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?

Rescuing Poldark from the tourist gaze

It’s fair to say that Winston Graham’s Poldark saga, the story of a minor gentry family from the 1780s to 1820, has sometimes elicited a love-hate response from Cornish insiders. This is despite the fact that the history Graham included in his books provided, on the whole, a fair picture of the life of those … Continue reading Rescuing Poldark from the tourist gaze

Cornish mining in the 1790s: truly world-beating

We hear a lot these days in the UK about ‘world-beating’ this or that, usually based on precious little evidence. If we want to find historical examples of genuinely world-beating enterprise, then look no further than late eighteenth-century Cornwall. It’s sometimes easy to forget how far one small district in Cornwall dominated eighteenth-century copper mining. … Continue reading Cornish mining in the 1790s: truly world-beating

Seine fishing: picturesque and profit-seeking

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

Cornwall’s first true railway?

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?

Carbis Bay in 1891: de-industrialised and older, but still local

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