On the morning of December 22nd, 1986, Cornwall’s best-known politician of the late twentieth century, David Penhaligon, was killed in a car crash. The death of Penhaligon, 42 years old and Liberal MP for Truro since 1974, came as a huge shock. Penhaligon was the son of a caravan park owner in Truro. Educated at … Continue reading David Penhaligon
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
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
On this day in 1848 Henry Jenner was born at St Columb. Jenner played a key role in the Cornish ‘revival’ that began in the 1870s and has long been regarded as the patriarch of Cornish revivalism. However, he wasn’t brought up in Cornwall, having been taken with his family to Essex and then Kent … Continue reading Henry Jenner
Tomorrow is the anniversary of the birth in 1908 of Winston Grime, who adopted the pen-name of Winston Graham when he authored the Poldark saga. The first in a series of books - Ross Poldark - was published in 1945. That was followed by eleven more, most written in the 1970s and 80s, with the … Continue reading Poldark: an insider’s guide?
John Spargo was born at Longdowns, a few miles north-west of Penryn, in 1876. He became a stonecutter, working at one of the quarries that had made the district the centre of the Cornish granite industry from the 1840s. He also became a Wesleyan Methodist lay preacher. So far, so typical. But the young John … Continue reading John Spargo; a forgotten Cornishman
Sir William Molesworth is a character from the past who deserves more than the footnote usually devoted to him in histories of Cornwall. Born in May 1810, he was the eighth in a line of baronets and heir to Pencarrow, near Wadebridge. But he was an anomaly: patrician in appearance and manner but democratic in … Continue reading Sir William Molesworth: an enigmatic Victorian
Those were the days. Now Cornwall only has a feeble voice in the UK Parliament, represented by just six MPs. But before 1821 Cornwall enjoyed a representation more fitting its status, sending 44 MPs. With around 1.5% of the population it had 7-8% of parliamentary representatives. Why? In the 1500s Cornwall was not that exceptional. … Continue reading Why did Cornwall have 44 MPs?
It’s not generally well-known that Truro and Camborne were relatively early centres of socialist activism. In May 1904 W.A.Phillips, standing ‘boldly as a representative of the workers and a Social Democrat’ was elected to Truro Town Council in a by-election in Truro East. This was the first council seat won by a socialist west of … Continue reading Socialism in Edwardian Cornwall
The general election of 1885 has one major similarity with the one we’re now enduring. Polling day was in December. But in most other respects it was quite different. And although the newly created Mining Division in 1885 had very similar boundaries to the present Camborne-Redruth constituency, nowhere was this difference starker than in the … Continue reading When Camborne-Redruth was the most radical place in the UK