By Tom Bowden:
The Woodrow Pengelly family is one of five Pengelly families in Looe and it started when Richard Pengelly married Emma Woodrow on 6th February 1854. Richard was a fisherman in Looe and Emma came from Morval nearby and her father was a coachman to John Buller of Morval House. They decided to follow a Cornish custom of putting the wife’s family name amongst the names of their children. My mother was a Woodrow Pengelly and there are many descendants today who recognise themselves as “Woodrow Pengellys” whether or not the name “Woodrow” appears on their birth certificates.
Looe is on the south east coast of Cornwall and I start with some very old photographs and information about Looe long ago. Then we look at the family: the wives who often had large families and the husbands who were usually fishermen who went to sea in sailing luggers before engines and navigational aids became available. I have included some family trees and old family photographs to help me in this process.
On East Looe is the famous Banjo Pier and the ancient tower of St Mary’s Church which was built in 1257 and whitewashed to become a “daymark” for mariners. Therefore the tower has remained all this time while the church itself has been rebuilt three times! In 1737 they also fitted a clock on the tower which had only one hand? In biblical times the locals traded tin with the Phoenicians, and in medieval times the Bodrigan family held sway. Then the copper boom came with the discovery of copper at Caradon Hill nearby in about 1840. By the early twentieth century the copper had gone and now there is a successful fishing industry and Looe is crammed with tourists in the high season.
West Looe is on the left and East Looe is on the right joined by the bridge built in 1856 and widened in 1960. The tower of St Nicholas Church is in the foreground. This church was built about the end of the thirteenth century and is dedicated to St Nicholas, Bishop of Myra. The tall tower in East Looe is the Guildhall built in 1878 and the old fish market is on the quay with fishing luggers moored each side of the river. It was near the end of the copper boom period and you can see that Buller Quay in East Looe is almost empty, when previously it was full of copper awaiting shipment. Today there is a large car park and a modern fish market in this area and Looe Railway Station is above the bridge on East Looe and the branch rail line terminates at Liskeard where you can join the main line.
The original pier was known as the groyne and it was built in about 1850. Unfortunately, it did not prevent sand from the beach entering the harbour. Engineer Joseph Thomas proposed that a round end be added to the pier, and said he would forego a fee if it didn’t work. The round was added in 1898 and it was completely successful. Inevitably, the groyne soon became known as the banjo pier. See how some washing has been laid on the hillside to dry. My grandmother lived in a house on the front before the promenade was built and she told my mother that when there was a bad storm the sea water used to come in the front door and go out the back!
You can see that Richard and Emma had ten children and three of them died in their early childhood. Then Emma Woodrow was born in East Looe on 6th October 1869 and she also received the name “Maria” in memory of the child that died. Emma Maria Woodrow Pengelly was my maternal grandmother who died on 21st June 1926 before I was born.
They married in Liskeard on 24th November 1894 and I must explain his background before going any further:
In about 1865 a merchant ship visited Looe and the ships mate, Martin Devereux, an Irishman from Wexford, met Sarah Marshall and they married in Talland Church on 1st May 1866. They had a son who they named William Martin who was born on 3rd June 1868. Then Martin Devereux sadly died of cancer on 13th March 1873 at the age of thirtytwo and he is buried in Talland Churchyard. Sarah married again and William Martin Devereux was raised in Looe.
Emma and William Martin began married life living in Church End in East Looe with her parents. William Martin worked in Looe until in about 1900 he got a job on riverboats based at Plymouth and the family moved to live on Plymouth Barbican. He became captain of a steamboat and then moved on with his family to live in Millbrook and work for the Millbrook Steamboat Company. Finally, in about 1912 he was appointed Captain of the “Lady Beatrice” a ferry for foot passengers that crossed the River Tamar on a triangular route between Torpoint, North Corner and Pottery Quay. So the family moved to live in Torpoint.
From the Devereux part of the family tree you can see that they had nine children and two of them died in early childhood. See how the place of birth changes from Looe to Plymouth and then Millbrook. My mother was named Emma Woodrow Devereux so she was the third Emma Woodrow in the family. She married my father, James Bowden, a son of Thomas John Marshall Bowden who came to Torpoint when his boatbuilding business in Porthleven closed in about 1909.
This was a branch of the Independent Order of Good Templars, a friendly society of various ages dedicated to mutual self-help. My mum, then Emma Woodrow Devereux and about thirteen years old, is seated cross-legged to the left of the table as you look at the picture. They are in their regalia in the garden of Salamanca House, in Eliot Square, Torpoint, the home of Mr and Mrs J. Hyslop. Jim Hyslop is seated immediately behind the table and his wife, Beatrice is also in that row and fourth from the left.
I was born in 3, Navy Terrace, Torpoint on 31st August 1929 which is now part of Marine Drive. We lived on the banks of the River Tamar and this photograph was taken just down on the beach.
When new and larger steam ferries were introduced at Torpoint in 1930 the “Lady Beatrice” Ferry was withdrawn and sold to be employed on ferry trips on the Tamar. I remember my grandfather as an old man in retirement and he died on 15th January 1941 and is buried with his wife in Antony Churchyard.
The Woodrow Pengellys
Richard and Emma Pengelly’s four sons: William, Richard, George Frederick and John Edwin (known as Jack), also became successful fishermen in Looe. The fishermen were often given nicknames because many had the same surname: for instance Richard Pengelly himself was known as “Old Daddy” for obvious reasons. William Woodrow born 1858, the eldest son, married Florence Jessie Crocker in 1881 and they had two sons: William George Woodrow born 1881 and Ernest Edwin Woodrow Pengelly born 1883, and a daughter: Olive born in 1888. William Woodrow had a fishing lugger built which he named “Guide Me” and it was well known in Looe at that time. Sadly, William George Woodrow was killed at Milford Haven during service in the navy in 1917. However, Ernest Edwin became a Captain of River Steamers for the Millbrook Steamboat Company and later became Pier Master at Mutton Cove in Devonport.
Richard Woodrow (Dick Clubs) born 1861, married Jane Hancock and had five children, and later married Emma Mutton and they had four more children. He had one or two luggers named “Janie” and another named “Blossom” whilst fishing. So he seems to have been an interesting man who had a busy life.
The third son was George Frederick Woodrow born 1872 and he was a very successful fisherman. He married Eliza Jane Hambly and they had eleven children as shown. There are some interesting nicknames here too! George Frederick himself was nicknamed “Georgie Pie” so what do you call William Woodrow born 1909?
Why, “Bill Pie” of course! I knew “Bill Pie” and he was not enamoured with his nickname. I also knew Norman born 1919, who played football for Plymouth Argyle, and his wife, Pam. I also met Florence on one occasion in her home outside Looe.
I walked around East Looe sometimes with my mother in her 80s and we parked on Buller Quay and went into Martin’s Dairy for icecream and cream before walking slowly through East Looe. She always said that George Frederick was the best fisherman in Looe and I do believe that now. He had the luggers “Our Girls” built in 1904 and “Our Boys” built in Looe in 1914 and acquired five boats in total.
He also purchased two cottages in the centre of East Lane and had them demolished to build in their place a large house named “Ronsoy House”. Ronsoy was the name of the town in France where his second son, George, survived being shot by a German sniper. Finally, from what I have been told, George Frederick was a very likeable and generous man, and he died in 1954.
The fourth fisherman son of Richard and Emma was John Edwin Woodrow Pengelly born in 1876. He married Jane Gundry in Liskeard in 1901. He was tall and had great strength and he injured himself lifting a yard arm and died of his injuries.
My last illustration is an interesting but mysterious family picture. Richard Pengelly (Old Daddy) is sitting on an anchor on Buller Quay with his family around him. Richard’s wife Emma Woodrow had died in 1903 and Richard would pass away in 1909.
I think William Martin Devereux is standing next to “Old Daddy” with his hands on his son’s shoulders. His son, Dick, (Richard born 1902), had maintained that he was in this picture so here he is aged about six and William Martin would be about 39 years old, so I think this photograph was taken in 1908.
The other two men are: Richard (Dick Clubs) (born 1861) and William (Bill) (born 1858) with their sons. I have seen photographs of both men when they were older and I think Richard is on the right in this picture and William on the left but I could be mistaken. I also cannot name their boys in the picture but I hope someone will be able to identify them.
I set out to show Looe long ago and introduce the Woodrow Pengelly family in Looe with some details about my mother and the Devereux branch of the family. I regret being unable to dwell more on the wives in the family because I think they are really the most important part of any family.
Several family members have helped me with information and I particularly thank my cousins: Michelle Hunt who did a great deal of initial research, and John Pengelly the local family historian.
I thank them all and I hope that readers have enjoyed my family story.