Grampound: coming full circle

Grampound, known in 1302 in French as Grauntpount and in Cornish as Ponsmur, was named after its large bridge over the River Fal. The small settlement that grew up at the crossing point was made a borough in the 1300s but never grew substantially beyond one main street until the twentieth century. Grampound’s relative decline was capped by the loss of the town’s two MPs in 1821 when the Government disfranchised the borough in an attempt to appease the growing clamour for reform of the electoral system.

Grampound, with its town hall and clock tower on the right, vestiges of urban pretensions

While farm labourers made up the largest occupational group in Grampound in 1861, the town’s tanning and leather industry was a significant employer, which would have made the place smell interesting at least. James Tucker was a journeyman currier living in Grampound with his wife Jane in 1851. Their first son was John. John followed his father into the leather trade and was lodging at Penzance while working there as a currier in 1871.

The year 1881 found him many miles to the north at Camelford with his wife Susan, who he had married in 1880. While he was a currier, Susan was a milliner and dressmaker. By 1891 the pair had moved back to Grampound, John having given up leather working and branched into shopkeeping, becoming a draper and grocer. His wife was still a dressmaker but now described as an employer and the family also employed a servant. Obviously comfortable enough, Susan’s business probably underpinned the shop venture while having only one child no doubt greatly helped the family finances.

John Tucker’s travels around Cornwall

However, by 1901 they were on the move again, this time to St Columb. John had given up his dalliance with shopkeeping – perhaps the potential customer base of Grampound was just too small – and was described as a leather merchant. The pair could still afford a servant although this time Susan was given no occupation. Unfortunately, she died in 1908 and John moved back to Grampound to live with his father. James was still alive and at the age of 82 was still working as a leather dresser, as was John, having come full circle.

John Tucker’s 1901 census entry

While some rose and fell, others stayed put. For instance, Henry Spry had been born at Truro’s workhouse in 1851, the illegitimate son of Martha Spry, an 18 year old farm servant. Martha then married John Allen, a farm labourer, and Henry was brought up by them at Grampound, becoming a farm labourer himself in turn. In 1877 he married Amelia Teague. The couple stayed in Grampound where Henry had to depend on his physical strength for subsistence as a day labourer.

3 thoughts on “Grampound: coming full circle

  1. Why do some census records, like this one, show lines apparently striking out text underneath? I know they cannot be actually striking out – perhaps this is a kind of insurance mechanism, like crossing a cheque, against potential future changes? I am referring to the occupation section.


    1. These aren’t crossings out; they’re tick marks used by the census clerks at the central office when they were counting the entries in order to come up with aggregate data. The legibility of the record a centry in the future wasn’t a major concern!


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