top of page

Penponds Church - links to the mining wealth of Camborne

Joseph Vivian - the youngest son of the Vivian family from Reskadinnick - was married and is laid to rest at Penponds, a church with which he and his elder brother, William, maintained links throughout their lives. The Rev. J Sims Carah, who was incumbent at Penponds between 1896 - 1935, had the distinction of being one of a handful of guests to celebrate the one hundreth birthday of William Vivian, in the summer of 1919. William and his wife are buried at St Meridoc in the centre of Camborne, and their parents were married at Gwithian church in 1818.

Left to right: the inscription on the tomb of William Vivian in St Meridoc churchyard; the headstone and inscription at Penponds for Joseph and his wife; Gwithian church

A view looking north east in to the hamlet of Reskadinnick

The hamlet of Reskadinnick, just outside of Camborne, is today easily missed as one travels along the A30 that bypasses it. Yet at the heart of the settlement is the farmhouse where, for over 150 years, a part of the Vivian family took root, and sent branches out into the wider world in many directions.

The father of Joseph Vivian – also called Joseph - was born to a Master Mariner in Roskear, Camborne, and began his career in mining aged just 13. He went on to huge success as a mine manager at North and South Roskear mines, and as a renowned mining consultant in many locations in the UK and overseas. He married Anne Cock (known as Nancy) in 1818, and the bride brought the dilapidated, but beautifully-sited, 17th Century farmhouse of Reskadinnick into the family. Joseph used some of the wealth he had accumulated to improve and renovate the property for their family: it was to be the setting for a long and happy marriage between the pair, during which they welcomed ten children.

We know so much about the life of Joseph and his siblings as one of his nieces, Mary (known as Molly), wrote about the life of her mother and Aunt Tony based on extensive reminiscences they shared. Her book is called ‘Vivians – a family in Victorian Cornwall’, and it contains a wealth of fascinating insights into the life of a well-to-do family through the Victorian era, combining vivid descriptions of both the scenic landscape and social conditions of the era.

Molly was the youngest child (and only daughter) of Mary (born in 1821) and she, along with her brothers and mother, were regular summer visitors to Cornwall throughout her childhood, travelling from London by train. She continued to visit this peaceful spot as an adult, bringing her own children to the place she loved so much, and to visit her Aunt Tony and her uncles (and cousins) who still lived there. She maintained a close relationship with her Aunt Tony up until her death in 1914, and the reminiscences gathered during their times together are the basis for this very enjoyable book. It contains many insights in to the educated yet permissive upbringing that the children of Joseph and Nancy enjoyed, including parties, visits to the North Cliffs and rare trips to London, though it also recounts events of more gravity: the drowning of a toddler son at Reskadinnick; the death of Nicholas - a talented medical scholar – at St Guy's hospital aged 20, just on the cusp of a promising career in medicine, and the ups and downs of any family reliant for income on the capricious fortunes of metal mining in Cornwall.

Image of Joseph Vivian from the Cornishman newspaper at the time of his death

Joseph Vivian (1835 – 1929), was involved in the clerical side of the mining business, initially helping his father with the paperwork for his many and varied projects, and later working in mining administration for many different localities in his own right. His obituary (2) mentions that he was known for his knowledge of mining people and old mining matters, and refers in glowing terms to a series of articles in The Cornish Post penned by Joseph (presumably written in the 1920s) about historical mining anecdotes in the area.

It is clear from reading the articles written in the early part of the twentieth century that members of the Vivian family from Reskadinnick were all held in high esteem by the people of the area. Their contribution, and dedication, to the economic improvement in the region via the development of mining, combined with their erudition and friendly demeanours, made them notable and well-respected members of a Camborne community much smaller than it is today. The appeal of such characteristics doesn’t go out of fashion, and it is a delight to explore their life and times in the area where they once lived.



(1) Death of a Camborne Centenarian - Cornishman newspaper, 3rd September 1919

(2) Sudden death of Mr Joseph Vivian - Cornishman newspaper - 6th September, 1928

Molly (Hughes – she married a teacher-turned-barrister) also wrote her autobiography, as a way to pass on to her own children some details of the world she grew up in. Both her own story and that of her mother’s generation are wonderfully entertaining to read and, as she intended, form a ‘time-capsule’ of life of the century between 1820 and 1920. She was an educational pioneer in her own right - championing the education of girls to the same standard as boys - and you can read more about her on my blog here.

Books written by Mary Vivian Hughes:

A London Child of the 1870s – published 1934

A London Girl of the 1880s – published 1936

A London Home in the 1890s – published 1937

A London Family Between the Wars – published 1940

Vivians – A family in Victorian Cornwall - published 1980

bottom of page