Ruanlanihorne, on the eastern side of the Fal estuary, is one of those places that might strike the casual visitor as warranting the epithet ‘timeless’, essentially unchanged since the 1800s. In one sense this could be true. Unaffected by the ups and downs of mining and well away from the major communication routes, with no population centre, it’s a parish of farms and fields, woods and creeks.
Yet, beyond the superficial gaze, inevitably it’s been greatly transformed over the past century or so. Farms there still are but the number of farm labourers will have declined steeply. The new population, if they are in employment, are more likely to be commuting to well-paid jobs in Truro. Meanwhile, if they are any manual workers left, they’ll find it hard to obtain housing in a parish where at least one in five properties are second homes or holiday lets.
In 1861, it was a bit different. Two children from Ruanlanihorne appear in the Victorian Lives database. The first – George Dowrick – was the son of John and Mary and grew up at Treworgey in Ruanlanihorne. John was a farm labourer in 1851 but a waterman in 1861, neatly combining the two main resources of the local landscape. George was found at a farm in St Ewe, a few miles to the east, in 1871, where he worked as a live-in farm servant. He then disappears from the historical record.
Fanny Tregunna’s father had been a farm labourer in nearby Veryan parish who moved to Ruanlanihorne in the late 1850s. Although Fanny can’t be found in 1871 she is likely to have been a domestic servant somewhere, the obvious location being Truro. In 1881 she was living with her widowed mother and described as an unemployed cook. Ten years later her mother was dead and she was housekeeping for her brother, a farm labourer, before she expired in 1896 after a life of hard work looking after others.
Let’s leave the creeks and woods of Ruanlanihorne in peace, as they slumber away, disturbed only by the occasional ghost of the parish’s former inhabitants. On a quiet, windless night, those ghosts can sometimes be heard uttering plaintive cries as they witness the changes that have rumbled along like a juggernaut in their former stamping ground.