Worst in Britain? Cornish roads 200 years ago

Maybe it was the penny-pinching of the parishes who were responsible for the upkeep of the roads. Maybe it was a question of Cornwall’s hilly topography. But contemporaries were agreed; Cornwall’s roads were atrocious. In 1754 a writer in the Gentleman’s Magazine concluded that: Cornwall, I believe, at present has the worst roads in all … Continue reading Worst in Britain? Cornish roads 200 years ago

St Neot church windows

In the last years of the Catholic church’s primacy in England there was a boom in church building and restoration. Cornwall too had its share of church re-building beginning in the 1400s. Bodmin, the largest church, was rebuilt between 1469 and 1491. St Mary Magdalene at Launceston is another major example, rebuilt between 1511 and … Continue reading St Neot church windows

‘Little huts’: housing in the late 1700s

In the fictional universe of Poldark, Demelza had lived in a ‘tiny, crowded cottage’ before being whisked away by Ross. But exactly how rough and rudimentary were the cottages in which folk like Demelza and her family had to live? Fortunately, we possess several descriptions of the cottages of the labouring poor in these years. … Continue reading ‘Little huts’: housing in the late 1700s

Trevithick: an iconic surname with multiple origins

This week ought to have seen the annual Trevithick Day, when Camborne celebrates its most famous son. By the middle of the 1800s Trevithick was a surname found in the greatest numbers in the Central Mining District of Camborne-Redruth, particularly in Camborne. Richard Trevithick had himself been born at Tregajorran, actually in Illogan parish, but … Continue reading Trevithick: an iconic surname with multiple origins

The politics of surnames. Or the surnames of politicians.

With local elections in the offing, it seems an appropriate time to ask whether there is any relationship between surnames and politics, or at least with those men and women standing for election to Cornwall Council next month. In 1889, when Cornwall County Council was set up, over two thirds, or 71% of the newly … Continue reading The politics of surnames. Or the surnames of politicians.

The hollow jarring of the distant steam engines

From page 6 of my The Real World of Poldark: Cornwall 1783-1820 ... On television, we saw Ross Poldark galloping along the cliff tops, crystal clear in the sparkling sunlight. Back in 1795, an anonymous visitor was more concerned with the smoke that enveloped the mining district. Redruth was ‘in a cloud of smoke ... … Continue reading The hollow jarring of the distant steam engines