Economic migrants from Brittany in early 16th century Cornwall

The lay subsidies of the early 1500s are lists of taxpayers. In the published versions (1524-25 and 1543-44) we find entries such as John Breton, at Truro in 1525. John was also classed as an ‘alien’. These entries therefore provide us with a valuable insight into the presence of Bretons in the Cornwall of the … Continue reading Economic migrants from Brittany in early 16th century Cornwall

Portreath harbour

As the production of copper from the central mining district around Camborne and Redruth soared in the eighteenth century local mine investors and landlords were confronted by transport bottlenecks. It was becoming ever more difficult to import enough coal to feed the growing number of steam engines, or to export the copper ore quickly and … Continue reading Portreath harbour

Worst in Britain? Cornish roads 200 years ago

Maybe it was the penny-pinching of the parishes who were responsible for the upkeep of the roads. Maybe it was a question of Cornwall’s hilly topography. But contemporaries were agreed; Cornwall’s roads were atrocious. In 1754 a writer in the Gentleman’s Magazine concluded that: Cornwall, I believe, at present has the worst roads in all … Continue reading Worst in Britain? Cornish roads 200 years ago

The hollow jarring of the distant steam engines

From page 6 of my The Real World of Poldark: Cornwall 1783-1820 ... On television, we saw Ross Poldark galloping along the cliff tops, crystal clear in the sparkling sunlight. Back in 1795, an anonymous visitor was more concerned with the smoke that enveloped the mining district. Redruth was ‘in a cloud of smoke ... … Continue reading The hollow jarring of the distant steam engines

‘The dialect of the people grew more provincial’: the east Cornish mining boom of the 1840s

The 1840s was the first decade for over a century in which population growth in Cornwall, fuelled by the growth of mining, abruptly slowed down. In the 1840s mass emigration began from Cornwall to places overseas. But that overseas movement, stimulated by the economic difficulties of the later 1840s, has masked a parallel contemporary migration … Continue reading ‘The dialect of the people grew more provincial’: the east Cornish mining boom of the 1840s

Who was living at Nampara in the 1800s?

When writing his Poldark books, Winston Graham made use of real placenames. Many will know that the name Demelza came from a place near Bodmin, originally Dyn Maelda, or Maelda’s fort. The Poldarks' home of Nampara was another real place, a small hamlet near Graham’s home. It was formerly Nansbara, or bread valley. By the … Continue reading Who was living at Nampara in the 1800s?