Lanivet is a parish strategically placed in the heart of Cornwall just west of Bodmin. In 1861 mining, mostly for tin but sometimes for iron, occupied some of the men, as did tin streaming. But the 37 men (just over 10 per cent of the parish’s workforce) engaged in mining were well outnumbered by the 165 farmers and farm labourers (and also the 52 craftsmen).
Let’s follow two children born into farming families around 1849 and see what happened to them. The more typical example was that of William Phillips. William grew up at Cadwin in the parish, the son of Richard and Jane, who farmed a 40-50 acre holding in the 1850s. By 1871 William had become proficient at butchering, a skill learnt on his father’s farms, as Richard had moved to a smaller holding at Rosehill in the parish during the 1860s. in 1880 William married Annie Trevail, who was from either Lanlivery or Luxulyan – her birthplace data show some uncertainty – neighbouring parishes in any case.
William then took on a farm a few miles to the north at Clapper in Egloshayle, employing a domestic servant and an ‘indoor’, or living in, servant to help. He carried on farming and plying his butcher’s trade in and around Egloshayle village well into the 1900s.
Elizabeth Sobye Retallick was born near William Phillips but on a larger farm of 200 acres. In 1873 Elizabeth married Frederick Sims, who died in the late 1870s. We don’t know what Frederick did but their only child was born in Devon at Lamerton. She then married William Millett, a farmer at Trerank in Roche, in 1881. In the 1880s William gave up farming and became the manager of a merchant’s concern. In 1901 he was described as secretary of a corn and flour stores, possibly the same company, but by 1911 was a clerk for a tin dredging works. This turn from farming to clerical work was rather uncommon. All this time Elizabeth was busy raising their 11 children, all but the first two born in Roche. All the children were still alive in 1911, an indication of improving child mortality rates.