Polperro Family History
The A'LEE family of Polperro
The A'Lee family of Polperro originated in Lanreath in Cornwall. John Allee married Rachell Jagoe at Talland Church on 26 July 1742, but his family had farmed and lived around Lanreath since before 1560.
John and Rachell had seven children, amongst them a son, John born in 1749, who took over the tenancy of Killigarth Manor near Polperro. Family stories suggest that there was a disagreement over land and John, as the head of the successful branch who kept the land, dropped one of the l's in Allee, adopting the apostrophe, A'Lee. This was the beginning of a large farming dynasty around Polperro. In 1830, John A'Lee died and Killigarth passed to his son John (1781-1847). Another son, Charles (1783-1860) took over the tenancy of Talland Barton and a third, Thomas (1790-1828), took the tenancy of Porthallow.
Sadly the success of their farming ventures was not matched with personal happiness. Thomas and his wife Philippa (nee Johns) both died young, leaving their young family to be brought up by uncle John A'Lee at Killigarth. Their son, young John, had a brush with the law - accused of stealing a gun, he had to attend the crown court in Bodmin in 1836, where he was acquitted. Perhaps this was why, on the death of his uncle John in 1847, the tenancy of Killigarth was left, not to the elder boy John, but to his younger brother Nicholas Richard A'Lee. Nicholas however was not the businessman his ancestors were and by 1870 he had lost the farm and died in penury at the workhouse in Plymouth.
The other A'Lee brothers fell on hard times too, having become fishermen and mariners in Polperro or migrated further afield. The eldest of Nicholas' nephews, called John (what else) went to Liverpool, marrying a Polperro girl Elizabeth Curtis there. Elizabeth was widowed six months after the birth of their tenth child in 1895 and raised her large family by knitting knitfrocks which she sold in Polperro every summer, returning with her boys to Liverpool in the winter where they could find work in the docks.
The family home in the Warren was kept up until the early 1930s but the name A'Lee gradually died out in Polperro, although many Polperro people have A'Lee blood flowing in their veins, the only A'Lees now remaining lie peacefully in the churchyard.
Two of Elizabeth A'Lee's sons, Stanley (1895-1982) and his brother Ernest (1890-1917) seated.
Text by Janet A'Lee: Further information on the family would also be welcomed.
Jeremy Rowett Johns, Polperro Heritage Museum © 2000