The history of the Williams family of Caerhays in mid-Cornwall and Scorrier, Burncoose and Tregullow near Redruth is the story of Cornwall writ small. Emerging from obscurity in the later 1600s in the country between Redruth and Penryn, the family became Cornwall’s most successful mine managers and investors during the 1700s. It was John Williams … Continue reading From merchanting to gardening: the Williams dynasty of Caerhays
The trial of Cuthbert Mayne began on September 23rd 1577. Mayne had trained as a Catholic priest and came to Cornwall in 1575. At Golden, near Probus, he found a place in the house of Francis Tregian. The Tregians were originally tin merchants and shipowners in Truro and had acquired the estate at Golden through … Continue reading Cuthbert Mayne
It’s generally assumed the surnames Warren and Warne have different origins. The surname dictionaries state that Warren is either from a placename in Normandy or a name for someone living near or working in a game park. Warne is supposed to be from a placename in Devon. The same sources tell us Wearne is a … Continue reading Do the surnames Warren, Warne and Wearne have a shared origin?
On September 20th 1893 a party of timbermen were working more than 900 yards (or 800 metres) below the surface in one of the deepest parts of Dolcoath Mine strengthening a stull at the 412 fathom level. A stull was a framework of large timbers set up above and/or across a stope, a worked -out … Continue reading The Dolcoath mine disaster of 1893
Believe it or not, the Cornish can occasionally be the butt of stereotypes. We’re ‘slow’, ‘backward’ or ‘living in the past’. Sometimes we collude with these, for example through the use of dreckly, turning the stereotype back onto its users in an ironic and postmodernist way. This is good for a laugh but some of … Continue reading Challenging negative stereotypes of Cornwall and its people
Two fairly common Cornish surnames, both with a wide distribution in the 1500s. You can find maps of these in 1861 for comparison here. Remember, if you want information on a surname that hasn’t appeared in my book or been a subject of a previous blog do let me know.
This week sees the anniversary of the death of Silas Hocking in 1935. Largely forgotten now, Silas was the first writer in the world to sell over a million copies of a novel. This was his second book, Her Benny, published in 1879. It was a sentimental tale of child poverty and rags to riches … Continue reading Silas Hocking: a Cornish record-breaker
In its marketing strategy for Tintagel English Heritage decided to emphasise its legendary aspects and links to the Arthurian myth. The only problem with this was that there were actually no physical objects at the site on which they could anchor the legends. So they installed some in the shape of the statue of the … Continue reading Legend, history and selfies at Tintagel
Two Cornish surnames, one from a placename and the other from a first name. You can find maps of these in 1861 for comparison here. Remember, if you want information on a surname that hasn’t appeared in my book or been a subject of a previous blog do let me know.
The last TV series may have veered sharply off the rails. However, re-reading the early novels of Winston Graham’s Poldark saga is a reminder of how he wove his plot around some not inaccurate historical observations. Cornwall was a place of major change in the Poldark years from 1783 to 1820. High pressure steam engines … Continue reading Contextualising Poldark: cottage conditions