The Cornish declaration of independence

Browsing through A.L.Rowse’s The Little Land of Cornwall the other day, I revisited his account of Samuel Johnson’s skit of the late 1770s when Johnson was arguing the case against American independence. Dr Johnson was attempting to show up the absurdity of the American claims by supposing the rage for independence had spread to Cornwall … Continue reading The Cornish declaration of independence

Cornwall: England’s last refuge?

These days, it seems you can’t scan the TV schedules without being confronted by programmes set in Cornwall. Just this week we have ‘Rick Stein’s Cornish Christmas’ on BBC. On Channel 4 there’s ‘Newquay: 24/7 party people’, while Channel 5 is showing ‘Cornwall’s most scenic railway journeys’. ‘Cornwall Air 999’ can be found on Really, … Continue reading Cornwall: England’s last refuge?

Cornwall is ‘almost an island’

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’

Bridging the Tamar

At the very margins of Cornwall, the River Tamar is nonetheless central to Cornish identity. Countless books refer to the river ‘almost’ extending far enough to make Cornwall an island. When Brunel’s railway bridge spanned the estuary at Saltash in 1859 it was widely viewed as ending Cornwall’s remoteness. Even sober industrial archaeologists have written … Continue reading Bridging the Tamar

The martyrs of ’97 and the Cornish rising

That’s 1497 of course. On this day in that year the two leaders of the Cornish rising met their grisly end. Michael Angove, a blacksmith from St Keverne and Thomas Flamank, a Bodmin lawyer, were hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn in London. They suffered this fate for what they had considered was the perfectly … Continue reading The martyrs of ’97 and the Cornish rising

The 1549 rising: the revised chronology

Early June is usually taken to be the anniversary of the time in 1549 when the Prayer Book rising began. According to the Government indictment of its leaders, a thousand men gathered on June 6th at Bodmin to protest against the new English Prayer Book to be used in church services. This predated the rising … Continue reading The 1549 rising: the revised chronology

The 1960s: when everything in Cornwall began to change

The Torrey Canyon begins to break up On March 18th 1967 the Liberian registered oil tanker, the Torrey Canyon, struck the Seven Stones reef west of Land’s End. Attempts to refloat the ship failed and it began to break up, releasing the 100,000 tons or so of crude oil on board. Attempts by the RAF … Continue reading The 1960s: when everything in Cornwall began to change