There are not many Farmers in Cornwall, while more generally the words peasant and smallholder did not give rise to surnames. Sometimes, the absence of these names is linked to their frequency in medieval times. If there were a lot of peasants then calling John or Joan 'Peasant' would be of little help in distinguishing … Continue reading Agricultural Cornish surnames
Richard Carew was the first to record the story of Thomasine Bonaventure, a poor young shepherdess of Week St Mary in north Cornwall, who was carried off to London by a rich merchant who happened to be passing. He wrote that he ‘saw her, heeded her, liked her, begged her of her poor parents, and … Continue reading Thomasine Bonaventure: the true story
On a particularly stormy night, when the wind howls down the chimney and the rain crashes against the windows, you might hear the spirit of John Tregeagle, wailing and raging as he roams the moors and cliffs or tries to complete various hopeless tasks. Folk tales about Tregeagle agree that he was summoned from the … Continue reading Who was the real John Tregeagle?
Several surnames derived from placenames not found in Cornwall have either become numerous here or largely confined to Cornwall over the centuries. These have to all intents and purposes become Cornish surnames. some, such as Chesterfield or Kendal, may have origins many hundreds of miles away, but the largest number, as we might expect, originated … Continue reading Some Devon placenames that became Cornish surnames
Cornish fishing is suddenly all over the news. Disappointment over the result of the Brexit deal promises difficult times to come. Meanwhile, almost every evening we’re fed a diet of documentaries about fishermen in Cornwall. Pondering on this I realised that there haven't been many blogs about fishing on this site (for an exception see … Continue reading Seine fishing: picturesque and profit-seeking
Which was Cornwall’s first railway? The first steam-powered railway was the Bodmin and Wadebridge Railway of 1834. But it’s been argued that the accolade must go instead to the Redruth and Chacewater Railway. This opened on January 30th, 1826 and the wagons running on it had flanged wheels, like railway carriages nowadays. This contrasted with … Continue reading Cornwall’s first true railway?
In The Surnames of Cornwall I reported that by the 1600s around a third of people in Cornwall possessed what I termed ‘local’ surnames. This included surnames from a specific place (sometimes called locative surnames) and surnames from more general landscape features (such as Hill or Green). On this website I pointed out that by … Continue reading A tale of toponyms
In 1861 the small community of Carbis Bay had been thriving, its young residents working in the nearby tin mines. A generation later in 1891 the mines had closed and the community been decimated. The 103 inhabitants of 1861 had fallen to a mere 45, living in 13 households. There was only one man left … Continue reading Carbis Bay in 1891: de-industrialised and older, but still local
The St Ives school of modern art was dominated numerically by temporary residents. However, one of its central and most talented figures was locally born Peter Lanyon (1918-64). According to Andrew Causey’s biography of Lanyon, his method was ‘one of sublimation, where the figure disappears into landscape’. For Lanyon, the landscape was not the object … Continue reading Peter Lanyon’s insider modernism
The surname dictionaries are singularly unhelpful when it comes to the origin of Bice, Bilkey and Boase, all found in Cornwall in the early 1500s and all three dispersing by the 1600s. Bice and Bilkey do not appear in Reaney’s dictionary of surnames while Boase is implicitly regarded as a variant of Boyse or Boyce. … Continue reading More surname puzzles