North Petherwin: the theft of a parish

North Petherwin was stolen from Cornwall sometime in the eleventh century. The theft occurred despite both parishes being on the Cornish side of the Tamar, which Athelstan in the tenth century had determined would be the boundary between the English and Cornish. They weren’t returned to their rightful owners until 1966 and the perpetrators have never been prosecuted for their crime.

1812 map showing North Petherwin (and Werrington) as part of Devon

As we might expect, the children of 1861 in this parish which was almost entirely devoted to farming did not move far. Of the eight in our sample, one had died in his teens. All but one of the rest could in 1891 be found no further than ten or twelve miles distant from North Petherwin, although none actually still lived in that parish. Only one had ventured (just) over the Tamar to the other side of the river at Sydenham Damerel.

Charles Bray

The exception was Charles Bray. Charles’ father Walter was a farmer, working an average sized farm (for Cornwall) at Jacobstow to the west in 1851. In the late 1850s he moved with his wife Rachel and their five children to another farm at Billacott in North Petherwin. However, Walter and Rachel were not content to carry on toiling away on the heavy, acidic culm soils of north Cornwall and in 1867 took ship for America. The family settled in Wisconsin, where Charles got married in 1876 and in turn became a farmer like his father.

Hannah Baker’s parents were also farmers, also farmed in the parish of Jacobstow in 1851 and also moved to North Petherwin, but this time before 1854. Her father then died but her mother Ann carried on farming the 86 acre holding at Penrose. Ann soon re-married and then Hannah herself took the plunge with John Rundle, another farmer. The pair moved a few miles to John’s parents’ farm at St Stephens by Launceston and then took over its management when they passed on.

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