Sithney: Cornwall in miniature

The parish of Sithney stretched from the downs on the western side of the Carnmenellis uplands south to the coast at Porthleven. A variety of countryside had helped to produce a diverse occupational structure by Victorian times. A third of the men were miners in 1851, mainly in the northern part of the parish. Almost a third were farmers or farm labourers, while another one in seven was a fisherman. All three of Cornwall’s major economic activities were therefore well represented in the parish.

Jacob Witheridge

But just because it was dominated by mining, farming and fishing, not all those who were growing up in the parish in 1861 had to pursue those callings. Jacob Witheridge was the son of a fisherman at Porthleven in that year. Although married to a woman from Gunwalloe on the Lizard, his father was originally from north Devon, where Jacob himself had also been born. The family had returned to Cornwall in the 1850s.

In the early 1870s, Jacob moved to the north of England and married Charlotte Hardwick from Northumberland in 1876. He was a carpenter and had found work in Newcastle, possibly through Porthleven’s maritime connections. Soon after 1881 however, Jacob, Charlotte and their two children moved again, to Fulham in London where Jacob continued to ply his trade as a carpenter.

At the other end of Sithney at Prospidnick in 1861 11 year old James Kempthorne was already at work as a tin dresser, probably at the same mine where his father was an engineman. James remained at Prospidnick working at a tin mine and married Mary from the same parish in 1874. In 1879 James left Mary living with her widowed mother who ran a grocer’s store in Sithney and set off for Nevada where he arrived in 1879 or 1880.

He worked in a mine at Eureka, Nevada for a few years, the Ruby Hill Mining News reporting in 1882 that he had been involved in an accident when a cage in which he was descending struck some pitwork left projecting into the shaft. Although he wasn’t seriously injured he ‘received a severe shaking up’. James returned to the UK later in the 1880s. Either he had made money in Nevada or Mary was left some by her mother because by 1891 he had established himself as a provisions merchant in the growing London suburb of Walthamstow, where he and Mary lived until his death in 1897.

The newspaper report of James Kempthorne’s accident in Nevada

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