In Victorian times Cornwall’s market towns continued to attract people from the countryside even as some of their residents emigrated or left for bigger towns within the UK. We have seen how Falmouth’s migration hinterland spread across Cornwall west of Truro, particularly for women. But how did Helston, 13 miles to the west, compare?
Just over a third (37 per cent) of the adult women in Helston in 1861 were born in the town. Another 17 per cent originated in the neighbouring parishes of Wendron to the east and Sithney to the west. The map below shows that women who migrated to Helston were most likely to come from parishes within 10 miles of the town, particularly those to the south on the Lizard peninsula. Migrants from further away were, as would be expected, from places with larger populations, such as Truro, St Austell, Launceston and Penzance.
A glance at the second map should instantly illustrate the less vigorous movement of men to the town. Indeed, like other market towns, the number of women in Helston, at 59 per cent of the total adult population, well outnumbered that of men. Some of this is explained by the greater longevity of women but most by differential rates of migration.
On the other hand the extent of Helston’s overall catchment area was similar for men although a few towns at a distance, such as Redruth or Penzance, sent more men than women to Helston.
While the source for these maps – the census – can indicate the aggregate picture, on an individual level caution has to be exercised. Take Salome Uglow, a member of the family of a farm labourer in Wendron Steet, Helston in 1861. According to that year’s census Salome was born in Truro. Ten years later she was working as a servant on a farm in Gunwalloe. There, she was stated to have been born in Helston. This Salome may have married Richard Williams and later emigrated to New Zealand.
In 1891 there was another Salome Williams, whose husband was absent, living at Beacon near Camborne. This Salome was also born in Helston, or so the census tells us. Yet in 1881 she was recorded as being born in Sithney. To confuse matters further, in the 1901 census this Salome Williams, again at home with the children while William was away working, was born at Camborne according to the census. Between them, our two Salomes had five different birthplaces over five different censuses. No wonder reconstructing family trees can be a tricky task at times.