Grade: the cycle of life – in and out of farming

The parish of Grade on the Lizard peninsula is now combined with its equally small neighbours of Ruan Major and Ruan Minor. In Victorian times however, it still glorified in its independence. The 327 souls in the parish in 1861 got their living principally from farming. As many as 48, or two thirds, of the men were famers or farm labourers. In addition, there were five fishermen working out of the small cove of Cadgwith. The rest of the men included the usual mix of craftsmen, particularly carpenters and dealers, while women’s employment opportunities offered little more than dressmaking or domestic service.

The number of farmers exceeded that of farm labourers, an indication of the small size of the average farm in the parish. Emma Boulden’s father was described as a farmer at Polstangey Praze in the 1851 and 1861 censuses. But his farm amounted to no more than four acres. It’s difficult to see how that could have maintained his family. It clearly could not as William had moved to nearby Ruan Minor by 1871 where he ran the Red Lion Inn in addition to maintaining his four acre smallholding.

In 1871 among the lodgers at the Red Lion was William McLean, a marble polisher from east Cornwall. This William spent his leisure time getting acquainted with the landlord’s daughter and he and Emma married in 1872. Although William Boulden would not die until 1890 his daughter and her husband appear to have taken over the pub at some point, William McLean being described as farmer and innkeeper in 1881 while Emma had her hands full looking after five young children, the youngest being just three weeks old.

The 1873 Kelly’s Directory entry lists a Grace Richards as the publican (and farmer) at the Red Lion. Had William Boulden given up the pub soon after the census or was the directory information out of date?

Whatever connections the family had with the Red Lion had been given up by 1891 when William McLean was just a farmer. During the 1890s he and Emma and their family moved to St Winnow, William’s birthplace, continuing to farm there. Emma died in the east in 1922.

A distant view of Bruggan Farm

Elizabeth Exelby’s father’s farm at Bruggan in Grade in 1861 wasn’t that big, at 30 acres. But John Exelby still employed a farm servant to help out. John had taken on the farm in the 1850s, being described as an agricultural labourer in 1851. He continued to farm while his daughter moved out to marry Peter Willey Harris in 1876. Peter was a farm labourer and the pair, another child coming along every year or two, first lived at Treligga in Ruan and then moved further inland to Gwinear around 1890. In an occupational move that reversed the usual trend, Peter turned from farm labouring to tin mining in his 40s as the family moved again to the next-door parish of Crowan. This obviously wasn’t the best idea and ten years later in 1911 Peter was trying his hand at farming at Rosewarne in Gwinear.

2 thoughts on “Grade: the cycle of life – in and out of farming

  1. Grace Richards was certainly busy as a farmer and publican! All kudos to her.

    Don’t you think that rather than being an out-of-date entry, Grace was indeed publican possibly because William Boulden was either incapacitated or too taken up with his farm (or had no interest in being a publican and thus paid someone to manage it?). This thesis is supported by the fact of his son-in-law and daughter taking over long before William B died.


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