Transregional Cornish surnames: another example

Following up on the blog earlier this week about Cornish surnames from afar, the case of Kendall warrants a moment’s consideration. This surname is assumed to be derived from Kendal in the Lake District, in the furthermost northern reaches of England. By the nineteenth century it was most commonly found in Cumbria – no surprise in that – but also occurred in more than average numbers in Cornwall.

In The Surnames of Cornwall, I hesitated to assign it to the placename category, struck by misgivings about its early and commonplace presence in Cornwall, where it was already very well established by the 1500s.

Had it really been introduced originally by someone from a small town hundreds of miles away? But this time we have some evidence to suggest that was indeed the case. In his Cornwall, Connectivity, and Identity in the Fourteenth Century (2019), S.J.Drake notes a John Kendale, appointed Receiver of the Duchy of Cornwall and Constable of Restormel Castle in the mid-1340s. Drake asserts twice that John Kendale ‘came from Westmorland’ (now part of Cumbria). No specific evidence is provided but the book is empirically very sound and there is equally no reason to question this assertion. Moreover, we know that Edward, the Black Prince, deliberately set out to pack his Duchy of Cornwall in the 1340s with non-Cornish incomers.

John Kendale’s original base at Restormel

Once installed, Kendale exploited his Duchy offices for the benefit of his kin. Other Kendales appeared at around the same time as the family quickly rooted themselves here. For example, a kinsman Edmund Kendale was appointed to the stewardship of the Duchy.

By the later 1300s Richard Kendale of Treworgy in Duloe was acquiring Cornish estates, representing Cornish boroughs in Parliament and serving as Sheriff of Cornwall (and Devon). Meanwhile, the first John’s son, another John, based at Pelyn in Lanlivery, went on to be Mayor of Lostwithiel and an MP, while engaging in tin trading and dabbling in some piracy on the side. His son in turn, Stephen, also sat as MP for Lostwithiel in 1417. By this time the Kendales had become ‘thorough Cornish gentlemen’. It also seems they were active in propagating the family name. The geography of the surname in the 1500s clearly supports the conclusion that the name Kendal arrived in Cornwall in the 1300s, courtesy of the Duchy of Cornwall’s staffing preferences.

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