The Pryor Family — Cornish 'Immigrants'

Helen Atkinson

William Pryor (my great-great-grandfather) was born in Cornwall and baptised at Redruth on 28 February 1830. His father was a blacksmith in the village of Four Lanes near Redruth, and William was to follow his father in this trade along with his younger brother.

William married Mary Phillips and together they lived at Four Lanes and raised six daughters. On the 1871 census the two eldest girls' occupations are listed as "mining".

In 1877 Mrs Mary Pryor enquired about work at Christie's cotton mills at Langcliffe, near Settle in Yorkshire. These mills had been taken over by Lorenzo Christie in 1861 and were in a poor state as their previous owner had not made a success of the business. Many workers had left the area to find work elsewhere and in order to get the mills going again at full capacity, Christie set about "importing" labour from other parts of the country, particularly Devon, Cornwall and East Anglia. The 1881 census shows many people born in those areas living in Langcliffe.

Five of the Pryor girls were offered apprenticeships at wages ranging from two shilling to seven shillings per week according to age. A house was available for the family to rent at four shillings and sixpence per week. In the letter confirming the offer they were urged to think carefully before making the move north and to consider whether they were improving their position in so doing. This seems to have been standard wording used on all letters to prospective employees from other areas. It must have been a very big step for a family to take -moving hundreds of miles into a new environment.

In August 1877 Mrs Pryor and her four youngest daughters travelled by train from Redruth to Settle, staying overnight in Bristol. A letter from Mr Ingham, Christie's mill manager, gave full instructions for the journey and enclosed some luggage labels for the family's belongings. The fares and overnight accommodation for the girls were paid for by their future employers but Mrs Pryor would have to pay her own fare. However, Mr Ingham advised her that he could advance her the money for her fare if necessary, and it could be repaid at not less than two shillings per week deducted from the girls' wages.

According to one of the letters William Pryor intended to remain in Cornwall with his eldest daughter Harriet for the time being, but eventually they too made the journey to Yorkshire to join the rest of the family. Meanwhile his second daughter Mary had married Cornishman John Jeffrey and moved to Langcliffe. Although I have no record of where Mary Pryor and the girls lived on their first arrival, the family were living at Craven Cottages, Settle, at the time of the 1881 census. William was still a blacksmith and his daughters were working at the cotton mills.

William died at Settle on 15 June 1886 the cause of death was given as "marasmus" {a wasting disease). His widow died at Langcliffe on 1 March 1914.