Gulval: growing and going

Gulval parish stretches from the fertile low-lying coastal plain east of Penzance and up onto the moors of west Penwith, a veritable archaeological treasure house. With the arrival of railway connections to the huge market of London and the south east of England by the 1860s, the potential of this district and its mild climate for market gardening began to be fully realised.

In Victorian times, this diverse, mainly rural, parish, also had a diverse occupational base. Around a third of the men were either farmers or farm labourers, a quarter worked in the mines and another seventh were craftsmen of one kind or another.  Just under a half of working age women with paid employment were either domestic servants or general workwomen. These were followed by farm servants and field labourers and a similar number of dressmakers.

St Aubyn St in Devonport, where William and Elizabeth lived in 1891, has now been completely re-developed and re-aligned. Here’s the district in 1941 after a visit from the Luftwaffe

Most of Gulval’s children in 1861 in the Victorian lives database stayed put in the parish or neighbouring parishes around Mount’s Bay. And who could blame them? But there were exceptions. Daniel Roberts was a groom living in Penzance in 1851 and Gulval in 1861. He had one son – William  Henry – and a daughter with him but no wife present at either census or indeed that of 1871, even though he did not describe himself as a widower until 1881. In due course William Henry became a house painter, marrying Elizabeth Vivian Bennetts in 1872. Between 1876 and 1881 they left for Devonport, where William eventually found secure employment at His Majesty’s Dockyard as a painter. The pair plus their four children lived in cramped conditions in a two-roomed apartment in Devonport in 1891. They were still there and still in two rooms in 1901.

Aerial view of the hamlet of Rosemorran in the 1940s

Joanna Prowse was almost but not quite the youngest child of John and Nancy Prowse at Trythall in Gulval. No doubt with the help of Nancy and the children, John combined running a smallholding with tin mining. By 1871 Joanna had left home, but not gone far, to be domestic servant to a dairyman at Rosemorran, about a mile and a half from Trythall. A couple of years later she married William Thomas. Between 1876 and 1878 they left Mount’s Bay for Bristol. William, a carpenter, could presumably see more opportunities in that city than in Penzance. They were also still in the big city in 1901.

By the time that William Roberts and Joanna Prowse migrated they could take the railway direct to Plymouth or Bristol, making such moves much easier. However, lack of data from the earlier period means it’s still not entirely clear whether this kind of migration became more common in Victorian times.

One thought on “Gulval: growing and going

  1. Love this article. My great great grandfather James Prowse was from Gulval and by the 1861 census was 14 and already working in the mines 🥰

    Lyn Prowse-Bishop

    Sent from my iPad



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