Carbis Bay in 1891: de-industrialised and older, but still local

In 1861 the small community of Carbis Bay had been thriving, its young residents working in the nearby tin mines. A generation later in 1891 the mines had closed and the community been decimated. The 103 inhabitants of 1861 had fallen to a mere 45, living in 13 households.

There was only one man left who was described in the census as a tin miner. That was Thomas Berryman, 23 years old and living with his sister. There were nine other men with a recorded employment – labourers, a railway packer (someone who packed ballast under the sleepers), a gardener, a shipwright. As yet, there was little sign of any tourism, save one lodging house keeper – Eliza Williams – In Carbis Valley. Jobs for women continued to include dressmaking and drapery, but by 1891 there were also three domestic servants and a music teacher.

The age structure had changed markedly from 30 years previously. This was now an ageing community. Of the 45 residents, 20 per cent were over 60, the oldest being 88 year old Charles Jenkin, a retired builder born in Padstow. Meanwhile, only one in four were aged 14 or under.

Considerable short-distance mobility is implied by the census. Only three of the 13 adult men had been born in the parish itself, although seven of the others hailed from places close by. Similarly, the number of adult women born in other places in Cornwall was over double the number born in the home parish of Lelant.

Yet just three of the 45 residents had been born across the Tamar. One of them, Eugene Watson, was described as a ‘visitor’. Another was John Barker, a retired ship’s master from Sussex. The third was Caroline Sansom, Caroline, 75 years old in 1891, was a former grocer born in Bristol, but she was also one of just two people who can be traced back to the 19871 census, her name then spelt Samson. The other was Jane Penberthy, also a retired grocer.

In fact, there were more residents, six in total, born in Australia and Colorado than in England. They were all young returnees, children of the first wave of emigrants. An ageing community with links to places thousands of miles away but few connections across the Tamar, Carbis Bay was typical of Cornish rural ex-mining districts at the end of the nineteenth century.

2 thoughts on “Carbis Bay in 1891: de-industrialised and older, but still local

  1. 1891 in Carbis Bay coincides I believe with the time when Virginia Woolf was visiting this area. She looked out to Godrevey Lighthouse. Is it known if she was in Carbis Bay or St. Ives at this time?

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