Trevithick: an iconic surname with multiple origins

This week ought to have seen the annual Trevithick Day, when Camborne celebrates its most famous son. By the middle of the 1800s Trevithick was a surname found in the greatest numbers in the Central Mining District of Camborne-Redruth, particularly in Camborne. Richard Trevithick had himself been born at Tregajorran, actually in Illogan parish, but close to the border with Camborne.

However, when Trevithick was born in 1771, the concentration of the name on Camborne was a relatively recent phenomenon. While just over a quarter of all Trevithicks in 1861 were found in the Central Mining District, in the 1730-80 marriage registers only two of 13 had been. Although widely scattered, the surname was then most likely to be found at Tywardreath, just east of St Austell.

A hundred years earlier, the Protestation Returns of 1641/42 recorded just one Trevithick – John Trevythicke – at St Ewe, just west of St Austell. However, there were another ten men listed whose name was spelt Trevethack or Trevethick, also in mid-Cornwall, all to the south west of the Camel estuary.

Going further back to the 1500s we find both spellings Trevithick and Trevethick cropping up in the same parishes. Intriguingly, in 1540 there was a single record of the burial of someone called Trevithick at Illogan, but there were considerably more at St Ewe. As this was one of the parishes that contained the placename Trevithick (meaning either farm at a place of trees or Budick’s farm) we can say with certainty that one origin of the name lay in mid-Cornwall at St Ewe. The other three examples of the placename were also in mid-Cornwall and these places were very likely also to have given rise to the surname, as its early distribution suggests.