The parish of Week St Mary was a typical north Cornish farming parish in the mid-1800s. Yet it had known better days. The village which shared its name with the parish was the site of a medieval castle and market. Although the medieval borough never grew into a modern town, it was the site of … Continue reading Week St Mary: old crafts and new
Category: medieval history
St Winnow: the saints come marching in
There are 212 ancient parishes in Cornwall and another six on Scilly. Of these, 60 or so are routinely identified as a saint’s name by the addition of the word Saint. In some places, saint is usually omitted by the natives in speech, as in Buryan. In others, such as Endellion, the word is sometimes … Continue reading St Winnow: the saints come marching in
Gunwalloe: a church by the sea
In Gunwalloe on the Lizard the parish church is unusually close to the beach. The proximity of the sea hints at an overseas origin for the church’s patron, St Winwaloe. And so it was. Winwaloe was supposed to have been born in Brittany, where he founded the important abbey of Landevennec opposite Brest. The church … Continue reading Gunwalloe: a church by the sea
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
John of Cornwall and the prophecies of Merlin
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
St Michael’s Mount
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
Thomasine Bonaventure: the true story
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
Were Cornish kings will o’ the wisps?
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?
The lost city of Langarrow or Langona
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
Who were the Bodrugans?
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?