Ladock is a farming parish in mid-Cornwall. In 1861 it provided seven children aged 11 in 1861 for our Victorian Lives database. Rather unusually, all seven have either been traced to at least 1891 or had died before that date. In fact three of the seven, both of the girls and one of the five boys, died in their 20s. These deaths all occurred in different years so no one particularly virulent disease outbreak explains this high mortality. It was just bad luck, as the general ten year survival rate for 20 year old females in mid-Cornwall in the 1870s was 93 per cent and for males 91 per cent.
Of the four fortunate enough to have survived, one came from a farming family. He had given up farming by 1891 and was living a life of leisure on his ‘own means’ in Truro. Meanwhile, none of the three boys from labouring families in 1851 had moved far. One was a farm labourer in Ladock in 1891; one had moved a few miles east to the booming clay district and was a clay waggoner in St Stephen.
The third was George Henry Goodman. George’s father John was a farm labourer with at least eight children. The family was living to the south at Cuby when George was born, then at Probus and by 1861 at Ladock. George didn’t have much schooling and followed his father into farm labouring at an early age, already recorded as such at 11 years old.
In the mid-1870s he left the family home and married Mary Retallick from St Wenn. George then branched out from farm labouring, becoming a general dealer in Ladock parish in the 1870s. In the 1880s the couple and their growing brood of children left Ladock, moving first to the parish of Lanteglos by Fowey across the river from Fowey and then to the busier industrial settlement of St Blazey.
At St Blazey George was returned in the census as an insurance agent in 1891 but returned to dealing in the 1890s, specialising in eggs. The family settled down at St Blazey, George being described as an egg merchant in the 1901 census and an egg and poultry dealer and employer in 1911. Two of his employees were his sons. George’s life shows that some from relatively humble beginnings were able to prosper, or at least build more comfortable lives than those of their parents, without emigrating, even in Victorian and Edwardian Cornwall.