Lelant soldiers before 1914

© Maxwell Adams 2005
Slanning's 1643 and Nalder's 1798 lists are © Royal Institution of Cornwall

Version 28 July 2006

This article focuses on Lelanters in conflicts before 1914. The word soldiers means here anyone taking part in any conflict in any form of military service. There are separate articles on the two world wars: see the Lions of Lelant, about the Lelanters who died in World War I; Men of Lelant parish who served in World War I and survived; and Lelant soldiers who died in World War II.

Most of the early wars and conflicts which mark much of Britain's history have passed by Lelant in the far west of Cornwall. Did people ever see a Roman soldier in Lelant? Possibly, as Roman relics have been found at Phillack and there appears to have been a villa a few miles to the east. And did any Lelanter fight against the Anglo-Saxons or the Vikings or at Hastings? It is unlikely. The civil war in the twelfth century between Stephen and Matilda did not touch Lelant, and nor did the conflict between King John and the barons in the early thirteenth century as far as we can see.

It is only at the end of the fifteenth century that we have documentary evidence of Lelanters involved in war. Before that any Lelanter who might have fought is unknown.

Henry VII's reign saw several uprisings.The imposter Perkin Warbeck was the spur of much of the trouble. The Scots attacked England to support him; and Henry VII levied a tax to help to pay for the war against them. In 1497 some people in Cornwall rebelled against the tax, though not apparently against the king, and marched to London, joined by many people from the counties passed through. They were defeated by the king's army at Blackheath in June that year. A few weeks later some Cornish people again rebelled when Warbeck landed at Whitesand Bay on 7 September, marched to Devon, and were again defeated. The king's immediate and modest response to rebellion was to fine the communities of the rebels. Document E 101/516/27 in the National Archives at Kew lists the Cornwall parishes which were fined by the king for rebellion. Each parish had to appoint one or two local important people as bondsmen, responsible for the parish fine. The three entries involving Lelant on page 1 of the document are in abbreviated Latin. They read, with the original abbreviated Latin extended and translated:

De Stephano Calmady de Ewny iuxta Lanant misericordia pro inhabitantibus parochie de Ludway: iiij libras
From Stephen Calmady of Uny near Lanant, an amercement for the inhabitants of the parish of Ludway[Ludgvan]: 4 pounds

De eodem Stephano misericordia pro inhabitantibus parochiarum de Uny iuxta Lanant Trewynnek: C solidos
From the same Stephen, an amercement for the inhabitants of the parishes of Uny near Lanant and Trewynnek [Towednack]: 100 shillings

De Johanne Bovile de Marques Ewe misericordia pro inhabitantibus parochie de Just in Lanant: iiij marcas
From John Bovile of Marques Ewe [ie Marazion], an amercement for the inhabitants of the parish of Just [ie Ives] in Lanant: 4 marks.

The fines suggest that Lelant was involved in the uprising and probably sent men to fight but their names and fate are unknown.

What ordinary Lelanters made of the changes in the Christian religion during Tudor and Stuart times is unknown. We know that elsewhere in England some welcomed Protestantism and some clung to Roman Catholicism and they generally hated one another and sometimes tortured and killed one another.There is no record of religious disputes at Lelant.

In 1549 Gabriel Morton, the vicar of Lelant from 1548 to 1555, supported the unsuccessful Catholic uprising in the western counties against the new Protestant prayer book. He was handed over to Anthony Kingston, the provost marshall who was dealing with rebels from Cornwall (Rose-Troup 1913, 499). Kingston did not hang Morton but gave all the church tithes to a layman, an act which presumably impoverished Morton and must have felt like a death. The tithes were restored to the Lelant priest during Mary I's reign (Matthews 1892, 132). The church silver was taken during the reign of Edward VI, a Protestant, and was given back during the reign of Mary I, a Catholic; three chalices and patens and a pix (Snell 1955, 38, 62). We do not know whether any Lelanters joined the western rebellion with their vicar but I think it is very likely that some did. If they did join in, it is very likely that some Lelanters were among the dead but their names are unknown.

The civil war of 1642-1649 between Charles I and Parliament touched Lelant. In 1645 at Longstone Downs, west of the village near Beersheba Farm, Richard Grenvile defeated the parliamentary forces from Saint Ives, Zennor, and Towednack, and then hanged three men. Lelant people were not apparently involved in the battle (Coate 1933, 194). In a field off Trencrom Lane some helmets, pikes, and skeletons have been found (Mary Read Reminiscences). There is a list, dated 1643, of soldiers from Cornwall who fought for Charles I (Slanning's muster roll, RIC PET/1/1). Five people on the list are noted as coming from Lelant. There may have been more as the parishes of many in the list are not given. Nicholas Slanning was the royalist governor of Pendennis Castle, Falmouth.

The Lelant names are: John MITCHELL, Matthew GLANVILL, William BENNETT, Event CLEMENT, and Andrew STEPHENS.

In an article in the Journal of the Cornwall Family History Society (September 1988, 32) John Higgans plausibly suggests that Event Clement on Slanning's list is probably Clement EUREN, who was constable of Lelant in the Protestation Return of 1641.

Late eighteenth century
The Lelant poor book 1770-1802 (CRO P/120/12/1) records payments for men and their families because the men are substitutes in the county militia, serving in place of people who did not wish to. While they served, the parish paid their families and then claimed reimbursement from the county. Not every militiaman listed in the Poor book is specified as as a substitute but the parish payments suggest they all are. The dates of the payments and the men in the militia are:

1778-1779 John KEMP Junior
1778-1779 Robert Stephen PLATT
1778-1779 John UREN
1779-1780 William RAWLING
1780-1781 Eli BANFIELD
1780-1781 John BARAGWANATH
1781-1782 John BARAGWANATH
1781-1782 James RAPSON
1781-1782 John UREN (payment for 23 weeks)
1796-1797 Henry PETTERS [sic]
1798-1799 Thomas THOMAS [sic]
1800 Charles GEORGE ("bounty being a substitute in the Royal Regiment of Miners for Charles WHITE")
1801-1802 Samuil [sic] WILLIAMS ("subsitude [sic] of Richard HOSKING")

In 1798, during fear of France again, forty nine Lelant miners, aged fifteen to sixty five are listed in the Lelant return of working miners as willing to be emergency soldiers (RIC NAL/1/40). The weapons they can provide are also listed.

4 April 1798: a notice to the constable of Uny Lelant to "make out a fair and true list, in writing, of all the miners and working tinners usually, and this time, dwelling within your constablewick, between the ages of fifteen and sixty years..." This was a time of conflict with the French and such lists were drawn up all over Britain.

There follows the notice to the constable a list of forty nine such men in Lelant parish by name and weapon, men "willing to be armed, arrayed, trained, and exercised, either with firelocks or pikes" and "willing to engage, either gratuitously, or for hire, as pioneers or labourers, and what implements they can bring."

? John Uren aged 41
ALLEN Charles 56
ARTHUR Charles 34
ARTHUR Henry 25
ARTHUR John 30
BANFIELD Thomas 39
BOAS William 40
BRYANT Richard 24
BRYANT Robart 17
CADY Arthur 44
CARBIS Richard 28
CURNOW William 40
DUN John 20
DUN William 44
EDWARDS Christopher 29
EDWARDS Thomas 32
HAMPTON Thomas 28
HARRIES Richard 32
HAWES John 19
HAWES Sampson 42
HOLLOW John 46
HOSKING Phillip 16
HOSKING Phillip 41
HOSKING William 46
JOHNS Thomas
MICHAEL Edward ? 32
OATS Frances 27
OATS Nicholas 32
UREN John 40
UREN Richard 24
UREN William 52
WITE [sic] Charles 17
WITE [sic] John 34

Thomas JOHNS and Thomas RICHARDS are constables of Lelant. John TAILOR refused to answer about the implements he had available. John UREN was the "marshall."

1809 militia
Five Lelanters are named as members of the 4th Cornwall (or Mounts Bay) Local Militia in a muster roll of 1809 (CRO: B/PENZANCE/33/2). They are:

William CURNOW

Napoleonic Wars: soldiers in 1812
Two Lelanters, Richard DUNN and Francis HAWES, are listed among the prisoners of the French at Givet (Royal Cornwall Gazette 25 April 1812).

Crimean War 1853-1856
The Milletts, who lived at the old Venayr in Lelant, were a military family. John MILLETT told General Buller and his wife, when he saw them at St Erth Station, that he was a Crimean War veteran (Cornish Telegraph 24 April 1901). His sons fought in the South Africa War and in World War I.

Boer War 1899-1902 (Second Anglo-Boer War)
The Boer War was fought between British and Boers in South Africa from 1899 to 1902. Several Lelanters were in it and the progress of the War was followed in the parish. Some of the soldiers' names are given in the newspaper reports of the time and later. Those identified in the newspapers as involved were: J BENNETS, Jim GLASSON, E MICHELL, Charles H RICHARDS; and the five sons of JN MILLETT who were identified in a later newspaper report as Henry Smith Oaks MILLETT, John Nicholas MILLETT, Leonard Stanley MILLETT, Sidney Smith MILLETT, and William Percy Ulundi MILLETT (St Ives Weekly Summary 5 April 1917).

In a war that went militarily badly for the British in the early days, and which took far longer to win that was envisaged, good news was celebrated. The school logbook records a half day holiday for 21 May 1900 to celebrate the relief of Mafeking a few days earlier and again on 31 May the same year when apparently news was received of the capture of Pretoria by the British; the British did not enter Pretoria until 5 June. For a while to mafeking was a word that meant unrestrained public rejoicing.

The St Ives Weekly Summary of 2 March 1901 reported that Charles H Richards departing for South Africa "will be the ninth man from Lelant who has gone to the front...there are at present on active service four sons of Mr JN Millett, Private Glasson, and Messrs E Michell (engineer) and J Bennetts." Presumably one Millett man was not on active service at this time.

When three of the Lelanters who had serve in the Volunteer Service Company of the Devon and Cornwall Light Infantry returned from South Africa there was a public reception. The village was decorated, there were arches at Venayr, The Cross, and the Lelant Hotel (now the Badger). There was a procession from Trevethoe Gate to St Uny Church, and the volunteers received framed illuminated addresses commemorating service from "January 1900 to May 1901." In the evening the village band played and tar barrels were burned. The volunteers were named as: Private J Glasson, Private W Millett, and Cyclist LS Millett. WJ Taylor, the chair of Lelant Parish Council and head of the school in Church Road, said that "beside the three Volunteers...there were at least a dozen who had volunteered for South Africa" [St Ives Weekly Summary 4 May 1901]. Alas, he did not give their names and perhaps he exaggerated. The schoolchildren had a holiday for the "public welcome" for the soldiers (National School logbook, entry for 1 May 1901).

The parish council wrote to General Redvers Buller to support him (Lelant parish council minutes, November 1901). Buller, who had been involuntarily replaced by Roberts as commander-in-chief of the British field forces in South Africa because he was, like many of the officers, militarily inadequate, came from a Cornish family and that presumably motivated the council's interest in army politics.

Another half day school holiday was given for 2 June 1902 when the Boers surrendered and peace was proclaimed in South Africa and in the same month there was a service in the parish church to celebrate the end of the War. It had taken two and a half years for the British Empire to defeat the Boer farmers in a war that the British had badly miscalculated.

Not everyone had been happy with the war. The St Ives Weekly Summary reported on 2 November 1901 that many miners in west Cornwall were discontented with the prolongation of the war as they had had to leave their work in South Africa, where they had earned �20 to �30 a month on the Rand, and return to Cornwall where they were paid only �3 to �4 a month.

In all the celebrations and grumbles, there appears to have been no mention or concern in Lelant of the issues thrown up by the war: the carnage in the fighting and the deaths of civilians, and the British prison camps where twenty thousand or so Boer women and children and twelve thousand blacks died, camps which Emily Hobhouse, an English woman, revealed and damned. No one asked on victory what now happened to the blacks of South Africa. Lelanters cheered the British victories and the gallant soldiers from the parish and did not question.

Lelanters known to have been in the Boer War:

Edwin Charles MATTHEWS
Henry Smith Oaks MILLETT
John Nicholas MILLETT
Leonard Stanley MILLETT
Sidney Smith MILLETT
William Percy Ulundi MILLETT

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission commemoration says that Edwin Charles Matthews, who fought and died in World War I in 1915, was in the "South African campaign." I assume this is the 1899-1902 war.

HSO Millett was a corporal promoted to Staff Assistant Drill Instructor and Instructor in Musketry, Durban Light Infantry Volunteer (St Ives Weekly Summary 22 March 1902). Jim Glasson was a private in the DCLI, W Millett was a private, and LS Millett was a cyclist. Charles H Richards sailed to South Africa on 26 February 1901 and served in the constabulary there. E Michell was an engineer in the war.

No Lelanter died in this war.

Letters were published in the St Ives Weekly Summary from South Africa from James Glasson on 26 May and 23 June 1900 and from one of the Milletts on 6 April 1901.


COATE Mary (1933) Cornwall in the Great Civil War and Interregnum 1642-1660 OUP

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

HIGGANS John (September 1988) Journal of the Cornwall Family History Society, Truro

Lelant poor book 1770-1802 CRO P/120/12/1 at Cornwall Record Office, Truro

MATTHEWS JH (1892) A history of the parishes of St Ives, Lelant, Towednack, and Zennor Elliott Stock, London. His reference is derived from the First fruits composition books and is also noted by Rose-Troup (1913).

NALDER (1798) Lelant return of working miners RIC NAL/1/40 at the Royal Institution of Cornwall, Truro

National Archives (PRO) E 101/516/27, fines on Cornish parishes

National School, Lelant Headteacher's logbook

Newspapers as in the text

READ Mary Reminiscences

ROSE-TROUP Frances (1913) The Western Rebellion of 1549 Smith, Elder, London. The main reference to Lelant is on page 499 but there are footnotes to pages 337 and 381. Her reference on page 499 is from Chancery Proceedings of Elizabeth I, Series II, B107, Number 22 at the National Archives.

SLANNING Nicholas (1643) Slanning's muster roll RIC PET/1/1 at the Royal Institution of Cornwall, Truro

SNELL Lawrence S (1955?) The Edwardian inventories of church goods for Cornwall (No publisher given)