St Tudy: shoemakers and carpenters

St Tudy is another of those typical Cornish farming parishes found in the rolling countryside of north Cornwall between Bodmin Moor and the Camel estuary. And yet three of the four children from the parish who appear in our database had a connection with craftsmen over the course of their lives. Even in farming parishes usually around one in five households were headed by a craftsman at mid-century – blacksmiths, carpenters, masons, shoemakers and the like.

King Street, one of Toronto’s first streets, in 1856

Sometimes there would be little or no connection with farming other than customers including farmers and their labourers. Jane Hicks’ father was a blacksmith in St Tudy village at mid-century but Jane left in the 1860s, accompanying two of her brothers to Toronto in Ontario. There she married a local shoemaker, Robert Silver, in 1874. The couple spent the rest of their lives in the fast-growing city, its 50,000 population when the Hicks arrived reaching 400,000 by the time Jane died in 1914.

St Tudy in the early 1900s. Could this be the same smithy that Jane Hicks’ father had run half a century earlier?

Sometimes a childhood spent in a farming environment might be followed by life with a craftsman. Ellen Nicholls was another girl living in St Tudy village in the 1850s, her father being a farm labourer. It was the common practice for the children of farm labourers to spend some time living as a servant on a farm and that was exactly what Ellen was doing in 1871, when she was a domestic servant on a farm in the neighbouring parish of St Kew. She then married William Warne in 1876. William was a shoemaker from Chapel Amble in St Kew and it was there that the couple set up home.

Sometimes, growing up as part of the family of a craftsman could be followed by more testing times, especially if an early death was visited on the family’s main wage earner. Ellen Hill was another girl in the village in 1851, her father being a carpenter. Unfortunately, he died during the 1850s when only in his 40s. The older children had left home by 1861, leaving just Ellen with her mother. Ellen found work as a laundry maid at the Woburn Abbey laundry in Bedfordshire, where she spent some time around 1870. However, she may have had an illegitimate child around 1876 as by 1881 she was back in St Tudy with her mother who was by now 75, together with a child of five. Ellen’s mother was still alive ten years later with Ellen helping out and described as a charwoman, doing any general cleaning, odd jobs or chores (hence the word char). The first child had gone but now there was another of the same surname living with them, aged nine.

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