St Gluvias: return migration at Penryn

As we saw in the previous blog in the case of Eliza Bennett, short stays overseas were by no means unknown in Victorian Cornwall. Temporary sojourns in North America seem to have been particularly prevalent in the Penryn district. Often these involved stonemasons and quarrymen, presumably taking advantage of higher wages in American quarries when the opportunity arose.

Looking down Market Street in Penryn in 1910

My first example is Francis Nicholls, the son of Amos Nicholls, a stonemason originally from Redruth. Francis’s birthplace was in fact Devonport, where his father had gone to work and married a local girl. Nonetheless, the family returned to Cornwall in the early 1850s, settling at Penryn.

Francis duly learnt the stonemason’s skills himself. He may then have worked for a spell in the quarries that were being expanded on Bodmin Moor, as he married Rebecca Gilbert at Liskeard in January 1873. A month later, the pair arrived in New York and in November a son was born in Maine. However, they didn’t stay long, returning to Penryn by 1875. In 1883 another move took place within Cornwall when Francis became foreman at a granite quarry at St Blazey.

Not all temporary emigrants were stonemasons. Like Francis, Eva Teague Chubb had also been born in Devon. Eva’s father was a copper miner who died when she was an infant. Her mother had made her way to St Gluvias by 1861, when she was living in the household of a wool sorter. Eva married James Uren, variously described as a sawyer and then bricklayer, in 1871 and they left for America. A child was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1874 and another in Ontario, Canada in 1876. Then, they too decided to return, but not to Penryn. By 1878 they were living in Manchester where more children were born and where Eva stayed until she died.

A quiet day at Exchequer Quay, Penryn in the 1900s. Freeman’s granite works is in the background

One thought on “St Gluvias: return migration at Penryn

  1. Both photographs show what look to be large families, especially on the right in the upper Penryn image. Ample use of made of “old salts” in both images esp in the top image where the old salt straddles the whole street, almost and surely the photographer placed him directly in the front of the clock tower. There seems to be a really tall man at the back right of the image, too, behind the carriages on the ramp.

    Both wonderful images – I love deciphering these and all of them – these tiny captured moments.

    As ever, great accounts.


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