Wednesday 21 October 2015

Homebodies: Benjamin, Edith and Thomas Herbert Victor of Mousehole

Mousehole Harbour, Cornwall, England
On my own blog starryblackness I’ve recently written about the Victor branch of the Rowe family.

Born in the small fishing port of Mousehole, Cornwall, England, sister and brother Mary and John moved at different times to Devonport (Plymouth) for work and their brother Edwin ended up in Glamorganshire, South Wales. However their brother Benjamin happily stayed behind in Mousehole, which is just 6 miles from Land’s End in the western tip of Cornwall.

Benjamin was the son of a fisherman called Bernard Victor and his wife Alice (nee Rowe). He was born around Christmas 1860/New year 1861 as he was 3 months old by the 7 April 1861 census.  He was baptised on 28 April that year, one of eight babies baptised that day – Paul Parish Church must have been so noisy!  However, scrolling down the list of baptisms that year in Paul Church, 13 October 1861 must have been wilder as an astounding 17 babies were baptised.

Looking down Fore Street, Mousehole
The family were living on Quay Street at that time, but by 1871 they had moved to 2 Mill Place – this picture of Fore Street is the view Benjamin would have got as he came out the house and turned down to head to the harbour.  He was still at school at that point.

By 1881 he was working as a boot and shoe maker, living on Church Street in Mousehole with his parents and two of his brothers, widowed Gamaliel and younger brother Edwin.

His father Bernard died in summer 1891. His father had been a quiet man, interested in the Cornish language and history, and perhaps the love he had for his home village was passed on to Benjamin.

St Mary's Church, Penzance, Cornwall
Although there was hostility between neighbouring Newlyn and Penzance (the latter was the far side of Newlyn from Mousehole), Benjamin met and fell for a Penzance girl called Edith Wilkins. They married in her parish, Penzance St Mary’s, on 3 November 1890. Her father was an engineer called Thomas Wilkins and witnessed the wedding; by that time Benjamin had become a boot maker like his grandfather William Rowe.

They settled down in Mousehole, where their son Thomas Herbert was born on 6 September 1894. Their daughter Annie Olive was born on 5 August 1898.  I know they also had a third child who’d been born and died young before 1911, according to that census.

Benjamin continued to work as a boot and shoe maker and they lived in Mousehole at various addresses over the years.

Benjamin’s mother Alice Victor (nee Rowe) died in 1903.

Penzance Public Library (L) and School of Art (R)
In 1911 Benjamin and Edith were living at home in Mousehole with Thomas and Annie. They also had a widowed aunt staying, a lady called Ann Curnow who had been senile for two years. At this time Thomas was an art student, which I found intriguing as this is the time when the Newlyn School of Art was flourishing and there was an art college in Penzance next to the Library, built in 1880.

So I googled Thomas Herbert Victor and – yes! A ‘famous ancestor’ at last! I found him on the Cornwall Artists Index and he indeed did go to to the Penzance School of Art where he had a scholarship from the start.  He was offered a scholarship at the Slade School of Fine Art in London but chose not to leave Mousehole and indeed lived there all his life, never travelling further than Truro, 32 miles away.

Bernard died in 1914 and was buried in Paul Cemetery.  Edith outlived him and the first world war by many years, dying on 15 January 1941 in Mousehole; her son was her executor.

Their children lived into their 80s, Thomas dying on 10 March 1980 in Mousehole, and Annie two years later, also close by in the same registration area.

© Lynne Black, 21 October 2015


  1. You know how much I love the name, Mousehole. Looking at the pictures again, I am reminded of how beautiful Mousehole is as well. Thank you for sharing them.

    1. Thanks Schalene, you're welcome. Apparently one of the local art galleries sells coasters with his paintings on them - I suspect she's getting me them for Christmas!

  2. So cool to have ancestors that stayed in the same place and what a neat name... Mousehole. :-)

    1. Thanks Fran, it's a lovely name, it tickles me!

  3. I enjoyed reading about your Cornish family and you conveyed such a sense of where they lived. To find Thomas listed in the Artist's Index must have been an exciting find.

    1. Thanks Sue, yes I was so chuffed! My mum has a couple of small prints and she was thinking of selling them (not knowing they were related, albeit distantly). So now they'll be my Christmas presents :)

  4. I enjoyed reading about your Cornish family and you conveyed such a sense of where they lived. To find Thomas listed in the Artist's Index must have been an exciting find.


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