It has been an important anniversary this week for us at Treseren. On Monday 10th May we commemorated our very own Mine Captain, Captain Middleton who lived at Shepherds House at Treseren in the 1840s with a special celebration of his marriage, which took place 200 years ago on 10th May 1821. Celebrating marriages at Treseren is what we do, so it seemed only fitting that we mark this historic anniversary on his actual wedding day.
Discovering the history of Shepherds House
The history of the house has long been a passion for us. We knew when we moved here six years ago that it was an historic Mine Captain’s house, and during renovations, Paul was excited to discover a series of copperplate signatures under the stair treads dated in the 1800s, including the signature of John Middleton.
Initial research showed in the 1841 Census that Captain Middleton lived at Shepherds House in the 1840s with his wife, Ellen and their children. We went on to discover more, reading about the tragic Mining Disaster of 1846 at local East Wheal Rose Mine, the mine that Captain Middleton presided over.
Our knowledge of the historic events was enhanced when one of our couples, Kevin and Marion who got married at Treseren September 2020 fell in love with the house and its history. It turned out that Kevin was a passionate Genealogist with years of experience researching family trees, and he has researched the Family Trees of Captain Middleton, and the other Mine Captain who lived in the house, Captain Champion who also looked after East Wheal Rose Mine.
Then out of the blue, Barry West turned up on our doorstep. Barry is a local historian and is researching the 1846 Mining Disaster, and he set out on the trail of finding Captain Middleton’s House. When he arrived we told him that he had indeed come to the right place! We looked round the house and Barry was able to add much more to our knowledge of Captain Middleton.
Our Real Life Poldark
Barry’s research shows that Captain John Middleton was interested in furthering and bettering the lives of the workers in the mines. He was a member of the Mining Society which it is noted in minutes of a meeting on 24th May 1844 was seeking to build two new hospitals and the steam engines in mines checked regularly.
We always felt our Captain Middleton had resonances of Poldark, and Barry’s findings point towards him being a man of the people. When we read about the flash flood that caused the tragic mining disaster of 1846, this feeling became even stronger.
Captain Middleton and the Mining Disaster of 1846
In 1846, thirty-nine lives were lost in Cornwall’s work mining disaster. Barry has found records that show up to 200 men were underground at the mine that day and Captain Middleton put on his underground clothes, alongside Captain Champion fought to save as many men as possible.
The account in The Royal Cornwall Gazette newspaper of 1846 read:
“Between 1 and 2pm on Thursday 9th July, one of the most awful thunderstorms ever known had broken near the mine. Dense, heavy purple-black clouds… poured down floods of rain. The surface of the mine was awash within minutes and the water rushed northwards, the land sloping that way. As it did so it broke the shafts and ‘rushing down into the levels … loosened and broke the timbers beneath, the consequence of which was the falling in of some other parts of the mine northwards”.
Captain Middleton organised 300 men to pile up earth around the collars of the shafts, but the volume of water pouring down was so great that soon torrents of water poured down the shafts. There were several miraculous escapes and acts of heroism. Captain Champion somehow managed to climb the slippery ladders against the tremendous weight of down-rushing water. A timber-man, Samuel Bastion, went down into the mine to lie across a manhole, diverting the flow of water and saving eighteen lives. The beam engines were put to work, in raising men to the surface, clinging to the kibbles and chains “like strings of onions”. Forty-three men and boys were missing, but four of them were bought up the next morning. The lower levels of the mine were completely flooded. Thirty nine men and boys lost their lives leaving 22 widows and 60 fatherless children.
Captain Middleton’s marriage 10th May 1821
It was fortuitous that Barry started his research in to Captain Middleton when he did, because he came across the records of his marriage just days before the 200th anniversary of the date. We didn’t have much time to get organised, but we felt we had to mark this important event in the history of our very own Mine Captain.
On Monday 10th May 2021 Barry and I met at St Euny Church in Redruth, 200 years after the marriage of John Middleton to Eleanor Thomas of the Parish. Barry and I re-traced Captain Middleton’s steps 200 years before by walking up the lane to the Church where his ceremony took place. Barry had discovered a copy of the Marriage records of the Church through the archives at Kresen Kernow and with the help of the Vicar, we were able to identify the most likely place in the Church that John and Ellen would have signed the Marriage register. You can see the live video of us walking in his footsteps on our IGTV
St Euny is the Miner’s Church of Cornwall and Barry’s research showed that John Middleton would have been baptised there, worshipped there as a child, married there and was also laid to rest there. Barry had found and cleaned up his grave and I was able to go and see his resting place with Ellen.
Anniversary Celebrations at Treseren
It was a pleasure to invite Barry back to Shepherds House at Treseren to celebrate the 200th anniversary of their wedding day. The whole Treseren team assembled on the lawn and we opened a bottle of champagne in honour of Captain Middleton and Ellen at what became their home following their marriage. We had even made chocolate dipped strawberries to share just as we do for lots of our couples getting married at Treseren today!
It felt like a fitting tribute to our very own Mine Captain that we would celebrate this historic anniversary in this way. Now the house itself is licensed for marriage, there’s a lovely circle raising a glass to the Middletons, as our bridal suite is named Middleton in their honour and we hold so many celebrations of this kind as part of the new spirit of place of the house.