St Allen and second marriages

Second marriages were probably as common in Victorian times as they are these days, although the reasons were different. Instead of divorce, early mortality was the main factor. Rapid remarriage on the part of men would have been promoted by an eagerness to obtain a domestic helper who would be cheaper than a servant. For women, the need was greater financial security and support. For both sexes of course, there was a desire for companionship. But second marriages could have direct and indirect consequences that affected people other than the parties involved.

There are examples of this in this blog and the next one. First, let’s look at two people from St Allen who were touched by the second marriages of others. Incidentally, all eight St Allen children born around 1850 who feature in the Victorian Lives database have been traced as far as 1891. Three had died before their 40s, one was in London and the other four still in Cornwall, two of them living in the same parish. However, if we’re tempted to think that no-one migrated from St Allen, a small parish to the north of Truro, we would be mistaken.

Richard Champion was a lead miner (as were a third of the working men in the parish) living near the village of Zelah in 1851 with his wife Ann and their six children, including the youngest, one year old Caroline. Ten years later Caroline was at school while the older brothers were miners. Meanwhile her father was away mining in Ireland.

Moonta, epicentre of Cornish migration to Australia in the 1850s and 60s and the place where Caroline Champion ended her days.

By 1871 Caroline had obtained a place as a servant in the household of a farmer – James Paull and his second wife Mary – at Roskear Villas in Camborne. James had clearly spent time in South Australia as three of the children from his first marriage had been born there in the 1860s. Was it the influence of this family or for another reason that Caroline Champion emigrated to South Australia soon after this? In 1876 she married Redruth-born John Tellam at Moonta, where she died at a young age in 1882.

Others in the parish made the move from mining to farming when the nearby lead mines succumbed in the early 1870s.  On the other hand, the distinction between the two occupations was never that sharp. William Charles Trevail’s father was described as a lead miner in 1851. In contrast, by 1861 he was a farmer of 15 acres at the same address. It’s likely he was always mining and tending his small farm, the census reflecting the priority given to these callings at a certain point in time (and hiding the role of his wife and family in maintaining the farm while he was mining.)

William Charles was in turn a lead miner in 1871 when he was still living at home. But by 1881 he had been forced to turn, or had turned with relief, to farm labouring. His mother, widowed in the 1860s, had remarried. As her new husband, and William Charles’s stepfather, was half her age and the same age as William, there was very little chance that William could profit from the family smallholding, even more so as an older brother was still alive and present in 1871.

Fields near the family holding at Penglaze, where William Charles Trevail grew up. By the time this photo was taken in 2006 the area was blighted by the traffic on the A30 road. To accommodate more, a new dual carriageway is currently being constructed here, destroying what remains of the 19th century landscape.

One thought on “St Allen and second marriages

  1. At the back of the different reasons why women and men married (as you say, financial security etc for women/ helper for men) lies women’s lack of control over resources, particularly land and others (this is well-established in farming communities with the first born son etc traditionally inheriting). It is impossible to be independent and indeed to choose freely to marry (even if to marry) if you do not control the means of sustenance. Beggars most certainly cannot be choosers and love marriages aren’t as common as we’d like to think – though hopefully most of those you have been describing over the past months were!

    Women had to learn to be housekeepers. In Warleggan Reverend Dalston Clements married a close relative, Kathleen (different spellings exist) Clemens, both from Egloshayle. Kathleen was the only woman strawberry breeder in the top 100 at the time and her strawberries were famed across Europe and into the United States (!). When she died Dalston hauled over his cousin Carolyn, who I believe remained single all her life, to keep house. They are all buried in one grave at Egloshayle.

    This idea of women caring for men has created great sadness in some lives. I remember growing up with a certain woman in the parish who local people remembered as “very beautiful” with many suitors. As she grew up she looked after her siblings and when her mother died, she was locked into caring for her father for years. By the time she was free of responsibilities her suitors had long been wed. She loved to show us the flowers in her beautiful garden which she tended constantly. Perhaps they were her ersatzfamily. In any case her house and garden have changed hands many times over the years, but each time I see her erstwhile I think of her lonely soul.


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