The boys from Braddock

Braddock is another small, rural parish in east Cornwall, best known as the site of a battle in 1642. This began the heroic story of the Cornish army that met its nemesis on the walls of Bristol within a year. By the early 1800s the sounds of battle were long gone, the clash of pikes and crack of muskets replaced by the rhythmic chanting of the farm boys encouraging their oxen through the fields and lanes of the parish.

If oxen were still being used in the 1860s, those farm boys could well have included two of the people in the Victorian Lives database. Four children in the database were living in Braddock in 1861, although only two had been born there. All four were boys and all four have been traced in the records. Two stayed and survived at least to 1891; two left and died far from Braddock’s woods and downs.

The two who stayed in Cornwall were both the sons of farm labourers, both had a spell as farm servants and both then switched to other occupations, although one returned to agriculture. Richard Burt was a farm servant in the parish in 1871 but three years later married Grace Wherry. Grace may have had other ideas and the pair had moved to St Blazey by 1881, where Richard was a clay labourer. Ten years later and the census reveals that the family were now in Grace’s home parish of Luxulyan, with their large family of ten surviving children.

John Thomas was not quite so prolific but followed a similar trajectory. He was born into a labouring family that had moved south from St Neot to Braddock by 1861. By 1871 John was a farm servant at the farm attached to Restormel House near Lostwithiel. He also married – in 1873 – and also changed occupation to become a railway labourer while moving to his wife’s home parish of Tywardreath. However, John returned to farm work before 1891.

The countryside near Wayton Farm, Braddock

Joseph Sherman was the son of a farm labourer but took a different path. At the tender age of 11 he had already left home to work as a farm servant at Wayton in the parish. In the late 1860s Joseph must have decided to break free and headed to North Yorkshire. In 1871 he was working as an iron miner at Skinningrove, on the coast near Middlesborough, where he was boarding with a Cornish family from West Penwith. The death of a Joseph Sherman, born in 1851, was registered at Sheffield in 1878. This might suggest that Joseph moved at least once again – to the coal mines of South Yorkshire – if it is indeed our Joseph Sherman.

Skinningrove in its industrial heyday

George Dyer was the exception, being the son of a farmer who worked, by Cornish standards, a relatively large holding at the Tithe Hall in Braddock. George, who had older brothers, decided farming was not for him. By 1871 he had moved to Newport on the Isle of Wight, where he was a draper’s assistant. Unfortunately, George died not long after that, in 1873 on the island.

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