St Ive: riding the rollercoaster

Outside Cornwall the east Cornish parish of St Ive is liable to be confused with the better-known St Ives in the west. But St Ive experienced a much more dramatic change in the Victorian period than did the stereotypically picturesque St Ives. Within the space of one generation St Ive had been transformed from an … Continue reading St Ive: riding the rollercoaster

St Dennis: occupational change and a family mystery

St Dennis in mid-Cornwall was a parish undergoing major economic change in the Victorian era. In the early 1800s it was an upland parish where the locals survived from farming its unproductive soils, supplemented by tin streaming. However, the search for china clay transformed the fortunes of the parish and the occupations of its people. … Continue reading St Dennis: occupational change and a family mystery

St Anthony in Meneage: moving on and moving up

St Anthony in Meneage is a small parish on the Lizard peninsula. In Victorian times it was home to a farming community together with a mix of craftsmen and a sole coastguard boatman. The coastguard was William Johnson from Norfolk, married to Mary from Wicklow in Ireland. The couple’s eldest children had been born in … Continue reading St Anthony in Meneage: moving on and moving up

Patronyms and the Cornish language

Does the presence of patronymic surnames (surnames derived from first names) tell us anything about the last days of the traditional Cornish language? I have argued elsewhere that the distribution of the most common surnames in nineteenth century Cornwall – Williams, Thomas and Richards – offers a good indication of the geography of the language … Continue reading Patronyms and the Cornish language

Were Cornish speakers slower to add an -s to their name?

Because the practice of adding an -s to a personal name that then became a surname first arose in England and within English-speaking communities, one might assume that non-English speakers were slower to adopt it. It didn't stop them eventually doing so, of course. Quite the contrary, as the number of Williamses or Evanses in … Continue reading Were Cornish speakers slower to add an -s to their name?

When did William (or Richard or Robert or … ) add an -s to his name?

Some of our most common surnames in Cornwall were very uncommon 500 years ago. Take the names Williams and Richards for example. Nowadays these are the the most frequent surnames found among the native Cornish. In the 1540s there were hardly any examples of people named Williams or Richards. But of course there were scores … Continue reading When did William (or Richard or Robert or … ) add an -s to his name?