Launceston: the fortunes of workhouse children

Launceston, or Lanson in the vernacular, served as the headquarters of the Normans when they arrived in Cornwall in the 1070s. Its location within sight of the River Tamar in the far east suggests the Normans were a little wary at first about pushing further west. As Cornwall became a safer place to venture into, Launceston had to share its leading status with Bodmin. Later still, when industrialisation shifted Cornwall’s centre of gravity to the west, Truro elbowed itself in to demand the leading status, leaving Launceston, now well away from the main railway line, looking rather remote.

The residents of Lanson’s workhouse in 1861 would no doubt have pronounced the place’s name correctly. One of those was Mary Jane Congdon, in the workhouse with her two sisters. Mary Jane’s age was given as 11 in 1861 but she was actually born in 1853, one of the at least three illegitimate children of Grace Congdon of Lezant, south of Launceston.

Launceston ‘s workhouse with the infirmary that was added in the later 1800s. The site now hosts a Tesco supermarket

Grace married William Bartlett, a farm labourer of the parish and in the 1871 census Mary Jane was recorded as visiting her mother and step-father. In 1874 she married Richard Daw Bartlett, also of Lezant and presumably a relation of her step-father. Richard may also have endured a spell in Launceston workhouse as a 16 year old Richard Bartlett was admitted there in 1866.

Mary Jane’s marriage certifcate of 1874. She could sign her name; Richard couldn’t.

Richard, a general labourer, Mary Jane and their five children were living at Langore village at St Stephen by Launceston in 1891. But Richard died three months after the census was taken. Mary Jane then moved the short distance to St Thomas by Launceston, where she was living in 1911, taking in laundry and supported by her youngest son, a sawyer.

Mary Ann Mayne was another 11 year old pauper in Launceston’s workhouse in 1861. Mary Ann’s father had been a mine labourer in Stokeclimsland but was recorded in the 1861 census as having been blind for the previous two years. After leaving the workhouse, Mary Ann found work in the 1860s as a general servant on a farm close to her birthplace in Stokeclimsland.

In 1877 she married Richard Treweek, a master bootmaker at Callington. Mary was Richard’s second wife. Unfortunately Richard died in the 1890s on which Mary moved with her four children to Plymouth where her eldest daughter married a local plasterer. In 1911 Mary Ann was lodging with her daughter and son in law.

Methodological note from a methodologically challenged researcher: The more eagle-eyed reader may have noticed that these blogs have hitherto appeared in a rough alphabetical order. However, we have jumped straight from Lamorran to Launceston. The reason is that I appear to have lost 110 records before I had the chance to enter them into the database. I now have to return to those 110 and research their life-courses again before writing the blogs for the following parishes – Landewednack, Landrake, Landulph, Laneast, Lanhydrock, Lanivet, Lanlivery, Lanreath, Lansallos, Lanteglos by Camelford, Lanteglos by Fowey and Launcells. If you’re waiting with breathless anticipation for news from those places have patience. Once the research is done I shall return to them.

3 thoughts on “Launceston: the fortunes of workhouse children

  1. So sorry about you losing those records. That must be so difficult. Be comforted though by the happiness and knowledge your faithful reader gets each time you post.


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