Lanhydrock, along with Boconnoc, St Michael Penkevil and a handful of others, was one of Cornwall’s select number of closed parishes. Closed parishes were more common in parts of southern England, places where a single landowner owned all of the land and dominated local society. Or at least, that’s the theory.
In Lanhydrock’s case the dominant family in the 1800s was the Agar-Robartes, descended distantly and via a few twists and turns, from Richard Robartes, who bought the manor of Lanhydrock in 1620. The Robartes family had been merchants in Truro and were known as Roberts before changing to the less plebeian name Robartes. Richard paid £10,000 (around £2 million now) to buy a peerage in 1624, buying status from politicians being by no means a purely modern phenomenon, and began to build a house, completed by his son John. In 1881 a disastrous fire destroyed two thirds of the house but the rebuilding in 1886-88 was probably the most expensive building project of Victorian Cornwall.
Lanhydrock only provides two 11-year olds for our database. One, William Runnalls, was a farm servant working on a 300 acre farm at Treffry in 1861. What happened to William must remain a mystery for now. Maybe he died young or perhaps left the feudal confines of Lanhydrock for a life in the big cities or overseas.
The other was Thomas May. Thomas was the son of Thomas May senior, who farmed at Trebyan in the parish. The older Thomas was obviously a man willing to turn his hand to a number of different things in addition to farming. He was a master blacksmith and ran the public house at Trebyan. No doubt, he could only do this with the aid of his wife and his seven (at least) sons and a daughter.
The younger Thomas was duly roped in to help his father on the farm at Coombe in Lanlivery, just across the parish boundary, to which the family moved in the 1860s. In 1872 Thomas married Emeline Hooper from neighbouring Lanlivery. The couple lived in Emeline’s home parish, although moving between censuses. Thomas, who was a butcher in 1881 and a farmer in 1901, clearly shared the multi-tasking skills of his father.