Luxulyan: the death of a way of life

Streaming from an illustration of 1556

In the mid-Victorian era the parish of Luxulyan contained one of the two districts (the other being Carnmenellis in the west) where a considerable number of men were given the older occupational term  ‘tinner’ rather than miner, ‘tinner’ being an alternative term for a tin streamer. Moreover, tinners in 1851 were more likely also to have a smallholding or be otherwise involved in farming. The term harked back to the farmer-tinner of medieval times.

The number of tinners in Luxulyan dropped sharply in the 1850s, but this was more a result of a change in description than anything real. The shortfall was made up by ‘tinstream miner’ or ‘tinstream labourer’. Then in the 1860s, real change set in and the proportion of streamers in the parish collapsed from near 20 per cent in 1861 to just two per cent in 1891. At the same time there was a significant rise in the number of men employed in the local granite quarries and then the newer industry of china clay extraction. Clay labourers accounted for just one per cent in 1851, but comprised 18 per cent by 1881, with the biggest rise occurring in the 1870s.

We can see this change reflected in the biographies of some Luxulyan based children of 1861. Emma Venton’s father John was a tinner at Minorca in 1851 while, less than a kilometre away at Lockengate, Mary Jane’s father William was described as a tin streamer.

Emma spent some time as a servant at a farm at Lanivet before marrying David Stephens in 1875. David was a clay labourer and the family went to live out the rest of their lives near Bugle on the edge of the clay country. Meanwhile, Mary Jane got married at a younger age. She and her husband Edmund Bullock also moved west, this time a bit further to Whitemoor at St Stephen in Brannel where they too remained, as Edmund and his sons in turn worked at the rapidly expanding local clay works.

The only boy in our 1861 database who was the son of a tinner was John Lewis. After a spell as a farm servant John returned to the family home where his father had by 1871 turned from tinning to farm labouring, illustrating the traditionally close ties between tin streaming and farming. John did not get the opportunity to turn to clay labouring as he died in 1875.

3 thoughts on “Luxulyan: the death of a way of life

  1. What explains the close association between tin streaming and farming? Is it something to do with seasonality (in farming this seems obvious – next to no income for significant parts of the year therefore needing an income supplement)


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