Morval: a servant, a sergeant and a smith

Morval can be easily confused with Morvah. Yet, although these two Cornish parishes may have differed by just one letter, they were about as far apart as it was possible to be and still both be in Cornwall. While Morvah was a mining parish in the west, Morval – in east Cornwall near Looe – was a farming parish, with almost a half of its men employed as farm labourers.

Morval House, home to the Buller family, in the early 1800s. Its south front has been described as ‘one of the best 16th and 17th century elevations in Cornwall’

Like Morvah’s sons and daughters, those of Morval, or at least those in our database, were reluctant to end up far away. One who did move was Richard Scantlebury. Richard was actually born to the west at St Veep on the east bank of the river Fowey, the son of an agricultural labourer. The young Richard was sent to work as a general servant on the farm of Archelaus Hoskin at Morval.

By 1871 he was working as a live-in farm servant at Furzedon in Liskeard parish. But Richard seems not to have been satisfied by the 12 to 14 shillings a week pay (= £75-88 nowadays) and long hours of the farm labourer (although a rent-free cottage was common in south east Cornwall.) He took a not uncommon route out of farm labouring by joining the police force at Plymouth in the mid-1870s, after marrying Emily Tomkin at Liskeard in 1873. A constable in 1881, he was sergeant by 1891 and had moved up the ranks to become inspector before retiring from the police in the 1900s. Richard did not return to Cornwall, dying in Plymstock and leaving £967 (= £45,000) to his sons.

Ellen Soady was the daughter of a stonemason at Morval. In 1874 she married Jethro Goynes, a journeyman blacksmith from the parish who by 1891 was running his own business. The couple lived at Widegates, just a mile or so from her birthplace on the other side of Bindown common. They had two children in the 1880s but no more. Was this an early example of deliberate family limitation, gaining favour among the urban middle classes by the late Victorian period?