Argall family Worldwide

Family Dispersal from Madron

All the modern ARGALL families originate from the early families living at Madron. How did they spread to other parts? Well, family legend has it that the two brothers, John and Martin Argall, left home in 1724 from Madron travelling eastwards on, it is reputed, mules. It is not clear why they left, but the family tradition of passing the farm on to the younger/est son may have had a bearing because their younger brother, William , was increasingly (following the family tradition) managing the farm. They probably received their inheritance at this time. Moreover, the increased opportunities for employment caused by the expansion in tin and copper ore mining, as well as farming elsewhere, may have lured them away. Although they only travelled to St Allen, north of Truro, – a distance of 28 miles – there were no roads and very few tracks; the journey would not have been easy. Nevertheless, the two brothers reached St Allen/St Erme and obtained employment. They lived there for some years and both married local girls, and produced offspring; it is from these two brothers that the bulk of ARGALLs alive at the end of the 20th century are descended, although in Australia a few ARGALLs in the Adelaide area of South Australia come from the remaining Madron stock directly.

Around 1735, the two brothers and their families moved a few miles north to Perranzabuloe nearer the North Cornwall Coast. An increasing involvement in mining caused John’s children’s expanding families to move into St Agnes (circa 1780), whilst Martin’s families moved on to St Newlyn East around the same time. Branches of their descendants subsequently moved further into the Redruth area, which was then an expanding mining town. These families followed the traditions of the time in breeding a large number of children, many of whom sadly died before they were 5 years old.
The copper mines peaked in production around 1770, and ore prices peaked around 1790 to 1800. This period gave additional opportunities to provide agricultural support to the new workforce, and the ARGALLs were there involved with both. Further opportunities for employment, in both farming and mining, led to movement of the families into the St Columb region (both Major and Minor), Illogan and Truro. At the beginning of the 19th Century, some of the families seem to own the land upon which they lived and worked, or had shares in the new mines. As the century progressed, and what wealth was left in the families was dissipated; others – both in mining and the supporting industries, were increasingly renting/leasing their homes. By the middle of the 19th Century, the majority of working ARGALLs in Cornwall were employed in mining, with very few remaining in agriculture. The others were turning to different trades – farmers, cordwainers (custom shoemakers), ale brewers, and simple labourers – all are appearing in the records.

The opportunities for this further employment in agriculture and mining were not to last. There were several factors that led to a decline in the Cornish economy during the 19th century. Firstly, after the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, the price of corn started to fall, which – together with other factors – led to subsequent rioting in Cornwall as income was affected. The added potato famine during the ‘hungry forties’ was not confined to Ireland; Cornwall was just as much afflicted. By the early 1840s, there was a general shortage of food, and prices were forced up again. In response to this, in 1846 the ‘Corn Laws’ were repealed, the price paid for corn reduced and the cost of agricultural produce fell – and with it, the wages paid. This affected those working on the land before it impacted on those working in the mines. Emigration was the result.

The first to emigrate were the land workers, and the earliest ARGALLs to migrate were those employed in agriculture. Secondly, by the middle of the nineteenth century, tin ore could be extracted much more cheaply elsewhere in the world – especially in the Far East and the developing nations of North America and Australia. As a result, the Cornish Mining Industry experienced a series of increasingly heavy blows as the 19th Century progressed, and the price of Tin and Copper continued to fall dramatically. Many mines in Cornwall were forced to close; the resulting effects upon the economy were quite severe, and mass emigration of miners followed those who had left the land. Between 1861 and 1900, almost 45% of Cornwall’s male population aged between 15 and 24 emigrated at this time, with a further 29% moving to other English counties, and they took with them both their mining skills and such other skills allied to the support of the miners.

The ARGALL families were deeply involved in this emigration, which was the single most influential event, which led to the present global distribution of the family. Most of these emigrated in the period 1840 to 1890; whilst the majority of these went to North America and Australia, others moved within the British Isles. For example, one John Argall moved to Lifton in Devon to work as a miner, and founded a new branch, which eventually moved into Somerset, where his descendants still live. Others moved to London and Hampshire, and into Wales and Ireland following the general trend to seek work. Very few stayed on in Cornwall. Moreover, some of those who did emigrate moved on again – sometimes to entirely different continents. The ARGALLs were spreading on a global basis; during the second half of the 19th century, they had spread into the emerging economies of Australia, Canada and the United States, following the general move of the Cornish. The path of the present global distribution was to be set forever.

By the end of the 20th Century, just over 50 people bearing the ARGALL surname were living in the United Kingdom, although two different Argalls had migrated back to England from Australia. By the beginning of the 21st century there were 55 ARGALLs counted in the UK’s 2001 Census; of these only a dozen or so remain in Cornwall. Those that remain in Cornwall are centred on Redruth and Truro. The majority of the remainder are predominately in Somerset, and others are scattered throughout the North of England, the Midlands and the Home Counties. In common with most other countries, the modern trend for mobility has spread the remaining family more thinly within a single generation.

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