The Hammers of Towan: A Nineteenth-Century Cornish Family
, centres around the life of the author’s great-grandfather Philip Henry Hammer, his three wives, and his children by his first wife, Jane Opie. The book tells the story of a now vanished world - the life and times of a 19th century Cornish farmer, the tenant of Towan Farm, near St. Austell. Here family life revolved around the big granite-floored farmhouse kitchen where Jane prepared traditional Cornish fare using old recipes – many of which are included in the book.
Running Towan as a profitable enterprise was hard work but, throughout the year, the family took part in the many local festivals and traditions that provided a welcome chance to celebrate the changing seasons. The family story plays out against the background of Cornwall’s mining industry, once vibrant but now in decline. As the local economy continued to fail, the migration of Cornish men and women in search of employment grew, and all nine of the Philip Henry and Jane’s children left Cornwall in search of work, making new lives for themselves and their families. They settled ‘up country’ in London, in Wales, in South Africa, and in Australia, and some eventually returned to Cornwall where, no matter how long they been gone, they always returned to Towan.