Carbis Bay in 1861: industrial, local and young

Carbis Bay is in the news. But what was the place like 150 years ago? We can find out from the census of 1861. For a start there was no such address in the census books. There was Carbis, sometimes called Carbis Water, running along the road to St Ives and Carbis Valley, heading down to the beach, which was then free of buildings. Carbis Bay was first so named in 1884, a new name for the bay formerly known as Barrepta Cove, from the earlier Porthreptor. The name Carbis came from a farmstead inland, recorded as Carbons in the 1300s. This meant a paved road or causeway, or possibly cart-bridge, the literal meaning of the Cornish word.

Barrepta Cove and Carbis in 1877

Together, these two places had 23 houses, containing 25 households and 103 people. It was entirely dependent on mining. Every one of the 28 men aged over 14 found employment in or at the mines, most probably at nearby Providence Mine. Seven of the 35 women of working age were also employed as tin dressers, or bal maidens, with a scattering of milliners, dressmakers, laundresses and grocers among the rest.

age and sex of residents in 1861

This was also a very young community. More than three quarters of its residents were aged 29 and younger, with 41% being children younger than 14 years of age. There was only one person over 60 – Richard Trevorrow, a tin miner of 61. Richard had been born in Lelant parish, in which Carbis was found, along with just over half of the other adult men. Of the rest, all came from west Cornwall, around half from other parishes in West Penwith and half from mining parishes elsewhere.

The women were a little more varied in their origins. Again, slightly over half had been born in the parish. Of the other 16, six were from West Penwith and four from the mining parish of Gwennap. Four more came from Truro and points east in mid-Cornwall, while two hailed from even further afield. Ann Thomas, 54, the wife of a miner, had been born in Chudleigh in Devon while Caroline Samson was a 45-year old retired grocer whose birthplace was Bristol. It seems that Caroline had lived in Cornwall for some time, however, as she had a daughter of 22 born at Truro.

A thriving young community engaged in industry. Somewhat different from today. But also very different from the situation just 30 years or a generation later in 1891, as we shall find out in a forthcoming blog.