Despite the number of domestic servants at work in Truro, only two 11 year old girls from our database who were living in Kenwyn in 1861 and have been traced through to 1891 were working as domestic servants in 1871. Disappointing but not surprising as domestic servants with no family present to help track them down and a high probability of marriage not long after the census date, are notoriously difficult to trace in the census records. Looking through the entries in the 1861 census for urban Kenwyn the number of mis-spellings of servants’ names and birthplaces also hint that their employers may have been less than conscientious when filling in the details of their domestics.
Maria Sanders came from an impoverished background. In 1851 her father was unemployed and a pauper, living at Castle Street in Truro. Four of the infant Maria’s seven older brothers and sisters were forced to work as servants to supplement the family income, the youngest only eight. Maria herself had become a baker’s assistant by 1861, by which time the family’s fortunes seem to have improved – not that they could have got much worse – and her father was in employment again.
She left Truro in the later 1860s and went to Plymouth, working as a servant at a lodging and eating house in Union Street. Two years later things had not turned out well as Maria bore an illegitimate son at Kingswear in south Devon. By 1881 she was back at Truro, living at the down at heel Baynards Court with her boy and working as a charwoman.
However, in 1890 she married William Lamerton at Plymouth. William was a railway engine driver who in 1868 had married Maria’s sister Mary, who died in 1885. William’s steady wage as a skilled worker must have made Maria’s life a lot more comfortable. The couple moved to Penzance where Maria survived until 1912.
Mary Jane Keast was another domestic servant from Truro but, like Maria, not a servant in Truro. Mary Jane’s life story was considerably less complicated than Maria’s. The daughter of a tin smelter turned labourer at Carclew Street in Truro, Mary Jane had gone to Penzance by 1871 and was working as the sole servant in the house of a retired dairywoman. Soon after the census in 1874 she married Edwin Pascoe from Gerrans on the Roseland. The couple and their family then lived out the rest of their lives at Gerrans, as Edwin turned from being a fisherman to a master mariner and a motor boat driver in 1911, with an interlude as a gamekeeper.