The introduction of gunpowder for blasting – the first example supposedly in Gwinear in the 1670s – greatly speeded up the excavation of shafts and levels in the Cornish mines. Powder was used in a series of controlled explosions that advanced the rock face. Or often uncontrolled. The main problem was in providing a fuse … Continue reading Fuse works and the perils of powder
Cornwall is a lot more than tourism as its history shows. On 65 hectares of the flat plateau of the Lizard peninsula at Goonhilly Downs there’s an unexpected listed building. This can be found in the shape of the first satellite dish built to receive the pathbreaking television images bounced across the Atlantic via Telstar … Continue reading Goonhilly
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
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
The rise of the Lemons
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
St Ives transformed
St Ives looks likely to find itself in the news over the next three months as a global media circus descends on west Cornwall to cover the G7 summit. It’s unlikely many of the visitors will enquire after the town’s recent history. Let’s take the opportunity to have a quick peek at it before St … Continue reading St Ives transformed
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
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?
Surname turnover in 17th century Cornwall
Cornish surnames such as Chesterfield, Oxnam or Sturtridge hail originally from places well outside Cornwall. Their presence, sometimes for centuries, indicates that the horizons of people in the past were not confined entirely to their own small patch. Unlike the common misconception, this was a society on the move, although not usually the distances implied … Continue reading Surname turnover in 17th century Cornwall
The Men Scryfa
The moors of West Penwith sloping southwards towards Mounts Bay have more than their fair share of archaeological treasures. This fragile moorland and its prehistoric remains have in the modern period been threatened first by mining, then by industrialized farming methods and finally by the pressures of tourism and, according to some, by unsympathetic environmental … Continue reading The Men Scryfa