Tag Archives: Mousehole

Aisle of Paul Church, Cornwall

Thomas Henry Rowe, wherever he went, and Phillis Harry Wright


St Mary’s Church, Penzance

Thomas was the son of a Penzance-based mason called John Rowe and his wife Sarah. Although born for some reason in Devonport, Devon [Plymouth] in early 1848, he spent his infancy in Penzance where he was baptised in Madron, Penzance Chapelry [later St Mary’s Church] at the age of 2.

Thomas’s family moved away before spring 1859 to Lower Solva, Whitchurch, Pembrokeshire in South Wales with his parents, brothers and sisters. Later baby niece Annie joined the household when Thomas was 11. However by the time he was 14 the whole family is likely to have been back in Penzance when his oldest sister Elizabeth, baby Annie’s mother, married the baby’s father there in 1862.

Soon after that Thomas lost three key females in his life. Firstly at around about that time his mother Sarah died.  Secondly on 30 July 1864 his second sister Catharine got married before moving away to Portsea, Hampshire, for a couple of years then on to south Wales. Eldest sister Elizabeth also left Penzance, in 1866, vanishing from his life.  However his father remarried that December.

Thomas married Phillis Harry Wright on 27 April 1968 at the Paul Parish Church (pictured at top).  His bride Phillis was a Mousehole girl, born 8 miles from Land’s End in Cornwall, whose fisherman father and his family lived in Mousehole, Post Office Square. John had his own nets and fished on the Nile fishing boat.

Photo of Mousehole Harbour, Cornwall

Mousehole Harbour, Cornwall

Although their first child, Thomas Henry, was born at the end of 1869 in Mousehole, there are registration records of a birth and infant death of a child also called Thomas Henry Rowe in their area in 1868-1869 so it may be that he was actually their second child.

The family were living in Belgrave Terrace, Penzance, in April 1871, but by 30 September 1873 they had moved to nearby 6 Alma Place, Penzance.  That was the date of the baptism of their next child, daughter Sarah Helena who had been had been born c1872 followed by A Maria c1873. Their final known child, John Wright Rowe was born on 13 December 1876 in Penzance and baptised the following October in Penzance St Mary’s.

That was the last record I can find of their father Thomas’s location.  Although the family were still in Alma Terrace on 3 April 1881 for the census, he was away from home on that date and Phillis is recorded as a mason’s wife, so that would suggest he’s still alive. It looks like that day young Thomas (11) and Sarah (9) went down the hill to visit their grandparents John and Cecilia Rowe as they are recorded at their house too!

Ten years later Phillis was working as a launderess and the family had moved up the hill within Penzance to Caldwells Road.  Living at home with her were 18-year-old Maria who is working as a tailoress and 16-year-old John who was an errand boy.

photo of Paul Church

Paul Church

In 1900 Sarah Helena married in Paul Church, just up the hill from her mother’s childhood home. She had been living in a tiny place called Trungle immediately next to Paul village. Her groom was Harry Burgess, a salesman and later an insurance agent, who’d been born in Sherborne, Dorset.

Strangely on the 2 April 1901, the 7 Leskinnick Terrace [Penzance] census return identifies Sarah H Rowe for the census as living with Phillis, describing Sarah as a single 29-year-old dressmaker.  I think that perhaps the enumerator had incorrectly recorded Sarah by assuming that because she was at home with her mother she was unmarried.

[Update: In January 2020 a descendent of John and Phillis’ contacted me to let me know that Thomas Henry had travelled to South Africa where he died in April 1901 – the power of blogging! 🙂 ]

Sarah and Harry had four children together. Phyllis Frances (26 April 1903), a child who was possibly born c 1905 but died before 1911, Marie Doreen in summer 1907 and Dorothy Constance born before 2 February 1910, all in Penzance. The family were living at a different address in Penzance for each of these baptisms. Curiously Phyllis’ baptism was non-conformist whereas everything else in their lives was CoE.

In 1902 her son John Wright Rowe married Emma Payne, who’d grown up on a small island in the Isles of Scilly, her story will follow.  They had their children Doreen in 1903 and George in 1908, both registered in the Penzance area, but seemed to spend some time apart at one point.

In 1911 Phillis was living with Harry and Sarah Burgess and their three daughters in Dominic Street, Penzance, and this was the first time I’d see her described as a widow.

Phillis died in 1937 in the Penzance area. Sarah and her daughter Phyllis Frances were still in Penzance in 1939.

Text and photographs © Lynne Black, 22 February 2016
First published: https://starryblackness.wordpress.com/

Aisle of Paul Church, Cornwall

Homebodies: Benjamin, Edith and Thomas Herbert Victor of Mousehole

I’ve recently written about Mary and John, some members of the Rowe and Victor family who had headed to Devonport (Plymouth) for work and Edwin who ended up in Glamorganshire. Their brother Benjamin happily stayed behind in Mousehole, 6 miles from Land’s End in Cornwall, England.

Photo of Fore Street, Mousehole

Looking down Fore Street, Mousehole, Cornwall

Benjamin was the son of a fisherman called Bernard Victor and his wife Alice (nee Rowe). He was born around Christmas 1860/New year 1861 as he was 3 months old by the 7 April 1861 census.  He was baptised on 28 April that year, one of eight babies baptised that day – Paul Church must have been so noisy!  However, scrolling down the list of baptisms that year in Paul Church, 13 October 1861 must have been wilder as an astounding 17 babies were baptised!

The family were living on Quay Street at that time, but by 1871 they had moved to 2 Mill Place – this picture of Fore Street is the view Benjamin would have got as he came out the house and turned down to head to the harbour.  He was still at school at that point.

By 1881 he was working as a boot and shoe maker, living on Church Street in Mousehole with his parents and two of his brothers, widowed Gamaliel and younger brother Edwin.

His father Bernard died in summer 1891.

Photo of St Mary's Church, Penzance

St Mary’s Church, Penzance

Although there was hostility between neighbouring Newlyn and Penzance (the latter was the far side of Newlyn from Mousehole), Benjamin met and fell for a Penzance girl called Edith Wilkins. They married in her parish, Penzance St Mary’s, on 3 November 1890. Her father was an engineer called Thomas Wilkins and witnessed the wedding; by that time Benjamin had become a boot maker like his grandfather William Rowe.

They settled down in Mousehole, where their son Thomas Herbert was born on 6 September 1894. Their daughter Annie Olive was born on 5 August 1898.  I know they also had a third child who’d been born and died young before 1911, according to that census.  I’ve found reference to a Harold Victor, 1896-1897, but don’t know at this stage whether Harold was Benjamin and Edith’s son or the son of his brother Albert and wife Sarah; I’d need to check either a gravestone or order a death certificate for that.

Benjamin continued to work as a boot and shoe maker and they lived in Mousehole at various addresses over the years.

Benjamin’s mother Alice Victor (nee Rowe) died in 1903.

Photo of Penzance Public Library and School of Art

Penzance Public Library and School of Art

In 1911 Benjamin and Edith were living at home in Mousehole with Thomas and Annie. They also had a widowed aunt staying, a lady called Ann Curnow (I think she is from Edith’s side) who had been senile for two years. At this time Thomas was an art student, which I found intriguing as this is the time when the Newlyn School of Art was flourishing and there was an art college in Penzance next to the Library, built in 1880.

So I googled Thomas Herbert Victor and – yes! A ‘famous ancestor’ at last! I found him on the Cornwall Artists Index and he indeed did go to to the Penzance School of Art where he had a scholarship from the start.  He was offered a scholarship at the Slade School of Fine Art in London but chose not to leave Mousehole and indeed lived there all his life, never travelling further than Truro, 32 miles away.

Bernard died in 1914 and was buried in Paul Cemetery.  Edith outlived him and the First World War by many years, dying on 15 January 1941 in Mousehole; her son was her executor.

Their children lived into their 80s, Thomas dying on 10 March 1980 in Mousehole, and Annie two years later, also close by in the same registration area.

© Lynne Black, 22 October 2015
Adapated from a blog post on the Worldwide Genealogy Collaboration Blog, 21 October 2015: http://worldwidegenealogy.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/BenjaminVictor.html 

Aisle of Paul Church, Cornwall

A story of two Louisas: A Mousehole mother and daughter

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].

Photo of Mousehole village name signLouisa’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.

Photo of Paul Quarry

Newlyn Quarry in centre with Mousehole to left, Paul on the hill and Newlyn to the right; photo by mif168 on Flickr, Creative Commons license

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.

Photo of old Bosahan House

Image of Bosahan House pre-1955 by Drew on Flickr, Creative Commons license https://www.flickr.com/photos/drewhound/

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/

Photo of Mousehole Harbour, Cornwall

Edwin Albert Victor 1886-1831 and Sarah Maddern: from Cornwall to South Wales

Photo of altar of Paul Parish Church

Paul Parish Church

Edwin was the youngest of eight children of fisherman Bernard Victor and his wife Alice (nee Rowe).   He was born on 21 July and baptised on 7 October 1886 in Paul Church, 10 minutes up the hill from Mousehole, Cornwall where he was born and grew up.

By the time Edwin was 14 in 1881 he was apprenticed to a carpenter there. He was at the time living home with his parents, oldest brother Gamaliel and also Benjamin, his ‘next brother up’.

Edwin obviously didn’t hang around as he was also married before he was 21, in April 1887. His wife, Sarah Maddern, also came from a large family, being the fifth of eight children, and the daughter of fishmonger John Maddern and his wife Mary.

That summer they had their first child, daughter Agnes Louise, and in March 1891 a son, named Bernard for his grandfather, who had died six months previously in summer 1890. He had been only a month old when the April 1891 census was taken. At that time Edwin was working as a carpenter in Mousehole.

There is a large gap in age between the birth of Bernard and the next child I’ve found, Albert Edwin. Albert was born in spring 1897 and the Paul burial records list a nine-month old Albert Edwin being buried in Paul cemetery in March 1898. After checking out options I think the probability is that it’s ‘their’ Albert.

The 1911 census tells me that altogether Edwin and Sarah had had six children by that time, two had died. I’m wondering whether one of those children was born in-between Bernard and Albert, but I haven’t even been able to find any baptism records for Agnes, Bernard and Albert in Paul.  Maybe the family were poor, maybe they couldn’t be doing with the church or fell out with someone there, who knows? But there are very good and thorough records available for that parish and I find having hardly any records for a family’s children very unusual.

The next child I have evidence for was named Albert Cecil and arrived in early 1899, still in Mousehole.  However, soon after that the family upped and moved to Devonport [Plymouth] in Devon. The March 1901 census finds Edwin, Sarah, Agnes, Bernard and Cecil in Elliot Street, Devonport, with Edwin working as a carpenter on extension.

Their daughter Emily was born in late 1903 in Devonport,

By April 1911 the family had moved on again, this time to Bay Street in Swansea, Glamorgan, in Wales. Edwin was still working as a carpenter, doing shuttering. Agnes and Bernard were both still single, Agnes working as a domestic servant and Bernard as a carter for a corn merchant at a mill.

In 1914 Bernard married a Welsh girl called Jennet Davies.  Sadly they only had 8 years together as Jennet died in summer 1922.  He re-married in 1924, to a younger woman called Ivy Irene Harcourt, the daughter of a dock labourer. As we’re now well within the 20th century I don’t know his story but I know he died in Bridgend, Glamorganshire, in 1970; Ivy lived on until 1987.

Albert Cecil – I think he may have used the Cecil more than the Albert – married a girl called Mary A Davies in 1923. He lived until 1972; he was still in Glamorganshire when he died. Mary had died before him in 1960.

Edwin himself died in early 1931.

He and Sarah’s oldest child Agnes died in 1932, aged only 45; she hadn’t married; maybe she hadn’t met anyone or maybe World War One snatched her sweetheart.

Sarah died the following spring in 1933 aged 30, in the Neath registration district of Glamorganshire.

© Lynne Black, 4 October 2015.
First published: https://starryblackness.wordpress.com/2015/10/04/edwin-albert-victor/

John Victor, Boiler-maker and Hammerman, 1852-1934

Photo of Mousehole Harbour at low tide

Mousehole Harbour at low tide

On Boxing Day 1852, Bernard and Alice Victor (nee Rowe) stood in Paul Church, Cornwall, for the baptism of their son John.  Bernard was a fisherman, and Alice was a fisherman’s wife, formerly a domestic servant.

During John’s childhood the family lived in various streets in the small village of Mousehole.  A smart new granite pier was built in 1870-71 but he didn’t stay to become a fisherman, instead in the first half of the 1870s he moved east to Devon, and lived in Stoke Damarel, near Plymouth.  There was a smallpox epidemic in Plymouth in 1872 when hundreds died; hopefully John was still in Mousehole at that time or his parents would have been going frantic. Also in 1872 horse-drawn trams were introduced but I suspect labourer John, a fisherman’s son, would have walked around Devonport.  His married older sister Mary Wright Victor had by this time also moved away to Devonport but had come back for an extended stay with her young family when her husband Edward Kelynack was away at sea.

Photo of Plymouth Hoe by Robert Pitman

Plymouth Hoe, by Robert Pitman, Flickr bobchin1941 Creative Commons license

John met a girl called Eliza Jane Crews, a carpenter’s daughter, and they married around February 1877 and their first child, Alice, was born on 28 May of that year when John was 25 and Eliza only 18. They maybe had a concern for Alice’s health, as she was baptised two days later in St Stephen’s Church, Devonport. At this time new dad John was working as a labourer.

Their second daughter, Eliza Hutton, was born in March 1880; the young family were living at 12 Clowance Street where they were to stay for at least 13 years. A year later, at the time of the 1881 census, John was working as an assistant boiler maker, and in December 1882 when their third child Agnes Kate was baptised aged approx 10 months he was described on the record as ‘Hammer man’.

On 11 December 1884 their fourth child and first son, William Robert, was born.  Maybe William was in good health to begin with, as they weren’t in a hurry to get him baptised.  Sadly when they did get round to it; when he was 18 months old in June 1886, it was likely urgent as William died two weeks later and was buried in Stoke Damerel parish.

Mum Eliza must have been early on in another pregnancy at that time as she gave birth six months after that, on 28 December 1886, to a daughter called Harriett Ruby, who was always referred to after that as Ruby. When Ruby was born John was working as a boilerman in HM Dockyards. Working in the Dockyards was the dominant industry in Plymouth at that time. A later writer described how:

“It is impossible to convey any idea of the varied activities which are to be witnessed at the dock sides and in the many workshops. The visitor should not fail to visit the large Smithery, however much the smoke and soot may drive him to the open air. Here anchors and other heavy metal work are dealt with and the great Nasmyth steam hammer may be seen.”
From the Devonport Online transcription of ‘A pictorial and descriptive guide to Plymouth, Stonehouse and Devonport with excursions by river, road and sea’ [1] Ed. 5, rev. Published 1914 by Ward Lock & Co Ltd. London.

John’s father Bernard died in summer 1890. Unusually for my Cornish ancestors John didn’t choose his father’s name for either of his own sons. Maybe they weren’t close, or maybe someone just hated the name Bernard.  John and Eliza’s second son John Ernest was born later that year, on 13 November 1890.

Daughter Mary Ann was another winter baby, born on 22 December 1892.  I fear that Mary Ann also died young as I haven’t found a trace of her anywhere after that.

Their eighth and final child, Ethel May, was born on 1 December 1894.

At the end of the 19th century the family moved to Ker Street, Devonport. Around that time, in 1899, the horse-drawn trams being just so 19th century, were starting to be replaced with the introduction of electric trams.  The family were definitely in Ker Street for the 1901 census, a year which also saw their first of their children get married: 24-year-old Alice Victor, a tailoress, married Scottish shipwright James Mathie in autumn 1901 in Devonport. As far as I know they didn’t have any children.

By March 1901 their third daughter Agnes was working as a servant for Church of England clergyman William & Isabella Allin & their family. In the summer of 1902 Agnes, aged about 19, married skilled labourer William Avery (also working in HM Dockyards) , and that year John and Eliza became grandparents for the first time when Agnes had her first child, a boy called William.

In late 1902, second daughter Eliza married James Edwards.

The next few years weren’t very kind to John. In summer 1903, when he was 51, his mother Alice (nee Rowe), aged almost 80 and still living back in the Penzance area, probably Mousehole, died.  The following year in Stoke Damarel, John and Eliza would have been scared and horrified when their daughter Ruby, then aged 18, started having fits.

In spring 1904 Agnes had another baby, named Agnes Kate for her mother, but I think the baby must have died soon after birth.

In early 1904 their third grand-child was born, this time to Agnes’ sister Eliza and James Edwards; they named the baby Ruby for her aunty.  Three years after that, in summer 1907, the baby’s granny Eliza Snr died at around the time of her 49th birthday.  It also looks like James sailed for the USA in 1907.

On 13 August 1907 poor Agnes and William stood at St Mary’s Church, their newborn daughter Eliza Honor in their arms for Eliza’s baptism.  Eliza had been born that same day so can’t have been well; I don’t have the exact death date for Eliza but it was August/September that year. Agnes and William went on to have another lost child before the 1911 census.

Photo of Elizabeth, NJ, USA

Elizabeth, New Jersey, USA by Ron Coleman https://www.flickr.com/photos/roncoleman/

In June 1908 their daughter Eliza and grand-daughter Ruby sailed from Southampton to New York on the SS Majestic.  She and Edward had had a son Wilfred, born c November 1909 in New Jersey; by 5 May 1910 they were living in Elizabeth City in Union County, with James working as a cabinet maker.

Back in Devonport, John’s daughter Agnes had her fifth child in August 1911; hopefully this baby was stronger as this time there was no rush to get little Samuel to be baptised.

That October, Agnes’ younger brother John, who was a plumber, joined the Royal Navy.  He served on the Vivid (the cadet ship I believe rather than the Naval base), but in November 1911 was invalided and spent four months in Plymouth Hospital.  I’m love to know the background to these intriguing remarks, perhaps about a gratuity: 10/- Grat. for raising/saving the Vivid” Nov 1911.

Naval discharge notes for John Victor, 1911

Naval discharge notes for John Victor, 1911-12, from FindMyPast

Blue-eyed, brown-haired John left hospital in March 1912 and perhaps fancied a new start as in July he headed for New York on the White Star Line’s Majestic. After that I lose track of his story.

17 June 1916 saw the marriage of his youngest daughter Ethel to a blacksmiths apprentice called Francis McCalley. Francis was the only child of a seamstress called Alice Rowlings who worked for the government in the dockyards, sewing flags.  Alice’s sister had also lived with them, so Francis lived in a female household, it was maybe a shock to go work in a blacksmith’s shop!

In 1920 the census finds Eliza, James and Ruby Edwards renting a house in Elizabeth, NJ, but by that time James was working for the church as a sexton. That census suggests they naturalised in 1912 but the scrawl on a later census seems to contradict that.  Eliza and James had a daughter named Jean in 1923, when their son was 13, must have been a bit of a shock after a gap of several years! James was still a sexton in 1930; the census tells me that they not only owned a house by then but that they also had a radio.

This is of course the point in John’s family story where I run out of UK online registration resources to access. I do however know that despite what must have been very hard physical labour John lived until the age of 81, dying in Devonport in spring 1934, less than a year after the the death of his eldest daughter Alice.

Ruby didn’t marry, she lived on until 1855; Agnes died in 1961 and Ethel in 1973.

Back in Elizabeth, USA, in 1940, Eliza and sexton James’ family had grown following gas fitter Wilfred’s marriage to beautician Lillian; Wilfred’s younger sister Jean was an office worker.  How strange to get such recent online records; I wonder if Jean’s still over there in New Jersey.  Such a difference in the world since her grandfather John Victor’s birth in Cornish Mousehole, almost 90 years before.

© Lynne Black, 27 September 2015
First published: https://starryblackness.wordpress.com/2015/09/27/john-victor/

Bernard Victor and the Cornishmen who wet the other eye

Mousehole Harbour, photo by Edward Webb via Creative Commons license

Mousehole Harbour, photo by Edward Webb via Creative Commons license

I’m not an academic, but I work at the University of Stirling, but I just really get on with being a secretary, my day job; exploring my family’s history is one of my hobbies.

So I was minding my own business, scrolling through my emails the other day, when a blog post from our Information Services feed caught my attention.  A new set of historical newspapers added to the collections available. We subscribe to historical newspapers?! This was something I’d not come across in my day-to-day work in a different School. I probably was the most excited person in the entire University about this (sadly enough!) and this weekend I have been playing with it.  And this is what I’ve found.

photo of Paul Church

Paul Church

I recently blogged about my 4G Aunty Alice Rowe from Newlyn, Cornwall, who married a fisherman called Bernard Victor (1818-1890) from neighbouring Mousehole. She moved there and just got on with the business of having a family, in their case eight children, and being a fisherman’s wife.

What I find so frustrating about family history is that when you’re writing about people born 150 years ago or more, you so seldom get an idea of what makes them tick, what their passions are, what makes them mad.

Well I was searching on the University’s subscribed newspaper collections for Edwin Victor, one of Alice and Bernard’s sons, and I wasn’t coming up with anything. So I broadened my search terms and references to Victor and Mousehole came up. Yes! While I was still drawing a blank for Edwin, there was Bernard mentioned in a few articles all relating to Dolly Pentreath, famous for being the last person who spoke in Cornish, who didn’t learn English until she was 20 years old. Dolly died in 1777 and had a memorial built in her memory many decades later, partly funded by Prince Louise Bonaparte. [I’ve actually heard it suggested that she wasn’t actually the last person to do this but the 2nd last – she just had better PR!]

Turns out that Bernard’s grandfather George Badcock was the Mousehole undertaker, and Bernard recalled to the Cornishman newspaper George telling him:

“The following is an incident which took place at the funeral of the above celebrated dame [Dolly Pentreath]. The undertaker was Georgie Badcock, a grandfather of Mr Bernard Victor of Mousehole.  There were eight chosen fisherman bearers to take her to her last resting place.  Those were frisky and whiskey days; Mousehole men loved their drop then.  They had taken the coffin up as far as the Watering Lane on the way to Paul, and there made a halt protesting that they would not budge another inch without, in local parlance “wetting the other eye”. In order not to obstruct the traffic, the coffin was taken into the Watering Lane, and deposited there, and one of the bearers were deputed, all of them at first declining the honour, to fetch the necessary drop (a bottle of gin). This was duly brought, drunk, and discussed. The coffin, with its remains, was then picked up again and marched off to Paul with every solemnity.”

Bernard was obviously keen on the language, and contributed several words to the Cornishman in 1879-80 when the paper was doing a push to collect Cornish words before they were lost.

So now I have this image of Bernard passionately writing to the local newspaper about local history, of wandering round Mousehole talking to the village elders and asking for Cornish words and expressions [in another Cornishman article it mentions a long list of names he identified].

What I don’t know is what Alice thought of this, whether she was passionate about it too supporting him with this, or indulgent as it kept him out of trouble!

Either way, when the monument was erected in the wall of Paul Cemetery in 1860 I hope that Bernard was present to see it.

© Lynne Black, 13 September 2015
First published: https://starryblackness.wordpress.com/2015/09/13/bernard-victor/

Alice Rowe, 1824 – 1903: Coronations and potatoes

Photo of altar of Paul Parish Church

Paul Parish Church

Alice Rowe, daughter of William Rowe and Alice Daniel, was baptised on Sunday 31 October 1824 in Paul Church, Paul parish, Cornwall.  Her father was a shoemaker and she was still living at home aged 16 in 1841; she is an older sister of my great-great-great-grandfather James Rowe.  By the age of 16 she had lived under the reign of 3 different monarchs.

Alice became a servant until her marriage in 1844 in Newlyn’s Trinity Wesleyan Chapel to fisherman Bernard Victor of neighbouring village Mousehole.  They lived in Mousehole and later that year had their first child whom they christened Gamaliel, ‘reward of God’.

Sadly she wouldn’t have had her mother’s advice and support for long after Gamaliel’s birth: Alice senior died the following year when her daughter was only 20.  Bernard and Alice had their second child, a daughter called Mary Wright Victor, in summer 1846; their third child, another daughter, arrived in 1849 and was named Alice Daniel Victor after her late Grandmother Rowe.

Photo of Mousehole Harbour at low tide

Mousehole Harbour at low tide

Bernard was working as a ‘fisherman with nets’ on Capt William Ladner’s boat the Three Brothers for the 30 March 1851 census and Alice gave her occupation as a fisherman’s wife. They had three more children during the 1850s: John, Louisa and Agnes and then Benjamin in 1861. Their final child Edwin Albert was born in 1867, the year their oldest daughter Mary married.

Their oldest child, Gamaliel, married another Alice, Alice Vincent, the following spring aged 23, but before the summer was out he was widowed and by 1871 had moved back in with his parents.

In 1881 they had three of their sons with them: Gamaliel the carpenter, Benjamin a boot & shoemaker and Edwin Albert, an apprentice carpenter.

Bernard had died in summer 1890 and April 1891 found Alice working as a laundress.  Gamaliel was by now a cobbler; he was still living with his mother.

Alice died in 1903, her son died two years later.

Although it wouldn’t perhaps have made much difference to her day-to-day life, Alice had lived in the reign of four different monarchs: George IV, William IV, Victoria and right at the end of her life Edward VII, something I find disconcerting, having lived under the reign of just one monarch all my life.  I’m not sure quite what difference, if any, all these remote people would have made to her life. The Cornishman included references to Edward VII’s 1902 coronation bunting in-between information in the same column about pilchard catches and the story of a ‘peculiar freak’ ‘Siamese triplets’ potato (3 joined together in a row) and asked ‘Have any farmers in West Cornwall made similar discoveries?’  This attitude tickles me more than it probably should but I do like the way that things are kept in perspective.

© Lynne Black, 16 August 2015
First published: https://starryblackness.wordpress.com/2015/08/16/alice-rowe-victor