The French connection

Last week we saw that Cornwall was the temporary home for many hundreds of young Bretons in the period from the 1460s to the 1540s. But Brittany was not the only country of origin for those who flocked to Cornwall in this period in search of work and a better life. While well over 95% of the ‘aliens’ given a nationality in the tax lists of the 1520s and 1540s were Breton, there were others who came from the regions and nations of France.

A scattering of men classed as alien were named Franck – John Francke at Gerrans, another John at Gulval, a third John at Helston, with Michael and Raw Franck at Gwennap. These were presumably French-speakers. Another two were explicitly described as ‘Frenchman’ in 1543, Martin Frenchman  at Veryan and Perys Frenchman at nearby Philleigh.

We also find men from Gascony in south-west France, in William Gaskyn at Redruth and Pers John Gascon at St Gluvias. Burgundy in eastern France was also represented in Peter Burgonyan at Helston. Also at Helston was Creme Flemyng, while at Bodmin Peter Lokyer was also ‘born in Flandre’ (Flanders). These last were not, of course, French-speakers. Among the latter more specific origins were suggested in the names of Peter Roen, an alien born in France (no doubt at Rouen in Normandy) who was living at Bodmin. At St Keverne we find George Arras, from Arras on the borderlands between France and Flanders.

There were also a number of men in these records with the surname French.  However, they are not classed as aliens. Moreover, as the map below shows, most of them were found in the far north of Cornwall. Anyone with the surname French in the 1500s had been named earlier, after a medieval ancestor who was either a French-speaker or came from France or who behaved in a way that accorded with the contemporary stereotype of being a Frenchman. They had got their names probably earlier than 1380, well before a new sprinkling of French-speakers arrived in the late 1400s and 1500s.

3 thoughts on “The French connection

  1. There must have been another surge of French (and other?) Huguenots following the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 as well. I would love to know more about this, including written sources if any covering Cornwall. Recommendations?

    I wonder if the Grose name traces back directly to Huguenots or it existed before, or is not necessarily French at all. I would also love to know if you know anything about the Baudris name. I have already mentioned that Daniel Baudris turned up in Warleggan as rector around 1705 but before that he was active in Cornelly as rector, and married a Mary Bone (a widown, she was nee Grose) in 1698 (need to check exact date). I believe she had considerable wealth because her brother in London (Edward Grose) had perhaps as many as 30 to 50 houses in London and also in Cornwall (mentioned in his will) and perhaps her parents also provided for her “robustly”.

    I would love to know more about how to track down Baudris, Grose and Bone folks in Cornwall around the 1690s and for the next 30 years if you have any tips. (re Bone I just want to know if Mr Bone was from Cornwall and how to find out if he left a will to Mary as she was obviously a widow when she married Dan Baudris). Apparently she was from Truro but I believe London originally.

    PS Edward Grose’s grandson, I believe, became an MP of Looe for a short while in early 1800s before being shipped off to Jamaica.


    1. What you need to find is a copy of T.L.Stoate (ed.), Cornwall Subsidies in the Reign of Henry VIII 1524 and 1543 And the Benevolence of 1545, published in 1985. This is now very rare outside libraries. (Cornwall Library Service has copies.) I use a hard copy that I’ve had for years and there used to be CD of this floating around but I’m unsure if that’s still available or if anyone has digitised the original.


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