William and Alice Rowe: flaming torches, stinky fish and older years in 19C Cornwall pt4

On 20 June 1837 Queen Victoria became queen after the death of her uncle William IV.  At that time shoemaker William and Alice Rowe were settled with a large family in Street-an-Nowan, Newlyn, Cornwall. You can read the earlier part of their story here: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

That year their eldest son John, by then working as a mason, married Sarah Sampson in neighbouring Penzance; her father was a butcher with a shop and home on Market Jew Street.  In 1839 William and Alice became grandparents when Sarah and John had their first of eight children, Elizabeth.

On 6 June 1841 the census recorded shoemaker William and Alice living in Street-an-Nowan.  Grace and Alice were both at home and working as female servants; Patience (11) and Elizabeth (9-10) were still children.  Youngest child James wasn’t with his parents that evening.  I haven’t confirmed a location for eldest son John for that particular night but his family were living in neighbouring Penzance on Market Jew Street where his wife and daughter were living in her butcher father’s house.  Maybe he was away looking for work as a mason.

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Tolcarne Inn, Newlyn

In June 1841 their oldest daughter Mary Ann had been a servant in the Tolcarne Inn over the Combe; on 21 May 1843 she married a fisherman called Thomas Rowe (no relationship known) in Paul Church.

Pigot’s Directory 1841 reported about Newlyn that in addition to fishing pilchards and mackerel “A valuable lead mine is in the parish, as are several chalybeate springs.  There are two annual fairs held here—on the first Tuesday in October and 8th November”.

Early in spring 1844 Alice became ill with Phithesis: ‘pulmonary tuberculosis or a similar progressive wasting disease’.

However there was happiness in summer 1844 when their daughter Alice Daniel Rowe married fisherman Bernard Victor in Trinity Wesleyan Chapel, Newlyn on 10 June. She moved to neighbouring Mousehole where Bernard lived and fished. Their oldest child, Gamaliel ‘Gift of God’ Victor was baptised on 24 November 1844 in Paul Church.  Bernard had an interest in the Cornish language and spoke with local old people to record words for posterity as the language was dying out.

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Mousehole Harbour

Around about this time (c1844) William’s eldest son John and his young family moved to Wales for him to find work as a mason.

On 9 March 1845 Alice, William’s wife of 33 years and mother of his 9 children, died in Newlyn aged 51.  Their youngest son, James Daniel Rowe, was only 10 at that time.

In March 1851 William had his three daughters Grace, Patience and Elizabeth living with him in Foundry Lane, Street-an-Nowan. Grace had become a straw bonnet maker, so perhaps she’d enjoyed working with her father as a girl and/or preferred making bonnets to being a female servant as she had been ten years before. Patience and Elizabeth were still living at home but with no profession recorded.  Youngest son James was working on the Brittania fishing boat in neighbouring Mousehole.

That was the year of the Great Exhibition at Chrystal Palace London.  A local woman, 84-year-old Mary Kelynack of Tolcarne, became famous nationally by walking nearly 300 miles to London to see the Exhibition, carrying a basket on her head.  There she met the Lord Mayor and took tea – preferring that to wine – with the Lady Mayoress; she was presented with a sovereign.   She was also presented to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

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Paul Church

Two years later William’s daughter Patience Daniel Rowe married mariner Thomas Tonkin Tremethick on 23 January 1853 in Paul Church; William’s first Tremethick grand-child Joe was born on 8 December 1853.

A curious midsummer custom went on in Mount’s Bay in June[1]. On 23 and 28 June tar barrels were lit and flaming torches swung in the streets.  Bonfires were lit in Marazion, the Mount, Newlyn and Mousehole so the Bay “glows with a girdle of flame”.  Young people played ‘Thread-the-needle’ along the streets:  “Lads and lasses join hands, and run furiously through the streets, vociferating “An eye – an eye – an eye!” at length they suddenly stop, and the two last of the string, elevating their clasped hands, form an eye to this enormous needed, through which the thread of populace runs, and thus they continue to repeat the game until weariness dissolves the union.” Unsurprisingly the following day was a lot quieter, with people idling with music on the water (called ‘having a pen’orth of sea’).”

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Boase Street, Newlyn, with mid-path drain

Newlyn at the time may have been scenic but smelt rather overwhelming[2]:  “They are a colony of fisherman, with narrow paved lanes, glistening with pilchard scales in the season – with external staircases and picturesque interiors, of which glimpses are obtained through an open doorway or window.”   However they “may call to mind the semi-barbarous habitations of some foreign countries – such as Spain. The perfume of garlic fills the air, and other odours not so sweet hasten the step of the traveller. These arise from little enclosures which front every cottage door. They are neatly bordered with stones or shells, and consist – not of a flower-bed, but of a dunghill, formed chiefly of the refuse of fish, in which the process of decay is hastened by the activity of many unhappy-looking fowls and pigs.”

On 7 October 1859 William’s youngest son James Daniel married Catherine Jaco. She was a Newlyn girl and the daughter of Master Mariner Benjamin Jaco.  They had the first of their 8 children in January 1860, Benjamin Jaco Rowe [my ancestor].

A few weeks later William became a great-grandfather when John’s oldest daughter Elizabeth had a daughter out of wedlock in Wales – she and the baby’s father Phillip Tripp later married in Madron on 20 March 1862.

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Looking up Foundry Lane

On 2 April 1861 William, still working as a shoemaker, was living at 2 Foundry Lane, in the Street-an-Nowan area of what is now Newlyn. His dressmaker daughter Grace was still living at home with him.  Another daughter, Patience D Tremethick, was living next door at number 3 with her merchant mariner husband Thomas and their five young children; the oldest being 7 and the youngest just 10 months old.

Oldest son John had been widowed in the early 1860s and he remarried on 17 December 1865 in Madron; his wife was a widow called Cecilia Paynter Stevens who had children of her own and lived for a few years in New Zealand.  Around 1866 John’s daughter Elizabeth and her husband Philip Tripp moved away; she died, he put two youngest boys in an orphanage where they lived for many years until the family tracked down the surviving son.

In 18 Sep 1867 his grand-daughter Mary Wright Victor [Alice and Bernard’s oldest daughter] married naval carpenter Edward Albert Kelynack in Newlyn St Peter. Mary stayed in Newlyn for the first years of her marriage while Edward was away at sea, living with her aunt, bonnet-maker Grace Daniel Rowe, William’s second daughter.

William saw his grandson Joe Tremethick start with the West Cornwall Railway in Penzance in 1868; Joe ended up working his way round England with the Great Western Railway.

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Paul Cemetery

William died on 15 December 1869 of old age and exhaustion. His caring eldest child Mary Ann Rowe was present at his death and she registered his death the following day.[3]  He was recorded as 81, although on balance of the evidence of baptisms and the 1841 census he was probably only 76.  William was buried on 19 December in Paul Cemetery up above Newlyn.

Words and photos © Lynne Black, 1 October 2016

[1] Murray’s Handbook for Devon and Cornwall 1859, P185

[2] Murray’s Handbook for Devon and Cornwall 1859, P189

[3] Death certificate 1869, Penzance registration district, Cornwall, entry 494.

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5 thoughts on “William and Alice Rowe: flaming torches, stinky fish and older years in 19C Cornwall pt4

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

  2. James

    Hi Lynne, what an amazing story and thanks for sharing it. My name is James Alder and Samuels father Robert Alder was my great great great great grandfather. My girlfriend Jo is a Genealogist and has recently been researching my family tree. Only last week we visited St Hilda’s church in South Shields where Samuels Mother and Father were married and all their children were christened including Samuels older brother William, my great great great grandfather. It’s amazing to read this and we only found it by chance as my cousin Tony lives in Newzealand. Jo found the link through ancestry that Samuel had travelled to Newzealand and e mailed the story to Tony who then googled the ships name, Sir John Forbes and found your story. We’re visiting again soon to see the archives for any further information.

    James

    Reply

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