Thomas Gard came to North Hill around 1805 from Bodmin where he had been working as a stonemason. He arrived with his wife Ann and two or three children. Thomas had named his eldest son John and this may indicate that his father’s name was John; naming your first son after the child’s paternal grandfather was a common practice at the time. If this is correct then Thomas may have been born in St Keverne in West Cornwall. The parish records there show a Thomas having been baptized there in 1773, the son of John Gard. Thomas was a mason and would travel to wherever there was work. In the 1790s he was working as a mason in the Padstow area. He met Ann Currah there and they married in 1796 in the parish church of St Eval which is a parish adjacent to Padstow. Their first child, John, was baptized in Padstow but they moved to follow the work to Bodmin where they had Henry in 1799 and Thomas in 1802.
Again moving with the work, the family moved to Treveniel (shown here) in North Hill. Treveniel was owned by the landed Rodd family and it is almost certain that Thomas worked for the Rodds on their estate. Whether Thomas was involved in any 'great' works would be difficult to say. The Rodd family were building a family vault in the graveyard of St Torney's Church at about this time and he may have worked on that. The Rodd family owned large tracts of moorland and many fields on the fringes of the moor, all of which had stone walls in need of constant maintenance. It may have been that this occupied him more than anything grand.
The family’s fortunes started to take a turn for the worse when Thomas’ wife, Ann, died in 1807. Ann was buried in St Torney’s churchyard (shown right) and her burial records her as a ‘sojourner’ and as being from Padstow. At this time John was 10, Henry (if he had survived) was 8 and Thomas was 6. Thomas was still a youngish man and so in 1809 he married a local girl, Mary Blake. Mary was shown as being ‘of this parish’ i.e. North Hill but her family were from St Stpehen by Launceston. Their first son, James was born in 1810 and died a few months later; his baptism and burial both indicate that the family lived at Treveniel. Nancy, the last of Thomas' children, was born in July 1812.
Just three months later the children became fatherless when Thomas died in November 1812. This left the three or four remaining children John, possibly Henry, Thomas and Nancy in the care of Mary.
As if the family had not suffered enough grief the children became orphans in the succeeding January when Mary died, leaving John, aged 15, as head of the family. The probability of John remaining at Treveniel with 11 year old John and the baby Nancy would have been very small. At Way Cross in North Hill was a poor house where people without income could go for shelter and parish relief. It is possible that all the children spent some time in there.
John was clearly useful as at 15 he would have been working for a couple of years or more. It would be understandable for him to stay in North Hill where he could carry on some of his father's work, having learnt some of the skills of a mason. It is possible that Thomas, who was also capable of work, lived with him. What happened to baby Nancy is an interesting question, if she survived her infancy. It is not likely that she stayed with John. Mary Blake’s family lived in St Stephen’s by Launceston and it is more likely that Nancy may have gone to live with them perhaps adopting a new surname.
Thomas who was born 1802 survived and is found on the 1851 census in Oxford Gaol as an unmarried prisoner and a vagrant. The following newspaper reports show that he had been convicted of stealing boots.
John Gard remained in North Hill and married Elizabeth Dawe in 1826 in St Torney’s and they had two children: Thomas was born in 1827 and Ann was born in 1829. John and Elizabeth both died in 1871. They can be seen on the censuses living in Trebartha village, Trebartha Mill and Middlewood:
1841 census - Trebartha Village, North Hill
1851 census - Trebartha Mill, North Hill
1861 census - Middlewood, North Hill
1871 census - Middlewood Cott, North Hill
Thomas (b1827) married Maria Body Martin in Linkinhorne in October 1856. Their marriage certificate is shown below.
Initially the family lived in Middlewood before moving up onto the moor above Higher Stanbear and then onto St Neot and the St Cleer. Having had five children Maria died in 1887 and below is a transcript of her gravestone in North Hill churchyard.
This family is being researched by Teresa Gard who lives in Canada. If you wish to get in touch with her please contact the Webmaster (address at the foot of this page).
The banner image shows a stonemason’s tools from the early 19th century.