Mawnan’s emigrants – triggering cultural transformation

Mawnan is now famed for the gardens that flourish on the south-facing slopes running down to the Helford estuary, places such as Glendurgan, Trebah and Carwinion. These were founded in the 1800s, often by various members of the Fox family from nearby Falmouth who built their country houses in this verdant parish blessed by mild weather and a favourable geography.

It’s often the smallest places that have experienced the greatest change over time. Mawnan is one. Now still attracting those seeking a comfortable retirement, it wasn’t always so. Indeed, the seven children from Mawnan in 1861 who are included in the Victorian Lives database were distinctly less well-off. Six were the offspring of farm labourers and one came from a family of a miner. All seven can be traced.

Two died young in the 1860s. A third, William Rail, also died in 1870 aged just 21 or so, although he died in Pennsylvania, just after making the trip overseas. Of the four survivors only one was still in Cornwall. Charles Retallack’s father had managed to rent a small farm at St Keverne on the Lizard by 1871 and Charles took over from his father in the late 1870s.

Another – William Pascoe – had left to join the Navy in the 1860s. By 1891 he was living at Devonport on his navy pension with his wife Emily, who had been born in the Channel Isles, and their children.

Trebah Gardens would not have looked like this when William Pascoe was working there

Like William Rail above, the final two had both emigrated. Unlike William they both survived into middle age. Another boy named William Pascoe had turned to mining by 1871, first moving to east Cornwall where he married Hannah Chinn from Liskeard in 1876. The pair were back in the west in 1881, when William was working as a garden labourer at Trebah in one of those newly established gardens. This did not prove permanent however, and by 1901 William and Hannah had moved to Cleveland, Ohio.

The final Mawnan child was Tabitha Carne. Tabitha also found herself in Ohio by the 1890s, at Tallmadge, now a suburb of Akron. The whole family had moved together, arriving in Canada in 1867 and in the 1870s making their way down across the border to Ohio.

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