On Thursday, March 3rd 1641 Sam Sweete, the vicar of Zennor, awoke as the pre-dawn light filtered through the small windows of the vicarage. Downstairs his wife Alice stoked the fire that had been banked up with turf overnight. Sam and Alice had two teenage children, Judith and John, and perhaps some younger ones. I wonder if Sam’s son helped him catch and saddle his horse for the long ride to Helston and back.
There was unrest in the kingdom, especially between King Charles I and parliament. In an attempt to calm things an order was sent from parliament for all men aged between 18 and 60 to swear an oath to defend the Protestant Religion, His Majesty’s Royal Person and the Privileges of Parliaments. All the parish priests and their officers for the whole of Penwith and Kerrier were due to meet in Helston that Thursday to take the oath. We don’t know what the weather was like but on Friday and Saturday when the men of St. Ives and St. Just took the oath the lists, called Protestation Returns, got wet and the ink ran. Perhaps Thursday was a damp day as well.
I hope Sam Sweete had a good meal before setting off. He took provender for himself and his horse as 360 men were due in Helston that day. He wore his thickest cloak, probably with a hood tied well down against the Zennor winds. Nicholas Berryman, churchwarden, arrived on his horse from Porthmear along with Hannibal Levelis, gent, from Penance. Hannibal was one of the constables, with John Upcott from Tregarthen. Francis Maddern was the other churchwarden and probably lived nearby. The overseers of the poor that year were John Gelbert and Andrew Noye.
Sam Sweete said ‘good-bye’ to his wife and children and the seven men set off up Foage Valley and across Lady Downs. It was a good 20 mile ride to Helston and they pulled their cloaks about them until they headed down past Nancledra to Crowlas and Marazion.
After nearly 4 hours they reached the hustle and bustle of Helston about 12 noon. Men from the 26 parishes of Penwith lined up before Ezekiel Grosse, Justice of the Peace, from St. Buryan. All the Justices had already taken the oath at Lostwithiel before the High Sheriff. Sam Sweete was the first from Zennor to take the oath and sign his name, followed by the constables. Perhaps to speed things up someone wrote the names of the churchwardens and overseers and they just made their marks.
The Zennor men would have been anxious to set off for home. On March 3rd there were only eleven hours between sunrise and sunset and it was a dull day. They were eight hours in the saddle and there must have been very little light left as the tired men dismounted, saw to their horses and made their weary way indoors.
Sam Sweete summoned his male parishioners to Zennor church on Saturday. Among the 84 men there were only 45 surnames. Thirty-one names appeared only once which means half the families in Zennor had just one man aged 18 to 60. If there were 63 families of four an estimated population would be 252, slightly more than today.
Sam Sweete came to Zennor to be vicar as a young man in 1617. I wonder if he married a Phillip as ‘Alice’ and ‘Judith’ were both names found in that family. He gave nearly 40 years of loyal service to his parishioners and one feels he was a caring man. He drew up many of their wills and inventories. In 1645 his daughter Judith married Matthew Phillip. Sam Sweete died in 1655 and his widow was known respectfully as Mrs. Alice Sweete. She died in 1674 at Trevail leaving her land there and one fifth of Treveglos to her son John. The Sweete family was still living in Zennor in the 19th century.
The Cornwall Protestation Returns 1641 from transcript by RM Glencross, revised Les Douch, Ed TL Stoate, Bristol 1974. Zennor is on page 71.