St Stephen in Brannel: a million-selling author

In earlier times, inland parishes such as St Stephen in Brannel in mid-Cornwall were places where the fiercely independent tinner-farmers of Cornwall flourished. This class had energetically enclosed the downs, carved out their smallholdings and built their cottages. However, from the early nineteenth century their way of life was being progressively undermined by the expansion … Continue reading St Stephen in Brannel: a million-selling author

Miner’s cottage, manor house and famous neighbours

As the examples in the previous blog showed, some of the children in our Victorian Lives database did not move far beyond the confines of the district in which they grew up. Others, for a variety of reasons, broke away and by the time they were 40 their childhood landscapes were just fond memories (or … Continue reading Miner’s cottage, manor house and famous neighbours

Views of Cornwall in 1919

Donald Shaw MacLaughlan (1876-1938) was an American artist (although born in Prince Edward Island, Canada). As a young man he followed the trail of many other artists from North America and travelled to Europe, basing himself thereafter mainly in France but travelling widely. Among his journeys he visited Cornwall, where he spent some time around … Continue reading Views of Cornwall in 1919

St Neot church windows

In the last years of the Catholic church’s primacy in England there was a boom in church building and restoration. Cornwall too had its share of church re-building beginning in the 1400s. Bodmin, the largest church, was rebuilt between 1469 and 1491. St Mary Magdalene at Launceston is another major example, rebuilt between 1511 and … Continue reading St Neot church windows

Who was the real John Tregeagle?

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?

Peter Lanyon’s insider modernism

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

Where’s Arthur when we need him?

Nance Let's continue the Arthurian theme from the last blog, which included a map of the early distribution of the surname Arthur. The warrior-king Arthur, who left his imprint in the landscape from Brittany to Scotland, was given a restored role by the Cornish revivalists of the early 1900s. It seems an appropriate time of … Continue reading Where’s Arthur when we need him?

Pisky-led? Piskies and Cornish difference

Pixies or piskies are little people, about knee-high. They live in the otherworld and are usually invisible to humans. But if you look very carefully you might just spot them cavorting around in circles on a remote moor at the dead of night. Sometimes they will help farmers and others with their chores; sometimes they … Continue reading Pisky-led? Piskies and Cornish difference

Silas Hocking: a Cornish record-breaker

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