In an age before surnames John of Cornwall was one of the first Cornish literary ‘greats’. A theologian, he studied in Paris before returning to Britain and teaching at Oxford. By 1197 he was archdeacon of Worcester but had been twice turned down for the post of bishop of St David’s in Wales. He was … Continue reading John of Cornwall and the prophecies of Merlin
In 1792 James Boswell, on a trip to Cornwall, made the obligatory visit to St Michael’s Mount. He was less than impressed, complaining that ‘it is a disgusting nuisance to have a parcel of low, dirty people collected there’ (in the village at its foot), with ‘a vile smell of spoiled fish and garbage lying … Continue reading St Michael’s Mount
Richard Carew was the first to record the story of Thomasine Bonaventure, a poor young shepherdess of Week St Mary in north Cornwall, who was carried off to London by a rich merchant who happened to be passing. He wrote that he ‘saw her, heeded her, liked her, begged her of her poor parents, and … Continue reading Thomasine Bonaventure: the true story
Search online for ‘kings of Cornwall’ and you’ll find impressive lists of Cornish kings in its period of independence and even afterwards down to the 1000s. The only problem is that most of these kings reside only as names in ambiguous Welsh genealogical lists. Although resting on earlier but now lost texts, these bare roll … Continue reading Were Cornish kings will o’ the wisps?
Even though the weather today in Cornwall is a bit breezy, the hail showers stinging the shoppers battling their way through the largely deserted town centres, it’s nothing compared to a storm that occurred many, many centuries ago. Davies Gilbert, in his History of Cornwall, relates a belief in the district of Perranporth that there … Continue reading The lost city of Langarrow or Langona
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?
The other day I was asked what houses would have looked like in early medieval Cornwall. At the time I couldn’t put my hands on a good source but have since rediscovered some notes on an article that appeared in Cornish Archaeology back in 1971 on the deserted village of Tresmorn at St Gennys parish … Continue reading Housing in rural Cornwall in medieval times
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
Or at least a version of Brittonic Celtic, the language that was spoken, along with Latin, when the Romans left Britain in the early 400s. Within a relatively short time the whole of what became England, or at least its southern part, was speaking English. We know this because the number of Celtic placenames in … Continue reading Why don’t the English speak Cornish?
Cornwall is known for its stones, which can conveniently be divided into three main types dating from three different periods. One of the pair of stones known as the Pipers in West Penwith, the tallest stone still standing The first, and most active, period of erecting stones in the landscape was the early bronze age, … Continue reading The standing stones of Cornwall