Article MT145

Glimpses into the 19th Century Broadside Ballad Trade

No. 10: Some printers in Cornwall1

As indicated in the last piece in this series, knowledge of Cornish broadside ballad printers is sparse.  The following brief survey attempts to eke out available details and, in this way, to indicate areas which might be further investigated.  A measure of some of the difficulties can be gained by considering the case of Arnley in Fowey, for instance, of whom nothing at all is known save that he printed one ballad, preserved in the Madden collection.  This piece was entitled You are My Love and Shall Be, a night visiting song, most likely, then, of older vintage.2

We know more about William Penaluna, born on 1st March 1780 at St Stithians, Cornwall.  He lived for a time in London, from whence he returned in 1808, announcing that he was to be engaged in the sale of pens, books, prints, soap, trinkets, musical instruments, patent medicines, pickles and clothes…  He can be found operating in Falmouth between 1809-1810 with a John Heard who was responsible for the appearance of the West Briton, a newspaper founded by Heard In response to the apparent capitulation of the one and only native Cornish newspaper thus far in existence, the Cornwall Gazette and Falmouth Packet, to exclusively Tory interests.3  The two men had actually opened a printing office in Falmouth in 1808.They were soon involved in the issue of a reform pamphlet which itself prompted the reform party to select John Heard as printer for a newspaper - the West Briton.  However, Heard himself moved to Truro and the partnership with Penaluna was dissolved.  The West Briton, though, stayed in Heard family hands until after 1850.In fact, when John Heard died in 1823 it was his widow, Elizabeth, who took over the running of the newspaper, by no means the only woman to have been involved in the printing business at the time in Cornwall (and so mirroring the involvement of Mary Anna Merry in Bedford).

Thus, Penaluna had become involved in the first steps towards large-scale production of newspapers and periodicals in Cornwall even if, like other printers, he was still reliant in part on jobbing work, it being the most useful means of making a livelihood amongst printers.  His interests were as bookseller, printer, stationer, bookbinder, commissioner for taking special bail, mineralogist, mine broker, and dealer in musical instruments, insurance (see also the Pigot entry for 1844 below) and lottery tickets.

And we know that in Helston, between 1811 and 1815, he took over the printing of Lean’s Engine Reporter, a broadsheet devoted to specialist interest showing ‘the comparative duty of the mine engines in Cornwall’ (he was followed, as printer of the same, by Llewellyn Newton of Camborne with whom the broadsheet remained until 1853).  He re-visited Falmouth in a brief partnership with a James Tratham in 1816.  Like Charles Barbour Merry, subject of numbers 2 and 4 in this series, and like John Wilson in Devon as discussed in the piece immediately preceding this one, Penaluna was made bankrupt - in 1817 (see also below) - but can be found printing The Circle or Historical Survey of Sixty Parishes and Towns in 1818.  Details given below fill in part of the gap between this date and a clear reference in the 1841 census.

There he was recorded as aged 55, a printer, living in Cross Street, Helston, with his wife, Elizabeth, aged 45; with Charlotte Masters, aged 25, a school mistress and Mary Lemin, aged 20, also a school mistress; Christian Rogers, aged 55 of Independent means; and Jane Martin, aged 20, a female servant.  All were, apparently, born ‘In county’ - which leads to discrepancies in our apprehension of Penaluna, as will be seen.  He was, nonetheless, listed in Pigot’s 1844 directory operating in ‘Carriage-hall St’ in Helston as Bookseller, Stationer and Printer and Publisher who also sold insurance for three different agencies (Minerva, Provident General and Westminster).  He was further listed in the 1851 census as Printer and Bookseller, aged 70 - it is worth noting that he seems to have gained some five years on his actual age since the previous census - and as living with his wife, aged 67, born in the city of Cork; a servant, Elizabeth Brokenshire; and a lodger, Christian Rogers (presumably the same, here described as ‘annuitant), at Cross Street (we should take account of the discrepancies in addresses as this must reflect the exigencies of the trade in a manner seen elsewhere in this series); Kelly’s 1856 Helston street directory has him as ‘bookseller, bookbinder, printer, stationer, & agent to the Minerva life and Sun fire & life assurance companies, Meneage street’ and the 1861 census records him as living in Cross Street, aged 81, a printer employing one man and one boy, together with his wife, aged 67 (again), described as having been born in Cork.  Unfortunately, the wife’s name is given as William [sic].  One can only surmise more than one mistake on the part of the census-taker here since an entry in the Falmouth register of marriages for 1836, tells us of the marriage:

On Wednesday last, at Falmouth, Mr. Penaluna, printer &c., of Helston, to the widow of the late Mr. Lemin, of Binner Downs.
It transpires that Mr Lemin’s widow - or, as we encounter her, William Penaluna’s wife - was named Elizabeth, as the 1841 census also indicated.  The marriage notice given above both fills a gap and ‘explains’ why Mary Lemin was living with the Penalunas in 1851.  Elizabeth Penaluna’s age, let alone her birthplace, in the 1861 census is a mystery: nor has it yet been possible to trace the previous lives of Mr.  and Mrs.  Lemin or any connection with Ireland.  Speculatively, though, it might seem to be of relevance that Binner Downs is less than ten kilometres north-west of Helston and was a well-known mining area.  Penaluna, as mineralogist and mine broker may well have had connections.  Perhaps Lemin had also been engaged in mine work and that this was how Penaluna met Lemin’s widow.

At length, Penaluna had been in financial difficulties on at least two occasions around 1815-1816.  The second time, his attempts to complete a project to publish a History of Cornwall compiled by F C Hitchens and S Drew were held up: publication was not actually achieved until 1824; and, meanwhile, he had - as noticed above - been bankrupted.  The reasons may be manifold; but the Cornish printing trade was slow to gather momentum, facing competition from London and the bigger printing centres nearby in Exeter and Plymouth where better machinery and a bigger work-force could be financed.   Expense was probably the prime consideration: buying and maintaining machinery, acquiring paper and paying a workforce, perhaps shelling out for distribution purposes.  And custom was not so easily forthcoming in a relatively sparsely populated area where literacy and concentrated education did not exert a strong demand for printed materials and where communication was relatively, difficult.   It is interesting, in the latter regard, to note that it was often easier to obtain goods by sea in Cornwall than it was to order them through overland means.4

In terms of the difficulties attendant on the printing trade, and just as Penaluna engaged in a range of activities, we learn of other printers in Cornwall who made their living not just as printers but, additionally, as stationers, booksellers and bookbinders; selling insurance; auctioneering; and in the more exotic trades of seedsman, druggist, watchmaker, music teacher, stamp distributor, coal merchant and so on.  In 1831 there were but forty-six people in Cornwall involved in the printing trade.  Stock could be found up for sale; and the technology was ancient - principally in terms of the continuing use of wooden printing presses - until the period 1820-1840 (roughly), thus precluding someone like Penaluna from rapid and successful enterprise.  Newspapers and periodicals did not proliferate until after 1850.  In these circumstances a bankruptcy or two is understandable and a precarious living common enough.  There is a litany of printers who went bankrupt although some managed to re-establish themselves5

Whilst, in printing terms, the story is familiar, one does not necessarily ascribe a wholly backward state to the county of Cornwall.  As the century wore on, as mining developed, as religious fervour swept the area, Cornwall was opened up; and as the quality and speed of production in printing increased so more custom was generated.  Penaluna, unfortunately, did not really reap the full benefits: he died in Helston in 1864.

Given William Penaluna’s background in jobbing and newspaper and periodical work, it is not surprising that there is limited reference to ballad production.  Largely, as part of the overall printing pattern, his output, so far ascertained, revolved around particular kinds of songs and carols and history books.  Thus, apart from ‘The Circle…’ already mentioned, Penaluna printed a history of Cornwall (1824), a volume of ‘Excursions’ (1834) and ‘An historical survey of the county of Cornwall’ (1843).  This certainly suggests that ballads as we apprehend them, in the style, let us say, of Catnach and Pitts, were not high on Penaluna’s agenda.  He was, though, with one Heard (presumably John), responsible for issuing ‘A collection of masonic songs’ in 1809 and - this time alone - a further collection of ‘masonic songs, glees and duets…’ in 1824.6 This is not all surprising.  It is well documented that masons held prominent positions in the welfare and advancement of Cornish society during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and, indeed, were often responsible for a substantial element of independent, Dissenting and intellectual input.7

Further, the Bodleian Allegro archive has one sheet entitled Jesus Saviour of Mankind and subtitled A Choice Selection of Christmas Carols ‘printed and Sold by W.  Penaluna’ and elaborately decorated with pictures of divines and of Christ and of other religious subject-matter for the texts of pieces such as While Shepherds…, The Moon Shines Bright, I saw three ships…and Hark the Herald Angels Sing and the less familiar Awake dark thoughts and Glory to God on High…a total of fourteen carols.8

And Penaluna did issue pieces which carried the legend ‘Travellers supplied with Sheets, Half-Sheets, Tracts, Books &c.’, at least an indication of his familiarity with broadside printing practice, of his range of products and, taking ‘Sheets’ and ‘Half-Sheets’ into consideration, possibly inclusive of ballads.9

That, however, seems to be all that is known about Penaluna where any form of ballad printing is concerned: a small haul, not enough even to speculate.

The only other Cornish printer of whom much seems to be known in connection with ballad-printing is Richard Woolcock who, like Penaluna, worked in Helston.  He was born in 1822 and, bearing in mind the possible sliding scale of different dates which appeared in census details, it seems likely that it was he who was recorded in the 1841 census as an apprentice bookbinder (father Richard; mother Avis; three sisters, one - Elizabeth - a twin, it seems) aged 15.  He married in 1849 with Elizabeth Pearse in her home parish of St Erth.  He began printing in 1844.  In 1851 he was recorded as living in Meneage street, Helston, aged 28, with his wife, Elizabeth (21), and a daughter, Sophia (5 months); plus a servant, Elizabeth Jane Varker, unmarried, aged 17.  The 1861 census gave his name as printer and grocer living with his wife and six children plus two servants in Meneage Street, Helston.

The 1881 name census recorded Woolcock still as a printer; but nothing has been discovered about him after this date; and, ultimately, as one of his ‘non-ballad’ pieces indicated, he was known as a ‘general and commercial printer’.10    This can be confirmed from notices on two other issues.  On the first, apart from being listed as ‘Agent for Whelpton’s celebrated Purifying and Stomach Pills, also for Kaye’s far-famed Pills…’, he claimed that ‘Printing of every description executed at the lowest prices’ in a manner found on other printers’ wares (Williams of Portsea, for example).  On the second, he advertised:

An excellent assortment of Combs, Children’s and other books, Brooches, Rings Almanacks, Christmas Cards, Valentines, &c., &c.  - A liberal allowance to Hawkers and Shopkeepers.  - Printing cheaply executed.  Books bound or repaired at the lowest prices.11
There can be no doubt about the range of Woolcock’s printing interests and of his conformity to the pattern of printing activity discussed in connection with Penaluna and with other printers across the south of England.

Subject-matter in Woolcock’s stock, bearing in mind the limited sample, is not especially varied.  There are pieces with religious or moral overtones; some glosses on contemporary living; and one or two ‘unattached’ printings such as Ransford’s piece, Days When We Went Gypsying.12  Edwin Ransford (1805-1876) was an English vocalist and actor, born in Bourton-on-the-water.  His career need not concern us unduly here, but he first appeared, as an ‘extra’ to the chorus, at the King’s theatre, Haymarket, and later in the chorus at Covent Garden, working under Kemble and Samuel Arnold.  He retired from the theatre in 1837 but continued to sing at concerts.  From 1845 on he began to produce popular entertainments and, as composer, was mostly active between 1835 and 1876.  In connection with Ransford it is simply worth noting that Woolcock, like other printers such as those discussed in the piece on printing in Devon, took material from popular sources of entertainment.

He is known also to have issued Lines on the Turkish Atrocities as a broadside in 1870.  We know also of certain extant quasi-religious pieces such as Good Templar sermons (c.  1873); and one text, ‘Fatal boiler explosion’ on board The Thunderer 25th March 1877 with ‘great loss of life at sea’, eighteen verses of four lines each, beginning ‘Ye landless all attend a while’.13

Still other Woolcock pieces find echoes elsewhere: The Dying Husband’s Farewell from Such…;The Orphans on printings by J Crome in Sheffield.14

Woolcock also printed carols.  These included the conventional kinds such as While Shepherds Watched…and Angels from the Realms of Glory; As I sat on a Sunny Bank and A virgin Unspotted; the American carol Joy to the World; and more that came and went with the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries outside what has become a mainstream.  Typical titles in the latter respect are Hark Around the Cherubic Legions, Awake ye Nations of the Earth and Angelic Messenger Repeat…the kind of carol found in Penaluna’s output and also much more recently issued on cassette - briefly, from Padstow; and, more extensively, from the Sheffield area, simply reminding us of relatively unknown and yet priceless contributions to the genre.  All Woolcock’s carols as mentioned above appeared in one collection so that there is still a separation from the familiar broadside single-song (slip) or two-song sheet issue.15

The Bodleian Allegro archive contains another sheet, A choice variety of carols and anthems, which, again, has While Shepherds…and Angels from the Realms of Glory plus Awake ye Nations, See they Come the Glorious Army in a total of nine.16

Also in the Allegro archive we find a dozen other printings.  Of these, one or two would seem to be either unique to Woolcock or rare.  The Factory Chimney does not seem to have been printed elsewhere.  Nor does The Emperor of Russia’s Last Jig; nor The Mother’s Dream.17 Money Makes the Mare to Go seems only to have been printed elsewhere by Pitts and then in Cole’s Funniest Book in the World (c.1890) and in Johanssen’s The House of Beadle and Adams and in Beadle’s Dime Song Book, both volumes which took from source, the latter a Canadian enterprise.18

Woolcock’s printings were, invariably, neatly-produced in typographical terms with no errors in punctuation or spelling and always decorated in some fashion, appearing nothing like the run-of-the-mill Catnach or Pitts printing.  In most - if, admittedly, a small number - there is a fancy framework, reminiscent of Hilliat’s and Martin’s style in London.  On only one print is there no decoration of this sort - that of The Dark-Eyed Sailor and Paul Jones - which might just suggest that it came from elsewhere.  But there are header illustrations and of two, one - appropriately of a sailor in a layered collar, a tarpaulin hat and a pipe - was also used for Days When We Went a-Gypsying (this is a typical example of the use of headers where no discernible connection between header and subject-matter is visible).  The other illustration is simply of a generic single-masted sailing ship.

In view of the sophistication in appearance of Woolcock’s output as we have it, it is likely that Woolcock had benefited from technical progress in the printing industry.  His output came at a time when letter-press, copperplate and lithograph co-existed.

If we look in more detail at Woolcock’s stock, we find that some have rather maudlin topics - The Orphans, The Orphan Shepherd-Boy, The Dying Husband, The Mother’s Dream or The Whole Family Met in Heaven with clearly pitched admonitions to the audience which revolve around good clean living according to strict Christian tenets.  In each, a tale of woe is recounted whose upshot must be that of a heavenly reward: peace and love in the bosom of Jesus.  Earthly existence is, by contrast, unpleasant.  Thus: in The Mother’s Dream19, five children have been lost to the family on earth but the mother encounters them in heaven, one of whom, J, having been witless in his previous life, has regained full capacity.  The husband and two other children remain ‘below’ but, as regards the husband:

At length a sudden burst of joy
Escaped the countless throng,
As on the wing of angels bright
I saw you borne along…
And, sure enough, the two children follow soon after.   Perhaps so as not to stretch credibility to possible absurdity, though, we are reminded that the occurrence was but a dream.    Nonetheless:
Then let us for the time prepare,
To meet our children dear,
For certain am I that I shall
See each one happy there.
Belief - faith - on earth in a paradise hereafter is emphasised.  It represents an enthusiastic determination.

A similar feeling is expressed in The Dying Husband with much dwelling on the joys of heaven - with images such as that of Christ the Physician and a kind of set piece:

Thousands of angels I behold
Waiting for me they are,
Striking their notes on harps of gold,
And Christ is with them there.
The husband’s death is noble, the wife’s response dignified, and all will meet one day in heaven.20

But this emphasis on faith in a hereafter is brought up-to-date, as it were, in the twin pieces, under the title of The Spiritual Railway, of The Upward Line and The Downward Line:

The line to Heaven by Christ is made,
With heavenly truth the rails are laid;
From Earth to Heaven the line extends,
And in eternal life it ends.
First, though,
Repentance is the station, then,
Where passengers are taken in…
God’s word is the first engineer; God’s love the fire…‘In first, second, and third class, Repentance, faith , holiness…’

Predictably, on the other hand (the other line):

There is a Railway downward laid,
Which God the Father never made;
But it was laid when Adam fell -
Which numbers it conveys to Hell.21
Less obviously led by revivalist fervour, The Orphan recounts the story of a well-to-do lady (out in her chaise) who finds a brother and a sister, whose parents have died, refusing each to eat a crust of bread until the other has.  Evidently the mother had enjoined on the two the need to seek, first, the father who had gone overseas - and whose death they are told by proxy - and then God the Father.   In language particularly removed from both a believable way of talking and from earthly reality, the children, after explaining their situation, ask the lady:
…pray can you tell us where
That God our Father may be found.
The lady does her Christian duty, declaring, with a touch of heavenly convenience and an inkling of a necessary, appropriate response, that she will take the two in care.
“And God shall be your Father still;
’Twas he in mercy sent me here,
To teach you to obey his will,
Your steps to guide, your hearts to cheer.”22
The Orphan Shepherd Boy also tugs at the heart-strings.23  He it is whose master ill-uses him, sends him out in the snow to find his flock, and out again when it is realised that one poor lamb is missing.  The lamb is found, of course, but is dead; the orphan boy dies too - in the presence of the narrator who, it appears, had gone out, in duty (the motive is otherwise hazy), on the ‘dreary heath’ and had come across the scene.  The boy, brought up in the knowledge that a ‘tender Friend’, Christ, would always wipe his tears away, declares:
“I go to serve the king of Kings
To join the songs of praise
That round Jehovah’s glorious throne
His ransom’d thousands raise…”
But that is not all.  Lubin, the orphan boy, had a faithful dog, named Tray, who was in attendance at the boy’s death and forever after pined.  As it happens, Dog Tray is the title of another piece which had extensive popularity.

It would be too easy to dismiss this kind of effulgence.  The point here is not to pass judgement but to indicate the kind of piece that Woolcock indulged in.  It would not have been in a vacuum.  A story in the Hampshire Telegraph, dating from 1860, and actually taken from the pages of the Leeds Mercury.  is similar in its overall impact.24 In it, a young boy leaves his parents’ house and his workplace, wandering on the moors, until ‘a worthy divine’ encounters him.  This man secures a meal and lodgings for the boy and persuades the boy to return home where he is received with appropriate joy.  The divine presents the boy with a gilt-edged Bible where two passages are inserted on the fly-leaf: ‘All we like sheep have gone astray, but God hath laid on him the iniquity of us all’ and ‘This is the lord’s doings, and it is marvellous in our eyes.’ A kind reply was despatched from the parents to the reverend gentleman.

So that we can more easily entertain the apparent sentimentality and slight self-righteousness of such pieces.  Thus, in The Factory Chimney, we find a recounting of the building of a chimney, the descent of the workmen and the realisation that one of the number is still stuck at the top and all the means for descent have been removed.  Comes the faithful wife who, ingeniously, shouts to the man in order to tell him to unravel the stocking that she had knitted for him, whereupon the wool is dangled, string attached, then a rope and - it is by no means clear how the rope was secured at the top or how the man actually descended - the unfortunate workman is rescued.  ‘A woman’s love devised a way…readier’ than the skills of fellow workmen.  Again that is not all; for this piece then points a heavy moral.  History, it is said, repeats itself: ‘it re-appears to-day’…

The Scipture saith, the drunkard is as one alone at last,
In peril swaying on the top of some high vessel’s-mast;
But even such Love’s skill can reach, - and rescue from the grave…
by means, it seems, of the ‘Ribbon Blue’, the ‘Temperance cord of Faith, Hope, and Charity.’25

The piece has a named author, a Joseph Malins (of whom no other details have yet been found); and the propaganda might seem to have been aimed at an already converted audience as much as at sinners.  Its appearance obviously reflects a social factor…temperance movements spanned the country: in Cornwall, the thirties and forties saw a considerable output of anti-drink material such as The Cornwall Temperance Journal…mostly printed out of Falmouth and Hayle.26  This is perhaps the nearest that we can get to dating the particular piece.  In total, we are encountering prevailing social orthodoxies of a certain radicalism and of religious revival.  The explosion of religious fervour which took place during the early years of the nineteenth century in Cornwall seems to have been unique, not just because of the implications for behaviour in society but because it appears to have been mixed with a kind of struggle for self-determination - where organisation was concerned, at the least - within the religious community; and this was not a feature of revival across the country.  Indeed, as far back as Wesley, it is recorded that he admonished the Cornish people as being far too independent and not willing enough to subscribe to and be governed by the dictates of Wesleyism per se - his ideas and his kind of control.27 One can hardly doubt that printers took cogniscance of this and, to an extent, it seems, were prepared to go along with and exploit it.

Money Makes the Mare to Go is altogether more lighthearted - practically anything and everything can be bought ‘that grows in England’, including a horse, a wife, a carriage…material things.  And money may make a man feel better; but - the sting, perhaps - there is a suggestion of corruption and money will not buy life.  Finally:

Money will make old nick to smile,
And he has money, need not to falter,
Money will break old John Bull’s back
If money and trade don’t quickly alter.28
Eleven Shillings a Week follows the pattern of Money…in so far as it lists possibilities in detail, describing exactly how the full sum would be spent.  The account is rendered after the man gives his wife ‘a clumsy clout’ and she begins: ‘Threepence halfpenny a week for milk is spent…’, ‘a half-a-crown for butcher’s meat’, ‘a happorth of starch’ and so on.  And she ends up:
To make things right my best I’ve tried,
My economy can’t be denied…
And, graciously, he replies:
“Dear wife,” said he, “I’m satisfied,
Out of eleven shillings a week.”
Clearly there is a lesson to be learned, perhaps more than one, but, essentially the piece would seem to be lighthearted enough.29

Of Woolcock’s other pieces, The Dark-eyed Sailor is perhaps surprisingly limited in pedigree.  It appeared in two forms, that from Woolcock beginning ‘Its of a comely lady fair…’, which form was also issued by Sanderson in Edinburgh, Plant in Nottingham and Wheeler in Manchester.  Catnach and Pitts (followed by Birt) evidently printed only the other known form, beginning ‘As I was going down Ratcliffe highway…’.30

Paul Jones as subject-matter dates from the American War of Independence (1775-1783).  It, like The Dark-Eyed Sailor, is relatively limited in appearance.  Woolcock’s piece begins, ‘An American frigate called Richard by name…’ and this is the commonest form but variants exist.  Other variants include one from Birt who had ‘An American frigate from New York she came’ and one American imprint which had ‘…from Baltimore came’.  Stability of text was, then, not absolute.  Pitts and Catnach did pick this one up but the bulk of printers would seem to have clustered around the mid-century mark - Fortey, Disley, Birt, Hodges, Hillat and Martin, Martin and Such, all in London, and then Harkness.   Outriders include Pratt in Birmingham and Robertson in Wigton who called the piece Paul Jones the Pirate.31

The Russian Tzar’s Final Jig with a reference to the fall of Sebastopol, is firmly attached, in a more contemporary fashion, to the Crimean war.32  Finally, along with Days When We Went Gypsying, with its nostalgia for heady days ‘when Nature’s face was gay’ (of course), Woolcock printed Going Ober de Mountain, reflecting the craze for nigger songs which flourished mid-century and which, as was noted in the last piece in this series in connection with John Wilson in Bideford, must have reflected the printer’s commercial sense.33

If this selection is anything to go by then Woolcock operated in a mid-century context and onwards, not simply in terms of dates but in the reflection of moving processes within society.  He can be seen as well to have drawn on a familiar range of popular entertainment, minor scribbledom and inherited titles.  Moreover, especially in terms of religious reference, there is a certain slant unknown in the output of other southern English printers east of Devon and Cornwall.

Together, Penaluna and Woolcock offer a portrait, if limited, of ballad production vested in a considerable part of the nineteenth century and with similar priorities of religious matter.  Nothing has been found, so far, to add to this portrait although printing took off in Cornwall in a substantial way after the middle of the century.  We are left, as usual, with circumstance and speculation.  In Cornwall, especially, the gaps are yawning.

Roly Brown - 14.10.04
Oradour sur Vayres, France


Article MT145

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