Thomasine Bonaventure grew up in Week St Mary, near Bude, a long, long time ago. Her family lived in a little farm cottage, Thomasine's father worked for the farmer, stonewalling in winter and scything in summer and as soon as she was big enough Thomasine helped on the farm. She liked the sheep best, feeding them hay in winter and rescuing them when they were stuck in the brambles in summer. Her father sheared the sheep and Thomasine folded their white woolly fleeces and stacked them neatly ready to sell. Devon's wealth lay in wool, but Thomasine's family saw the wool but didn't see the wealth. They worked hard but they were very poor. Sometimes they were cold at winter, they didn't have enough fuel for the fire. Sometimes Thomasine's feet hurt and she was so tired when she walked miles on the stony track to Launceston with her father, taking the sheep to market. Often Thomasine got wet feet wading through the brook at Ford-a green on the way to the farm. How she wished there was a bridge, but the farmer was too mean to build one.
One day a merchant came by, travelling from London to Cornwall, and he was lost. He asked Thomasine the way, but as it was getting late and dark and he would get even more lost if he stayed on the road that night, Thomasine invited him to have supper with her family and stay. He was used to a big bed and silk covers at home in London but that night he slept sound on the settle by the fire, wrapped in a woolly blanket, the best night's sleep he'd had in a long while. He saw how hard Thomasine worked, liked her so much he offered her a job as a servant to his wife in London... and Thomasine Bonaventure, ready for an adventure, agreed.
Thomasine was so beautiful, polite and well-mannered that when the merchant’s wife died, he attempted to gain Thomasine’s love and asked her to marry him. Soon after their marriage, the merchant also died and Thomasine inherited all his money. She wrote home to Week to say that she was now a rich widow, and sent home some of her riches to Week to build a stout stone bridge across the Green-a moor brook, so the villagers wouldn't have to get wet wading through the ford every day.She was rich but she was still kind.
Thomasine was rich but she needed another adventure, so she married a merchant adventurer - he liked adventures too. As a wedding gift she didn't ask for gold or jewels, she asked for the money to plant a wood at Week to be a common wood, so the poor people would have enogh fuel to burn to keep warm each winter. Sadly he died, leaving Thomasine a very wealthy woman with no husband.
All the merchants in London wanted to marry her, but she married a gold merchant and banker. She asked for a paved road from Launceston to the sea - by way of Green-a-moor - for a wedding present... built with his gold, not paved with it. Soon the merchant became Lord Mayor of London and Thomasine, Lady Mayoress...the most important lady in the City of London. She even met the king. She liked her big house – now she had servants of her own – but she missed her family and she missed her sheep. When the Lord Mayor died she came home to Green-a-moor an enormously wealthy woman, but an enormously kind one too.
She used her riches for the local people, building a school, and helping the poor. Bonaventure means good luck, and Thomasine had that, amassing a fortune by accident, but she knew:
Good luck is best shared.
retold by Anna Chorlton and Sue Field
M A Courtney The Folk Lore Journal Volume 5
- Boscastle, Bude and Beyond