Landewednack: one life and three teenage deaths

The good news is that the missing Victorian Lives database cases have now been re-researched and restored and we can return to the 12 missing parishes. (For anyone who has no clue what I’m on about see here.) The bad news is that I now have to think of more ways to inject an element of excitement into the humdrum tales of everyday life bequeathed to us by our Victorian predecessors.

Some of those dozen parishes are small or added few cases to the database. Landewednack, Cornwall’s most southerly parish, is one. Three of the four 11-year olds from the parish who found themselves in the database were exceedingly unlucky, as they died in their teenage years.

Francis Roskruge was the son of a farmer but that solid background could not prevent his death in 1863, most likely from one of the childhood diseases such as measles, whooping cough or mumps that still ravaged Cornish communities in the mid-1800s or from a bout of dysentery or typhus, which were endemic at the time.

Lizard Town in 1878

The other two both succumbed in the late 1860s. Both were living in the untidy scatter of dwellings flattered by the name of Lizard Town. Mary Ann Bray’s elder brother eventually left for Canada but Mary, the daughter of a farm labourer, did not live long enough to enjoy that option. Nearby, a year or so earlier, Alexander Hocking had also expired. Alexander was the son of a farmer from the parish who worked a small farm of 15 acres.

The fourth Landewednack child was much more fortunate. Eliza Harris survived well into her 80s. As the above biographies suggest, most men in the parish got their living from farm work. Eliza’s father Richard was an exception, described as a fisherman in the 1851 and 1861 censuses. This was a dangerous calling given the few safe harbours on the parish’s forbidding coastline.

Eliza married at a very young age in 1866. Her first husband, a labourer, died in 1875 and she re-married in 1881. The second time around, her partner – Thomas Smitheram – survived and the couple brought up several children. Thomas was a farm labourer although in his 50s belatedly turning his hand to quarrying. In the mid-1880s Eliza and Thomas moved a mile or two up the coast to St Keverne, where they played out the rest of their lives.