St Blazey and a patriotic Cornishman

Amelia Hancock (see previous blog) was described by the Daughters of the American Revolution as an ‘extremely patriotic and intelligent woman’. The patriotism they were referring to was to her adopted homeland. Another St Blazey child of 1861 provides more evidence for a strong sense of patriotism, but this time a Cornish patriotism.

Sometimes it’s assumed that an overt sense of Cornishness only emerged with the Cornish Revival at the end of the nineteenth century. This is not the case. The popularity of the song Trelawny, or of dialect tales in mid-century Cornwall are indications of a strong popular pride and interest in the Cornish identity. Another potential sign of someone’s affiliations could be the names they gave their children.

James Jenkins (occasionally spelt Jenkin) grew up, as did Amelia Hancock, in a copper mining family at St Blazey. Like her, James emigrated to Pennsylvania, to the coal mining district of Schuylkill County with his family in 1870. There he married Jane, who originated from just across the Tamar in Beeralston. However, although his parents and at least one sister remained in Pennsylvania for the rest of their lives, James and Jane did not, returning to Britain (although not to Cornwall) by 1874.

When they first moved to Leeds James and his family lived in a back to back house. In the new century they had moved to the considerably more salubrious Harehills Avenue

After a few years living in Middlesborough in north Yorkshire, James and his family moved to Leeds where he worked as a painter and paper hanger. Growing expenditure by the late Victorian middle classes on decorating and updating their homes meant that James was in the right place at the right time. By 1891 he was a foreman painter and decorator and by 1901 a master painter and decorator employing other painters as well as a domestic servant. In 1911 he and his family were living very comfortably in a substantial ten-room property in suburban Leeds.

But James had clearly not forgotten his roots. He named one of his daughters, born in 1890, Cornubia. That was followed by giving his next child, a boy, the unusual handle of Cornish Trelawny Jenkins. You couldn’t get much more Cornish than that!

Meanwhile back near St Blazey they were tending the cows. Note the mine burrow in the background.

One thought on “St Blazey and a patriotic Cornishman

  1. In the 1970s when I was a child Poldark did two things for me. It powered me with a terror of childbirth as the only thing I can remember about the programme (which EVERYONE watched at at time!) is Demelza screaming like a banshee behind a closed door for what seemed ages before the wail of a child took over. The second thing is that all babies, so it seemed, born at that time were called Ross (not Cornish), Demelza, Lowena, Morwenna. I don’t know if this trend has continued – if it has then with much less fervour. Apart from directly associating the timing of one’s birth with a TV programme, I think the three syllables make the sound of these names acoustically very appealing and they also have lovely meanings in Cornish (Lowena – joy as I understand).

    So, these qualities are not necessarily patriotic in the modern age. In our case our daughters’ middle names are Iseult and Morwenna – not a tribute to Poldark but to instil as sense of place and the quiet beauty we associate with Cornwall (no sense of nationalism). I do think that for my generation Poldkark, whatever we think of the actual books /programme, did encourage a revival in Cornish namings.


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