St Mellion: trees, wooden and family

St Mellion near the Tamar in south-east Cornwall is now home to an Australian-owned up-market golf resort with its hundreds of holiday lodges and periodic controversial planning disputes. In the 1800s it would have been much less manicured. It’s another in what sometimes feels like an endless run of smallish rural parishes that were mainly … Continue reading St Mellion: trees, wooden and family

Penzance: my brother was a baron

Among the roughly 4,500 Cornish men and women captured in the Victorian Lives database it’s not that common to come across someone with connections reaching into the Privy Council and the heart of the British establishment. But that’s exactly what we find in Penzance. In 1850 Louise d’Este Courtney was born at New Street, Penzance, … Continue reading Penzance: my brother was a baron

Penzance’s ‘truly independent cordwainers’

Penzance was a diverse place, containing a variety of occupations. The largest occupational sector in the town was craftsmen, accounting for almost a half of the adult men. Indeed, this was the largest of any Cornish parish in 1861. Among them were shoemakers. The shoemakers of Penzance had been described in1845 as ‘the bravest of … Continue reading Penzance’s ‘truly independent cordwainers’

Corruption in a Cornish borough

The following is an extract from Chapter 11 (The Borough) of The Real World of Poldark: Cornwall 1783-1820. The Reverend Richard Gurney, Vicar of Cuby, was at the centre of Tregony’s borough politics throughout the Poldark years. In 1792 he had been implicated in encouraging ‘mob uproar’. Three effigies representing gentlemen of Tregony who opposed … Continue reading Corruption in a Cornish borough

The mystery of the missing Irish

Recent blogs on this site have uncovered migrants from across the Channel who were living in Cornwall in the early 1500s. But what about migrants from the opposite direction, from across the Celtic Sea? There were a handful of people called Welshman in the early records, Walter and John Wylsheman at East Looe and another … Continue reading The mystery of the missing Irish

Contextualising Poldark: cottage conditions

The last TV series may have veered sharply off the rails. However, re-reading the early novels of Winston Graham’s Poldark saga is a reminder of how he wove his plot around some not inaccurate historical observations. Cornwall was a place of major change in the Poldark years from 1783 to 1820. High pressure steam engines … Continue reading Contextualising Poldark: cottage conditions