Monday, January 18, 2010

Trevithick musings

I am descended from Thomas Trevithick (1835-1913) ( and have written before about the difficulty in tracing his Cornish ancestry to the point where I don't know where and when in Cornwall his father William was born (

In making contact with various descendants of Thomas Trevithick in NSW, from lines separated for 100 years, they all know and have been told they are descendants of the very well known Cornishman, Richard Trevithick (1771-1833), inventor and mining engineer who developed the high pressure steam engine and the first locomotive.

This consistency is particularly confusing because the offspring of Richard Trevithick are well known and there is no room for my Thomas' father William in the family tree of Richard Trevithick:
Richard Trevithick and Jane nee Harvey had six children:
Richard (1798-1872)
Anne (1800-1876) married Hannibal Ellis
Elizabeth (1803-1870) married John Banfield
John Harvey (1807-1877) married Charlotte Stewart
Francis (1812-1877) married Mary Ewart
Frederick Henry (1816-1881) married Maria Garland

I have buried myself from time to time in Trevithick records search for my William's tree, and a connection to the Trevithick family. There only connection I can make is that Thomas Trevithick as a gold miner at Hill End sometimes gave his occupation as engineer, and was known to feed the boilers for the steam-driven stamper at the mine.

It is frustrating. The transcript of William's wedding to Ann PENGILLY (a widower, nee ALLEN) gives nothing but the fact William is a bachelor. Thomas' baptism transcript (1835) reveals that William was a labourer, living St Clement, just outside Truro in Cornwall. When the daughter Elizabeth was baptized in 1837 it was at a Wesleyan church and as such I do not have the parish transcript. The next year William died (1838) and was entered as still living at St Clements aged 32 (making him born in 1906 and ten years younger than his wife). Daughter Elizabeth was buried in Kenwyn in 1842 aged four, at which point the family lived in Kenwyn St, Kenwyn.

So I have nothing there, and given what is know of Richard Trevithick's immediate family, it is more likely that Thomas Trevithick is from the same family line as Richard. Funnily enough I once was sent a family tree by a descendant typed up in the 1930's apparently from a family bible. It gives William's christening as 1797 in Stithians (where many Trevithick's were based) - but the difference of almost 10 years in age bothers me. Anyway, this tree suggests William 1797 had a father William born 1752 in St Enoder, who had a father William born 1725 in Padstow. In the tree, this WIlliam's brother was Richard Trevithick SENIOR, father or Richard Trevithick.

This is a more reasonable connection, and I'm trying to ascertain to origin of the tree, as the parish records don't seem to exist in all cases, or at least the evidence of connections. To give an idea of the confusion and uncertainly, another Trevithick relative recently made contact with me and pointed out that Francis Trevithick (son of Richard Trevithick) wrote a biography of his father.... the second chapter deals with the Trevithick name, and Richard Trevithick senior, whose ancestry is uncertain. To me the fact Richard senior walked for a day to meet someone else named Trevithick shows how rare the name was, and it is not known where Richard senior was born/baptised (which would be very useful!!):

Life of Richard Trevithick: with an account of his inventions, Volume 1
By Francis Trevithick
London, 1872

Chapter II
Richard Trevithick, Sen.

GILBERT, in his 'Survey of Cornwall', says:-

"The name of Trevithick is certainly of great antiquity in the county of Cornwall, and the family is supposed to have been resident at Trevimider for many descents before the seventeenth century.

"A monument in St Eval Church, to the memory of the Rev. William Trevithick, in 1692, and one with the impalement of the arms of Leach and Trevithick in 1672; and several places or properties in that neighbourhood called Trevithick, point to the Cornish origin. Arms - Argent, a unicorn rampant.

"Anne Trevithick, the sole heiress of William Trevithick, of Treviminder, married Francis Leach Llewellan, Sheriff of Cornwall, in 1740. The arms of Llewellan seem to denote their descent from the ancient Princes of Wales.

"Trevithick, formerly a seat of the Arundells; and Trevithick, formerly a seat of the Polomounters.

"Trelissick, formerly a seat of the Tremaynes. The house appears to have been built by the Hookers, and in the glass of the windows are preserved the family arms, with the letters J.V.H. Trevithick".

The 'Parochial History of Cornwall' says of the St. Eval monument to Trevithick:-
"In remembrance of William Trevithick, of Trevimider, in St Eval, Gent., who died the 3rd day of Nov, 1731, aged 52.
"Farewell kind riends,
Farewell dear wife and brother,
Peace be your ends
United to each other"

Polwhele's 'History of Cornwall' has the following:-

"I have first to remark that Alfred devised Cornwall to his eldest son Edward, and that he devised it under the name of Triconshire.

"The natives that occur as men of property, or who probably held lands here before the Conquest, have been distinguished by Carew under the appellations of Tre, Pol, and Pen, and it seems worth of remark that as representatives of Tre and Pol, if not of Pen, there exist several families, who have possessed lands from all antiquity.

"By Tre, Pol, and Pen, you shall know he Cornishmen.

In olden time property and birth gave power and influence to the family of Trevithick. History traces the last male Trevithick, of Trevimider, down to 1731 ; and shortly after his death, his daughter and sole heiress married Francis Leach Llewellan, who believed himself a descendant of the Princes of Wales. Some poor branch of the male line survived unnoticed, for Richard Trevithick, sen., was born in 1735. He is said to have walked a day's journey to make the acquaintance of one known by his almost obsolete name ; but little trace remains of where he was born or how he was brought up, though the writer has talked with those who knew him well in his old age, and who spoke of him with respect, as of one above his fellows.

The writer's first reliable evidence of his acts is from his old account-books, some of which, after his death, were fortunately retained by his son, that their unfilled leaves might serve for his rough draft letters. Three of these books still remain, showing that when thirty years of age, Richard Trevithick, sen., was the manager of the leading mines in Cornwall ; Dolcoath Mine, the oldest, richest, and most famous in Cornish history, being at that time his head-quarters, while his place of residence was in Ollogan parish, bidway betweenn the mine and Carn Brea Hill.

How long he had filled the position of leading man in Cornish mines, prior to the dates in the writer's possession, is an unanswered question - certainly for several years, for to be managed of the great Dolcoath at the age of thirty implies unusual ability ; but to be at the same time manager of several other of the leading mines, proves that at that early age he was a man of eminent practical experience.....

In the year 1760 Richard Trevithick, sen., when twenty-five years old, married Miss Anne Teague, whose family were mine managers in the Redruth district."

....So maybe I'll never know given how little is known of Richard senior. Maybe I can learn the origina of the family tree I've been sent, and can learn to trust a family bible transcript.

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