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The Vingoe Families Link to the Lands End
In writing of the Vingoe's of the Lands End, we are writing of a family which has more than its share of legends and stories. This is mainly due to William Bottrell who's grandmother was a Vingoe. So this section looks at a little of the history which led to the the folk-lore related 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 fortunate recipient, in accordance with the strict rules of chivalry that were then observed. Land’s End, it would appear, formed part of a grant made to his 'base born' brother, Robert : Count de Mortain. The count, as lord, allocated estates to his family and favoured members of his household they then becoming the under-lords. These families in turn had to fulfill certain obligations to him when he was called on by his liege lord, the king, for assistance in time of war when he needed men and arms and money. At other times the under lord might only be required to provide something simple like keeping a boat handy when the king might want to go fishing on a visit to Cornwall. This is mentioned in a document relating to the Treville Estates at Degibna , Helston in 1400's. There may have been some other such honorary function a landholder was obliged to undertake which has since become lost to posterity. This is where 'facts' enter into folklore.
Doomsday, it has now been decided by many historians, does not mention Sennen or the Lands End as a holding of any manor, probably as it was of very little worth. It may have been part of the manor of 'Alwarton' [Penzance] which possibly was then a sub manor of Connerton under the all 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 to Land's End and along the north coast to Gwithian. They claimed this was their right as the 'Lords of the Manor' of the whole of Penwith. The lords of the smaller manors of Godolphin and Tehidy were, however, disputing this by the16th century. The great manors were in decline and their land was sold off in small parcels to these individuals who then made a claim for a proportion of the wrecking rights. The Arundells were having none of that. They were not giving up their very lucrative 'right of wreck'. About this time the demise of the large manors had begun. These manor lands were held not necessarily in contiguous holdings or within one geographical boundary. The identity of manors was later to coincide almost exactly with parish boundaries rather than the large scattered estates 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 and land in that name all over Devon, London and many parts of England totaling a far greater acreage than any it holds in Cornwall.
The Arundells who determinedly remained catholic lost much of there power during the various religious persecutions that followed the reformation when they were declared recusants. During the civil war years they were for the King and bankrupted themselves even further. 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 there lands were not restored to them neither were their loans to the crown 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 Treville purchasing some land in 1655 at Land's End from Sir John Arundell and in Digory's Will : 6 Aug 1703 he left it to his cousin William Vingoe of Sennen.
Into this very real historical narrative step Folklorists Robert. Hunt and William Bottrell.
Robert Hunt was the first of the two to publish an account of the stories told to him in his travels around Cornwall. Many of the tales concerning Penwith were related to him by William Bottrell. Hunt states in his introductory notes to the first edition that he was greatly helped by his stories being verified by one...............
" W. Botterell 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 was later to publish his own account of the fireside stories, traditions and folklore of Penwith. In the process I think he made up a few of his own. There is the story of how the Vingoe family were 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 of it. Robert Hunt, in a tale probably related to him by William Bottrell, tells of the strange apparition known as ‘The Death Token of the Vingoes’. A Vingoe death was, it was said, always foretold by "chains of fire ascending and descending around the carn that rises above the deep caverns in the Treville Cliff : loud and frightful noises accompanied the phenomenon".
In more recent times it has been referred to 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 line was William Vingoe born 1767 died 1800 -in his bed of consumption! His daughter Mary married a Henry Hodge Trudgen in 1826. The blood line continued, albeit with different surnames, until it was sold off by the last heirs to Goldstone Holdings in early 198O's. However, a couple of generations before William died in 1800 I have found three deaths in the same line. A father and his two eldest sons appear to vanish from the record. There are no burials in the churchyard and no wills extant. The line consequently passed to a third son, Richard, father of the consumptive William. This may have given rise to the original story. There were many other male Vingoes 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.
also relates that the Vingoes had held the land known as Treville since the time
of the conqueror without poll deeds.
How convenient! There is some evidence to believe that they held their land but
under a series of lease agreements from the Arundells.
Rarely was land sold off but with regard to the troubles of the Arundells,
Digory Vingoe may have been in the right place at the right time in 1655.
There were, however, purchases of land in the 1700's by a John Vingoe
from James Keigwin and also another John Vingoe - son of the
aforementioned John - bought land at Escalls from Joseph Humphreys plus
land at Trevescan from John Pascoe.
How convenient! There is some evidence to believe that they held their land but under a series of lease agreements from the Arundells. Rarely was land sold off but with regard to the troubles of the Arundells, Digory Vingoe may have been in the right place at the right time in 1655. There were, however, purchases of land in the 1700's by a John Vingoe from James Keigwin and also another John Vingoe - son of the aforementioned John - bought land at Escalls from Joseph Humphreys plus land at Trevescan from John Pascoe.
There were at least two other land holding lines in Sennen parish by 1800 according to leases and wills: Henry, William and John Vingoe at Escalls and a John and Israel Vingoe at Trevescan. All these held rights to "The Commons" 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 later sold off to the Trevilley branch when the tourist trade began in earnest. I have not discovered when it was sold and whether to the Trudgens, Tomans or Trahairs. It most likely changed ownership shortly after the death of Israel Vingoe in 1853. His turf gathering site 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 tea house was later created at the very edge of the land's end now known as the 'First & Last House'
I think William Bottrell was maybe leading Hunt on just a tad with his references to the complete extinction of the family in such a colourful manner. There are many of us today who still bear the name to give lie to this assertion, although we can be sure that many in the family did not die in their beds!
It is common among those 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 or their in- laws kept various inns and ale houses in the district and as well as holding land they were involved with the sea in all its trades. There is a record of a John Vingoe being owner with the master a 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. This 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 the official records to taint their name in this regard. Perhaps the noises and lights from the Carn were intended to frighten off unwanted observers of the landing site?
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 Arundells were the major landholders here. However, I have found a Nichol Vyngow mentioned in the 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 of the Vingoes of Land's End had their origins at the court of William of Normandy.
1] Ving + gout = wine + taste in French which may support the myth of wine taster but why to the king One may equally assume that this may have arisen from an even earlier position to the ancient Celtic chieftains of Cornwall or Brittany or perhaps this, combined with a pun on the word alluding to their liking for the taste of the grape in the form of intoxicating spirit: so much so that they ran the risks of running the illicit cargo to stock their drinking dens.
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 link between the Vingoe’s and the De Treville family of Normandy. This Treville family were in fact 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 Carcassone 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 married to a Sarah. Their son Robert de Treville married a Sarah Ellis. The Ellis family were Quakers at Brea Manor on the border of the Sennen and St Just parishes in 1650 and were persecuted by the powers that be at the time of "The Sufferings" Is she a Cornish Sarah Ellis and a descendant of the same family There is Sarah Ellis b 29 Dec.1737, daughter of Peter Ellis of Penzance but unfortunately Ellis is not a specifically Cornish name. Strange though!
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 the advantage in that he was connected to the Vingoe family as his grand-mother was a Mary Vingoe and they had intermarried for generations with most of the local families. He 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 related to Hunt, albeit in a slightly changed format to avoid legal disputes over copyright! Bottrell’s connection to the Vingoe family has resulted in my taking a close interest in him and his writings, especially his three volumes on legend 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. (REF) The threat of being sued by the various families must still have been present.
Returning to fact as far as we can know it, little is known of the early Vingoe family history. Records from Sennen parish are missing for the years before 1700. Bottrell suggested that they came over with the Normans. However, the OE name ending appears to be characteristically Cornish. This denotes kinship to a father as other Celtic regions use Mac, Mc, O' and Ap followed by the patronymic. It could have been corrupted to sound familiar to Cornish ears- the truth is lost in the mists of time. There is also a possibility that the surname name was not constant in this time period and I have found earlier records referring to a John Trevingy a tinner & a Jenkin Trevingy, also known as Vingoe, appearing in Redruth Manor Court Records and St Ives Borough account records. There is also a John on a Tinners Muster Roll in early 1500's.
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 christian and surnames proper, as Henderson the historian suggested? This clan was situated at Uny, Redruth and is commemorated today in the field and lane at Trevingy that run alongside the church. The Cornish word for stone = maen and it 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 Trevingy/Vingoe mentioned in the Borough accounts of St. Ives was being paid for a consignment of paving stones!
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, Botterell and Bosistow families. Later, there were the 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 it 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 there 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 one will 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. 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 the 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.! Obviously this system became much abused in the race for prosperity with the growth of the mining industry
Today you will fail to find the Vingoe name on the electoral roll for Sennen or indeed anywhere within an area west of Penzance, Newlyn and Madron their secondary place of settlement. I , however, do live within a mile of what I like to think of as their ancient homeland at St Uny, Redruth. However, Vingoe blood still courses through the veins of one family who do farm part of the ancient Vingoe land. This at one time stretched from the stream that divided St Levan & Sennen parishes, pasts the cliffs above Nanjizal, the Land's End itself and above Sennen Cove and on northwards to beyond the Churchtown and another stream boundary with the parish of St. Just at Escalls.
The Hicks and the Vingoes can trace their friendship and 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 28 July 1685 .(REF. Prob. 11/265 )A daughter of Edmund Nicholas Joan had married a John Vingoe and had been a widow since his death in 1657.
In his 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 and 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.
So now let us look in more detail at what happened to one branch of the Vingoes who lived at Trevilley who eventually owned the “First & Last” Inn and the Lands End.
1800 William Vingoe died of consumption, age 30 leaving a widow, Mary [nee
Hutchens] and two infant daughters, Margaret & Mary . Margaret died
age 13 and Mary Vingoe married Henry Hodge Trudgen on 23 June 1826. Henry
was related, via the Hutchens family. She brought to the marriage a
parcel of land that had been with her Vingoe line since at least 1655 The
name of the landholder now changed, for the first time since its original
acquisition, from Vingoe to Trudgen. His name is entered in the 'Tythe
Apportionment' record of 1840 as the owner of the First and Last Inn, as well as
Trevilley and much other property in the area. At their marriage
Henry received the right to total ownership of any property previously owned by
his wife Mary. Married women then were not allowed to own any
property. The Trudgeon’s- or Tregians- originally came from Golden in
the parish of Probus near Truro. They
had lost their lands for being recusants and harboring a priest, the Blessed
On 8 June 1577, the Sheriff of Cornwall, Sir Richard
Grenville surrounded the house with some hundred men and arrested both Tregian and
After spending some time in Launceston Castle at the will of
Queen Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Tregian became an exile in Portugal.
He died at the Jesuit hospice at St Roque, Lisbon,
where he was buried .. The first Trudgen came to Sennen via St Buryan when Henry's father, another
Henry, married Hannah Hutchens in 1790.
The first Trudgen came to Sennen via St Buryan when Henry's father, another Henry, married Hannah Hutchens in 1790.
Mary and Henry Hodge-Trudgen had three daughters and once again the property passed via the eldest daughter, Margaret Vingoe Trudgen, to the Toman family when she married Thomas Hutchens Toman in about 1856. These Tomans were from St.Just and had also married into the Hutchens family. The Vingoe and Hutchens family members had inter-married over many generations, including the last of the male line, William, who had married Mary Hutchens in 1797. This is why the Cornish call everyone related "cousin" - it's far too confusing otherwise. Before Thomas H Toman's parents were married his mother had kept a kiddly-wink [Ale-house] at Trevescan and applied to the magistrate to extend her licence to cover spirits. She was refused but it still kept going as a drinking place never-the-less, as she appealed many times against closure. No doubt with a "nod or a wink" customers could get a shot of spirit all the same. Their son Thomas H. had good training for his future trade at the" First & Last Inn".
When the railway reached Penzance in 1859 with it came the tourists ending the thousands of years of Celtic isolation. Margaret and Thomas Toman must have seen the potential for expanding their trade at the First & Last Inn. As related above, originally this branch of the family had not owned the piece of land at the Land's End. In 1840 it was recorded as belonging to Israel Vingoe who lived at Trevescan. Sometime after Israel's death in 1854, it was sold to the cousins and the first buildings erected. By 1881 it is listed as The Lands End House" and on census night the occupants are Thomas Toman and his daughter Annie. His wife Margaret and their 3 remaining daughters are living in the house next door to the First & Last Inn. Thomas's half brother, Edwin Toman, is running that with his daughters. What had been Israel's" turbary" on the tithe map of 1840 with only a cob built furze store had been replaced. The rough shelter used by the sheep and goats roaming over the headland or by men out hunting birds on the fowling pool had made way for much grander accommodation.
At first it was only a simple building, not much more than a household dwelling but it could take more guests than the inn at Sennen Churchtown.
Another family with links to the Vingoes, William H. Thomas and his wife Grace opened a tea room in an adjoining building in 1860's known as Penwith House and this was a temperance Hotel! Every wish catered for ! Later there was also a tiny shop perched on the extremity of the cliffs, called the First & Last House, which sold refreshments and postcards, stamped with the words" Land's End" .
These establishments between them provided for almost every necessity of the visitor. Non-alcoholic light refreshments for the day-trippers who came by horse bus from Penzance or accommodation, with or without a licensed bar, for those staying overnight or longer. No visitor would leave the Lands End without his pocket being lighter!
As well as running the business Margaret and Thomas had a family but again there were five girls of whom two died in early womanhood. Only one married, Annie Toman b1862 to Benjamin Trahair, the local blacksmith of Mayon.. A daughter was born to Annie and Benjamin in 1887 and was named Minnie Vingoe Toman Trahair [ I kid you not!] She was to be the only grandchild and would eventually inherit the business. The couple, together with the remaining sisters worked alongside Margaret & Thomas in the family business until Thomas's death on July 1 1893.
Benjamin and Annie continued with the business, improving the property by adding electric light and extending its facilities. By now it was called "The State House" and by 1912 was full of the glamour of the last years of the lost generation.. Mother Margaret died in 1912 and then the first world war interrupted everything. It must have been hard to recover the same mood of lightheartedness afterwards. Annie died in 1929 and Ben in 1932 and things were very different for their daughter Minnie Trahair than for the preceding generations.
The "Married Woman's Property Act" had passed through parliament which meant that she could own and retain the property in her own right as she wished instead of it automatically passing to her husband or any heirs that he chose. She had married Wilfred Neave-Hill, [1883-1944] who was of Scottish/Irish ancestry, and they had a son William. The State House continued to be run as a hotel up to the second world war. Minnie had married for a second time to an Alexander Ernest Michie [1890-1942] The war had found it requisitioned by government, as were all properties so close to the coast and no one was taking holidays. Troops were billeted there prior to D-day and it had been damaged once or twice by German planes dumping bombs before returning home, Minnie died in May 14 1954 and they both lie buried in the churchyard. Her first husband had died in 1944.
Their son, William Neave-Hill, inherited but the hey-day of the place was passed. After the war I remember it boarded up and desolate for years. I used to think it looked so sad and lonely but building materials were in short supply. Everything was requisitioned for housing which took priority. It was to take until after the end of rationing and the Coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953 for the tourist business to pick up again but the old State House would never quite regain its former opulence. It needed a small fortune spending on it and there was no philanthropist hanging around who wanted to save it. Times had changed. I think the National Trust might have taken the land but bulldozed the buildings which would not have been the complete answer either. Anyhow, whatever the reasons, William's son Charles, who had inherited in the 1970's, decided to sell all his property in 1980 and left the area. The last of the original blood line.
It was bought by David Goldsmith for around a million pounds and his interpretation of the" Ideal Holiday Attraction" did not meet with the approval of the powers that be. He soon sold it on to a Mr. De Savary, a property developer, who managed to get passed these objections although facing many more from the locals. However "jobs for the natives " was the war cry and on the building went, with the proviso that it stayed open all year. I suppose you could argue that it had already been spoilt back in 1860 and that was the "locals" doing. If you visit you must make your own judgment. I will not be putting any photo's of it on this web-site! It has, since the initial building of the attractions and car-park, changed hands again. All I can say is that it's a sorry place on a wet and stormy March day and few local people are employed there all- year -round. It would not be so bad if the entrance and new building had been less neo-classical Greek. The height of the entrance gateway serves no useful purpose that I can see. The size of the car-park will no doubt be reflected in the flow of traffic along narrow, windy lanes and result in road widening in the future on the approach roads if numbers rise much more. Also as more pairs of feet increase so does the erosion. You can now only walk in designated tarmac covered areas. Perhaps a park-and-ride would serve. Even better why don't they just build a virtual-reality theatre somewhere to show it in glorious sense-around and 3D. Preferably in some distant metropolis, which would save all that traveling .....time.......money .......They call it progress ....let's leave it there............
Within the William branch of the family there had been the story that a local woman, who had met her death at the hands of some of the family, had put a curse on them. It was said that the line would die out with no more male heirs begotten on their wives. Looking at the above propensity for females this might have prompted the tale.