Lewannick: leaving the nest. Or not

It’s back to the Launceston district as we home in on the parish of Lewannick, to the south west of the town. Around 1,300 years before the Victorians, two fellows named Ulcagnus and Ingenvus lived here. We know because they left their memorial stones behind, inscribed in both Latin and ogham. They were Irish-speakers who had arrived as part of a migration from south Wales to Cornwall that spanned two or three generations in the sixth century.

The memorial to Ingenvus at Lewannick

In Victorian times only one of the 685 inhabitants of Lewannick came from Wales and she had a Cornish surname – Roseveare – suggesting she or her parents had been return migrants. The majority of the rest of this farming parish (60 per cent of men were farmers or farm labourers) had travelled only short distances.

Over a third of adults had been born in the parish and another quarter hailed from the five neighbouring parishes. Moreover, despite being less than ten miles from the Tamar, 90 per cent of Lewannick’s adult population were Cornish-born. That said, 52 of the other 205 or so parishes in Cornwall were represented by at least one person in Lewannick in 1861, proving again that, if they hadn’t emigrated, our Victorian ancestors were not necessarily bound to live out their days in the same small patch of ground. Some did but only a minority.

One who didn’t move far was Elijah Bennett. Nowadays, much is heard of those young people who are priced out of the housing market and forced to remain in the parental home. The impression is given that this is somehow novel but it was hardly unknown in the nineteenth century.

Elijah was born in the parish in 1850, the son of a farm labourer. By the age of 11 he was working as a farm servant at a nearby farm. The whereabouts of Elijah in 1871 are undiscovered but by 1881 he was back at the family home on the parish boundary with South Petherwin living with his parents William and Jemima and two younger sisters. Although his sisters left home in the 1890s Elijah stayed on. He was 48 when his father died in 1898 with his mother following in 1900. Elijah stayed on in the same house for a while, looked after by his niece.

Trekelland Bridge, near which Elijah lived in the 1880s and 90s

By 1911, still single and still a farm labourer, he had moved in with a younger sister and her husband and family in the village of South Petherwin. Elijah survived the war years, dying in 1921.