Quiet times at Blisland

In Victorian times Blisland, on the western slopes of Bodmin Moor, resembled its neighbour Altarnun – lightly peopled, rural, an upland parish of hamlets and farms. Even more so than Altarnun, the people in the Blisland database did not stray too far. Not one of the six traced to 1891 had left Cornwall. In fact, they went no further than the nearby parishes of Altarnun, Michaelstow, St Breward and Davidstow.

The 17th century Churchgate Cottage at Blisland. Now a holiday cottage.

Christopher Rowe was unusually static. Not only did he stay in his parish of birth; he may have spent a large part of his life in the same cottage. He was born in the small churchtown of Blisland to Thomas and Mary. Thomas was a farm labourer but Christopher branched out and found work at one of the local granite quarries, which were expanding at this time. He was still living with his parents and sister near the church in 1871. Marrying Ellen Sleeman from Altarnun in 1874, Christopher and Ellen and their three children shared Churchgate Cottage with his ageing parents, now in their 70s. A decade later, the 1891 Census found Christopher and Ellen still at the church gate, possibly in the same cottage. Christopher was described as a general labourer, suggesting his career at the quarry had ended, although his 14-year old son Irwin was a stonemason’s apprentice. Christopher’s father was still alive in his 80s and living with them.

Selina Best was also born into a farm labourer’s family, but not at Blisland. In 1851 the family was found at St Neot on the other side of the moor. By 1861 Selina was living with her aunt and uncle, Robert and Ann Jose. They farmed 38 acres at Carbaglet in Blisland on the edge of the moor. No doubt Selina helped out on the farm while getting some schooling. Perhaps her parents had died or one had died and the other re-married. She stayed at Carbaglet until 1871, when she married William Greenaway, a farm labourer from St Breward. William and Selina set up home a mile or so to the north over the parish boundary at Bolotherick in St Breward and four children had arrived by 1881. Like most farm labourers, often employed on annual contracts, William and Selina would have moved frequently, although only short distances. By 1891 they had criss-crossed the parish boundary again, back in Blisland at Bradford, less than a mile away, living in a three-roomed cottage shared with three of their surviving children.

Bradford Bridge, marking the boundary between Blisland and St Breward

Three people in the Blisland database were not traced to 1891 or the year of death or emigration. Find their names here.

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