Those that Got Away: the Story of Newlyn’s Migrants

The next open Day on Saturday 15 February 2014 10.00-3.00 tells the story of Newlyn’s migrants. Some men left to make their fortune and did not get back, leaving behind grieving women and children; others were more successful and were joined by their families to make a better life in the new world; some returned much richer and named their homes after foreign places.

One such man was Joseph Johns Hichens (1866-1924) who built a double fronted granite house called Kenilworth on Buccas Pass, the new road between Newlyn Bridge and Jack Lane. (The photo shows JJ Hichens in later life playing the first wood on Penlee Bowling Green).

The house was named after a place in South Africa called Kenilworth, where Joseph Johns Hichens worked as a young man. As a boy, Joseph lived at Penguin House on St Peters Hill. He came from a long line of fishermen, being the second son of William Hichens, who was master and net owner of the fishing boat Dove. His middle name ‘Johns’ was his mother’s maiden name.

He married Edith Richards from Chapel St in 1889 and some time after the birth of their second son, he joined the diamond rush to South Africa, alongside many other cousin Jacks and Jennies from Cornwall, and became tangled up in the Second Boer War.

He was at the diamond-mining town of Kimberley when it was besieged by the Boers from October 14, 1899 to February 15, 1900. There were at least three men from Newlyn in Kimberley during the siege. Joseph Hichens must have been fairly influential in Kimberley because he managed to send a post office telegram from Kimberley to local fish salesman, BJ Ridge, giving news that self, Harding and Wells had survived the Kimberley siege.

When Joseph returned to Newlyn he was full of the lucrative spoils of his South African adventure and this must have been used to purchase a substantial part of Chirgwin’s Orchard, on both sides of the newly built Buccas Pass. He was engaged in a number of property deals leading in November 1905 to submitting plans for the substantial 8-room granite house in Buccas Pass. Hichens named it Kenilworth as a memorial to Cecil Rhodes who was instrumental in organizing the defence of Kimberley and during the long siege had opened his own house, named Kenilworth to his countrymen.

Do come and find out more about JJ Hichens and the many other Newlyners who sought their fortunes abroad.