Troubador The Hammers of Towan

Released: 28/05/2021

ISBN: 9781800463202

eISBN: 9781800469822

Format: Paperback/eBook

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The Hammers of Towan

A Nineteenth-Century Cornish Family


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.

'Cornish in the Caribbean' was recently featured in the London Cornish Association's newsletter for Summer 2022. This is what they had to say:

When Covid struck in 2020, we reluctantly had to cancel our planned Family History Day in the April. Ignorant of the long-term impact Covid would have we assumed we'd soon be up and running again. Sue Appleby was one of the arranged speakers for that day and she agreed to come to us the following April when she would be back in the UK. And similarly for 2023, though it's a suitable venue to replace the Centre that is the issue now. Sadly, we still have not been able to arrange one. However, we thought we could introduce you to Sue Appleby and her work on
the Cornish in the Caribbean.

Cornish ancestors and childhood vacations spent in Cornwall gave Sue Appleby an early interest in Cornish history while she has spent most of her working life in the Caribbean assisting in the development of information systems and service for various international, regional and national organisations. Her interest in writing about the Cornish in the Caribbean developed while she was researching her mother family, research that became The Hammers of Towan: a 19th Century Cornish Family. During her visits to Cornwall local historians, researchers and librarians she met remarked that, while much has been written about the Cornish diaspora in many parts of the world, the Caribbean has mostly been left out and, as Sue is in some small part Cornish and has spent many years in the Caribbean, why didn't she write something ?

She took up the challenge and The Cornish in the Caribbean: From the 17th to the 19th Centuries is the result. It tells the stories of some of the Cornish men and women who went to all parts of the Caribbean. Some became wealthy planters, while others came as indentured servants and labourers. Cornish men were active in the armed services, taking part in the numerous sea and land battles fought by the European powers competing to colonise the region. Cornish officers and crew sailed on the ships of the Falmouth Packet Service which took the mail to and from the Caribbean, while Methodist missionaries and their wives came to evangelise both the enslaved and the newly free. And as Cornish mining declined and the Great Emigration of miners and their families got underway, mining captains, engineers and miners brought their skills to Caribbean mines.

The book was well received and, in 2020, was nominated for the Holyer an Gof Award.

A new review for 'The Cornish in the Caribbean'
"Fascinating connections well explored & written - Bravo Sue! This is a page turner for any Cornish person, indeed anyone interested in the history and influence of the Cornish in the Caribbean. I learnt lots and it has me set to visits islands with a list of places to seek out. This was a well received Christmas gift and has prompted some Cornish holidaymakers to visit" - customer, July 2020

'The Cornish in the Caribbean' has recently been short-listed for the 2020 Holyer an Gof Book Awards
The annual Gorsedh Kernow Holyer an Gof Publishers' Awards were instigated in 1996 and are so named in memory of Redruth publisher and Cornish Bard Leonard Truran, whose Bardic name was Holyer an Gof - 'Follower of The Smith'. The scheme was established by, and is organised by, the Bards of Gorsedh Kernow to promote books about Cornwall, set in Cornwall, or written in Cornish (Kernewek). The panel of reader-reviewers comprises members of Gorsedh Kernow's College of Bards and others with particular expertise.

Ever wondered how Sue went about researching the information she needed to write 'The Cornish in the Caribbean' ?
You can find the answer in 'Museum Matters' - the in house magazine of the Lostwithiel Museum: Sue's article - 'The Cornish Were Where? Researching The Cornish in the Caribbean' - appears in the April 2020 issue. Copies of the magazine can usually be bought from the Lostwithiel Museum but, as the Museum will be closed for the rest of 2020, you should be able to buy a copy in Lostwithiel from either Watts Trading on Fore Street:, or from Stick of Lostwithiel on Queen Street: Alternatively, you can support the Lostwithiel Museum by joining the Lostwithiel Museum Association, which will - among many other benefits - entitle you to receive the Museum Matters magazine as part of your subscription. Information about joining the Lostwithiel Museum Association can be found here:

Two recent reviews for 'The Cornish in the Caribbean'

"Great book, sent a copy to my cousin who is more Cornish than I, thank you." - Gabrielle Harding, July 2020.

"A very interesting read and an impressive amount of research. Chapeau! I enjoyed it thoroughly!" - Stephen Raffe, March 2020.

The Lostwithiel Museum - known as 'The Biggest Little Museum in Cornwall' is featuring 'The Cornish in the Caribbean' in its January 2020 window display 'Cornwall and the Cornish'
You can find more information about this fascinating Museum at

Saturday December 7, 2019
Sue will be speaking at the Antigua launch of her book 'The Cornish in the Caribbean', at the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda, Long Street, At. John's.

Sue visited the Bartlett Library at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall in Falmouth recently to present Tony Pawlyn, the Museum's Head of Research, with a copy of 'The Cornish in the Caribbean'. Tony is the author of 'The Falmouth Packets' and was Sue's 'go-to' expert when she was researching the chapters on 'The Falmouth Packet Service' and 'In Defence of the Empire'.

Sue recently presented a copy of 'The Cornish in the Caribbean' to the Morrab Library in Penzance, Cornwall
The Morrab has an excellent Photo Archive which Sue used during her research. The Morrab writes:
"It was a real pleasure to have author Sue Appleby here today as she presented a copy of her just published book 'The Cornish in the Caribbean' to our Librarian and Head of Photo Archive... This book, exploring a unique part of Cornish history, will soon be on our shelves and available for both borrowing and research."

The Book Shop at Liskeard, Cornwall is holding a Book Shop Event on Thursday, March 28 at 4.00 pm
Author Sue Appleby will be telling the story of 'The Cornish in the Caribbean', [and how she came to write it]. The Book Shop is at 2 Barras Street Liskeard. The Book Shop writes: "We are delighted to welcome the author Sue Appleby to the Book Shop and hope that you will be able to join us to learn about the historical links between Cornwall and the Caribbean".

Comments on 'The Cornish in the Caribbean'

"Meticulously researched and highly readable" - Bridget Brereton, Professor Emerita, University of the West Indies, Trinidad. Author of 'Race Relations in Colonial Trinidad 1870-1900', ' A History of Modern Trinidad 1783-1962', and 'Ranjit Kumar: Bridging the East and the West (1912-1982)'.

"... very sprightly and accomplished. It was especially interesting to read about a venture [on Virgin Gorda] that was exactly contemporary with the Cobre Compan." - Professor Chris Evans, University of South Wales, Wales. Author of 'El Cobre: Cuban ore and the globalization of Swansea copper, 1830-1870', 'Carabali and Culies at El Cobre: African Slaves and Chinese Indentured Labourers in the Service of Swansea Copper', and 'Slave Wales: The Welsh and Atlantic Slavery, 1660-1850'.

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Sue Appleby

Sue Appleby has a deep interest in the history of all things Cornish. Her first book, 'The Hammers of Towan: a Nineteenth-Century Cornish Family', looks at the impact of the Great Emigration on Cornish ancestors on her mother's side of the family. A new and much expanded version based on new research, and featuring new photos and traditional Cornish recipes has just been published as an e-book. The paper back version will be published at the end of May.

Her second book, 'The Cornish in the Caribbean: from the 17th to 19th Centuries' was published early in 2019, and was shortlisted for the 2020 Cornish Publishers Awards - the Holyer an Gof. It tells the story of the contribution made by some of the Cornish people who went to the Caribbean: the miners in the copper mines of Cuba and Virgin Gorda, and the mines of then British Guiana and Aruba; the captains and crews of the Falmouth Packet Mail service to the West Indies; Methodist missionaries; colonial governors; wealthy planters; navy and army personnel stationed in the Caribbean; pirates and buccaneers.

Sue has spent most of her adult life in the Caribbean, working for various international, regional, and national organisations. Married to Bernie Evan-Wong, she has two daughters, Meiling and Sarah, and lives in Antigua.

Sue Appleby

The Hammers of Towan
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