The maritime connection

Antony was a small, remote rural parish in the far south eastern corner of Cornwall before the 1780s. But in that decade the town of Torpoint began to spring up on land owned by the Carews, the local landowners based at Antony House. Begun as a speculative venture to house workers needed for the naval dockyard across the Tamar at Devonport, the new town of Torpoint quickly expanded. The population of the parish, only just over 800 in 1801, had almost quadrupled to over 3,000 by 1851.

However, in mid-century its sights were still firmly set on the dockyard and the towns over the water to the east.  At least 22 of the 35 case histories in the Antony database had some maritime, naval or dockyard connection over the course of their lives, either directly or via spouses or other family members. Moreover, the exceptions were mainly found in the more rural parts of the parish beyond the town.

Charles Brock was a typical example. He was the son of a master mason employing one man at mid-century. Charles grew up in the town, at King Street overlooking the ferry, then in neighbouring Macey Street and back to King Street by 1871. Unusually, neither Charles nor his two brothers took up their father’s profession. Charles and his older brother Richard had joined the Royal Navy by 1871, while his younger brother William became a baker. In 1881 Charles was a bosun’s mate on the HMS Hibernia at sea. Married by that time to Elizabeth, from Stoke Gabriel in Devon, Charles then became a lightship keeper, based near Southampton in 1891.

Houses in King Street today

Sarah Webber had also grown up in the cramped streets near the ferry in downtown Torpoint. She was the daughter of a master mariner and married John Wiltshire, from Portsmouth, in 1871. The couple then moved to Plymouth and, by 1877, further afield. John was a coach painter in 1871 but was employed in 1881 as a model painter at the Royal Naval College at Greenwich, just outside London. By 1891 the pair, with their five children, had returned to Torpoint, John being described as a retired painter at the rather early age of 40.

John Wiltshire’s impressive workplace of 1881

Can you help add any information on the considerable number of children living in Antony parish in 1861 who have not been traced? Discover who they were here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.