Welcome to the Vingoe family web site. There are nine different family lines on the site and they all trace their roots back to just one ancestor, John Vingoe who died in Sennen, Cornwall, U.K. in the year 1656. John's wife was Joan Nicholas who died in 1685. We think now she was probably the wife of a John/Jenkin Vingoe born c 1610,  son of a John Vingoe and Christian Reskille who married in Mawgan in Meneage, nr Helston in 1605. Records are sparse this early, and non existent in Sennen. Joan was probably the daughter of Edmund Nicholas born in Ludgvan. This Nicholas family  left very early Wills. One  branch settled in Sennen and the name Edmund Nicholas still appears in Sennen records up to the 1900s. Both John and Joan left wills and these have helped us establish some of the early history of the family. John Vingoe was not the first Vingoe recorded at Sennen, but the first we have good records for, and which we can follow down through a continuous line of descent.


The picture is of Nanjizal Cove, Trevilley which is to the south of the Lands End at Sennen, Cornwall, in the U.K. 

The Vingoe Family of the Lands End

In recording the history of the Vingoe Family of the Lands End, we are writing of a line of descent which had more than its fair share of legends and stories associated with it. This is mainly due to their occupation. their geographical location, and the times that they lived in. One early writer, William Bottrell, who's own grandmother and great grandmother were Vingoe daughters, recorded his own version of his family history, keeping secrets some of the characters by only giving the initial of their given name This introduction looks in detail at the surviving records which may help to explain some of the folk-lore relating to it.

It was a fact that when William the Conqueror came to England in 1066 he claimed all the land as his own, parceling out portions to those of his own countrymen who had assisted him in his claim to the English throne. In return for the use and enjoyment of their lands he exacted feudal service from the recipient of his favours, in accordance with the strict rules of chivalry that were then observed. Land’s End formed  part of a grant made to his 'base born' brother, Robert: Count de Mortain. The Count, as "Over Lord", allocated estates to his family and favoured  members of his own household: they then becoming the "Under Lords". In return they had to fulfill certain obligations to him when he was called on by the Count's "Liege Lord",  the King, when he needed men and arms and money in time of war. At other times the under lord  might only be required to provide something simple, such as keeping  a boat handy when the king might want to go fishing on a visit to Cornwall. This is mentioned in a document dated in the 1400's, relating to the Treville Family Estates at Degibna, near Helston. There may have been other such honorary functions a  landholder was obliged to undertake which have since become lost to posterity.

Doomsday [it has now been decided by many historians] does not mention Sennen or the Land's End as a holding of any 'Manor', probably as it was of very little worth. It may  have been part of the ancient manor of 'Alwarton' [Penzance],  once a sub manor of Connerton,  under the jurisdiction of the powerful Arundell family who owned extensive estates in Penwith. They certainly owned the right of wreck all around the coast from Gunwalloe on the south coast, around the Land's End and along the north coast  to Gwithian on the North coast near Hayle. They claimed this was their right as the 'Lords of the Manor' of the whole of Penwith. By the 16th century the lords of the lesser manors at Tehidy and Godolphin on the boundaries of West Penwith were, however, disputing this. The great manors were in decline at this time and their land was being sold off in small parcels to individuals, who then  also thought they should have some claim for a proportion of the wrecking rights. The Lords of  Arundell  were having none of that: they were not giving up their very lucrative 'right of wreck' without a fight. These manor lands were not always held  in contiguous holdings, or within a single geographical boundary. The identity of many manors was later to coincide more closely with the new parish boundaries, rather than the large scattered estates of the Lords of these great manors. The holdings of the Duke of Cornwall, heir to the lands of the Duke  of Mortain, are much more identified with these early estates. The Duchy holds property in that name in Devon, London and many parts of England which total a far greater acreage than any it holds in Cornwall.

The Arundell family determinedly remained Catholic. As a consequence they lost much of their ruling power and local influence during the various religious persecutions  that followed the Reformation, when they were declared "Recusants". During the civil war years they had been for the King and bankrupted themselves in an effort to save him and his throne. During  the "Interregnum" they were heavily fined and there lands were often forfeit in default of payment. When Charles II was restored to the throne their lands were not restored to them, neither were their loans to the Crown ever repaid. Consequently much of their  scattered holdings were either sold off, or were capitalized as marriage portions for their daughters when they took a  husband. The Arundell family gradually withdrew to their main estates in mid Cornwall, Trerice and Lanherne being amongst  them. There is an account of a Digory Vingoe of Helston purchasing some land at Land's End  in in 1655 from  Sir John Arundell. This Digory Vingoe was a Quaker and in his Will of 06 Aug 1703 he  left this Lands End piece to his 'cousen' ,William Vingoe of  Trevilley in Sennen.

Into this very real  historical narrative  step two authors, Robert. Hunt and William Bottrell, where 'facts' now enter into folklore. Robert Hunt, whose mother was a native of St Levan, was the first of the two Cornishmen to publish an account of the folk tales and stories told to him in his travels around Cornwall. many of the tales concerning West Penwith had been related  to him by William  Bottrell. In the first edition of his book Robert Hunt states in his introduction that he was greatly helped by his stories being verified  by one  "W. Bottrell of Caerwyn, a native of St. Levan, who possessed a greater knowledge  of the household stories of the Land's End district  than any man living " 

William Bottrell was later to publish his own account of the fireside stories, traditions and folklore of West Penwith. In the process I think he may have made up a few of his own. Chief among those is the story of  how the Vingoe family were once "wine tasters" to William the Conqueror and were given their land at Land's End in return for this service. There is no written evidence for this but he makes a good story. In a 'droll' probably related to him by William Bottrell, Robert Hunt tells of the strange apparition known  as ‘The Death Token of the Vingoes’. It was said that a Vingoe death was always foretold by  "chains of fire ascending and descending around the carn that rises above the deep caverns in the Trevilley Cliff : loud and frightful noises accompanied the phenomenon". In more recent times it has been referred to in legend as the "lights of Trevilley". Hunt goes on to say “It has been said that these tokens have not been seen since the last male of the family came to a violent end.”  The last male in this Trevilley line was one William Vingoe born 1767 who died in 1800 and - if the gravestone in the Sennen churchyard is to be believed- in his bed peacefully of consumption! At his death he left two infant daughters one of whom, Margaret, died age 13.  William's other daughter Mary married Henry Hodge Trudgen in 1826. She was the sole heir of her grandfather, Richard Vingoe b 1736 the last male of this Vingoe line.

Richard's father, William [c1693] and older brothers William & Henry had disappeared from the Sennen records without trace sometime after 1747, when 'William of Trevilley' was mentioned as a beneficiary, and as partner in the fishing boats and seines in a Hutchens Family Will. There are no burials and no wills extant. Richard was the youngest son of William by his wife Mary [nee Daniel]. According to old deeds  in the possession of descendants of this part of the Land's End line, the land holdings of this family consisted then as of part of Trevilley hamlet and parcel of land on which stood the 'First and Last Inn', as well as the various stables and barns. Richard built the 'Dower House' for his widowed mother, Mary next door to the inn. This was around 1763 when Richard himself married Mary Penberthy. They has 2 sons and two daughters and son William [c1767] married Mary Hutchens in 1797  He was the only son to  produce any heirs and died in 1800.

The blood line continued, albeit with different surnames, until it was sold off by the last heirs to Goldstone Holdings in early 198O's. There were many other Vingoe males still residing in Sennen when William died in 1800, and many more in  the surrounding  parishes of St Levan, Newlyn, St Just, Sancreed, Madron and Penzance, so the name was, and still is, far from "extinct" although it must be said to be a might rare.

Hunt also relates that the Vingoe family had held the land known as Treville since the time of the "Conqueror" without poll deeds! There is some recent evidence to believe that they held their land from the Arundell family under a series of  lease agreements. Rarely was land sold off, but with all the problems of the Arundell family during this period, in 1655 Digory Vingoe may have been in the right place at the right time. There were also various purchases of land by John Vingoe from James Keigwin in the 1700's, and another by John Vingoe, son of the aforementioned John, who bought  land  from Joseph Humphreys, at Escalls, plus  land at Trevescan from John Pascoe. These transactions were mentioned in their Wills. 

According to other leases and wills there were at least two other land holding lines in Sennen parish by 1800;  Henry, William and John Vingoe at Escalls, and a John and Israel Vingoe at Trevescan. All these named  held rights to "The Commons" at Sennen, identifying them as long-standing landholders. Israel at the time of the 1839 Tithe Apportionment  map was the owner of the piece of land at the Land's End itself, described as "Israel's Turbary". This piece was in the ownership of the 'Trevescan' Vingoe branch and was sold off  to the 'Trevilley' branch when the tourist trade began in earnest. I  have not discovered when it was sold or whether it was to the Trudgen, Toman or Trahair descendants of William's daughter Mary Vingoe. It  most likely changed ownership shortly after the death of Israel Vingoe in 1853.    His 'turbary' was to be the spot  where the  first buildings were erected in about 1865, initially as stabling for horses and  a refreshment stop before the walk to the very end. Additional accommodation for guests was needed, apart from the rooms at the 'First and Last Inn', also in the family ownership. The buildings were extended into a hotel proper, along with a 'Temperance Hotel' for 'teetotal' guests alongside. A small  'Refreshment House' was also created at the very edge of the Land's End known as the 'First & Last House'

I think William Bottrell was may have been leading Hunt astray somewhat, with his  colourful references to the complete extinction of  family name at that date. There are many of us today who still bear the name to give lie to this  assertion, although we can also be very sure that  many of the males in the family did not die in their beds! It is common among those of us attempting to trace the history of the Vingoe name to find them somewhat of an enigma and the 'droll tellers' of old delighted in such characters. They had the opportunity of embellishing missing facts with dramatic fiction.

They or their many 'cousins' kept various inns and drinking houses in the district and, as well as holding land, they were involved with the sea in all its trades. There is an early record of  a John Vingoe being  owner, with the master named as  Richard Treeve, of a ship armed with swivel guns and a crew of 30. This was called the  "Lands End" and was issued with  'letters of Marque' in 1781. That gave it a  license  to pursue and capture French, Dutch or American ships. Various well know local Sennen  'free-traders' were connected by marriage, although nothing ever appeared in any official records to taint their name in this regard. Perhaps the noises and lights from the Carn were intended  more to frighten off unwanted observers of their slightly nefarious goings-on! 

The legend that the Vingoe’s of Trevilley are descended from the Counts of Treville runs through all the legends but, as stated above, the Arundell families were the major landholders there.  However, I have found  a Nichol Vyngow mentioned in the Sennen Muster Roll of 1569, so they were in residence in the time of Elizabeth I .There are many theories as to why the legend persisted  that the Vingoe family of Lands End had their origins at the Court of William of Normandy; possibly its in the name itself. A translation into French may throw some light on the subject.

1] Ving + gout = wine + taste in  French which may offer continued support to the myth of 'wine taster' to the king, but why to the French king. France was then not a large kingdom: it was mainly a collection of dukedoms, with the lands of  the king of France confined to the Isle de Seine around Paris. Normandy was a land once  given to the Norsemen who continually ravaged and pillaged the land. William the Conqueror was from Normandy so his ancestors were not French but descended form these Viking warriors. One may equally assume that the title/occupation may have arisen from an even  earlier position as servant to the ancient Celtic chieftains of Cornwall or Brittany. Perhaps it was a nickname, or perhaps a  pun, alluding to the family liking for the grape in its many forms. In the 1700.s their trade and occupation on the high seas involved them in many risk running illicit cargoes: wines and spirits were high on their lists but also coffee tea, sugar as well as silks and lace fetched a high price. Fishing and farming was not so lucrative

2] As late as the seventeenth century maps recorded Treville rather than the later name Trevilley. We have so far been unable to find any serious link between the Vingoe’s and the De Treville family of Normandy. This Treville family  were  listed as companions of William when he launched his attack on England. They were then  known as the Ducs de Conde  and only later were to establish a separate but related branch of the family at Treville in France. This was situated  at Carcassonne, near the border of France and Spain in the foothills of the Pyrenees.  Strangely there is a branch of this family in South Carolina, USA, who also have a mystery in that they do not know where their ancestor came from. John de Treville  arrived in  America around 1742  already married to a lady named Sarah. Their son Robert de Treville  married a  Sarah Ellis There was an Ellis family living at Brea Manor, Sennen in 1650, but unfortunately Ellis is not an exclusively Cornish name. We have not managed to make a firm connection, despite there being a good match in a Sarah Ellis bt 29 Dec.1737 at Penzance, who was a descendant of the same Sennen family.

The early writers of the genealogy of Cornish families were hampered somewhat by badly kept, missing or inaccessible records. In the 1850's one could write with impunity on the supposed ancestors of both prominent and commoner residents. Today, on inspection, we find that their hypothesis were often incorrect.

3] William Bottrell  was a native of St. Levan, as was the mother of Hunt. Bottrell had another advantage in that he was connected to the Vingoe family in two lines. His grandmother was Mary Vingoe b 1754 of Sennen, who married his grandfather, Richard Bottrell. Richard's mother was Elizabeth Vingoe b1735 of St Just in Penwith, who married John Bottrell in 1761.  Both of these Vingoe lines stretch back to 1645, when their ancestors had been brothers. These two women would have had many tales to tell of family history, as they and their offspring had intermarried over many generations with most of the local families.

William Bottrell was persuaded by  the editor of the" Cornish Gazette" to submit articles in his own right under the pseudonym "Old Celt", thus starting his own writing career. The editor, Mr. Boase, was related to Bottrell as his great-aunt Grace Vingoe had  married Francis Boase. He was thus given every assistance to achieve recognition as the true "teller of tales" even relating the same  episodes that he had originally related to Hunt, albeit slightly changed to avoid legal disputes over copyright no doubt! Finding his connection to the Vingoe family  has resulted in my taking  a close interest in him and his writings, especially his three volumes on legends and folklore. There have been attempts to interpret the clues as to the identity of some of the characters in the stories, but he concealed them very well. The threat of being sued by various members of the relevant families must still have been present when he recorded his drolls in print: the Cornish were a litigious lot.

Little is known of the very early Vingoe family history. Records from Sennen parish are missing for the years before 1700.  Bottrell suggested that they came over with the Normans but the OE name ending appears to be characteristically Cornish. This suffix is said by some to denote kinship to a father as other Celtic regions use Mac, Mc, O' and Ap. Surnames were not consistent in this time period and were going through a change as the population increased and identification for taxation purposes needed to be more specific. I have found earlier records referring to a John Trevingy, a Tinner appearing in Redruth Manor Court Records c 1400s, a John Trevingy in Redruth mentioned on a Tinners Muster Roll of early 1500, and a Jenkin Trevingy, also known as Vingoe, in the St Ives Borough Accounts  records of 1700.

The TRE prefix denotes the ancient Celtic word for tribe or clan. Its later meaning is only suggested as a farmstead or collection of dwellings. Was this then a more ancient form of the name, before the establishment of given and surnames proper, as Henderson the Cornish historian suggested? This clan was situated at Uny, Redruth and is commemorated today in the fields and lanes at Trevingy that run alongside the church. The Cornish word for stone = men can mutate to vin. Have we then perhaps an early reference to a tribe that worked the stones on the slopes of Carn Brea? The Jenkin/John Trevingy/Vingoe mentioned in the Borough accounts of St. Ives was being paid for a consignment of paving stones! Matthews was the author and transcriber of these records, and ascertained in the footnotes that he believed these were one and the same person! He was also was mentioned in connection with serving arrest warrants on prisoners a fact. Perhaps he was connected to the Quaker family of Sennen who settled in St Ives c 1710......more research needed!

The Vingoe’s held their land for many generations. It stretched from the stream that marks the boundary between the parishes of Sennen and St Levan right around the Lands End and northwards to beyond Sennen Churchtown. The extent of the land has varied from generation to generation, as efforts were made to protect or increase the extent of the estate with marriages between certain local families. Earlier they had forged links with the Nicholas, Daniel, Bottrell  and Bosistow families. Later, there were Hutchens, Hicks, Courtney, Hodge, Toman and Ellis families (who had as their crest a mermaid with a knot in her tail). As with many Cornish families the land was divided up between all the children, if not always in equal measure.

Reading  wills sometimes  makes you wonder what some children had done to be so out of favour and to hardly get a mention. This is not always as bad as it seems. Most heads of families had  disposed of  their property before death. Sons and  daughters had got 'settlements' on marriage and usually the only remaining property was the family home and contents. Whilst still alive they could ensure, as far as possible for the lands preservation within the family, and this prevented daughters' husbands from having any claim to the estate, other than the portion given at marriage. Such was often stated also in the will, as if to emphasize the fact. They also did not care to confide in lawyers, or wish to change their wills if circumstances changed. Many considered it a waste to pay good money to a lawyer for them to get rich on.  I have only found two wills in the Land's End  line from 1656 to its demise on 1800.  In these respects they did hold there land without deeds, but there were so many holdings of very little size within each family. Hardly a great estate in the accepted sense of the word. Perhaps they believed there was safety in numbers. The English system of primo-genitor of the male line was not commonly practiced.

The family grew with different lines owning pieces of the original and eventually several  holdings became untenable. Larger landowners never sold property to  tenants. Only when they were in trouble, either through bad management, reckless living or a failed mine venture, could anyone hope to purchase land to add to their smallholdings. To borrow money to purchase was a risky business as the land would be the security, the whole surrendered for any failure to meet a  single payment. The deed was held against the  loan by bankers or speculators seeking to increase their own land holdings, and thereby perhaps mineral rights as well. Strangers to Cornwall  acquired large tracts of land in this way when the borrower could not pay the interest falling due. Land was also frequently let out on "three lives leases". You could build improve and do much to raise the production on the piece of land but at the death of the last nominated life the land lord could either refuse to re-lease to you, or charge you double the rental for the improved  property! This system became  much abused in the race for prosperity with the growth of the mining industry. With no land to hold on which to make a living came the steady trickle of men and their families leaving for places where greater efforts meant more opportunities to prosper. At first it may only have been out of the Cornwall and into South Wales or to the iron mines of Cumberland. Then there came the hope of instant riches as gold was found over the oceans in America and Australia. The great Diaspora had begun!

Today you will fail to find the Vingoe name on the electoral roll for Sennen or within an area west of  Paul and Madron parishes their secondary place of settlement. But Vingoe blood still courses through the veins of a family who do still farm part of the ancient Vingoe land, that at one time stretched from the stream that divided the parishes of St Levan & Sennen, pasts the cliffs above Nanjizal, the Land's End itself and above Sennen Cove, and on northwards to beyond Churchtown and another stream  boundary with the parish of St. Just at Escalls. 

The families Hicks and the Vingoe can trace their marital links back over many generations, all the way in written record to the first mention of an Israel Hicks of the Isles of Scilly, and his little daughter Polly remembered with a bequest  of two shillings and six pence in the Will of Jone Vingoe, proved at Sennen on 28 July 1685 (REF. Prob. 11/265 ) Joan was the daughter of Edmund Nicholas and married John Vingoe  who died in 1657 She and had been a widow for 28 years.

In husband John's Will the land and house was left to son William. Joan  as his widow could not change his bequest and only left a will to dispose of her own personal property. She mentions her four surviving sons, William, John, Jenkyn & Peter, and names three grandchildren: Jane & John, children of son John, and Henry, child of son William. This was where I commenced the record of the Vingoe family down to the present. We all appear to have  sprung from the initial union of this one couple. 



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