Migration from Mount’s Bay

The neighbouring parishes of Penzance and Paul were among Cornwall’s most populous in the Victorian period. That also means they provided more children for the Victorian Lives database, in fact a total of 133. Of those, just over three quarters (102) have been traced through to 1891 or their death. (Health warning: those of a nervous disposition when confronted by numbers should look away now.)

The rule is that the higher the number in a sample the more confident we can be of the result. Ideally, we’d want at least 500 or 600 cases in order to draw hard and fast conclusions, but 102 is enough to allow us to get a preliminary grasp of the movement of our Penzance and Paul cohort.

Overall, almost half of the survivors were still living in Paul or Penzance when they reached the age of 40. One in seven were elsewhere in Cornwall, although virtually all of them had only moved a handful of miles and were still living in West Penwith. About one in eight had departed for various places scattered around England with no particular concentration while another one in eight were overseas. Again, there was no obvious pattern to the emigration destinations. Around a half were in North America, with the others in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in 1891. Meanwhile, one in seven were less fortunate and hadn’t made it to the age of 40.

Were there differences by gender? Perhaps surprisingly, men were more likely than women to be found still living in Mount’s Bay. Men were also slightly less likely to emigrate from the district than women, although the difference is small and this needs to be treated with caution, given the relatively low total numbers.

Gender was less important than place. There was a much more significant difference between the two parishes of Penzance and Paul. Almost two-thirds of the sample who were living in Paul in 1861 were still there 30 years later. Less than a half of the Penzance children were still in Penzance. While the numbers emigrating were similar from both places there was a greater tendency for Penzance children to move to places in England, a move that was quite rare in Newlyn and Mousehole.

The explanation for these differences lies in the occupational structures of the two parishes. The buoyant single-industry economy of the fishing communities meant there was less incentive for natives of Newlyn and Mousehole to leave in this period and fewer opportunities for their specialised skills elsewhere. That also explains the fact that 90 per cent of the children at Paul have been traced whereas only 79 per cent of those at Penzance have.

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