A trio of Cornish surnames – from the transparent to the obscure

Polgrean is a Cornish placename meaning gravel pit. It’s hardly uncommon, cropping up in at least eight parishes from Ludgvan in the west to St Veep in the east. By 1861 Polgreans were confined largely to West Penwith, with just single Polgrean households at Falmouth and St Germans. But in the seventeenth century there were … Continue reading A trio of Cornish surnames – from the transparent to the obscure

Stormy weather: past, present and future

It’s been henting down recently, with a succession of weather fronts, heavy rain and consistently strong winds reaching gale force at times. On the one hand there’s nothing new in this, as the hundreds of wrecks around Cornwall’s coast testify. These brought welcome temporary relief to coastal communities if they could succeed in snaffling away … Continue reading Stormy weather: past, present and future

The Black Prince. ‘Our’ first Duke of Cornwall

In 1337 King Edward III upgraded the existing earldom of Cornwall and made it into a duchy. He also established the convention that it would henceforth belong to the eldest son of the monarch. The recipient in 1337 and first Duke of Cornwall was the seven-year old Edward of Woodstock. A romanticised image from the … Continue reading The Black Prince. ‘Our’ first Duke of Cornwall

Locative Cornish surnames with a hint of mystery

While all three of the following surnames have their origin in placenames, or at least we assume they do, all three contain an element of mystery. It’s been suggested that Penver, which looks immaculately Cornish, has its origin in Penmear or Penmeur, meaning a large hill-top. The only problem with this interpretation is that no-one … Continue reading Locative Cornish surnames with a hint of mystery

Resisting the workhouse: poor relief in nineteenth-century Cornwall

On 17th February 1837 a riot occurred at Camelford in north Cornwall. There were also reports of disturbances at Stratton, further north. These events were caused by the establishment in that year of Poor Law Unions, following the implementation of the New Poor Law of 1834. This reform transferred responsibility for poor relief from the … Continue reading Resisting the workhouse: poor relief in nineteenth-century Cornwall

Goldsworthy Gurney, the inventor of limelight

With the recent success of the Cornish film Bait, it’s an appropriate time to remember an unwarrantably obscure Cornishman. Henry Lovell Goldsworthy Gurney was born on February 14th, 1793 at Padstow and died at Bude as Sir Goldsworthy Gurney on February 28th, 1875. Gurney’s connection with the dramatic arts is via his improvement of stage … Continue reading Goldsworthy Gurney, the inventor of limelight

Some Cornish surnames with single points of origin

My next three less common Cornish surnames all have obvious points of origin although in the case of the first this may be a district rather than a single parish. Pawlyn is a pet form of Paul, retaining the conservative spelling of Pawl which was usual in the early 1500s. At that time people called … Continue reading Some Cornish surnames with single points of origin

Cornwall’s literary and philosophical societies

Currently, Cornwall’s largest museum, the Royal Cornwall Museum at Truro, is temporarily closed to the public. This is the result of ‘continued reduction in grants and consistently low visitor numbers’. The museum’s origins date back more than 200 years. On the 5th February 1818 a number of gentlemen met together at Truro Library. From that … Continue reading Cornwall’s literary and philosophical societies

An eighteenth-century Cornish strongman

In 1758 the Universal Magazine published an account from William Borlase which related the ‘manners of the inhabitants of Cornwall’. Among several far-fetched stories it included the following as an example of the strength of Cornish people … A Cornish wain On Tuesday March 22,1757, John Chilew [normally spelt Chellew] of the parish of Ludgvan, … Continue reading An eighteenth-century Cornish strongman