It’s time to pay a brief visit to Botusfleming, one of Cornwall’s lesser-known parishes. The name does not imply a medieval Flemish connection: before the 1300s the parish was called Botflumyet or Botflumet, a Cornish placename. Although the meaning of Flumet is unclear, it’s most likely to be a personal name, so the parish was in the 800s or 900s Flumet’s dwelling or holding.
What is known is that Botusfleming, wedged between the River Lynher and a creek of the Tamar, was a small, rural parish, home to 247 people in 1851. Almost 60 per cent of its 51 households earned their living from the farms of the parish. Not a place on the tourist trail, the latest edition of Pevsner’s Buildings of Cornwall dismisses the church as ‘nothing special’, although it does note the ‘smart’ eighteenth century house of Moditonham, home at one point to Michael Loam, inventor of the man engine. However, it does not mention Botusfleming’s famed cherry orchards, which survived to the 1940s.
Botusfleming supplied just two children to the Victorian Lives database, both daughters of farmers and both surviving into the 1890s. Mary Jane Broad’s father farmed a substantial holding of over 200 acres at Marraborough in the parish in 1861. He was wealthy enough to employ a governess to educate Mary and her siblings.
He was also quite ready to move and try another farm. in 1851 the family was farming at Clynick in St Germans and then later in 1871 at Cadnacott a few miles west in Liskeard parish. In 1878 Mary left the family home on marrying George Brown. George was a shoemaker and Mary exchanged her rural life for one in Fore Street, Callington, George’s home town. George was clearly a notch above the average shoemaker and by 1891 was employing other shoemakers.
Janet Wright was also a farmer’s daughter, but her father Francis farmed just 14 acres near Botusfleming village in 1851. By 1861 Francis, in his 50s in 1851, was dead, leaving his widow to survive helped by the earnings of the older children. That did not include Janet who was still at school. Ten years later she, with two brothers, had moved to Tideford in St Germans parish, to help her widowed aunt, who was farming 120 acres there. Janet remained at her aunt’s farm until at least 1891, being described in that census as a ‘farmer’s assistant’.