The earliest use of the name in official Cornish records was when Agnes Verrans, a widow of Pelynt, Cornwall, had a probate or will administered in 1618. The first Verran reference in the Boyd's Marriage Index for Cornwall is for the marriage of Arthur Verran to Joan Jerens in Ludgvan Parish, near Falmouth, in 1661. The Index later has other similar spellings, Veran, Verren and Verron, not surprising in times when only a minority could read and write their own name. The name was strongly linked with Cornwall from then on.
From 1801 to 1861, Cornwall managed to double its population, although the growth rate elsewhere in the United Kingdom was even greater. The growth in Cornwall was reached in spite of a cholera epidemic in 1831and high infant mortality throughout the century. There was also a low life expectancy rate, caused by both overcrowding and insanitary living conditions. From 1861 to 1921, Cornwall suffered a 12% decline in population with large scale emigration, related in large part related to economic conditions.
Copper and tin mining had long been a major part of Cornwall's economy, with many copper mines around the Gwennap area. From the mid 1860's, prices for copper and tin fell. As a consequence, in 1866 alone, 20 Cornish mines closed down and 5,000 miners emigrated. Wages fell for those remaining. Earlier in the 1840's and 1850's Cornwall also suffered an agricultural depression. The arrival of the railways in Cornwall from 1859, and the ability to transport agricultural produce throughout Britain, led to a revival in local agricultural production. The railways, however, adversely affected those involved in the carrying trade. All these changes, along with personal factors, had their effects on the Verran family, with many eventually emigrating.
On 5 November 1775, James Verran was baptised in Perranworthal, Cornwall, to William and Ann Verran. However, he died at a young age as a James Verran (described as a son of William and Ann Verran) was buried in Perranworthal on 22 May 1804. The second son, Michael Verran, was baptised in Perranworthal 5 October 1777. Their third son, Martin Verran, was baptised 16 July 1780. Lovey Verran (the first child in William's will) was baptised in Perranworthal 2 March 1783. A Mary Verran was baptised in Perranworthal 12 September 1784, but most likely she died soon after as another Mary Verran was baptised in Perranworthal 25 December 1785. Most likely this is the Mary listed in the 1803 will, possibly also she was the Mary Verran who married Archelvis Trevail in Kea in 1809.
All the above children were listed in the Perranworthal Parish Register as the baptised offspring of William and Ann Verran. On 17 November 1788, however, the Register lists Ann Verran (described as the wife of William) as being buried in Perranworthal.
On Sunday, 29 August 1790, William Verran of Kea and Mary Rogers were married by Curate Robert Hoblyn in Kenwyn, Cornwall. William's signature was written in by the Curate, while Ann made her mark. The witnesses were Michael Williams and Thomas Verran, probably a brother to William. Ann Verran (the third child in William's will) was baptised in Perranworthal 5 January 1794, as the daughter of William and now Mary Verran. In 1810 an Ann Verran married Joseph Kellow in Kea. William Verran (the fourth child in William's will) was baptised in Perranworthal 9 August 1795, again the son of William and Mary Verran. This could be either the William Verran who married Grace Barnett in Perranworthal in 1829, or the William Verran who married Joanna Martin Stephens in Kenwyn in 1834.
This leaves the Eliza and David Verran in the will, who are not listed in the Perranworthal Parish Register as no doubt the family had moved elsewhere in Cornwall. Eliza can't be traced with certainty, but, David was born in 1793 or 1794 according to his age given at the 1841 Census.
William Verran was buried in Kea on 9 May 1803 and this is the date upon which the will was proven. Mary was left a widow with six children, and as the executor and chief beneficiary of William's will. Those named children unable to provide for themselves were to be the beneficiaries of one Shilling each, along with accommodation at home until they were able to make their own way in the world. On 31 January 1803 Nick Bailey and Thomas Verran had witnessed the above will. At this time David Verran was about ten years old.
They had at least eight children: Ann (born in 1825 or 1826), William (born in 1827 or 1828), Mary (born in 1829 or 1830), James Davey (born in 1831), Thomas (born in 1832 or 1833), Elizabeth (born in 1835 or 1836), John (born in 1837 or 1838) and David (born in 1841).
On David junior's birth certificate, in January 1841, David senior is listed as a labourer while on census night, 7 June 1841, David senior described himself as a copper miner. The nearby Creegbrawse mine contained both tin and copper. David probably died sometime in the 1840's (no death certificate has been traced), while Eleanor died mid 1856 near Truro. Like many of their time both David and Eleanor were not educated how to write.
Sarah Polmear was a widow, having previously married William Nicholls in mid 1840 near Redruth. She was born in Gwennap around 1820 and her father, Charles Polmear, worked as a labourer. Charles Polmear was born in Gwennap (1785 or 1786) as was his wife, Mary (1787 or 1788). In 1841 the Polmears were living at Caharrack in Gwennap.
At the time of their marriage in 1852 both James Davey and Sarah were living at Cox Hill in Kenwyn. In 1853 and 1860 they were living at Chenhale, or Chynhale, in Gwennap. James Davey and Sarah were the parents of at least Charles Polmear, William James, Grace Polmear (born in early 1855), and Angelina (Lena), who was born in Gwennap (in early 1858).
Grace Polmear Verran first married in Cornwall in early 1877, but later married Earle Mitchell and lived on Victoria Island, British Columbia, Canada. She came out to New Zealand to visit her two brothers around 1911. A daughter, Bessie, died in an electrical accident in Canada in a bath. Bessie had married Frederick August (Gus) Gowen. Gus Gowen was born on Victoria Island in 1868 and died 9 April 1960. Grace also had at least one son, Charles. Grace died in the late 1930's.
Angelina Verran was working as a dressmaker in the Gwennap area in 1881, and still living with her parents. She is believed to have married Earle's brother, probably sometime between 1881 and 1891, and emigrated to Washington state in the United States of America. Both Grace and Lena called their properties Goon Farm.
After Sarah's death, in early 1869, James Davey married Catherine G. (born in Gwennap in 1831 or 1832). They had at least two children, Catherine Margaret (born in Gwennap in mid 1870), and Elizabeth (born in Gwennap in mid 1872). Elizabeth (Lizzie) married in late 1893 and is the grandmother of Hazel Moyle, who until recently still lived on Goongumpus farm.
Listed as a labourer in both 1852 and 1853, in 1860, 1881 and 1891 James Davey is listed as a farmer. Both the 1881 and 1891 census has him living at a farm, in the Goongumpus area, of over 10 acres in size. The farm was known to the family as Goon farm. In 1883 he is listed as being a carrier, thus the farm may have only been part time employment. Both Charles and William James worked as carriers for their father before emigrating.
The Index to the transcripts of Monumental Inscriptions in the Burial Ground at St Day - Holy Trinity (1996) has: Verran, Catherine Grenfell, died 20 September 1914 aged 83 (Card 777) and Verran, James Davey, died 11 December 1913 aged 82 (Card 777). The UK probates index has no James Davey, but has Catherine Grenfell Verran of Crofthardy, St Day, Gwennap, a widow, died 20 September 1914. She left 234 Pounds , Seventeen Shillings and Ten Pence to Elizabeth Hooper, wife of Frederick Hooper.
By 1901 Thames Borough had only 4,004 population, with gold mining virtually ceasing by the time of the First World War in 1914. By then there were other large industries in the area, including the engineering works of A. & G. Price Ltd and Charles Judd Ltd, along with fish processing, timber mills and service industries for the surrounding dairy farms. Coromandel County had 4,168 people in 1901.
David had no doubt come to New Zealand following the gold discoveries on the Coromandel Peninsula. He worked as a miner in the Thames area and then moved to Coromandel in the early 1880's. He had a mine along the Coromandel coast between Te Puru and Waiomu. From 1905 his health deteriorated and he spent some time in hospitals, both Auckland and Thames. While in Auckland he lived in inner city boarding houses, or with his relations. Finally, on 7 December 1916 he was admitted to the Tararu Men's Home in Thames. He gave his religious affiliation as Church of England or Methodist at different times.
He died 13 July 1917, unmarried, in Thames and after a private funeral was buried in the Shortland cemetery. He was known to the family as Uncle Davey.
He came to New Zealand with some gold Sovereigns sewn into his vest, possibly inherited from his mother Sarah. From Hokitika he went to Onehunga, and worked in Auckland for a time for the carriers W. & G. Winstone Ltd. His broad Cornish accent caused him problems when trying to deliver goods to the correct place.
On 23 October 1884 he married (Bessie) Maria Elizabeth Hancock at Thames. Her parents were Richard and Eliza (nee Perry) Hancock. Richard senior worked as a miner in the Waiotahi Creek area of Thames. Bessie's mother, Eliza, died in Thames 20 August 1908 aged 67. Bessie's sisters were Polly (married Edward Stanley Keven), Grace (married W. Morrison) and Leah (married a Morgan), her brothers were Richard (who died in a mining accident 20 July 1898), Robert and William.
Maria Elizabeth Hancock was born on 14 March 1863, at Black Leads in Victoria. Her birth was registered at nearby Buninyong. Her father, Richard, was listed on her birth certificate as a miner born in Commartin (Combe Martin) in Devon. Neither his birth nor his death certificate can be located. At the 1851 Devon Census Richard was a 13 year old servant, born in Combmartin. Her mother, Eliza, was listed as being born in St Ives in Cornwall, but her birth was registered in the June quarter of 1841 in Liskeard (1X 178). There is a St Ive near Liskeard. At the 1851 Cornwall Census she was 10 years old, and living in Liskeard with her father William (aged 48), her mother Susan (aged 42) and her sisters Jane (aged 17), Ann (aged 13) and Caroline (aged 2). According to Maria's birth certificate Richard and Eliza were married in 1858 in Karinga, New South Wales. However, no marriage was registered in Australia. Maria's second brother Richard (the first Richard died aged 1 day) was aged 3 years in 1863, but was not born in Australia.
She later lived at Broken Hill, New South Wales, and Adelaide, South Australia, before coming to Grahamstown (now Thames) around 1880. She was a seamstress and dressmaker, and specialised in fine needlework. Despite a broken education she loved poetry, and did the accounts for her husband's business. Tall, slender, and erect of stature, she always dressed well. Her hair turned white whilst in her 30's giving her a very striking appearance, with lovely skin and fine blue eyes.
Charles and Bessie's children were James Premier, Elsie Rubina and Charles Harold. The original spelling of Polmear was lost for a time with Charles' death certificate listing him as Charles Polmere, and James Premier originally intended to be Polmear.
In the late 1880's Charles Polmear went into business in Thames with James (Nat) Dickey to form Dickey, Verran and Co. Their business had large livery stables, they hired out horses and carriages, sold bait (horse feed) and were also carriers. Later, they also supplied coal and firewood. The business lasted into the 1890's. Charles, however, was very keen on breeding and raising horses, but lacked the opportunity. He also is believed to have had an interest in a hotel on the corner of Cochrane and Pollen Streets, Thames, supposedly called the Cornwall Arms , which later burnt down. The family lived in Rose Cottage in A. & G. Price's yard, at the northern corner of Abraham Street and Beach Road, Thames. Rose Cottage is also the name of a village in the Gwennap area.
Seeking better prospects the family moved to Coromandel around 1897, with Charles continuing to work as a carrier, including delivering heavy mining equipment which set him up financially.
Charles later bought a postmastership, store and carrying business from W. McKenzie at Birkenhead (his role as postmaster started from 10 July 1905), and later bought 14 acres at Bagot's Hill (later Verran's Corner). On 17 December 1908 he obtained a permit from the then Birkenhead Borough Council to resite his Coromandel house at what is now Verran's Corner. It was dismantled into sections and barged to Birkenhead. He headed the carrying firm of Charles Verran and Sons, with premises in Birkenhead South and Birkdale, and a pick up depot in Customs Street West, near the old markets. At the time Birkdale was renowned for its market gardens, particularly strawberries.
He provided the free use of his vehicles for community activities, such as for prohibition groups. A nominal Methodist, he was also a Freemason, a member of the Lodge Corinthian No 1655 E.C. at Thames. and was from 1 March 1911 a foundation and Charter member of Onewa Lodge, N.Z.C., at Northcote. He provided free cartage of building materials for the construction of the Lodge Hall and Birkdale public hall. Bessie was a strong Methodist, worshipping at the Zion Hill Methodist Church.
He died 3 July 1932 aged 79, and Bessie died 4 March 1937 aged 73, both are buried in Birkenhead cemetery.
VERRAN (DICKEY), Elsie Rubina: Born 7 July 1889 at Thames, she was a daughter of Charles Polmear and Bessie. She also attended the Coromandel School. She married George Dickey, a son of James Dickey. They farmed near Te Puke. She died 24 September 1970.
VERRAN, Charles Harold: Born 28 March 1892 at Thames, he was a son of Charles Polmear and Bessie. He married Stella Mary Bunting and their children were Joyce Cazalet, Patricia Jeanne, Murray Charles and Phillip Reece. He worked with his father and brother in the family carrying business, until it was sold in early 1945 to Mr Tupp. He then worked as a builder's labourer and at Kauri Point arsenal. He died 26 January 1969.
William James emigrated to South Africa in 1884, before his second child Laura was born, with his brother in law, John Kellow. He then moved on to Bendigo, Victoria, and to New Zealand. He worked for his brother Charles from at least 1886, and from 1893 for William (Bill) Ashby. He had returned to Cornwall to bring out his family in 1891. He obtained a loan for this from a Mr Watson, who was the secretary for A. & G. Price Ltd. On his arrival back in Cornwall, his daughters did not recognise him when he arrived at the door, because he had been away for so long.
When his wife and two daughters (Lena and Laura) finally arrived in Thames, the first thing he did was to introduce them to Mr Watson. He and his family lived between Pollen and Queen Streets, Thames, and also in Rose Cottage for a time when Charles and family moved to Coromandel. Their daughters were Sarah Lena, Laura Mary, Violet Grace, Gladys, Katie and May and their sons were William James, Leslie, Thomas Knuckey and James.
On his return from Cornwall he decided to work for himself and around 1893 began the firm that became W. Verran and Sons, and later Verran Brothers Ltd. When he told Minnie that he needed 20 Sovereigns to set up his own carrying and contracting business, she surprised him by going into the bedroom and returning with exactly that amount. She had earned the money from running some cows on the hill above the Waiotahi Creek and had been selling the milk. The firm started with 2 horses and a dray.
When his boys came of age the business expanded to become W. Verran and Sons, although he never registered it as a company. The business included carrying gold quartz from the mines to mining batteries for crushing. He went on to buy two farms (Matatoki around 1920 and Totara Valley around 1928), some houses in Thames, and to help out other business people when necessary.
Before the advent of the motor truck he had the finest team of draught horses in the district. He was an excellent judge of draught and light harness horses, bought them on behalf of W. & G. Winstone's, and judged at all the leading Agricultural and Pastoral shows for many years. In fact if he saw a rider on a good horse he would offer to buy it there and then, and often did so. He even moved into the funeral business by buying two black horses and a hearse at an auction, and transported the deceased for Twentyman, a funeral director. His son, Tom, normally drove the hearse.
Like his brother Charles, he saw the need to change to motor trucks early on. He owned a car from 1915, but never learned how to drive. He preferred a gig and horse, especially Thelma and Scandal. Scandal was a former pacing gelding he bought in the early 1930's and used on his gig for the rest of his life. In 1940 Scandal was aged 20. He left it to his sons to teach themselves how to drive the new Republic and Reo Gold Crown trucks that he bought. He was also an excellent judge of jersey cows. Regarded as very hard but straight, he was well respected in the area, in fact his funeral cortege in 1940 was over a mile long.
He had sold the business to three sons, Tom, Jim and Bill, who registered Verran Brothers Ltd from 1 July 1934. The fourth son, Leslie, instead worked the Matatoki farm. Verran Brothers' main work was carting cream to Te Aroha, road making, maintenance work, shifting houses and supplying coal. Around 1982 the trucks were sold to Thames Freightlines, other company assets were sold to Fletchers in 1985, and in 1986 the remainder of the company sold to Thames Freightlines.
William James was a Thames Jockey Club and Trotting Club member and while he and Mary were Methodists, they were not church goers. Mary is described as quiet and supportive, and with ten children to raise found that homemaking was more than a full time occupation. She made all the family clothes and enjoyed women's magazines, radio and cinema. He died 6 May 1940 while Mary died 1 March 1937. Both are buried in Totara cemetery, Thames.
VERRAN (CORDES), Laura Mary: Born 18 October 1884 probably in St Day, Cornwall, she was a daughter of William and Minnie. She attended a private school in St Day, Cornwall, and the Waiokaraka School in Thames. On 6 February 1909 she married George Albert Cordes, a Thames boilermaker. He worked for A. & G. Price Ltd and then for Charles Judd Ltd for over 30 years. Their children were Albert James (born 30 October 1914 and died 27 May 1980), and Ivy Mary (born 10 January 1910). Ivy married John (Jack) Alfred Peebles 5 August 1939, he was born 16 July 1914 and died 10 January 1981. Laura enjoyed croquet and was active in the Plunket Society, she died 24 January 1983 and was cremated. An Anglican, George Cordes died 20 October 1966 aged in his 80's.
VERRAN, William (Bill) James: Born 18 October 1892 at Taruru Road in Thames, he was a son of William and Minnie. He attended Waiokaraka school in Thames from 1899 to 1905 and then worked in the family carrying firm. During the First World War he enlisted in the 34th Reinforcement of the Auckland Mounted Rifles. He left on the Tofua 13 November 1917 and saw service in what was then called Palestine and in Egypt. He returned to the family firm and married Elsie Moyle 31 July 1923. Their son, William Colan, was born 28 November 1925. A Methodist, Bill died 31 July 1977. He was buried in the Returned Services Association section of Totara cemetery, Thames. Elsie died 23 May 1979 and her ashes are buried in the same section.
VERRAN, Leslie: Born 6 March 1894 at Pollen Street, Thames, he was a son of William and Minnie. He became a farmer on the family farm at Matatoki. He married Mary Leonie Clark, a dressmaking teacher, 2 April 1925 and their children were Ida (born 22 January 1927), Joan (born 9 March 1929), Eric (born 17 June 1930), Betty (born 26 September 1931) and Laura, who died an hour after birth 18 March 1933 . Leslie was active in the Thames Jockey Club. He died 16 December 1981 and was cremated at Hamilton. Mary, his wife, was born 12 July 1897 and died 5 August 1968. Interestingly, his wife Mary was a daughter of Joseph Clark and a sister to Violet Grace Verran's husband, Arthur John. Her mother was previously Ada Jane Probert.
VERRAN (CLARK), Violet Grace: Born 8 September 1895 at Pollen Street, Thames, she was a daughter of William and Minnie. She married a Matatoki farmer, Arthur John Clark, in the early 1920's. He was born 14 May 1890 and died 13 June 1975. Their children were Ian (born 21 November 1923) and Allan (born 8 August 1932). Amongst other things, she was involved with the Women's Division of Federated Farmers. She died 5 February 1981 and was buried in Totara cemetery.
VERRAN, Thomas Knuckey (Tom or Knuckey): Born 3 April 1898 at Pollen Street, Thames, he was a son of William and Minnie. He worked for his father, ran a taxi service and then worked for Verran Brothers. He was also a medal winning drum major for the Sixth Hauraki Regiment Band. He sang and performed at many charitable and patriotic concerts. Unmarried, he died 19 February 1973 and was buried in Totara cemetery, Thames, in the same grave as his parents.
VERRAN (DICKSON), Katie (Kate): Born 29 March 1899 at Pollen Street, Thames, she was a daughter of William and Minnie. She married Albert John (Jack) Dickson, and had a son John Rex on 5 November 1933. Albert was born at Te Aroha, and was a Presbyterian. In 1934 he became part time secretary for the new firm of Verran Brothers Ltd. He was buried on 3 September 1953, aged 52, in Totara cemetery, Thames. Kate was a Methodist, and died 18 September 1987, she was also buried in Totara cemetery, Thames.
VERRAN (HUDSON), May: Born 13 October 1901 at Pollen Street, Thames, she was a daughter of William and Minnie. She married a hardware merchant, Charles Lionel Hudson, in 1929 and Pamela (later Brown) was born 13 February 1934. May had previously worked as a cashier in Hetherington's Drapery in Thames. Charles Hudson moved his family to Whakatane where he owned a hardware store. He died 8 July 1963 in Whakatane. She died 9 October 1986 and was cremated at Tauranga.
VERRAN (STUBBS), Gladys: Born 3 November 1902 at Pollen Street, Thames, she was a daughter of William and Minnie. She married Robert Stubbs 31 May 1931,and lived in Waihi Beach. Robert was born 19 January 1908. Their children were Robert (born 21 October 1931), Homer (born 25 January 1934), Peggy (born 10 December 1937) and Judith (born 12 July 1945). She died 6 October 1977, while her husband died 30 April 1980. Both were cremated and their ashes scattered at Victoria Park, Thames.
VERRAN, James (Jim): Born 20 May 1906 at Pollen Street, Thames, he was a son of William and Minnie. He married Janet Winifred (Wyn) in 1933 and his children were Kenneth James ( born July 1934), Annette and Patricia. He was a Steward for the Thames Jockey Club for 25 years, on the committee of the Thames Trotting Club from 1935, its vice-president from 1951 and president from 1959 until the 1970's. He died 4 March 1981 and was cremated at Purewa, as later was Wyn.
Additional contributions: Along with writing articles, book reviews, and contributions to the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, David Verran has also contributed to New Zealand Labour History.
The staff at: Auckland City Libraries, Auckland Institute and Museum Library, Birkenhead Library and former Council, Church of Latterday Saints Library, Takapuna, Cornwall Record Office, National Archives, Auckland and Wellington, State Library of Victoria, Thames Historical Museum, Thames Library, Thames Mineralogical Museum, together with the people and resources of the New Zealand Genealogy Society, and of its Cornish section.