The parish of Lanteglos by Camelford offers a rare opportunity for us to peer into the life of a family from the landowning class, the small minority who were able to live off rents, dividends and the surplus created by the majority.
Johanna Cecilia Frederica Ley was the first child of Edwin Ley and his wife Cecilia. Edwin was a landowner, magistrate and Deputy Warden of the Stannaries in 1861. Ten years earlier when Johanna was born, the family had been living at Bosahan in St Anthony in Meneage, well to the west. However, just before 1861 they had decamped to Jetwells House, built in 1815 to the south-west of Camelford.
Now surrounded by a holiday park, in the 1860s the Leys would have enjoyed more privacy and a more aesthetic view, helped by their complement of eight servants, almost one for each of the nine family members. Although Edwin’s father had married Elizabeth Halse of Truro and had died at St Ives, the family’s roots were in Berkshire, where both Edwin and his father had been at born at Abingdon. Cecilia, moreover, hailed originally from Lincolnshire so the family were used to being birds of passage.
Edwin, who was around 30 years older than his wife, died in 1865, leaving his young widow £16,000 ( or £2 million in today’s money). On his death Cecilia and her children moved to Leamington, a favoured place of residence for England’s minor gentry. In 1871 she was described as living off rents from land and railway stock while her eldest son was an undergraduate at Cambridge. Meanwhile, a year earlier at Leamington Johanna had married John Wood from London. John was an Anglican clergyman who became Vicar of Conisborough in Yorkshire.
The couple were not too badly off, as indicated by the three servants employed in 1871. They appear to have had just the one child – George – who duly became an accountant after attending university. Johanna and her husband were still alive and well and living near Sheffield in 1911. But at some point after that, probably after her husband died, Johanna returned to Cornwall, where she died in 1925 at Penzance, leaving £1,015 (£64,000) to her son in her will.