Contrasting fortunes for Lezant’s carpenters

Whether urban or rural, mining or farming, all parishes in Victorian Cornwall would have had a number of men and women who got their living from their craft. For men this might include a variety of jobs such as blacksmiths, shoemakers or masons; for women it tended to be restricted to dressmaking. But did craftsmen and women migrate more or less frequently than miners or farm labourers? This is one of the questions this research should help us to understand once it’s completed.

Until that glorious day arrives, we can take two examples of carpenters from the same parish. Lezant lies between Launceston and Callington in east Cornwall. Richard Lark Kennard was the eldest son of a master carpenter and was born at Trebullett in the parish. Richard duly followed his father into carpentry and married Adelpha (usually known as Delphea in later censuses) Spear in 1874 who was from the neighbouring parish of Stoke Climsland. The pair set up home in Western Road on the outskirts of Launceston, in 1881 accommodating Richard’ s brother William, who was also a carpenter.

The hamlet of Trebullet, Richard Kennard’s birthplace, in 1919

In the 1890s Richard and Delphea moved to Werrington, a little to the north, where Richard was employed by a local estate. In 1911, three years before his death, their two eldest married daughters and a son in law were living with them. Moreover, despite being a working carpenter all his life Richard left the considerable sum of £930 in his will (equivalent to £114,000 nowadays.)

At Werrington did Richard work for the Werrington Park estate? This was once owned by Francis Drake. The house was built in the 1730s and in 1882 it was bought by John Charles Williams of Caerhays.

John Rowe was also the eldest son of a carpenter at Lezant but he was less fortunate than Richard. Like Richard, John followed his father into the trade and was working as a carpenter by 1871 while still living at home at Treburley Green, Lezant.

John’s movements in the 1870s are somewhat unclear but in 1878 we find him at Birmingham in the English Midlands, marrying Ellen Bloye. Ellen had also been born in Lezant and had presumably accompanied John to Birmingham or perhaps gone to join him there. The pair set up home in Smethwick near the city and two sons – Arthur and Frank – soon followed.

Then in the 1880s, tragedy struck the family. Both the children died in 1884 in the same month, no doubt struck by the same ailment, most likely to be measles or something similar. Although another son was born a year later John Rowe himself expired in 1887 aged just 37.

One thought on “Contrasting fortunes for Lezant’s carpenters

  1. What a glorious name, Adelpha (Delphea). The birth version peaks to parental dreams and the perhaps even more elegant Delphea speaks also to dreams (and reality?) of elegance. After all she could have just been “Delph” or Delf, but she clearly chose an elegant pronunciation.

    I wonder if some of the wealth of her husband actually came from her family. Might explain a few things like his relative fortune at death despite his occupation. The money may have been settled upon him at marriage (well, I like to dream as well, but … an idea, hey).


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