Photo of Newlyn Harbour from Newlyn Beach, Cornwall

William Rowe 1793 pt1: Boyhood in a poor Cornish fishing town

photo of Paul Church

Paul Church

William Rowe was born c1793 in Newlyn, Paul Parish, in the West Penwith area of Cornwall.  He was the second son of labourer James Rowe and his wife Patience (nee Rodda).[1]  William was baptised aged 2-3 on 29 Mar 1795 in Paul Parish Church[2].  His was the first generation to be born in Paul Parish; his parents were from St Buryan parish.

I’ve found two brothers and a sister for William: James was baptised on 3 October 1790 and Ann was baptised on 23 September 1792.  However she died in infancy and was buried on 8 June 1793. Younger brother Thomas Rodda Rowe was baptised on 13 January 1802, all in Paul Parish Church.

William’s childhood years were those of the French Revolution, of war with France and the Regency. During those wars a battery was located on the road between Newlyn and Mousehole “forming a great security to the Bay, from enemy’s ships, or privateers, should any of them be induced to visit any part of it.  Adjoining to this battery stands a furnace for the purpose of making shot red hot.  During the war, this battery was governed by a small party of the royal artillery.”[3]

Times were hard in West Penwith and when he was about 7 in 1801 the family would have been hungry as a result of the high price of wheat.  It was reported in the London Courier and Evening Gazette on 20 April 1801 that in St Austell, 40 miles away, the tinners had tried forcing farmers to sell it at an affordable price by threatening to put nooses round farmers’ necks until they signed a document promising to sell it at an affordable rate; but they were taken into custody at St Mawes. In Helston the Volunteer Cavalry found it hard to keep order until most of the local farmers came forward and promised to sell wheat the following Saturday at ‘two guineas, and barley at one guinea the bushel’.

In Penzance two Newlyn men petitioned the Mayor that he reduce the prices in Newlyn; but when he chose not to listen they ‘assembled on their own authority’.  The constables and military were called out and further ‘mischief was prevented’ but the disturbances kept many country people away from selling their goods at the markets.[4]

In 1806 there was a call for designs for a bridge across the small river Coombe in Newlyn which divided the Paul and Madron parishes. The bridge was to ‘to contain in length about seventy feet and in breadth about eighteen feet ’. Designs were due to be considered at the General Quarter Sessions of the Peace in January 1807 with the target for completion 6 October 1807.

In October 1809 there was a huge gale, and the ‘L’Eole, a French prize to the Surveillante and Medusa frigates, laden with salt, &c, arrived in the Mount’s Bay a few days ago, and being driven by the gale from Gwavas Lake, ran for Newlyn Pier, but got upon the rocks, where she now lies’ and it was doubtful she could be rescued as the gale still continued.

Photo of altar of Paul Parish Church

Paul Parish Church

In August 1812 a good crop of potatoes, was reported, which coupled with a good haul of pilchards and hake, ‘greatly relieved the poor in Cornwall from the pressure occasioned by the high price of corn’.[5]

So it would have been on a slightly fuller stomach that William married Alice Daniel, a blacksmith’s daughter from neighbouring Sancreed parish, on Saturday 17 October 1812 in Paul Parish Church up above Newlyn.

Their story continues here: William Rowe, Cordwainer of Newlyn and Alice Daniel of Sancreed

Words and photos © Lynne Black, 31 July 2016


[1] A DOB for William of c1788 DOB is indicated by his death certificate and the 1851 & 1861 censuses. However even though they match, I believe that William was the third child and not the first, given his baptism year 1795 and the fact he was stated on the 1841 census as being 50. Age at marriage isn’t indicated in the record.

[2] Paul Baptism registers accessed via Cornwall OPC website and FindMyPast

[3] The History of Mount’s Bay, comprising Saint Michael’s Mount, Marazion, Penzance, Mousehole and &c &cm 1820, pp75-76, Printed and sold by J Thomas, via Internet Archive

[4] London Courier and Evening Gazette – Monday 20 April 1801, P3, Col 2, via BNA

[5] Caledonian Mercury – Saturday 09 February 1811, p2, col 1, Lloyds’ Marine List, Feb 5th

8 thoughts on “William Rowe 1793 pt1: Boyhood in a poor Cornish fishing town

  1. Pingback: William Rowe, Cornwainer of Newlyn and Alice Daniel of Sancreed pt2 | starryblackness

  2. Pingback: William and Alice Rowe: shoemaking, family, storms and wrestling in 19C Cornwall pt3 | starryblackness

  3. Pingback: William and Alice Rowe: flaming torches, stinky fish and older years in 19C Cornwall pt4 | starryblackness

  4. gerry brown

    I have Rowes in my family tree but although from Paul and surrounds they do not seem to be related – however you might like to know that sailors jumped ship from the Spanish Armada and found themselves in Mousehole and Newlyn – one ended up marrying an Elizabeth Rowe she became a Beckerleg or as the spelling should be Beckreife

    1. starryblackness Post author

      Beckerleg is a name I’ve come across in a previous profile, as a sea captain who carried out a rescue by literally pouring oil on troubled waters and got his boat damaged for his trouble. But stupid WordPress/browser search facility won’t let me easily find which person!

      1. gerry

        this is what I was was told from a Bickerleg – The Spanish Armada was affected by storms in the English Chanel and many ships sank – there were a few behind them that made for the coast and landed not far from Mousehole, if you look at the map – a couple miles inland is the village of ‘Paul’ and the Spaniards raided the village and burnt down the main house. Beckreife was the name of a couple of brothers who were itinerant farm labourers who had made it to Paul from Devon. When the news that the spanish were heading to the village – the villagers fled across the moor to St. Ives. Apparently the two brothers were illiterate and the name Beckreife got mistakenly mispelt as beckerleg eventually by various officials but is why we have beckerlegg and beckerlegge too and the BEckerlegs come out of St Ives but is not a cornish name!
        My grandmother whos was a ‘Uren’ says that my grandfather’s relatives were something to do with the original owners of the st ives ice cream parlour which was Beckerleg owned and run until the 60’s I think.
        I know my great grandfather on beckerleg side was in 1st world war and was first RAC man in cornwall – on a push bike originally and then a belt drive chaterleigh mototrcycle.

        I have googled at IX search etc for this info about him but from what he told me he got it from his father who had intensive researched this.

      2. gerry

        if you look on the Mormoms site = Name John Beckerlegg
        Spouse’s Name Mary Risith
        Event Date 16 Jul 1720
        Event Place Paul, Cornwall, England

        Name John Beckerlegg
        Spouse’s Name Mary Blewet
        Event Date 27 Feb 1714
        Event Place Madron,Cornwall,England

        and then later the name changes
        Elizabeth Ann Beckerley
        mentioned in the record of James Jenkins Rowe and Elizabeth Ann Beckerley
        Name James Jenkins Rowe
        Birth Date 1843
        Age 22
        Spouse’s Name Elizabeth Ann Beckerley
        Spouse’s Birth Date 1843
        Spouse’s Age 22
        Event Date 08 May 1865
        Event Place Breage, Cornwall, England
        Father’s Name Emanuel Rowe
        Spouse’s Father’s Name William Beckerley

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