All change for Merther’s craftsmen

Merther was a small farming parish of fewer than 400 people in 1861; it’s just east of Truro and includes part of the village of Tresillian. However, none of the three Merther children of 1861 who made it into the Victorian Lives database came from a farming background. Instead, all three – two boys and a girl – grew up in craftsmen’s households. Two were still in the Truro district in 1891 but in all three biographies there were examples of trans-generational occupational change.

John Roberts was brought up by his grandparents, his grandfather being a shoemaker. It’s not known where John was in 1871 but he married Mary Seaman at King’s Lynn in Norfolk in 1874. When back in Cornwall just down the road from Merther at St Michael Penkevil in 1881 John was a stonemason.

Emma Nile had grown up in the household of a mason in Merther. She married young in 1869 but not, as was often the case, to a spouse who had the same occupation as her father. Instead, James Osborne from Truro was a miner at Chacewater in 1871. By 1881 he had given up mining and turned to shoemaking in Truro. Maybe his shoemaking wasn’t that proficient as by 1891 he was being forced to earn his living from general labouring in the town while Emma brought up their children.

The third Merther child was Alfred Heard. Alfred had actually been born in north Devon at Hartland. His father William was a master clockmaker and his mother ran a school in Hartland village in 1851. During the 1850s the couple moved to Merther where they took on the village school, William giving up clocks for the cane.

Driving an Edwardian car must have been no easy matter

Alfred turned to retailing and also back to his home county. He was assisting in a large ironmongery business at Bideford in Devon in 1871. In 1880 he married Eliza and the pair moved further east to Yeovil in Somerset where Alfred worked as an assistant to another ironmonger. However, by 1891 he was on the way up, having become a substantial ironmonger and grocer employing two assistants and two domestic servants at Ilminster in Somerset. Yet, in 1901, now living in Taunton, Alfred seems to have given up his shop and become a commercial traveller. By 1911, he was back in north Devon at Bideford, having retired. His three sons were all active in the coming trade of ‘automobile engineering’

2 thoughts on “All change for Merther’s craftsmen

  1. So interesting for many reasons. First, interesting indeed that women often married men in the same occupation as their father’s. I had not picked this up at all.

    Also, I am very interested in the Reverend Daniel Baudris (Huguenot) who was vicar in Merther for a short while in the 1690s, later ending up in Warleggan where he died in 1746. Whilst in Merther Dan B. married Mary Bone who was a widow and already 50 years old, from Truro. If it is possible to find out more about Dan (as he called himself) esp in Merther would love to know (and also Mary).

    Finally Tresillian was my first school, aged 5! The postcard shows a very beautiful scene, but today Tresillian seems to be mostly a place just to race through, as with so many places that once had so much character. And the school was sold ages ago to make yet another wealthy home.


  2. Yes, so interesting and in a way so different. In those days boys went into a trade and stayed in it until death, but this article and some previous show that at least some young Cornishmen were not afraid to diversify and move on, even creating or taking over a business. Thanks.


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