What people are saying about "The Cornish in the Caribbean"...


"You are such an incredible writer. I so enjoyed reading your book." - Nancy Aufhammer, 21 February 2021


"This is a very readable and well researched book


I have to say that I did not know a great deal about this topic, but all that has changed and I now have a thirst for reading more about this part of the world. You deserve every success with this book, Sue."   -  Anne Parsons, January 2021

"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 visit islands with a list of places to seek out. This was a well received Christmas gift and has prompted some Cornish holidaymakers to visit."  -  Amazon.uk customer, July 2020

"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

"Commentary - Book on Cornish in the Caribbean seen as important to VI [Virgin Island] History

Over five years ago, I received a “blast from the past:” an email from an organiser of a UNESCO workshop in Antigua in the mid-1980s on the use of mini/micro computers in information work (see the end of my June 6 Beacon commentary “Roadmap proposed for UK, VI”). Author Sue Appleby subsequently invited my help with some research on the copper mine on Virgin Gorda, for a book she was writing. 


I gladly shared with her my own research on the mine, combed through microfilm of the Virgin Islands Legislative Council minutes in the Archives Unit, and took her around the iconic ruins. However, I can claim no other credit for the work that went into The Cornish in the Caribbean, a very informative and enjoyable read, produced to a very high standard. As I mentioned in my June 13 commentary “VI-Cornwall links explained,” the book was published in February.

Ms. Appleby’s minutely detailed and meticulously referenced story of the miners who worked on Virgin Gorda takes its place among accounts of other Cornish visitors to the Caribbean during the 17th to 19th Centuries, including merchants, plantation owners and seamen. She stresses the important role that their shared Methodism played in the lives of the Cornish miners and the Virgin Islanders who worked with them.

Most Cornish miners travelled alone to their work abroad, some later sending for their families or marrying local women. Exceptionally, several who came to Virgin Gorda brought their wives with them. Perhaps that may have been a tribute to Virgin Gorda’s healthy climate, as they suffered from only one death — that of a baby — before the mine closed and they returned home."

- Peter Moll in the BVI Beacon newspaper, 3 July, 2019

"The Cornish Were Here [in Trinidad and Tobago]

Cornwall, at the southwestern end of Britain, is not just another English county. With only one land border, it’s almost an island with its three sea coasts. There always was, and still is, a distinct Cornish 'ethnic' identity, forged through its unique history, and its ancient Celtic language and culture. Cornwall’s economy was traditionally based on mining (tin and copper), fishing, sea-faring, smuggling and wrecking—activities which have entered into British popular culture through the novels by Daphne du Maurier (and the movies made of them) and the TV series 'Poldark'.

Though there is a considerable literature on the 'Cornish Diaspora', the Caribbean has been largely omitted from it. This is the gap filled by Sue Appleby’s meticulously researched and very readable new book, The Cornish in the Caribbean. It tells the stories of the many, and very
diverse, Cornish men and women who went to the Caribbean, and worked, exploited and fought (and sometimes died) there, over a span of nearly three centuries from the 1630s. Some were wealthy planters who made fortunes out of the labour of enslaved Africans whom they owned, like Jamaica’s Price family. At the other end of the social scale, many Cornish men and women came to the early English colonies like St Kitts and Barbados as indentured servants in the 1600s, their lives little better than those of the enslaved Africans. Cornish men were active in the British armed services, taking part in the innumerable sea and land battles through which the Western European powers vied for supremacy in the Caribbean and the Atlantic. Sea-faring had always been crucial to the Cornish economy, and many younger sons of the gentry in the 1700s and 1800s joined the Royal Navy as officers, seeing action in the Caribbean in the many conflicts with Holland, Spain and France. Others worked in the merchant marine as captains or skilled seamen.

But the most striking transfer of Cornish skills to the Caribbean was to be found in mining. As the Cornish tin and copper mines declined, and often closed, by the middle of the nineteenth century, the 'Great Emigration' of miners and their families got underway. Appleby  follows Cornish mining engineers, foremen and labourers to mines in Jamaica in the 1840s/50s, to guano mining on Sombrero Island near Anguilla in the 1860s to 1880s, to copper mines on Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands in the mid-nineteenth century, to gold and diamond mining in British Guiana in the 1880s, 1890s and early 1900s, to gold mining on Dutch Aruba in the late 1800s, and to Cuba for copper mining around the same period. 


There’s not much in the book about T&T [Trinidad and Tobago], but Appleby does write about the Cornishman Daniel Mathew, who bought estates in Tobago in the early 1770s when the island was just opening up for plantation development under the British. He had to deal with several serious rebellions by the newly enslaved Africans, who destroyed plantations and killed a few whites. Appleby was unable to identify Cornish families who settled in Trinidad, but she quotes a Cornish sea captain, James Buckingham, whose ship visited the newly British island around 1803. He was shocked by the constant sight of naked negroes working in gangs, many with chains on their legs, leaving sores by their friction, and others with iron collars with great hooks projecting outward from them on all sides, to prevent the wearers from escaping through the forests — so much for the myth of 'mild' slavery in Trinidad. Another Cornish captain, Henry Blewett, took a cargo of asphalt from the Pitch Lake to England in 1864 for scientific testing, which marked the start of the commercial exploitation of the lake."

- Bridget Brereton in The Trinidad Express newspaper, 26 June, 2019

The Cornish in the Caribbean is a very well researched and readable story following the years when two distinct communities came together.


You don't have to be Cornish, or know the Caribbean, to appreciate the lives of these people. As a Methodist I had a particular interest in the chapter concerning this aspect - 'Men of God: Methodist Missionaries', but I was also intrigued by the stories of other people who also brought some of the Cornish traditions and life styles to a very different environment. It is a fascinating and interesting book. A book I thoroughly recommend."  -  Irene Robinson, May 2019

"This well-documented historical work focuses on the Cornish immigration to the Caribbean in the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries.

Appleby provides insight into conditions drawing men to the islands. Mining became the chief occupation of those who settled. Because of Methodism's prevalence in Cornwall, missionaries populated the islands reaching out to the English and native inhabitants. The main text presents the lives of the men residing in the islands while the appendices provide brief histories of the islands and of Methodism's rise in Cornwall. With over 750 endnotes and an extensive bibliography, Appleby provides readers with resources for further research."

-  NetGalley review for the e-book version, April 2019


What people are saying about "The Hammers of Towan"...

"In this closely observed and carefully crafted story of the Hammer family in nineteenth-century Cornwall, Sue Appleby explores the life of a Cornish tenant farmer, his wives, and offspring.


Drawing upon the rich material of her own family history, she investigates the varying fortunes of her great-grandfather, Philip Hammer of Porthpean, near St Austell, and in so doing brings alive the social history of nineteenth-century Cornwall – including the extraordinary Cornish diaspora which scattered Philip’s sons and daughters as far afield as Australia and South Africa. The tale of one family, it is also the story of Cornwall itself. Appleby tells it with passion and penetrating insight – an important addition to our understanding of Cornwall’s fascinating world-wide heritage."  -  Professor Philip Payton, Director, Institute of Cornish Studies, University of Exeter (Cornwall Campus)



"Glad to been given a copy... Family history. Amazing stuff... Thank you for the delightful book."  -  Mark James Kemp, January 9, 2016



"I could sense the fragrance of my Cornish mother's pasties as I read through Sue Appleby's remarkable journey through her family history.


Indeed one Cornish story is all our stories as Sue's brilliantly researched and detailed history of The Hammers of Towan tracks us through the mining, farming and fishing heydays of early 19th century Cornwall before the heartbreaking decline later in the century prompting waves of migration - in the case of some of the Hammers - to Australia and South Africa as well as "up country" to different areas of Britain. When copper and tin prices fell worldwide and cheaper sources were discovered in the British Commonwealth as well as the Far East and North & South America, "Cousin Jack" hard rock miners were sought widely for their expertise. Even though the Cornish inventions of the steam engine and hydraulic drilling equipment played vital roles in the Industrial Revolution, Cornish miners sought their fortunes - or raw survival - in far flung corners of the world. Appleby's great-grandfather Philip Henry Hammer was, however, a successful farmer who was married 3 times and had a flurry of children and Sue has the gift of bringing them alive for us against a backdrop of historic detail. Sue Appleby's family disapora touches us all, and I long for a sequel to this work to bring us closer to her mother's journey and indeed her own journey to Antigua."  -  sulis on Amazon.com, April 13, 2015



"Based around the life and times of  Philip Henry HAMMER (1834-1904) of Charlestown, this is a tale of fortune found in the Ballarat gold rush and the subsequent elevation of a miner into a tenant farmer and miller on his return to Cornwall. 

There is a brief history of the growth of Charlestown as a port and a description of farm life on Towan Farm in the mid 19th century. The text is supplemented by family photographs, sketches and abstracts from historical documents. The book is an easy, informative read and provides not only details of the Hammer family but also an insight into the social and economic factors of the period, which in due course influence the lives of the Hammer children."  -  Colin Trebilcock in the Cornwall Family History Society Journal, No. 153, September 2014, p.16.



"The Story of my Family


The Hammers of Towan tells the story of a part of my family that I knew little about - it helped me place them in Cornwall and allowed me to imagine the type of life they had. A must for any member of the Hammer family and also for those who want to learn about life in rural Cornwall. Thank you Sue for all your hard work and dedication and congratulations of achieving the publication of your work."

-  Hawksby on Amazon.co.uk, August 27, 2014



"The Hammers of Towan is a book that is simultaneously an account of a Cornwall family's history during the nineteenth century and also a window unto the social and economic circumstances and developments of Britain for the same period.


The book gives insight as to how at the human level, Britain's industrial and imperial expansion affected rural communities and families by influencing the change of prevalence from extended to nuclear family organisation, of average family size, of occupational pursuits away from mining and farming and correspondingly, relocation to far flung places of the Empire like Australia and southern Africa and to the cities of Britain. As you follow the course of the lives of Philip Henry Hammer, his wife Jane Opie Hammer, their progeny, intimates and acquaintances from 1834 to the dawn of the twentieth century, the subtext of a swiftly changing Britain is evident although the author makes great effort to highlight the mode of traditional rural Cornwall life based as it then was in agriculture and mining. If I could be granted one wish, it would be to learn more about the children of Philip Henry Hammer and his third wife Emily Jane Brokenshire."

-  Richard B. Lai Choy on Amazon.com, August 5, 2014



"An interesting family history, telling how several generations of the Hammers adapted to the economic changes of their times in Cornwall."  -  RobW74 on Amazon..co.uk, July 21, 2014



"I haven't read it all yet, but it is looking good and is giving us a great deal of background information. Really good!"

-  Katherine on Amazon.co.uk, July 17, 2014



"The Hammers of Towan is a delightful and interesting account of the family and of mining in Cornwall in the 19th century.  


I was so interested to read about the construction of Charlestown Harbour, as my husband and I spent our honeymoon in Charlestown sixty three years ago.  We stayed at the Pier Hotel, which overlooks the harbour, and used to watch the loading of the china clay into the boats moored up to the quay.  I really admired the courage of the family who travelled to Australia, Tasmania and South Africa in what must have been harsh times.  I was sorry when I had finished reading this book...  Well done Sue !"  -  Audrey Betts, April 24, 2014    



"Very Captivating !


Sue Appleby tells the account of the Hammer family in a way that draws the reader in, making him/her feel like a part of Cornwall during that time. The details that Appleby provides about the Hammer family is impressive, and the book directly (or indirectly) provides insight into Cornwall's role in the Industrial Revolution, which I really enjoyed. This is a story about a family and Cornwall and its history, told with both enthusiasm and passion that is very hard to miss. The extensive research undertaken undoubtedly adds to the details of the Hammer family and their travels to countries such as South Africa.and Australia. I enjoyed this book. I especially enjoyed the writing style that just completely drew me in to the Hammer family, Cornwall, and its history. "  -  Sheryl A. Stephen on Amazon.com, April 18, 2014



"A wonderful insight in 19th and early 20th Century Cornwall. 


I can only endorse Professor Philip Payton's description of this little book. It is  well researched, well written and contains many interesting insights into Cornish life in the 19th Century. The history of the Hammer family itself was fascinating ... even for someone with no connection with the family, but the descriptions and information contained therein would be very useful to any local historian studying that period. I thoroughly enjoyed it!" - Michael Inglefield on Amazon.co.uk, March 28, 2014



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Hammer Brothers

Hammer Brothers back at Towan XVI