Some surnames that don’t look Cornish but are

There are several surnames that give few hints of their Cornish provenance. It often comes as a surprise to learn that they have impeccably Cornish pedigrees.

The name Hurdon for example has a long history. William Hurdon was living at Lezant, next to the Tamar, in 1544 and he had a namesake in the neighbouring parish of North Hill. North Hill became the core district for Hurdons until the 1700s, when this family name began to spread. Its early geography proves the origin was the placename Hurdon, found at Altarnun and at Launceston. This looks English but is actually thought to be from the Cornish language, meaning fort of the ram.

Kelway is clearly a spelling variant of Callaway. But perhaps we should turn that around as Callaway was an eighteenth-century development of Calway and Kelway merely an alternative spelling for Calway. This name was widely dispersed from an early point, but the main location of Kelways was in the west, at Lelant and on the Lizard. Meanwhile, Calways were more likely to be found in north Cornwall. The name is claimed to have an origin in a place in Normandy.

Hubber doesn’t have such a long history but appears to have been coined in Cornwall. The name appeared very late, in the Newquay area in the 1810s. It’s been explained as a dialect form of the surname Hubert, of which there were no representatives in Cornwall before the 1700s. If an unfamiliar name arrived in a district, it could be more prone to being re-spelt.

3 thoughts on “Some surnames that don’t look Cornish but are

  1. There are several mentions of adventurers named ‘Kelwa’ in the Stannary lists (with no ‘y’), across 1500s Penwith, in Allen Buckley’s ‘Tudor Tin Industry‘ book.

    Nadelek lowen.

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  2. Distinctly unproven: Carn Galva ~ Kelwa ?? – 12km W of Lelant. Against: Gol-va / watch-place – e.g. Pednolva – but elsewhere truncated/lenited and rendered ‘Olver/Oliver’, allegedly (G Pawley-White). Also against: only a lone atypical Kelwa burial record, 1744 Mullion amid many a Kelway. Perhaps likelier a 1500s rendering of *Kelway with ‘a’ for ‘ay’ (but… was that ‘-ay’~’-a’ otherwise attested?), or (unproven, unlikely imho) ex-placename spelling imitating other surname.

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