The wreck of the Alexander Yeats

On this day in 1896 James Stevens wrote in his Diary…

A gale of wind from NW riffling our house, and at night a ship came ashore at the Gurnard’s Head laden with timber (Norwegian), the crew of 19 were taken off by St. Ives coastguards by the rocket apparatus. (Friday 25th September 1896)

On Sunday 4th October he wrote…

Went with Bessie this afternoon to see the wreck at the Gurnard’s Head. Saw the men taking out the balks of timber and laying them across as rafts to be towed away.

Then on Friday 11th October…

The ship at Gurnard’s Head is broken up there and the cargo of timber which is very great floats and lies on the rocks, ships name Alexander Yeats.

Alexander Yeats(Photo source: State Library of South Australia PRG 1373/13/83 – more info here)

According to my old booklet, Wrecks around the Cornish Coast (Gillis), the Alexander Yeats…

“…full rigged ship of Liverpool, 1,500 tons, was going from Darien to Devonport with a cargo of pitch-pine.  She was first sighted off Portreath with some of her sails blown away in a N.W. gale.  The St. Ives lifeboat was launched twice but failed to make contact.  The Hayle lifeboat was towed out by the tug North Star but could not cross Hayle Bar in such a heavy sea.  The Alexander Yeats eventually went ashore near Gurnard’s Head and her crew brought ashore by the rocket apparatus.”




The Flitting

On Wednesday 22nd September 1897 James Stevens wrote in his Diary…

Walked to St. Ives to ride in train to Helston to see the solicitor about the lease of Sancreed Glebe Farm, to sign it and paid him £5 for it.

James had lived at Foage Farm since 1884 but it was remote, a mile up a rough track from Zennor Churchtown. 

cornwall 2010 sept 085 (2) - Copy (640x320)Foage Farm, Zennor – now called ‘Honor’s House’

He had considered other farms over the previous months, and viewed Glebe Farm on Monday 26th April 1897…

Drove trap with James [his son] to Sancreed to see the Glebe Farm, 53 acres thats to let.

… then on Monday 3rd May…

Send tender for Glebe Farm, Sancreed, £90 per year.

The tender was accepted and James agreed to rent the farm for 14 years at an annual rent of £93.  His landlord was the Vicar of Sancreed, Reverend Reginald Basset Rogers.

Cornwall 2016 053Glebe Farm, Sancreed (formerly a pub called ‘The Bird in Hand’)

Glebe Farm was a much larger house than Foage Farm and, instead of having to walk a mile to Church, James only had to cross the road to go to services.  Added to that the journey to market in Penzance was easier than it had been to St. Ives, and Honor now had a coal ‘slab’ cooking range for the first time, no longer having to cook on an open hearth using turfs and furze for fuel.

On Thursday 30th September the family moved home…

Two waggons with our goods were drove to Sancreed, the fowls on the wain with geese, turkeys and ducks on the top, pigs in cart and children or family in trap. Drove here 17 cattle and 11 sheep.

In the 1960s James’s daughter Bessie remembered that day…

“It is 69 years since we left Zennor.  I well remember the flitting.  Jim drove the wain with the poultry (fowls, ducks, turkeys and geese) with a pig net over them.  Dicka Berriman and party had gone on with the furniture and Granny’s cousins (Edwards from Trewey) with the cattle.  They went in through Ninnis and came to Tremethick and on to Sancreed.  Frank Edwards (Granny’s cousin from Foage) drove Mother, Lillie, Mabel and myself in his trap.  I often think of my first glimpse of the Church.  When we arrived Frank said, “Now, my dears, you’ve come”.  Dicka had the fire lighting and the tables and chairs brought in, they were all so kind.  We sure came to stay, and are quite natives now, but it was very strange at first, we had never been anywhere before…”

(Quote from the Introduction of A Cornish Farmer’s Diary (editor P.A.S. Pool, 1977)




Some September weather reports 1895-1909

James Stevens recorded some very dry September weather in his Diary…

1895 – Tonight being the breakup of the drought and heat, September being the finest and hottest for 50 years; the thermometer at Eagle’s Nest in the glass house on the 26th was as high as 90 degrees and at London in the shade 86, the heat causing sunstrokes and the fainting of horses and people in the streets. Hard rain and wind this night causing many wrecks at sea. Water has become very scarce in many places and the grass fields dried up, here in Foage and Towednack they remained more green.  (Tuesday 1st October)

1906 – Very dry these last two weeks…. (Saturday 29th September)

1907 – Threshed, got big rick straw and large pile of dredged corn. Finished about 5.20, helped to put machine to Trannack mill. Had dry weather and it has been dry for a fortnight or more. Had barrel water yesterday and one today from the trough in field. Burned about 10 cwt coal.  (Wednesday 25th September)

1909 – At Penzance. Put the fruit (apples etc) from the Harvest Festival to the Infirmary. Heavy showers much needed, water everywhere very low.  (Thursday 23rd September)

1909 – Water short, carting it every day for use and cattle.  (Wednesday 29th September)

Mrs. Stevens of Lower Foage

On this day 121 years ago the funeral of Mrs. Stevens was held at St. Senara’s Church in Zennor.  She had died three days earlier, recorded by James Stevens in his Diary…

Mrs. Stevens of Lower Foage died aged 80 years.  Walked New Mill to see the undertaker. (Sunday 6th September 1896)

Honor Stevens - Death Card

On the day of the funeral James wrote…

James [his son] drove horse St. Ives for mournings etc. at Mrs. Stevens’ funeral. (Wednesday 9th September 1896)

Honor Stevens

Mrs. Honor Stevens was James’s mother-in-law.  Born in Zennor in 1816, she was the daughter of Francis and Dorcas Edwards (nee Rowe).  At the time of the 1841 Census she was living with her family in Trowan, a hamlet about half a mile from St. Ives, where her father was a farmer.  In 1848 she married John Stevens, a tin miner from Trevalgan (a nearby farm) and they had five children, two sons and three daughters, all born in Trowan.  By the 1871 Census the family had moved to Foage, Zennor and in 1881 Honor and two of her daughter are listed as ‘Dairywomen’.  The last Census she appears on is in 1891, “living on her own means” at Lower Foage with her unmarried daughter, Eliza.  Honor and John’s sons, John and Francis, both emigrated to California to work in the gold mines of Nevada City, while their middle daughter, Elizabeth, married James Pascoe (a granite mason from Zennor) and went to live in Bath.  Their eldest daughter, Honor Edwards Stevens, married James Stevens in 1874.  

Mrs. Stevens was widowed in 1873, her 56-year-old husband’s cause of death given as “phthisis pulmonalis” or pulmonary consumption.  But James Stevens was a good son-in-law and often recorded the things he did for her, such as…

  • Pulled 14 load of long dung for potatoes and 6 load of Mrs. Stevens for her potatoes.
  • Cut brambles of hedge and made a stool for Mrs. Stevens.
  • Shore our 7 and Mrs. Stevens’ 4 sheep.
  • Thatched Mrs. Stevens’ furze rick with 2 sheaves of reed.
  • Rode horse St. Ives for the doctor for Mrs. Stevens of Lower Foage. Rode St. Ives again for medicine for Mrs. Stevens.
  • Pulled Mrs. Stevens’ turfs, 1500 at 6 loads.


Honor Stevens (1816-1896) - Copy (640x257)

Ireland versus Stona – an accusation of “slander”

On this day in 1903 James Stevens wrote in his Diary…

At Penzance with trap for load of boxes etc. for Mr. Ireland the new schoolmaster. (Saturday 5th September 1903)

Little did James know that Arthur Ireland and his wife Mary (the schoolmistress) were going to prove problematic employees.

In December the following year James wrote…

Last Monday I was at a meeting of managers in Sancreed school, decided to give the master and mistress notice to leave, as there has been so much friction or disagreement between them. (Monday 12th December 1904).

According to a later Newspaper report, it was said that Mr. Ireland had “owing to indulgence in drink during the time he had been head-master of the Sancreed National School, conducted himself in an offensive, quarrelsome, and insubordinate manner towards the managers, that he was unreliable and untrustworthy, and not fit to be employed in any position of trust, that his wife was a drunkard, that she had assisted her husband in quarrelling with the managers…”  (From The West Briton & Cornwall Advertiser, Tuesday 13th June, 1907)

Then in June 1907 James wrote…

Rode Penzance in our trap with Mr. Stona to go to Bodmin Assizes with Mr. Hichens as witnesses for Mr. Stona as defendant in a charge of slander or libel against Mr. & Mrs. Ireland former teachers at Sancreed school, but were not required to give evidence as Mr. Stona’s counsel most ably cleared him, the other side being proved to be a fraud or plant or trap got up by the Irelands to try to catch Mr. Stona. Damages claimed by plaintiffs £1,250. (Monday 10th June 1907)

Arthur and Mary Ireland had sued Rev. John Stona, Vicar of Sancreed and a school manager, for “libel and slander”, claiming damages of £750 and £500 respectively. However, during the trial it became clear to the Jury that the letter at the centre of the action was a ‘plant’, involving Mr. Ireland’s brother-in-law (Mr. W. Gibson). Before Rev. Stona or James Stevens were called to give testimony, the Jury said they had already heard enough to make a decision, which the Judge agreed to. They found the case in favour of Rev. Stona, awarding him £84. In October 1907 Rev. Stona applied to the Courts as he still hadn’t received any money from Mr. Ireland. The Court said Mr. Ireland must pay Rev. Stona in installments of £1.00 per month. Then in December 1907 Mr. Ireland declared himself bankrupt!

You can read the newspaper reports in The West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser…

  • Thursday 13th June 1907 (page 8) – Cornish Vicar and Schoolmaster – Slander action at the Azisses.
  • Thursday 31st October 1907 (page 4) – Cornish Slander Case – Sequel in the County Court.
  • Thursday 19th December 1907 (page 8) – Affairs of a Cornish School Teacher.