Contrasts at Constantine

Nineteenth century Constantine was a parish of contrasts. North of the village granite quarries pockmarked the southern edges of the Carnmenellis upland and gave employment to many. To the south, rich farmland fell away to the woods and creeks of the Helford estuary.

Workers at Bosahan Quarry in the parish

Ann Williams was the daughter of William and Jane. William was a granite mason in the hamlet of Seworgan to the north west of Constantine village. The growing family stayed at Seworgan, where Ann grew up. At some point before 1879 she met and married William Symons, also a granite mason. The pair moved to ‘Bosvissick’ (possibly the present day Boswidjack, a mile or so away) and then by 1891 back to Trebarvah, just 1,000 yards or so from Seworgan.

Ann’s life was lived within the confines of this one small area of Constantine. So was John Tyacke’s. Even more so, as John spent his first 40 years in the same house. However, although their life histories were similar in terms of their mobility or lack of it, Ann and John enjoyed very different circumstances.

John’s father, also named John, farmed at Merthen next to the Helford estuary. This was a large farm by Cornish standards of 300 acres and John senior added to the family income by acting as a merchant. Clearly, the family, with 11 children by 1871, was well-off, with five domestic servants catering to their domestic comforts and also a groom. 

Merthen had been owned by the Reskymer family in the 1500s, when it was described as a ‘ruinous manor house in a fair park’. The Reskymers did some rebuilding in the later 1500s before the house and land was bought by the Vyvyans of Trelowarren in 1629. They remodelled it in the early 1800s. By mid-century John Tyacke was presumably renting the property from the Vyvyans.

Merthen Manor

There’s no evidence that the younger John was sent away to school and the presence of a governess in 1861 suggests that he and his siblings were educated at home. In 1881 he was described as ‘assisting’ in his father’s business of farming, merchanting and by this time acting as a land agent. Ten years later saw little change, with John still unmarried and still at home, aiding his father (who was now 72 years old) in the family business.