Lanreath: the Giant’s Hedge and giant leaps

The Giant’s Hedge near Lanreath (Adrian Platt / CC BY-SA 2.0)

William Toms grew up on his father’s 150-200 acre farm at Bocaddon in Lanreath in east Cornwall. Bocaddon was found less than a mile north of the churchtown of Lanreath. However, between the two there lay the inscrutable feature of the Giant’s Hedge. This large earthwork had been built across the deep valleys that cut into the local landscape, sealing off the district between the West Looe River and the River Lerryn. Built during the years of Cornish independence after the Romans left, it was possibly the boundary of a local community desperate to stop barbarian marauders from the north stealing their cattle.

The Toms didn’t need to worry about cattle rustlers over a millennium later. Their holding at Bocaddon appears from the census to have expanded to 400 acres by 1871. This was a substantial holding by Cornish standards, farmed by William and his father, brother and sisters, with the help of seven labourers, three male farm servants and a female servant. Yet William’s father, another William, was not satisfied. In 1873 he departed for Ontario in Canada, presumably to farm an even bigger acreage there. The younger William followed in 1876.

If a giant leap had been made geographically by the Toms family, a giant leap of a different order was achieved by another of Lanreath’s children. Across the valley from William Toms, with the Giant’s Hedge between them, Louis Andrew was born at roughly the same time but in more humble circumstances. His father was a shoemaker and by 1871 it looked as if Louis was destined to follow him into that trade.

But it was not to be. Louis had received enough education to set himself up as an auctioneer and accountant at Fowey by 1881, in the late 1870s marrying Charlotte from Polperro. The couple then left Cornwall, but not for overseas. Instead, they went to the booming new town of Barrow in Furness sometime before 1874. There, Louis found work as an accountant while Lottie ran a lodging house, living examples of the Victorian creed of self-help as they pulled themselves up by the bootstraps that Louis had not been content to go on making.

2 thoughts on “Lanreath: the Giant’s Hedge and giant leaps

  1. Re William Toms. I’ve seen the Morval grave of John Toms 1775-1855. Until 1815, he shared the lease of Polgover Farm with John Morshead. Many of his descendants went to NZ or Australia in 1841. Was William another son? Any genealogy would be appreciated. Thankyou

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