Many will be aware of the name of Richard Carew of Antony, near Torpoint. He was the author of the Survey of Cornwall, published in 1602, the first such history written in the British Isles and a window onto life in Cornwall in the late 1500s. His son and grandsons are less well known but … Continue reading How the Cornish Carews lost their heads
What was the height of the Cornish in times past? As an east Cornwall man born and bred, when I first moved to west Cornwall way back in the mid-1970s I was struck by the number of rather short men and women I saw. This may be merely anecdotal but there’s a persistent belief that … Continue reading How short were the Cornish?
Several surnames are supposed to have derived from the first name Bartholomew. These include Bartle, a short form, and Bartlett, a double diminutive. Actually, the double diminutive seems to have established itself first, with several examples of Bartlett in the 1500s strongly implying two points of origin in south east Cornwall and north east of … Continue reading Unravelling a group of Cornish surnames
The visitor to Brittany cannot fail to notice the number of presqu’îles, or ‘almost islands’ dotted around its coasts. These are usually peninsulas jutting into the sea with only a narrow strip joining them to the land. We have no equivalent term in the English language but the whole of Cornwall could be viewed as … Continue reading Cornwall is ‘almost an island’
It's the weekend, traditionally the time to play and watch sport, although at the moment watching is a mite more difficult than normal. Three hundred years ago the most watched sport in Cornwall would have been wrestling. The other sport associated with Cornwall was hurling. Here's an extract from chapter 7 of my forthcoming Poldark's … Continue reading A game fit only for barbarians
Barkle in the 1500s was a mid-Cornwall surname. Look out for a coming map of the associated name Bartle in this same period. Or does the spelling Barkla suggest an origin in Barclay? Barnicoat was more widely spread, its geography perhaps suggesting a sea-borne route from its Devonian origins. Barrett was common across mid and … Continue reading More early Cornish surname geographies
The common nightingale is rarely heard in Cornwall. What’s left of its shrinking habitat (numbers have fallen by more than a half in the UK since 1995) is mainly found in south-east England. The singing is done by the male bird but in Cornwall the nickname ‘the Cornish nightingale’ was given to a woman. Fanny … Continue reading The Cornish nightingale
In 1826 the West Briton carried a report from Redruth: a miner recently back from overseas had ‘astonished the natives by appearing in the streets in the dress usually worn by the Mexican miners.’ The migration links between Cornwall and Mexico in the 1800s have been less often covered than the much more numerous flows … Continue reading A Cornish colony in Mexico
The earliest spelling of what became Banfield or Bamfield makes it unlikely to have meant bean field originally. A Cornish language name meaning wheaten bread ... From barbarian? Or more likely Barbara.
One surname you won’t meet in today’s Cornwall is Bodrugan. The name has its origin in a place overlooking St Austell Bay near Mavagissey. It means Rygan’s farmstead and was acquired by the family that had emerged as the owners of the local manor by the 1200s. By the 1320s Otto Bodrugan was one of … Continue reading Who were the Bodrugans?