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
Last week I summarised an article which called for the Church of England to take account of regional identities and specifically the Cornish identity. This week I review another article which takes as its subject the Cornish identity. This one assesses the ways in which the railway has contributed to that identity. (For a more … Continue reading The railway and Cornish identity
It used to be said with some pride that Delabole slate quarry was so big it could be seen from space. Nowadays, given the state of satellite surveillance technology, that’s not saying much. But it’s still a big hole in the ground by any standards – the largest open work in a region where open … Continue reading Delabole slate quarry
In the nineteenth century the new year in Cornwall was as quiet as it was this year. Our forebears did little, if anything, to celebrate the new year, which was a working day like every other. The Royal Cornwall Gazette’s brief reports of the new year period in 1860/61 indicate little out of the ordinary. … Continue reading New Year – all quiet
In the later 1700s, if you were convicted of a serious, or even not very serious, crime, you could face transportation to a British colony, that is if you managed to avoid the death sentence. Before 1777 convicts were taken to North America. After that point this option became unavailable. But there was an alternative … Continue reading Mary Bryant’s story
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?
It's the weekend, traditionally the time to play and watch sport, although at the moment watching is a mite more difficult than normal. Three hundred years ago the most watched sport in Cornwall would have been wrestling. The other sport associated with Cornwall was hurling. Here's an extract from chapter 7 of my forthcoming Poldark's … Continue reading A game fit only for barbarians