St Sampson: saints on the move

On the west bank of the Fowey River, the small parish of St Sampson with Golant lies at the southern end of the ‘Saints’ Way’ trail from Padstow to Fowey. In the sixth and seventh centuries this was the supposed route whereby scores of holy men and women crossed Cornwall from Wales on their way across the sea to Brittany.

Local folk enjoy a regatta at Golant in the 1890s

By the mid-1800s it wasn’t saints’ feet that were heard tramping through the lanes of the parish at all hours of day or night. Furthermore, now a quiet rural parish, St Sampson was not then, as might be expected, dominated by farming. In fact, the sound of tramping feet was more likely to have emanated from the hob-nailed boots of miners on their way to and from work. A quarter of the parish’s households in 1861 were getting their living from the mines. One such household was found at Golant, where Samuel Netherton lived with his wife Catherine. Samuel and Catherine had four sons in the 1851 census and added four daughters over the next decade in a neat, if unintentional, symmetry.

Their youngest son was Henry, still at home and not apparently obtaining any schooling in 1861, when he was 11 years old. By the time Henry was entering the labour market the local copper mines had begun to falter. Instead of following his father into the mines therefore, Henry became a farm servant at Lampetho just across the parish boundary in Tywardreath. Marrying Elizabeth Pearse in 1875 and now an independent farm labourer, the couple went on to live at Polmear, near Par Beach. A child born in Devon might suggest a little time working in that county before moving back to Tywardreath. Despite farming being healthier than mining Henry died in 1889 aged 39.

The only other St Sampson child in our database hailed from a similarly sized family. But William Phillips was the son of a farmer, who farmed 63 acres at Woodgate in the parish in 1851 before moving to take up the 97 acre Lawhibbet Farm next to the Iron Age fort of Castle Dore (see the photo on the header of this website). Around 1870 however, William took ship for Canada. In Middlesex, Ontario, he married a local girl and on her death married another Canadian woman – Annie Tidsbury from Manitoba – in 1883. By 1890 the couple had moved across the border to Oregon in the States, where William Phillips settled, perhaps using the farming skills he’d learnt when growing up in St Sampson.

Now a listed building, this Wesleyan Methodist chapel of 1875 with attached schoolroom at Golant was found at the former presumably accurate if indelicately named Cowshit Lane.

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