Michaelstow: stay around or seek new ground? Contrasting lives from a farming community

Michaelstow is one of those often-overlooked farming parishes of north Cornwall, in this case situated just south of the small town of Camelford. In the 1800s its people got their living mainly from the farms of the parish, with little to interrupt the annual round of ploughing, sowing and harvesting as one year segued drowsily into the next.

Some Michaelstow folk lived out their lives within a small compass. Although born a couple of miles to the north at Helstone in the neighbouring parish of Lanteglos by Camelford, Mary Jane Rowe was living in Michaelstow in 1861. Fifty years later she died in the same parish. Her father had been a farm labourer who by 1881 had made the transition to farmer, taking on a farm at Lower Tregawn in the parish. Mary Jane married a cousin, William Symons, in 1883. William was a farmer at Tregawn Farm, presumably the next door holding. In the 1890s the family moved less than a mile to farm at Michaelstow’s churchtown farm.

William and Margaret Hocken

Not all farmers moved short distances. John and Eleanor Hocken were farming at St Tudy, to the south of Michaelstow, in 1851. John was 46 when his son William was born, Ten years later, he had given up farming and retired, while also moving back to his parish of birth at Michaelstow. However, at some time around 1871 William Hocken moved away from the district. Well away. In 1876 he turned up in New South Wales in the farming district of Narrabri, marrying 17-year old Mary Duncan, who had been born in the State. Mary died of typhoid in 1878, after which William moved north to Burren where he married Margaret Ryan from Ireland in 1883. In the late 1890s he made a further move, again northwards, to the growing town of Ipswich, not far from Brisbane in Queensland. There he lived until 1929.

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