St Erth was a parish that in the 1800s included part of the industrial town of Hayle. Near the northern limits of the parish could be found Hayle Foundry, Cornwall’s biggest engineering foundry in the 1800s. By the middle of the nineteenth century around one in seven of St Erth’s men were foundry workers or blacksmiths, the majority of them probably working at Hayle Foundry.
Despite the presence of the foundry and the employment opportunities it offered, St Erth experienced a level of emigration that was not much less than any other industrial Cornish parish. The most commonly recurring pattern of emigration in the third quarter of the 1800s was for a young couple to emigrate within months of getting married and before the inevitable children began to arrive. Sometimes, especially if there were already children, the husband went on ahead, either returning periodically or permanently, or waiting for his wife and family to join him. Other unmarried young men or women made the journey on their own or with other relatives, these being by their nature more difficult to trace.
Albert Hart from St Erth neatly fitted this pattern. Albert was a blacksmith but if he had worked at Hayle Foundry he’d left during the 1860s. In that decade he left his mother and stepfather to become a blacksmith at St Just in Penwith, lodging with an uncle and possibly working at Holman’s iron foundry which had been started in 1834. He married Elizabeth Orchard in 1872. At some time in the 1870s Albert and Elizabeth moved north to Durham. In the 1881 census Elizabeth was recorded as living at Collierley in that county but Albert was absent, probably having already emigrated. By the 1890s the family had re-united in Daylesford, Victoria in Australia, another example of the two-stage migration noted in the previous blog.
However, there were exceptions to the usual timing of emigration, which most often took place in the migrants’ twenties. Priscilla Lobb was the daughter of a copper miner at St Erth churchtown. Her father died young in the 1850s and her widowed mother had either followed him to the grave or re-married by 1871, when Priscilla was living on her own and making a living as a tailoress in the churchtown. In 1878 she married William Lawrence, a harness maker from Penryn, and the couple took up residence in Penzance. Nonetheless, they didn’t spend the rest of their lives there as in 1895 in middle age they too emigrated to Victoria where they were living at Essendon in 1912.