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John Higgans has written many articles about Phillack
having spent many years researching
various aspects of the parish.
(From Old Cornwall, Autumn 1969, pages 222 -231)

Cross Head-Five Bosses
(Phillack 10th century)

by John Higgans

(Note that all parts of what became Hayle that lie to the west of Hayle Foundry Square were in St Erth parish)

In 1800 an Act of Parliament was passed "for taking an account of the population of Great Britain and of the increase or diminution thereof".               

In pursuance of this Act the first official census was taken in 1801 and it is only from that date that the precise numbers of the inhabitants of a particular parish are known. Estimates of population before 1801 can be made, based on such records as survive in the form of parish registers and other ecclesiastical documents, poll tax returns, subsidy assessments, muster rolls and the like. From these sources it is possible to estimate the degree of magnitude of the population at different points in time through the centuries and to note upward and downward trends.

For the parish of Phillack, as elsewhere, there must have been a beginning to its history as an inhabited area. In probing deep into the mists of time to this period we have to rely on archaeological evidence and such else as is available to us. Following archaeological excavations in the adjoining parish of Gwithian1, it has been concluded from the evidence of habitation found there, that in the period 4500 -2500 B.C., small groups lived at various points on the Cornish coast where sand dunes are found and where such easily won food as shell fish were available. It is reasonable, therefore, to assume the presence of people living on the northern edge of the parish of Phillack at an early date.
Bronze Age (1600<400 B.C.) fragments have in fact been unearthed on a site some three-quarters of a mile north east of Phillack church2, and where evidence of Dark Age (410-1066 AD.) occupation has also been discovered3.
In 1933 or 1934, when sand was being carted for agricultural purposes from the north of the Phillack churchyard wall, a number of skeletons were found in a grave4, possibly of late Iron Age (400 B.C. - 50 AD.) or Romano-British date (50 - 410 AD.)5.
A large earthwork of Roman origin to the north east of Treeve6, in the direction of Gwithian also indicates its occupation in the latter period.
In his history of Phillack church7, Charles Thomas traces its Celtic foundations with the advent of missionaries from Ireland in about 500 A.D. some little time after the Romans left Britain. From the evidence which Professor Thomas submits proof is provided that Phillack was inhabited in the centuries that followed, though we have to await the Domesday Survey of 1086 ordered by William the Conqueror for any indication of numbers.

This provides us with the earliest record of the numbers of inhabitants of specified classes within certain areas known as manors.
Phillack parish or what was to become the extent of it lay within the Royal Manor of Conarton along with most of Gwithian and portions of Gwinear and St. Erth.
We learn from Domesday that Conarton8 had 30 villeins or tenant farmers, 30 serfs or slaves and 20 bordars or cottagers within the confines of its 7 hides of land equivalent to about 9 square miles. That portion of the manor farmed on behalf of the manorial lord, in this case King William, and known as his demesne, consisted of 1 hide. From these figures we have to endeavour to deduce how many persons inhabited Phillack at this time. Of the 9 square miles comprising the manor about 5 may be attributed to Phillack and these along with the lordıs demesne which lay in Gwithian,9, made up the greater part of it. The 30 serfs can be allotted to the lordıs household, the remainder of which would not have been recorded in Domesday. This leaves us with the 30 villeins and the 20 bordars.
A study of the place names of the present day farmsteads of Phillack indicates that about 15 of them including Kayle, Carwin, Pulsack, Penpol, Bodriggy, Trethingey, Trevassack, Nancepusker and Treglisson have names of Celtic origin and are, therefore, likely to have been settled before the Norman Conquest in 1066. On this assumption a good half of the manor's 30 tenant farmers can be considered as having lived in Phillack. This proportion bears some relation to the area of the parish when it is set against that of the manor, excluding the lordıs demesne, having regard also to the fact that its sandy northern area is unlikely to have been inhabited. As to the 20 bordars with their small holdings of a few acres each, if we can assume that they were scattered evenly throughout the manor, about 10 of them and their families would have lived in Phillack. Allowing 5 persons per family.

Some 250 years must elapse before we have another record upon which an estimate of the population of Phillack can be attempted. This is a tax assessment made in 132710 which lists the names of 38 tax payers in the parish. The tax was levied on movable property and as a result the assessment indicates that not only are heads of families included in it but also their immediate relatives. It is difficult to estimate a population figure from this material but a study of the tax payers' names, mostly taken from their place of residence, suggests that they might represent some 28 families or about 140 individuals.

The next source is a record of the collection of a poll tax granted in 1377 to Edward III by the last parliament of his reign. The proceeds of this tax were to meet the cost of the war with France and the defence of the realm. It was imposed at a flat rate of 4d. per head on lay men and women, those under fourteen being exempt. Only total sums paid over by the collectors to the Exchequer are available and the amount of tax for Phillack was £2 13s. 4d.11 representing, therefore, 160 persons. On the assumption that one third of the population was then under fourteen12, we arrive at an estimated 240 inhabitants.

In the space of the 50 years between the estimate of 1327 and that of 1377 the country was ravaged by the Black Death which broke out in 1348 and continued at intervals until 1362. It has been calculated that on average at least half the countryıs populace perished from the effects of this awful plague. Cornwall had its share of suffering and in particular there was a very high mortality rate in the township of Bodmin. It is surprising that in spite of the general decimation of the population by the plague it still left Phillack in 1377 with some 240 inhabitants as compared with about 160 in 1327. However, by making such comparisons as we are able between the estimates of population based on the tax assessments for the two years 1327 and 1377 for fourteen other parishes in the Hundred of Penwith, it is found that the Phillack increase is in line with the average. Perhaps, the plague did not gain such a hold in the far west with its sparse and scattered communities.

There are no records upon which we can estimate the population of Phillack in the 15th century and the next opportunity to do so is afforded by a subsidy assessment dated about 1522 of all persons having land, movable goods or wages worth £1 a year or more. Everyone in theory was taxed on the source of wealth.
After the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII following his break with the Church of Rome, there still remained ecclesiastical property in the form of endowments, chantries and hospitals and in 1545 an Act was passed vesting these in the King. However, he died in 1547 before the work of suppression began and this duty was bequeathed to Edward VI.

A chantry had been founded in the church of Phillack by Henry Dreghyston (Treglisson) in the 15th century. The certificate of the Commissioners who enquired into the details of the chantry in 1549 records that the Ohouseling people
13 or communicants of the parish numbered 12014. As it is a round figure it may be suspect but if we assume that it is reasonably accurate and allow another 40% for those as being under the age of 14 we arrive at a total of 177 persons. This figure is possibly not far out as its comparison with another, based on a muster roll of males between the ages of 16 and 60 and compiled in 1569, will show. The Phillack roll15 contains 66 names of which some 40 are different. If we assume this number to represent heads of households and apply our standard multiplier of 5 we have 200 persons.

By the order to the clergy to maintain as from 1538 registers of the baptisms, burials and marriages at their churches we are provided with statistics upon which population estimates can be based and checked against those derived from other sources. It follows that the reliance to be placed on any conclusions founded on the parish records must depend upon the degree of their completeness. The entries in the Phillack registers date from 1560 but are not continuous until 1572. They are deficient in the Civil War and Commonwealth periods between 1643 and 1660. The accompanying table shows the number of recorded marriages, baptisms and burials in the ten year periods from 1572 to 1801 together with an estimate of the population during these decades arrived at by taking the average number of baptisms therein and multiplying it by 30. This figure is suggested as appropriate for this exercise.
Period Marriages Baptisms Burials Baptisms (x3) Estimated Population Based on 
1086 ? ? ? ? 125 Doomsday Survey
1327 ? ? ? ? 200 Tax Assessment
1377 ? ? ? ? 240 Poll Tax
1522 ? ? ? ? 110 Subsidy Assessment
1549 ? ? ? ? 177 Chantry Certificate
1560-1571 ? 23 45 69 200 Muster Roll 1569
1572-1581 31 74 56 222 ---  
1582-1591 19 103 56 309 ---  
1592-1601 19 101 60 303 ---  
1602-1611 16 62 46 186 190 Terrier 1602
1612-1921 7 39 27 117 ---  
1622-1631 17 58 52 174 ---  
1832-1641 22 59 45 177 210 Protestation Return 1641
1642-1651 3 17 16 51 ---  
1652-1661 12 39 25 117 ---  
1662-1671 13 56 38 168 140 Hearth Tax 1664
1672-1681 19 50 39 150 213 Compton Return 1676
1682-1691 16 53 60 159 ---  
1692-1701 23 65 38 195 ---  
1702-1711 24 85 58 255 ---  
1712-1721 25 80 49 240 ---  
1722-1731 37 90 58 270 ---  
1732-1741 39 92 80 276 ---  
1742-1751 56 123 73 369 400 Reply to Bishop in 1745
1752-1761 50 200 90 600 ---  
1762-1771 46 178 122 534 555 Reply to Bishop in 1765
1772-1781 56 205 128 615 500 Reply to Bishop in 1779
1782-1791 61 301 125 903 ---  
1792-1801 107 466 167 1398 1475 Official Census 1801
The Rector of Phillack in a Terrier c.1602 records that there were then in the parish 42 houses of which 4 were uninhabited. We can visualise these dwellings as being 15 or so old farmsteads with cottages here and there for the farm hands and small holders. Assuming once again a family of 5 per household we arrive at a population of 190.
In the decade 1596 to 1605 the number of baptisms recorded was 77 and applying the multiplier of 30 to the yearly average we get 230 persons. In the years 1598 to 1600, the average yearly baptisms was 12 which was relatively high ; this suggests that the multiplier of 5 might be low for the basis of an estimate in 1601. One of 6 applied to the 38 householders recorded in the terrier would give a population of 228 as against that of 190 using the multiplier of 5.
In 1641 all males over the age of 18 were required to subscribe to the Oath of Protestation and the roll for Phillack18, includes 66 names of which 42 are different. Using the same method as was applied to the Muster Roll of 1569 by assuming the 42 were heads of households averaging 5 persons each, we get a total of 210 persons. Unfortunately, we cannot reliably compare this figure with one derived from the parish registers from 1636 to 1645 as they are defective in the later years of this decade.
Our next source of information is a Hearth Tax assessment of 166419, which records 28 houses in the parish and indicates a population of 140 against one of 168 based on the parish register baptismal entries. The omission of the names of a few families known to have been living in the parish in 1664 suggests that some householders escaped the assessment.
Finally, for the 17th century there is the so called Census of Bishop Compton in 167620, which shows the number of conformists, non-conformists and papists in every parish over the age of 16. The Phillack return records 140 conformists and 2 papists a total of 142, which suggests a population of 237, assuming that 40% of it was not enumerated as being under 16.
The average number in the decade 1671 to 1682 based on the parish registers is 150, which differs considerably from that based on the Compton Return. The variance is substantial and difficult to explain. It could be the result of the multiplier of 30 applied to the average number of baptisms over the ten year period being understated although comparisons so far made on this basis in this study do not indicate it. On the other hand the Compton Return for Phillack may include conformists of a younger age than 16.

In the study of the population of Phillack in the 18th century we are limited to the replies made by the parish priest to queries by his Bishop relating to certain matters connected with his benefice. One of the items queried is the number of families living in the parish. Replies are extant for the years 1745, 1765 and 177921. A total of 110 families is returned for Phillack and Gwithian in 1745 or about 550 persons. The Gwithian baptisms were unusually high in the years 1745, 1750 and 1751 and, if we take the years 1740 to 1749 on either side of 1745, we get an average of 210 for Gwithian thus leaving about 340 for Phillack.
Twenty years later in 1765 the Phillack families are returned as 111 or 555 persons as compared with a figure of 534 based on average baptisms in the decade 1762 to 1771. In 1779 the number of families is given as 100 giving a total of 500 inhabitants against the average of 615 between 1772 and 1781. The figure of 100 is lower than that for 1765 and, as the population of Phillack rose steadily in the second half of the 18th century as trading and smelting enterprises were established in the parish, the return of 100 families in 1779 must be considered as unreliable.

With the turn of the 19th century we have in 1801 the first official enumeration of the parish with a tally of 302 families consisting of 1,475 persons living in 272 houses. This indicates an average of 4.9 persons per family which suggests that the multiplier of 5 used in the course of this study is realistic.
This may also be claimed for the multiplier of 30 applied to the average number of baptisms each year for ten year periods as the computation of total population based on this formula for the period 1792-1801 is 1,398 against the census figure of 1,475.
The population figures for Phillack as shown by the decennial returns from 1801 to 1901 are as follows :--


As has been explained, any estimates made of the population of a parish before the official census taken for the first time in 1801, are bound to be imperfect because the degree of reliability of the bases used is unknown.
However, with a consistent approach and the use of cross checks where there are alternative sources of information, it is possible to arrive at approximate population figures from time to time and observe from them upward or downward trends over the years.

From the accompanying table it will be noted that between 1086 and 1591 the population of Phillack according to our estimates increased from 125 to 303 but by 1701 it had fallen to 195. This time scale 1086-1701 is important because it covers a period in the history of the parish during which its economy was based on agricultural pursuits conducted as they are even today from the ancient farmsteads of the parish.
During the thirty years 1572-1601 the population was relatively high. This appears to be due to a high birth rate in certain years rather than an influx of population as the marriages recorded apart from those between 1572 and 1581 are about average. From 1602-1701 the population remains fairly steady around the 170 mark. Then in the decade 1702-1711 there begins a progressive upward trend to a peak of 5,381 in 1861. This period of 150 years witnessed considerable changes in the pattern of the parish's economy which had their effect on its population.
In 1704 a tin smelting works was established at Angarrack and labour was attracted for which steady employment was provided for nearly two hundred years. About the year 1711 a trading concern was started near the Royal Standard Inn and a flourishing business was conducted for many years by the proprietor and his successors in the import of coal and building materials and their sale to the neighbouring mines. Another fillip to employment in the parish was given by a copper smelting venture commenced in 1758 at what is now Copper-house by the Cornish Copper Company. This concern later launched out into trading and engineering and for more than a hundred years continued to give employment to many on an increasing scale.
The development of mining in the neighbourhood and particularly at Wheal Alfred in the 18th century contributed in no small measure to the growth of the population of the parish. In 1814 some 1,500 people were employed at the Wheal Alfred mines22. Although not all lived in Phillack, as it was not unusual for miners to walk many miles to their work, a substantial proportion would have done so.
Harvey's foundry established in 1779 in the adjacent parish of St. Erth grew steadily over the years and provided employment for many hundreds in the neighbourhood.
While smelting, trading, mining and manufacturing all attributed directly to the growth of the population of Phillack from about 1700 onwards this was helped indirectly by the demand created for shopping facilities and the services of craftsmen.
Between 1861 and 1871 came a halt to the steady increase in the population of Phillack over the previous 160 years and a decline set in as it did all over Cornwall. As the result of the closure of many mines and the depressed state of agriculture, tens of thousands left the county to seek a livelihood as miners and farmers in the developing regions of the world.
By the turn of the present century the population of the original ecclesiastical parish of Phillack had fallen to 4,549 and at this level, with minor fluctuations, it has remained.

1 Charles Thomas. Gwithian: Ten yearsı work (1949<1958) p. 9 (West Cornwall Field Club, Camborne 1958).
2 Proceedings of the West Cornwall Field Club. Vol. Two No. 1, 1956<1957.p. 13.
3 ibid, p. 9 et seq.
4 ibid, p. 13.
5 Charles Thomas. Phillack Church, p. 12. (The British Publishing Co. Ltd., Gloucester. 1961).
6 P.W.C.F.C. New Series Vol. One. Part Two. July 1954, p. 55 and Cornish Archaeology No. 3, 1964, p. 45.
7 Charles Thomas. Phillack Church, p. 7.
8 Salzmann and Taylor. V.C.H. Cornwall, Pt. 8., p. 61.
9 Charles Thomas. Notes of the Church, Parish and St. Gothianıs Chapel, p. 3 et seq. (Earle, Redruth 1964).
10 Public Record Office, E.179/87/7.
11 PRO. E.179/87/33.
12 M. W. Beresford. The Poll Taxes of 1377, 1379, 1381, Amateur Historian Vol. 2, No. 7, p. 275.
13 PRO E.179/87/122.
14 Lawrence S. Snell. The Chantry Certificates for Cornwall, p. 24 (Townsend, Exeter).
15 PRO S.P. 12/52.
16 W. E. Tate. The Parish Chest, p. 81 (Cambridge University Press 1960).
17 Cornwall County Record Office, Truro, p. 186.
18 House of Lords Library.
19 PRO E. 179/244/44.
20 William Salt Library, Stafford. Salt M5.33.
21 Devon County Record Office, Exeter.
22 A. K. Hamilton Jenkin
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