back to St Martin’s and they were living in Higher Town near his father and widowed sister Jane.

On 17 October 1866 William sailed from Liverpool on the SS Olinda as an Able Seaman, a ship of 516 tonnage.  He is reported to be very good in both conduct and his ability in seamanship. The Liverpool and Pernambuco [Brasil] vis Lisbon [Portugal] line had a fleet of four ships which departed every 3 weeks, so presumably he was away about 11 weeks at a time. [Info from advert on FMP’s BNA collection.]

The family were still living in Higher Town in April 1871 and April 1881; the 1881 census indicates they were very near the public house [can’t see one there in the present day]. Rosanna was recorded as a tailoress for both censuses; William had retired as a mariner/boatman by April 1881.  On 8 January 1874 when his daughter Rosanna married his occupation had been recorded as a carpenter so perhaps the sea was too rough to go out at that time, or he was between jobs, and he was making money that way.

Rosanna died in spring 1886 aged about 64; William died in late 1888 aged about 74.


St Martin’s Island, Isles of Scilly, by Jeremy Pearson, Flickr, Creative Commons license

Rosanna and William’s older daughter is Jane Nance and I’ll tell her story next.

Text © Lynne Black,  5 March 2016
St Martins sunset by Jeremy Pearson, Flickr, Creative Commons license
Market House & Humphry Davy Statue, Penzance by Tim Green, Flickr, Creative Commons license
First published:

13 thoughts on “Four strong Cornishwomen: Portugal, Penzance & Scilly – pt 2 – Rosanna Peychott

  1. Pingback: March 2016: Celebrating Women’s History Month in New Hampshire | Cow Hampshire

  2. pastsmith

    Really have to admire these women who were left alone for so long to raise family while their spouse was at sea. Cool about the certificate he was awarded. Looking forward to reading about Jane.

    1. starryblackness Post author

      Thank you! It was a surprise the first time I came across a sailor’s family, to have so few children in a time without contraception. Obviously I knew that they worked away for long periods, but I didn’t expect it would sometimes be years at a time.

  3. Wendy Percival

    How lovely to have a family link with such a special place. We’ve just booked a holiday on Tresco for October this year. We’ve been to the Isles of Scilly a couple of times but not for a while and have visited St Martin’s before. Lovely place. And yes, I wonder what did happen to the pub!!!

    1. starryblackness Post author

      I went there on my honeymoon 20+ years back, it was lovely and I’d love to go back. We went on the ferry; when I told my Gran I was booked she said “don’t worry, the trip out could be bad but you’ll be fine on the way back, it’s downhill” but she was absolutely spot on!

      1. Wendy Percival (@wendy_percival)

        I’ll bear that in mind! We’ve gone on the helicopter in the past (you probably know it doesn’t run any more) but this time we thought we’d take the Scillonian for a change. We have a friend whose aunt lives on St Mary’s and they always go on the boat. All part of the adventure!

  4. Pingback: Four Cornishwomen: Portugal, Penzance & Scilly pt 3 – Jane and Emma | starryblackness

  5. Pingback: Four Cornishwomen: Portugal, Penzance & Scilly. Pt1: Elizabeth Hessell | starryblackness

  6. vivienne jewson

    I am so surprised to find this information as Jane Nance Williams (Daughter of Rosanna Payne, who is the Daughter of Jane Nance) is my Great Grandmother and I was looking for more information about her as the ladies on my grandmother side often have Nance as a middle name. I have only recently started researching them as I found over 200 years of Family History in Zennor and St. Ives in Cornwall on my Fathers paternal side of the family, which as a result of I have researched in Scilly before as they were briefly listed at Coast Guard Cottages there. I have myself a great love of the Scillies since I first visited in 1993 and have been 6 times (always by boat) twice on St. Agnes as I am so drawn to this island. I have lived in Cornwall for most of my life. As you can imagine I would be really interested to see how this information has been put together and find out more…Many Thanks

  7. Gina

    I so enjoyed reading this bio!
    I’m another IOS researcher with links back to St. Martin’s via my Gibson ancestry. My first Gibson ancestor was a John (from Scotland according to local lore)… who with his wife Joan? show up in the earliest Baptismal Records available from 1726.
    There were several Gibson/ Nance marriages in later generations.
    Joan’s identity has so far eluded me but I do feel that she may well have been a Nance!
    I know the first Nance on Tean Island, off St. Martin’s, was James Nance, from Falmouth. He is acknowledged as the progenitor of the Kelp Industry in the Islands from 1684.
    Sadly the BDM records are not helping me sort out this James’ own children or his wife!
    A work in progress!
    Gina from Australia.

    1. starryblackness Post author

      Thanks Gina!
      This article was adapted for publication in the Cornwall Family History Society newsletter a couple of years ago; maybe that’s an avenue of links you could consider?
      I let all my FHS memberships lapse last year, my plan for 2020 is to rejoin a couple 🙂

    2. Zara

      Hi Gina
      I think we have a shared ancestor through John Gibson and I am stuck on him too. Have you had any joy finding out anymore about him?
      Zara from NI


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