Whitstone: farm labouring and its alternatives in border country

Whitstone is the last of our north Cornish farming parishes. Like its neighbours, in this parish of small villages and hamlets three quarters of the men worked on the farms, with most of the rest employed in a variety of rural crafts, especially smithing and carpentry. Only two of the children born around 1850 and appearing in the Victorian Lives database were living in Whitstone in 1861. Both were from farm labouring families.

Our first was a girl – Louisa Hatherley – born at the hamlet of Foxhole in the southern part of the parish. Louisa went on to spend her whole life at that hamlet. In 1878 she married William Symons from nearby North Tamerton. William was a farm labourer but in the twentieth century was specialising in trapping rabbits.  Rabbits are a good source of lean meat and high quality protein and were a useful addition to the rural diet in the late 1800s and early 1900s, trapped by snares with the help of ferrets or dogs.

Louisa Hatherley’s birth certificate
St Anne’s Well at Whitstone, built in the churchyard in the 19th century

Richard Henry Heard was born at Fuges just across the parish boundary in Week St Mary at the opposite end of the parish from Louisa. Although Richard’s father was a farm labourer he was apprenticed to a master carpenter at Bridgerule on the border with Devon, in a household where his sister also worked as a servant. After completing his apprenticeship and getting married Richard and his wife Elizabeth moved first to his wife’s home parish of North Petherwin and then further south to Linkinhorne before finally settling in the 1880s at Crow’s Nest in St Cleer. The closure of the local copper mines in that decade could hardly have been good news for his carpentry concern.

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