We live now, we are told, in a global village, so that it should not be surprising to find, even in a small community, a significant number of people who were born abroad. But for Penallt this is nothing new. The census returns for 1871 and 1881, for example, include “incomers” from Australia, New Zealand, India, Ceylon, the Ionian Islands and one born “at sea.” (Others come from Scotland, Ireland and, of course, England.) Here is a selection of those with really distant connections.
Elizabeth Jones, born in Kephalonia, one of the Ionian Islands of western Greece. She married Edward Jones of Penallt who was a commercial traveller.
David Kelso, born in Heymouth (sic), Scotland, a Chelsea Pensioner, 91 years old and married to 72 year old Susan who was born in Whitechapel, London.
John James and his wife Mary farmed 30 acres in Tregagle. Both were born in Penallt but they had three children all born in Victoria, Australia, and their fourth, a 9 month old son in 1871, was born ‘on the sea’.
William Clements was a paper-maker at Fern Side Mill. He was born in Swanton, Norfolk, his wife in Woburn, Buckinghamshire. These may not be all that distant connections but are various enough for their children were born successively in Carshalton, Surrey; Braithwaite, Cumberland; Bromley Road, London; Wrexham and Penallt.
Nearby in Fernside House lived Betsy Green (born in Chatham, Kent) with her grown children born in Bingley, Yorkshire; Bexley Heath, Kent and Rumsey, Hampshire. Living with them as boarders ‘with no occupation’ were Ann and Sophia Caulfield, both in their twenties, both born in Ceylon.
Just up the road in New Mills lodged a 16 year old clerk in the paper works, born in Brighton, Australia.
In 1871, five of Penallt’s householders described themselves as ‘annuitants’. Four were widows; the fifth was 66 year old George Sidney Smith, born in ‘Calcutta, East Indies, British Subject’ in the days, that is, when the East India Company still flourished in India. George lived at Cae Caws, now Crick Farm, with his Monmouth-born wife, Elizabeth.
Sizeable families were not uncommon in 1871 but there is one census entry for the smallest – and saddest – family: that of Emily Davies, a 30 year old hawker, who did not know where she was born and whose 6 year old son Joseph was ‘born in a tent’.
By 1881, a second Chelsea Pensioner had found his way to Penallt. He was Matthew Garland, born in Bally ….. (indecipherable) Ireland and married to Catherine who came from Waterford. He was an ex-Sgt.major in the ‘R.M. Militia’ and had obviously served abroad, for his daughter Cecelia was born in Mauritius. Matthew and Catherine lived in Church Cottage with widowed Cecelia’s three daughters all of whom were born in Monmouth.
Clare E. Jefferies was born in Grappenhall, Cheshire. She lived in Moorcroft with her 23 year old daughter Emily who was born in Canterbury, New Zealand. Clare described herself as a wife. Where, I wonder, was Mr. Jefferies?
Most of these examples indicate capacity to travel and take varying degrees of risk. But most of Penallt’s population in the late 19th century would have been prisoners of their family responsibilities and often of their poverty. An extreme example is that of a family whose circumstances can only be described as unimaginable. James Meredith called himself an agricultural labourer. In fact, alas, he was a 79 year old bed-ridden widower. He lived at the Brook with two daughters; both were deaf and dumb. There were two other children, a daughter and a son, both were described in the census return as ‘imbecile’. We can only marvel that they survived at all.
[from: Penallt Revisited]