Redruth, Cymru and Cumbria

We have seen that the preferred destination of the majority of Redruth’s sons and daughters in the mid-1800s was the United States. Most of them would have begun their journey by travelling north to embark from Liverpool. Meanwhile, others went north and stayed there. Ellen Chegwidden was the daughter of a sawyer in Redruth in 1861. They had actually arrived only recently, from Crantock via Kenwyn. The joys of Redruth were insufficient to keep Ellen there and by 1871 she was off again, boarding with a mining family in Wendron.

A year after that she married Thomas Oates from St Agnes and the couple set off to make their fortune not in the Midwest but in Wales. A short spell at Neath was followed by an equally limited time at Whitehaven in Cumbria. Moving back south again, the couple were at Flint in north Wales in 1880 but then eventually settled in Merthyr Tydfil in south Wales, where Thomas found (hard) work as a blast furnace labourer.

In 1891 the family, including nine children aged from one to 16, were sharing a cosy three-roomed cottage in White Row, Merthyr. By 1901 Thomas had turned to coal mining. Meanwhile, according to the 1901 census Ellen and her children were able to speak Welsh as well as English. The fluency of her Welsh may be in doubt though as ten years later in 1911 she was recorded as speaking ‘English only’.

None of Ellen’s numerous children appear to have emigrated. In contrast, migration to northern England was often a stepping stone to a later overseas emigration, either by the original migrants or their offspring. Elizabeth Trevena for example was a bal maiden at Redruth Highway, just outside the town, in 1861. She married John Mollard from St Just in Penwith in 1867, the marriage taking place at Millom in Cumbria, suggesting that Elizabeth had left Redruth with the rest of her family earlier in the 1860s.

Obituary of John Mollard

But a year later she was found back in Cornwall at John Mollard’s home parish of St Just, living at Cape Cornwall Street with her miner husband away. Was he still in Cumbria or trying his luck overseas? Had he intended to return to St Just? Whatever the case, soon after the census Elizabeth must have returned to Cumbria where a child was born to her in 1872. Elizabeth and John then settled in Cumbria, where he worked as an iron miner. They didn’t move again, but two of their nine surviving children in 1911 did, one to the Midwest at Ohio and another to Pennsylvania.

The imposing Tabb’s Hotel at Redruth in 1912. It was the venue for ore sales in the 19th century, dances and other public events. In 1968 it was demolished to make way for a Tesco supermarket.

2 thoughts on “Redruth, Cymru and Cumbria

  1. Interesting to read this as my Great-grandfather, John Oscar Tonkin (b. 1893), was brought from Illogan to South Wales as a boy with his (adoptive) parents. He worked as a boy/young man in the mines there in the early 1900s. He married Elizabeth Timmons (Welsh of Irish descent) and moved back to Redruth when my Granny Margaret was still a young girl. John died in the 1930s but Elizabeth lived long enough to have her photo taken holding her first great-grandchild in 1962.


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