On this Day 25th August 1854

The Obscure Life and Death of Susanna Trevorrow

On Friday 25th August 1854 the Royal Cornwall Gazette carried a brief notice on page 5:

On Wednesday, as some women were engaged in working an old ‘borough’ in Wheal Darlington, Ludgvan, the overhanging earth suddenly gave way and a woman named Susanna Trevorrow was killed on the spot. Two others were also badly bruised.”

Susanna was a bal maiden – a woman who worked at a mine – and as such was one of the almost invisible band of labourers who worked on the surface dressing tin and copper and carrying out other labouring work. It's unusual for history to shine it's light on these women and girls and when it does it's usually because of an accident such as that which befell Eliza Jane Hall on 8th July 1873. Eliza Jane was a tin framer working at Ding Dong and during her dinner break, seeking a bit of entertainment, she jumped up onto the crown wheel of the whim engine which was, at that moment, stationary. The engineman, not knowing she was there, started the engine and her clothes caught in the gearing and pulled her into the mechanism, her legs were crushed and she died shortly afterwards. Eliza Jane Hall was 17 years old when she died and had been at Ding Dong for no more than three months.

It seems Eliza Jane Hall may have paid a heavy price for youthful excitement and lack of experience but this was certainly not the case with Susanna Trevorrow. At the time of the 1851 census Susanna was recorded as working at a copper mine, 41 years of age and she lived alone in Carvossow (now Carvossa in Ludgvan Lower Quarter). In 1841 she is listed as as a miner aged 30. She was not a young woman looking for a bit of fun and seems to have had plenty of experience of surface work at mines. Even on the surface mines were dangerous places and old newspapers are full of accounts of accidents befalling the unlucky and the unwary.

The newspaper accounts of Susanna's death are unreliable datewise: The Cornish Telegraph of Wednesday 23 August 1854 reports on the inquest which was held “On Thursday last”, which would have Thursday 17th August; The RCG of Friday 25 August reports that the accident took place on Wednesday ie 23 August; and the Ulster Gazette of Friday 8 September 1854 reports that the inquest was held “Thursday last” ie Thursday 1 September. The Ulster Gazette has merely reprinted the exact wording of the article which appeared in the Cornish Telegraph without any attempt to give the correct date, which just goes to show that you need to be careful when using newspapers as sources.

The Ludgvan burial register records that Susanna Trevorrow, aged 43 years of Lower Quarter, was buried on 18 August 1854. This fits in with an inquest being held the day before on Thursday 17th as reported in the Cornish Telegraph and suggests that Susanna's death probably occurred the day before the inquest on Wednesday 16th August – the Royal Cornwall Gazette got the day right but was a week out with the date. Both the Royal Cornwall Gazette and the Ulster Gazette have failed to allow for the time lag in their news flow and just reprinted items with relative rather absolute dates.

Susanna was buried in an unmarked grave, so precisely where in Ludgvan graveyard she lies is uncertain. Equally uncertain is who she was. There is no birth record for a Susan or Susanna Trevorrow any time between 1809 and 1814 but there is a birth record for Susanna Trevorrow daughter of John and Susanna Trevorrow of St Ives in 1802. In addition to Susanna, this couple had the following children: John in 1796; Thomas in 1797; William 1803; Richard 1806; Richard 1812; Robert 1814; and Joseph 1816. Susanna born 1802 and Richard born 1806 both died in infancy as did Joseph and Robert. It's tempting to think that Susanna the bal maiden is the daughter of John and Susanna, born in the suspiciously large six year gap between the two Richards and named after her mother.

Susanna Trevorrow lived and died in obscurity and were it not for the fact that she died a violent death beneath a collapsing mine burrow she would be almost invisible to history. In the fullness of time it may be possible to find Susanna's family and maybe also her burial place and mark her life with a permanent memorial, as was done for Eliza Jane Hall in July 2013.

Sources

Cornish Telegraph 23 August 1854

Royal Cornwall Gazette 25 August 1854

Ulster Gazette 8 September 1854

Census data from the Cornwall Online Census Project

Parish register data from the Cornwall Online Parish Clerk

These two sources of census and parish records data are both transcripts and may contain introduced errors or other issues. In Susanna's case it was difficult to find her in 1851 because the transcriber had been unable to read her surname. Whenever possible you should check the original source, which now now be a digital image.

For more on bal maidens see the work of Lynne Mayers It was Lynne who first drew my attention to Susanna and shared with me what she had already uncovered and for that I am grateful.

Note

Wheal Darlington worked lodes between the railway line just west of Marazion Marsh and the old Penzance to Hayle road. The lodes ran roughly east-west under Newtown. Wheal Darlington worked in the late 18th century as The Bog Mine, closing in 1798. It opened again in 1833 and worked until 1845 producing tin and copper. The western part of the property, known as West Wheal Darlington, yielded 350 tons of silver between 1852 and 1855. Susanna Trevorrow was presumably working the burrows of the 1833-1845 operation.  




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