Not strictly Victorian perhaps, as it preceded Victoria’s reign by five years. As if the endemic typhoid, typhus and dysentery, not to mention the measles, mumps and whooping cough that every year cut a swathe through thousands of infants, were not enough, in 1832 cholera arrived in Cornwall. Outbreaks periodically panicked local authorities into the … Continue reading Cholera in Cornwall: the Victorians’ coronavirus
Christian missionaries don’t get such a good press these days, often viewed as merely an arm of western colonialism, accompanying the trader and the soldier. But some missionaries broke the mould. One was John Colenso, born at St Austell on January 24th, 1814. The Colensos were actually a Penzance family. John’s father was a mine … Continue reading Who was Bishop Colenso?
While giving a talk on surnames last week at Madron, just outside Penzance, I was reminded of the role of chance in the history of family names. One unpredictable aspect was the relative proportion of male children born. If several boys were born into a family and they all survived, then the family name was … Continue reading The role of luck in the history of surnames
Two booklets have appeared recently on the subject of the Cornish language and here I provide a review and summary of them. Rod Lyon’s Colloquial doesn’t mean Corrupt: Observations on contemporary revived Cornish is a searing indictment of the stilted and unconvincing spoken Cornish of many Cornish users. This is something Rod argues is the … Continue reading The Cornish language: polemics and plans
This week sees the anniversary of the first battle of the Cornish army in the seventeenth century civil wars – the battle of Braddock Down. In the autumn of 1642 when the wars began it wasn’t at all certain who would rally Cornwall behind them. Would it be Royalists or Parliamentarians? The greater gentry in … Continue reading The battle of Braddock Down
The nineteenth century distribution of a surname is sometimes a good guide to its point of origin, sometimes less so. Take the following three names, which are all likely to have begun life in the district around the Fal estuary in south Cornwall. Mankee was a name associated entirely with west Cornwall in 1861, with … Continue reading Three surnames from the Fal district
In 1885 a letter appeared in the West Briton listing what were claimed to be the 27 richest men in Cornwall with their reputed incomes. Here’s the richest nine. (For a rough modern equivalent of the income multiply the figures by 120). NameHouseAnnual incomeThomas Charles Agar-RobartesLanhydrock£75,000John Charles WilliamsCaerhayes£60,000Evelyn BoscawenTregothnan£50,000Duke of Cornwall£40,000Gustavus BassetTehidy£32,000William Henry EdgcumbeMount Edgcumbe£30,000Thomas … Continue reading Who were the richest families of late Victorian Cornwall?
It’s not generally well-known that Truro and Camborne were relatively early centres of socialist activism. In May 1904 W.A.Phillips, standing ‘boldly as a representative of the workers and a Social Democrat’ was elected to Truro Town Council in a by-election in Truro East. This was the first council seat won by a socialist west of … Continue reading Socialism in Edwardian Cornwall
Sometimes the changing spellings of surnames can tend to confuse us. The first example is fairly obvious. The name Lidgey began life in the early 1600s in Redruth and on the Lizard (where it was more likely to be Ludgy). It doesn’t take a great deal of detective work to find the placename Lidgey at … Continue reading Cornish surnames where the spelling obscures the origin
By the end of the fifteenth century the Arundell family of Lanherne at St Mawgan had climbed to the top of Cornwall’s pecking order. Yet, by the 1600s the family was declining fast. The reason was simple enough. Their stubborn commitment to Roman Catholicism after the Reformation of the 1540s made them suspect in the … Continue reading The fall of the Arundells of Lanherne