Only 5 weeks on from starting this blog and I am going to break one of my “rules” that I will only publish one post a week. Here’s the second today.
I wanted to explain a teasing comment I made in the last paragraph of the previous post about the possible decline in mining activity in St Issells parish around 1810. The parish baptism register provides the evidence for this. Unusually for pre-1813 registers, it records fathers’ occupations for nearly all baptisms between 1798 and 1812 inclusive.
This chart compares baptisms for collier fathers against those with all other occupations for the years 1798 to 1820. The general trend suggests an equal split between colliers and other occupations over this period. There are two obvious exceptions to this rule: for 1809 and 1811 no collier baptisms were recorded. Moreover in 1810, there was only a handful. Closer analysis of the register shows that there were no collier baptisms between November 1808 and February 1812 apart from the 5 in 1810; 4 of these were in the last 2 months of that year. Fathers previously shown to have “collier” as their occupation were now “labourers”.
What is the explanation for this hiatus? There are two possible answers. The more obvious is that there was a change in the person recording the details in the register. It wasn’t the rector, Thomas Dalton; he remained in post throughout this period. However, rather than living in the parsonage close to the church, Dalton lived at Crunwear 6 miles away and employed a curate for local work. Maybe a new curate or parish clerk was responsible and simply preferred to use the term “labourer” instead of “collier”. In an area pock-marked with the detritus of mining activity, it is difficult to believe that a new curate would not have called a collier a collier!
An alternative explanation is the cessation of mining activity in the local pits for much of this period. Colliery accounts do survive for Moreton in the parish for 1810 and also for pits in Begelly so activity did not cease altogether. But, as the previous post shows, there were only 3 pubs in the parish at this time, compared with 7 around 1820 when there appears to have been more money around. This provides supporting evidence for my argument that the local industry was in trouble.
There’s a further point to add: on several later occasions during the 1800s local landowners paid colliers to repair roads during downturns in the local economy. In 1810 Lord Milford, owner of many of the pits in the local area, paid £15 to repair roads around Kingsmoor. Is this just a co-incidence or a necessary step to keep the locals from destitution and over-burdening the Poor Rate?
While neither explanation is water-tight, the second is my preferred option. Maybe a comparison with contemporary mining activity on both a regional and national basis will throw more light on what could just be a local problem. If I am right, I find it difficult to imagine the severe problems a 3 year stoppage would have wrought on the local community.
Comments are most welcome as always.