In mid-Cornwall just east of St Austell, two out of every three families in the parish of St Blazey in 1851 were dependent on the mining industry for their daily bread. Unfortunately, the local mines, mainly exploiting copper reserves, were not best placed to weather the crisis that hit Cornwall’s copper mines in 1866. By … Continue reading St Blazey’s millinery millionaire
Ever wondered how Lemon Street in Truro got its name? As well as adding to the wealth of established families, mining financed the rise of new families. Even before the 1780s, the Lemons had shown in spectacular fashion how Cornwall’s mines could provide a route into the landed class. In 1774 William Lemon’s election as … Continue reading The rise of the Lemons
The Godolphins were typical of many Cornish landed gentry. The family was an old one, rooted to a spot to the west of Tregonning Hill in the parish of Breage. Fortune had smiled on them in the sense that underneath their land lurked rich tin reserves. As mineral lords they were due a proportion of … Continue reading Godolphin House
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
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
On a particularly stormy night, when the wind howls down the chimney and the rain crashes against the windows, you might hear the spirit of John Tregeagle, wailing and raging as he roams the moors and cliffs or tries to complete various hopeless tasks. Folk tales about Tregeagle agree that he was summoned from the … Continue reading Who was the real John Tregeagle?
Ross Poldark scandalised Cornish society by marrying his scullery maid, the daughter of a miner. His real-life equivalent was Sir John St Aubyn, born in 1758. John succeeded to the family estates at Clowance in west Cornwall and at Devonport in 1772. Although rarely living on his Cornish estate, preferring houses in Essex and Hertfordshire, … Continue reading Sir John St Aubyn
Many will be aware of the name of Richard Carew of Antony, near Torpoint. He was the author of the Survey of Cornwall, published in 1602, the first such history written in the British Isles and a window onto life in Cornwall in the late 1500s. His son and grandsons are less well known but … Continue reading How the Cornish Carews lost their heads
What was the height of the Cornish in times past? As an east Cornwall man born and bred, when I first moved to west Cornwall way back in the mid-1970s I was struck by the number of rather short men and women I saw. This may be merely anecdotal but there’s a persistent belief that … Continue reading How short were the Cornish?
The common nightingale is rarely heard in Cornwall. What’s left of its shrinking habitat (numbers have fallen by more than a half in the UK since 1995) is mainly found in south-east England. The singing is done by the male bird but in Cornwall the nickname ‘the Cornish nightingale’ was given to a woman. Fanny … Continue reading The Cornish nightingale