Saturday, 31 March 2012

The Railway and John Style Reed

Penzance Train Station - Now a different layout.
The Harrow Road Now
My Grandfather, John Style Reed, spent his entire working life with Railway companies of one sort or another.  Starting work in 1925 at the age of 14 for the Great Western Railway he held over the next 36 years working shunting in Penzance, on the dining cars as a kitchen porter and in the later part of his life as a guard.  Unfortunately in his 50s my grandfather had a series of heart attacks that prevented him working again (heart disease is a family curse incidentally!).  Over his working life his job took him all over the UK for a period of time including a London where he lived on the Harrow Road in the 1930's.  During the war he held a reserved occupation and took part in munition train services between the Midlands and London.  I vividly recall the stories of bombing raids on munitions trains, where my grandfather and his colleagues would have to move trains onto smaller lines to avoid their destruction.  I also recall him recounting arriving in Coventry when the bombs were falling like rain around the railway line, extraordinary courage.

For the duration of the war he was situated at Didcot which is now the home of the Great Western Society and the Didcot Railway Centre.
Helston Station the Terminus of Gwinear Road Branch Line.

In the later part of his career he would often work   on the now defunct Gwinear Road to Helston line.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Wiremu Colenso

William and the Colenso Family.
One of the most intriguing members of my family is William "Wiremu" Colenso. Wiremu was the illegitimate son of the famous Penzance born missionary, printer (an much more) William Colenso and his maori servant, Ripeke Meretene. Wiremu, moved from New Zealand and took up residence in Penzance, in an attractive house which is situated at the rear entrance of Penzance's Penlee park.   Wiremu can be seen in this photo as an older man with the rest of the immediate Colenso family.  According to family legend, Wiremu or "Willie" as he was known to his family was extremely well regarded by local people.  He married his cousin Sarah Colenso - (My great great great Aunt) sadly they had no children.  Wiremu is buried with his with in Penzance cemetery, only yards from his uncles and cousins and strangely my own family home.
William and Sarah's Grave
A gift to Richard Colenso, from Wiremu and Sarah  - Touchingly personal

William as a young man.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Charles Henry May - Pendeen, Treherbert and the May and Thomas Families.

My great grandfather was a miner from Pendeen in Cornwall called Charles Henry May.  Born in 1976 Charles was the illegitimate son of Elizabeth Ann May.  No-one is actually sure who Charles' father was, there are some rather fanciful family stories, none are confirmed.  Charles was brought up by his step father, John Charles Oats and who married his mother and became a tin miner by at least the age of 15.  From thereon in Charle's life would be dominated by mining, travelling all over the world as well the British Isles, in pursuit of a living wage.  Charles first married Margaret Ann Matthews on the 25th of November 1899, they had at least 2 children Charles Wyndham May and Florence May.  Sadly, Margaret died somewhere between 1899 and 1903 with Charles marrying my Great Grandmother, Rachel Ann Thomas from Treherbert, Wales.  By this time Charles has spent time in South Africa, Gold mining, and South Wales (Where he met Rachel) as a miner.  They had the following children;

Davey James May – 1903 – Born inTreherbert
John Henry May – 1905 – Born in Treherbert
Elizabeth Ann May – 1907 – Born in Pendeen
Owen May – 1909 – Born in Treherbert 
Rachel Ann May - 1911 born in Pendeen

Rachel Ann May is my paternal grandmother.  As you can see there was a considerable amount of mobility between the two family communities, I imagine that Charles moved between sites as tin and coal prices rose and fell.

(Pictured left Boscaswell were the May family lived in the early 1900's).

(Picture left below - Treherbert, one the Coal mines that covered the Rhondda valley and typical of one of the places that Charles Henry May would have worked)

Charles eventually died young of one of the lung diseases common to hard rock and coal miners, because he did both it is difficult to know which one.

Rachel Ann May (Nee Thomas) family were from a line of Welsh coal miners from Blackwood and Bedwellty South Wales.  Her father John William Thomas is recorded in the 1891 census as being a Coal miner from Blackwood.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Robert Colenso and the King's Head.

Robert Colenso was the father of Samuel May Colenso and Grandfather of Richard Veale Thomas Colenso. Robert seems to have been a professional publican and was the Landlord of the Queens head in Marazion (Sherborne Mercury) moving to the Kings Head Penzance in 1778.  The Kings head seems to have been sited where the current "Tremenheere" Wetherspoons is and was a focus for much of the towns civic activity.  A tradesman society of 101 traders met here regularly. Roberts name was often spelt "Calensoe". The following extract is from the London Gazette of 1786, it shows that the Kings Head was seen as a respectable establishment suitable for public meetings and in this case the meeting of a trust.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

The Veale Family

The Veale family are connected to the Penzance Reeds through Jane Veale who was related by marriage to the Thomas and Colenso branches of the family.  The Veales are in fact a deeply influential and wealthy family in the parish of Gulval.  Descended from the first protestant vicar of Gulval (who was awarded the position by Queen Elizabeth the First).  The Rev William Veale was said to be descended from an aristocratic  line based in Gloucestershire , specifically Aldsworth.  Trevaylor the large family home was surrounded by woodland planted by the family, the woods are still a favourite place for children from Penzance to play. Trevaylor is now an old peoples home (pictured above) and the building itself is still impressive and grand.

(Picture left of the Trevaylor plantation, known as "Trevaylor Woods").

Samuel May Colenso and family.

Samuel May Colenso was a saddler from Penzance born in 1786.  Samuel was an Alderman on the Penzance Borough council - A position that was an appointment not an elected office at the time.  The first elections to the council were held on Christmas Day 1835.Samuel was also a member of the Freemasons, being a member of the "Druids Love and Liberality Lodge" Redruth (listed 1809).  The list of members include some very famous names from West Cornwall's History including Lemon Hart, producer of the famous Lemon Hart rum and several members of the Branwell family, who were of course related by marriage to the Brontes.

Samuel had 10 children 9 of whom survived into adulthood.  One of his sons was the Rev William Colenso one of the most interesting and influential people in the early history of New Zealand.   More information will be written about William in a future entry of this blog.

Another of his sons Richard are discussed here.

Richard Veale Thomas Colenso and descendants.

Richard Veale Thomas Colenso was the brother of the famous New Zealand missionary, printer, botanist, and maori language scholar William Colenso.  Richard was remarkable in his own right, a very successful businessman, he founded Colenso the decorators a well known Penzance business, a branch of which (now in different ownership) still exists in St Ives.

Richard was a direct descendant, through his mothers family of the famous Gulval family the Veales.  The Veales were a landed family that owned the large estate near Gulval known as "Trevaylor".  Richard spent considerable efforts during his lifetime trying to get this large house returned to his family (Specifically the Rev William Colenso of New Zealand), with the extinction of the Veale family and the passing of the house to the Fitzgerald family.

Richard had a large number of children, allegedly 19 in total, many did not survive into adulthood.  His son William achieved high public office serving as Mayor of the town in 1901 and was the Hon President of the towns art school and many other organisations and an active member of the odd fellows and the towns large freemason community.

The flier shown left was issued to commemorate the unveiling of the Boer remembrance statue. Ald William, Colenso is listed as "Hon Secretary of the committee".

The direct relationship between the Colensos and the Reeds of Penzance comes through Richards youngest son, Thomas Veale Colenso and his daughter Phyllis.  Thomas was, like the rest of his family a painter and decorator. He married Phyliss Trahair of Newlyn in 1889 but sought a more prosperous life, as did many people at this time, by going to America.  Thomas lost complete contact with his family and he was declared dead some years after his migration.  In actual fact he had bigamously married in America a one Catherine Mongeau.  Thomas therefore has 2 separate family lines, one here in Cornwall, the other in America.

(Picture left shows Thomas Veale Colenso with his American family),

The basics.

Reed is a very common surname indeed, millions in fact across the globe have the surname.  This is the story of a small branch of the family and other associated clans, from the Cornish town of Penzance.

Picture here is James Sidney Reed, my Great-Grandfather the first  Reed to settle permanently in Penzance.   His

Born in Nayland, Pembrokeshire in 1891, he was variously a soldier, a railway guard and an employee of the Penzance Gas Board.

His father John Style Reed worked for the Great Western Railway and had in fact lived in Penzance for a while, living in one of the many cottages in the Chyandour area of Penzance.

Originally from Barnstable in Devon, John Style Reed travelled all over the UK in the course of his job, Wales, Corwnwall, Birmingham ultimately settling in Reading Berkshire where he ultimately died and was buried.

In 1908 James Sidney Reed got tangled up in what in those days was considered a scandal.  At some point he met Phyllis Colesno a member of the Colenso family, that owned Penzance's leading businesses, Colenso the decorators - Founded her Grandfather RVT Colenso.  Phyllis became pregnant and gave birth to a baby in 1908 out of wedlock.  Family legend has it that James (often known as Sid) was called home to deal with the situation by his father, he was at the time an "artillery driver".

The baby called Sidney James Reed (Some sources Colenso) was only legitimised in 1911 some 6 months before the birth of their second son John Style Reed.

(Top left - James Sidney Reed, Bottom Left - Phyllis Colenso, Top Right Sidney James Reed, Bottom Right John Style Reed)

The 2 children were joined later by a younger sister Phyllis Eliza Reed, who sadly died in the 1930's of meningitis.  The death of Phyilis Eliza led to an interest in spiritualism from her parents, who founded the Penzance Spiritualist Church sometime after her death, a family link that still exists to this day.  

In later life James Sidney divorced and remarried.

Sidney James Reed grew up to serve as a chef on the great western railways dining cars, the third generation of his family to have this connection and was joined by his brother John (Known as Jan) at some point who worked variously as a shunter and guard over the majority of his adult life, including a spell on the now defunct Gwinear road railway to Helston, the principle station being next to the current site of Trevaskis farm.

John Style Reed married Rachel Ann May - A member of a Pendeen mining family.  They had three children John Style Reed (confusingly!) Sidney James Reed (Again !) and Phyllis Colenso Reed.  Sidney James Reed married Ada Drew.  They had 4 children, Phyllis Catherine Reed, Yvonne Reed, Sidney Reed (known as enny) and Ada Ann Reed (who died in infancy aged 2).

During the 2nd World War - Sidney James Reed (1908) served on the Royal Naval Vessel HMS Teazer a T-Class destroyer. While John Style Reed (1911) served on munitions trains being in a "reserved occupation".

(HMS Teazer in the late 1950's).