Motto of County Council: Onen hag oll (Cornish)
One and all
Geography Status Ceremonial county & (smaller) Unitary district Origin Historic Region South West England Area
- Admin. council
- Admin. area
3,563 km2 (1,376 sq mi)
3,546 km2 (1,369 sq mi)
Admin HQ Truro ISO 3166-2 GB-CON ONS code 00HE NUTS 3 UKK30 Demography Population
- Total (2010 est.)
- Admin. council
151 /km2 (390 /sq mi)
Ethnicity 98.0% White British, 2% Other Politics
Executive Conservative / Independent Members of Parliament Districts
Cornwall ( // or //; Cornish: Kernow [ˈkɛrnɔʊ]; Latin: Cornubia or Cornuvia) is a unitary authority and ceremonial county of England, within the United Kingdom. It is bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, a part of the Atlantic Ocean, to the south by the English Channel, and to the east by the county of Devon, over the River Tamar. Cornwall has a population of 537,400, and covers an area of 3,563 km2 (1,376 sq mi). The administrative centre and only city is Truro.
The area now known as Cornwall was first inhabited in the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic periods. It continued to be occupied by Neolithic and then Bronze Age peoples, and later (in the Iron Age) by Brythons with distinctive cultural relations to neighbouring Wales, Ireland and Brittany. There is little evidence that Roman rule was effective west of Exeter and few Roman remains have been found. Cornwall was a division of the Dumnonii tribe—whose tribal centre was in the modern county of Devon—known as the Cornovii, separated from Wales after the Battle of Deorham, often coming into conflict with the expanding English kingdom of Wessex before King Athelstan in AD 936 set the boundary between English and Cornish at the Tamar. From the early Middle Ages, British language and culture was apparently shared by Brythons trading across both sides of the Channel, evidenced by the corresponding high medieval Breton kingdoms of Domnonee and Cornouaille and the Celtic Christianity common to both territories.
Historically tin mining was important in the Cornish economy, becoming significant during the Middle Ages and expanding greatly during the 19th century when rich copper mines were also in production. In the mid-nineteenth century, however, the tin and copper mines entered a period of decline. Subsequently china clay extraction became more important and metal mining had virtually ended by the 1990s. Traditionally fishing (particularly of pilchards), and agriculture (particularly of dairy products and vegetables), were the other important sectors of the economy. The railways led to the growth of tourism during the 20th century, however, Cornwall's economy struggles after the decline of the mining and fishing industries. The area is noted for its wild moorland landscapes, its extensive and varied coastline, its many place names derived from the Cornish language, and its very mild climate.
Cornwall is the traditional homeland of the Cornish people and is recognised as one of the Celtic nations, retaining a distinct cultural identity that reflects its history. Some people question the present constitutional status of Cornwall, and a nationalist movement seeks greater autonomy within the United Kingdom in the form of a devolved legislative assembly, and greater recognition of the Cornish people as a national minority.
The name Cornwall comes from combining two different terms from separate languages. The Roman term for the Celtic tribe which inhabited what is now Cornwall at the time of Roman rule in Britain, Cornovii, came from a Brythonic tribal name which gave modern Cornish Kernow, also known as Corneu to the Brythons. This could be from either of two sources; the common Celtic root cern, or the Latin cornu, both of which mean "horn" or "peninsula", suggestive of the shape of Cornwall's landmass. There is a problem with this theory however. At least two other known Celtic tribes bore the name Cornovii, one tribe in Caithness which may also be considered a "headland" or "horn-land", yet another, the principal tribe known to the Romans as Cornovii lived in the West Midlands and Powys areas, calling into question the derivation of the name from a peninsula (however, Celtic tribes were not necessarily permanently settled, and the Latin forms may be based on different British names). Another theory suggests that the name of the Cornovii tribes may well be connected to totemic worship of the "horned god" such as the Gaulish Cernunnos, or a similar totemic cult. Nevertheless, the Cornovii were sufficiently established in the present day area recognised as Cornwall for their territory to be recorded as Cornubia by 700 AD, and remained as such into the Middle Ages. The Ravenna Cosmography, of around 700, makes reference to Purocoronavis, (almost certainly a corruption of Durocornovium), 'a fort or walled settlement of the Cornovii', (unidentified, but possibly Tintagel or Carn Brea).
During the 6th and 7th centuries, the name Cornubia became corrupted by extensive changes in the Old English language. The Anglo-Saxons provided the suffix wealas, meaning "foreigners", creating the term Corn-wealas, Cornouaille in French – also the name of a corresponding Breton colonial territory–and Cornugallia in medieval Latin. Some historians note that this was the word for Wales, however it is understood that the term applied instead to all Brythonic peoples and lands, who were considered foreign by the Anglo-Saxons. As Cornwall was known as West Wales and present-day Wales as North Wales during those times, the "Wales" meaning is probable.
Prehistory, Roman and post-Roman periods
The present human history of Cornwall begins with the reoccupation of Britain after the last Ice Age. According to John T. Koch and others, Cornwall in the Late Bronze Age was part of a maritime trading-networked culture called the Atlantic Bronze Age that also included the other Celtic nations, England, France, Spain and Portugal where Celtic languages developed with the Tartessian language, which he claims was the first written Celtic language so far discovered. During the British Iron Age Cornwall, like all of Britain south of the Firth of Forth, was inhabited by the Celtic people known as the Britons. The Celtic British language spoken at the time eventually developed into several distinct tongues, including Cornish. The first account of Cornwall comes from the Sicilian Greek historian Diodorus Siculus (c. 90 BC – c. 30 BC), supposedly quoting or paraphrasing the fourth-century BC geographer Pytheas, who had sailed to Britain:
The inhabitants of that part of Britain called Belerion (or Land's End) from their intercourse with foreign merchants, are civilised in their manner of life. They prepare the tin, working very carefully the earth in which it is produced ... Here then the merchants buy the tin from the natives and carry it over to Gaul, and after travelling overland for about thirty days, they finally bring their loads on horses to the mouth of the Rhône.
The identity of these merchants is unknown. It has been theorised that they were Phoenicians, but there is no evidence for this. (For further discussion of tin mining see the section on the economy below.)
There is a theory that silver was extracted from the copper ores of Cornwall in pre-Roman times, as silver is easily converted to its chloride (AgCl) by surface waters containing chlorine. After a period of Roman rule, Cornwall reverted to rule by independent Celtic chieftains.
Conflict with Wessex
The chronology of English dominance over Cornwall is unclear. In the 8th century Cornwall came into conflict with the expanding kingdom of Wessex. There are no recorded charters or legal agreements showing Cornwall as part of Wessex. Furthermore, there is little economic, military, social, cultural or archaeological evidence that Wessex established control over Cornwall, although some historians, notably Michael Swanton, and Malcolm Todd assert to the contrary.
The Annales Cambriae report that in 722 AD the Britons of Cornwall won a battle at Hehil. It seems likely that the enemy the Cornish fought was West Saxons, as evidenced by the naming of King Ine of Wessex and his kinsman Nonna in reference to an earlier Battle of Lining in 710. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle states in 815 (adjusted date) "& þy geare gehergade Ecgbryht cyning on West Walas from easteweardum oþ westewearde."..."and in this year king Ecgbryht raided in Cornwall from east to west." and thenceforth apparently held it as a ducatus or dukedom annexed to his regnum or kingdom of Wessex, but not wholly incorporated with it. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles states that in 825 (adjusted date) a battle was fought involving the "Welsh", presumably those of Cornwall, and the Defnas (men of Devon). It only states:- "The Westwealas (Cornish) and the Defnas (men of Devon) fought at Gafulforda". However, there is no mention of who won or who lost, whether the men of Cornwall and Devon were fighting each other or on the same side, and no mention of Egbert. This is the only record of this battle. In the same year Ecgbert, as a later document phrases it, "disposed of their territory as it seemed fit to him, giving a tenth part of it to God." In other words he incorporated Cornwall ecclesiastically with the West Saxon diocese of Sherborne, and endowed Ealhstan, his fighting bishop, who took part in the campaign, with an extensive Cornish estate consisting of Callington and Lawhitton, both in the Tamar valley, and Pawton near Padstow.
In 838, the Cornish and their Danish allies were defeated by Egbert at Hengestesdune (Anglo-Saxon Chronicles): an unknown location (various places have been suggested over the years from Hengistbury Head in Dorset and Hingston Down, Devon to Hingston Down in Cornwall). In 875, the last recorded king of Cornwall, Dumgarth, is said to have drowned. Around the 880s, Anglo-Saxons from Wessex had established modest land holdings in the eastern part of Cornwall; notably Alfred the Great had acquired a few estates. William of Malmesbury, writing around 1120, says that King Athelstan of England (924–939) fixed the boundary between English and Cornish people at the east bank of the River Tamar.
One interpretation of the Domesday Book is that by this time the native Cornish landowning class had been almost completely dispossessed and replaced by English landowners, the largest of whom was Harold Godwinson himself. However, this is highly questionable: the Bodmin manumissions show that two leading Cornish figures nominally had Saxon names, but these were both glossed with native Cornish names. This suggests that a mixing of populations and cultural syncretism occurred, as opposed to outright replacement of the original Cornish nobility.
However, soon after the Norman conquest most of the land was seized and transferred into the hands of a new Breton-Norman aristocracy, with the lion's share going to Robert, Count of Mortain, half-brother of King William and the largest landholder in England after the king. Ultimately this aristocracy eventually became a Cornu-Norman ruling class, a phenomenon closely resembling the situation in the rest of England, and later in Ireland.
Later medieval administration and society
Subsequently, however, Norman absentee landlords became replaced by a new Cornu-Norman elite. These families eventually became the new ruling class of Cornwall (typically speaking Norman French, Cornish, Latin and eventually English), many becoming involved in the operation of the Stannary Parliament system, Earldom and eventually the Duchy. The Cornish language continued to be spoken and it acquired a number of characteristics establishing its identity as a separate language from Breton. Cornwall showed a very different type of settlement pattern from that of Saxon Wessex and places continued, even after 1066, to be named in the Celtic Cornish tradition with Saxon architecture being uncommon. The earliest record for any Anglo-Saxon place names west of the Tamar is around 1040: they are particularly noticeable in the north-east of the county.
Christianity in Cornwall
Many place names in Cornwall are associated with Christian missionaries described as coming from Ireland and Wales in the fifth century AD and usually called saints (See List of Cornish saints). The historicity of some of these missionaries is problematic and it has been pointed out by Canon Doble that it was customary in the Middle Ages to ascribe such geographical origins to saints. Some of these saints are not included in the early lists of saints.
Saint Piran, after whom Perranporth is named, is generally regarded as the patron saint of Cornwall. However in early Norman times it is likely that Saint Michael the Archangel was recognised as the patron saint and the title has also been claimed for Saint Petroc.
The Church in Cornwall in Celtic and Anglo-Saxon times
The church in Cornwall until the time of Athelstan of Wessex observed more or less orthodox practices, being completely separate from the Anglo-Saxon church until then (and perhaps later). The See of Cornwall continued until much later: Bishop Conan apparently in place previously, but (re-?) consecrated in 931 AD by Athelstan. However, it is unclear whether he was the sole Bishop for Cornwall or the leading Bishop in the area. The situation in Cornwall may have been somewhat similar to Wales where each major religious house corresponded to a cantref (this has the same meaning as Cornish keverang) both being under the supervision of a Bishop. However if this was so the status of keverangow before the time of King Athelstan is not recorded. However it can be inferred from the districts included at this period that the minimum number would be three: Triggshire; Wivelshire; and the remaining area. Penwith, Kerrier, Pydar and Powder meet at a central point (Scorrier) which some have believed indicates a fourfold division imposed by Athelstan on a sub-kingdom.
It is notable that in Cornwall that most of the parish churches in existence in Norman times were generally not in the larger settlements and that the medieval towns which developed thereafter usually had only a chapel of ease with the right of burial remaining at the ancient parish church. Over a hundred holy wells exist in Cornwall, each associated with a particular saint, though not always the same one as the dedication of the church.
Various kinds of religious houses existed in mediaeval Cornwall though none of them were nunneries; the benefices of the parishes were in many cases appropriated to religious houses within Cornwall or elsewhere in England or France.
Religious history from the Reformation to the Victorian period
In the sixteenth century there was some violent resistance to the replacement of Catholicism with Protestantism in the Prayer Book Rebellion. In 1548 the college at Glasney, a centre of learning and study established by the Bishop of Exeter, had been closed and looted (many manuscripts and documents were destroyed) which aroused resentment among the Cornish. They, among other things, objected to the English language Book of Common Prayer, protesting that the English language was still unknown to many at the time. The Prayer Book Rebellion was a cultural and social disaster for Cornwall; the reprisals taken by the forces of the Crown have been estimated to account for 10–11% of the civilian population of Cornwall. Culturally speaking, it saw the beginning of the slow decline of the Cornish language.
From that time Christianity in Cornwall was in the main within the Church of England and subject to the national events which affected it in the next century and a half. Roman Catholicism never became extinct, though openly practised by very few; there were some converts to Puritanism, Anabaptism and Quakerism in certain areas though they suffered intermittent persecution which more or less came to an end in the reign of William and Mary. During the 18th century Cornish Anglicanism was very much in the same state as Anglicanism in most of England. Wesleyan Methodist missions began during John Wesley's lifetime and had great success over a long period during which Methodism itself divided into a number of sects and established a definite separation from the Church of England.
From the early nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century Methodism was the leading form of Christianity in Cornwall but it is now in decline. The Church of England was in the majority from the reign of Queen Elizabeth until the Methodist revival of the 19th century: before the Wesleyan missions dissenters were very few in Cornwall. The county remained within the Diocese of Exeter until 1876 when the Anglican Diocese of Truro was created (the first Bishop was appointed in 1877). Roman Catholicism was virtually extinct in Cornwall after the 17th century except for a few families such as the Arundells of Lanherne. From the mid-19th century the church reestablished episcopal sees in England, one of these being at Plymouth. Since then immigration to Cornwall has brought more Roman Catholics into the population.
Cornwall forms the tip of the south-west peninsula of the island of Great Britain, and is therefore exposed to the full force of the prevailing winds that blow in from the Atlantic Ocean. The coastline is composed mainly of resistant rocks that give rise in many places to impressive cliffs. Cornwall has a border with only one other county, Devon.
The north and south coasts have different characteristics. The north coast on the Celtic Sea, part of the Atlantic Ocean, is more exposed and therefore has a wilder nature. The prosaically named High Cliff, between Boscastle and St Gennys, is the highest sheer-drop cliff in Cornwall at 223 metres (732 ft). However, there are also many extensive stretches of fine golden sand which form the beaches that are so important to the tourist industry, such as those at Bude, Polzeath, Watergate Bay, Perranporth, Porthtowan, Fistral Beach, Newquay, St Agnes, St Ives, and on the south coast Gyllyngvase beach in Falmouth. There are two river estuaries on the north coast: Hayle Estuary and the estuary of the River Camel, which provides Padstow and Rock with a safe harbour.
The south coast, dubbed the "Cornish Riviera", is more sheltered and there are several broad estuaries offering safe anchorages, such as at Falmouth and Fowey. Beaches on the south coast usually consist of coarser sand and shingle, interspersed with rocky sections of wave-cut platform. Also on the south coast, the picturesque fishing village of Polperro, at the mouth of the Pol River, and the fishing port of Looe on the River Looe are both popular with tourists.
The interior of the county consists of a roughly east-west spine of infertile and exposed upland, with a series of granite intrusions, such as Bodmin Moor, which contains the highest land within Cornwall. From east to west, and with approximately descending altitude, these are Bodmin Moor, the area north of St Austell, the area south of Camborne, and the Penwith or Land's End peninsula. These intrusions are the central part of the granite outcrops that form the exposed parts of the Cornubian batholith of south-west Britain, which also includes Dartmoor to the east in Devon and the Isles of Scilly to the west, the latter now being partially submerged.
The intrusion of the granite into the surrounding sedimentary rocks gave rise to extensive metamorphism and mineralisation, and this led to Cornwall being one of the most important mining areas in Europe until the early 20th century. It is thought tin was mined here as early as the Bronze Age, and copper, lead, zinc and silver have all been mined in Cornwall. Alteration of the granite also gave rise to extensive deposits of China Clay, especially in the area to the north of St Austell, and the extraction of this remains an important industry.
The uplands are surrounded by more fertile, mainly pastoral farmland. Near the south coast, deep wooded valleys provide sheltered conditions for flora that like shade and a moist, mild climate. These areas lie mainly on Devonian sandstone and slate. The north east of Cornwall lies on Carboniferous rocks known as the Culm Measures. In places these have been subjected to severe folding, as can be seen on the north coast near Crackington Haven and in several other locations.
The Lizard Peninsula
The geology of the Lizard peninsula is unusual, in that it is mainland Britain's only example of an ophiolite, a section of oceanic crust now found on land. Much of the peninsula consists of the dark green and red Precambrian serpentinite, which forms spectacular cliffs, notably at Kynance Cove, and carved and polished serpentine ornaments are sold in local gift shops. This ultramafic rock also forms a very infertile soil which covers the flat and marshy heaths of the interior of the peninsula. This is home to rare plants, such as the Cornish Heath, which has been adopted as the county flower.
Cornwall has varied habitats including terrestrial and marine ecosystems. One of the lower plant forms in decline locally is the Reindeer lichen, which species has been made a priority for protection under the national UK Biodiversity Action Plan.
Botanists divide Cornwall and Scilly into two vice-counties: West (1) and East (2). The standard flora is by F. H. Davey Flora of Cornwall (1909). Davey was assisted by A. O. Hume and he thanks Hume, his companion on excursions in Cornwall and Devon, and for help in the compilation of that Flora, publication of which was financed by him.
Cornwall has a temperate Oceanic climate (Köppen climate classification: Cfb) and has the mildest and sunniest climate in the United Kingdom, as a result of its southerly latitude and the influence of the Gulf Stream. The average annual temperature in Cornwall ranges from 11.6 °C (53 °F) on the Isles of Scilly to 9.8 °C (50 °F) in the central uplands. Winters are amongst the warmest in the country due to the southerly latitude and moderating effects of the warm ocean currents, and frost and snow are very rare at the coast and are also rare in the central upland areas as well. Summers are however not as warm as other areas in southern England. Due to its proximity to the sea, Cornwall's weather can be relatively changeable.
Cornwall is one of the sunniest areas in the UK, with over 1541 hours of sunshine per year, with the highest average of 7.6 hours of sunshine per day in July. The moist, mild air coming from the south west brings higher amounts of rainfall than eastern Great Britain, at 1051 to 1290 mm (41.4 to 50.8 in) per year, however not as much as more northern areas of the west coast. The Isles of Scilly, for example, where there are on average less than 2 days of air frost per year, are in the USDA Hardiness zone 10, which is the only area in the UK that is in this zone and where there is on average less than 1 day of air temperature exceeding 30 °C per year, are in the AHS Heat Zone 1. Extreme temperatures in Cornwall are particularly rare, however extreme weather in the form of storms and floods is common.
Climate data for Isles of Scilly, Cornwall Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year Average high °C (°F) 9
13.8 Average low °C (°F) 6
9.3 Precipitation mm (inches) 91
Avg. precipitation days 22 17 16 13 14 14 16 15 16 17 19 21 200 Sunshine hours 61 83 135 186 229 229 238 225 164 121 77 57 1,805 Source: Climate Data for Isles of Scilly Climate data for Truro, Cornwall Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year Average high °C (°F) 8
Average low °C (°F) 5
Precipitation mm (inches) 81
Politics and administration
The Isles of Scilly form part of the ceremonial county of Cornwall and have, at times, been served by the same county administration. However, since 1890 they have been administered by their own unitary authority, now known as the Council of the Isles of Scilly. They are still grouped with Cornwall for other administrative purposes, such as the National Health Service and Devon and Cornwall Police.
Prior to reorganisation on 1 April 2009, council functions throughout the rest of Cornwall were organised on a two-tier basis, with a county council and district councils for the six districts of Caradon, Carrick, Kerrier, North Cornwall, Penwith, and Restormel. While projected to streamline services, cut red tape and save around £17 million a year, the reorganisation was met with wide opposition, with a poll in 2008 giving a result of 89% disapproval from Cornish residents.
The first elections for the new unitary authority were held on 4 June 2009. The new council has 123 seats; the largest party is the Conservative Party with 50, followed by the Liberal Democrats with 38, Independents with 32 and Mebyon Kernow with 3 seats.
Prior to the creation of the new unitary council, the former county council had 82 seats, the majority of which were held by the Liberal Democrats, elected at the 2005 county council elections. The six former districts in Cornwall had a total of 249 council seats, and the numerically largest groups represented on them were Liberal Democrats, Conservatives, and Independents.
- Parliamentary constituencies
Following a review by the Boundary Commission for England taking effect at the 2010 general election, Cornwall is divided into six county constituencies to elect MPs to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom.
Before the 2010 boundary changes there were five constituencies in Cornwall, all of which were won by Liberal Democrats in the 2005 general election. However, at the 2010 general election Liberal Democrat candidates won three constituencies and Conservative candidates won three constituencies (see also 2010 United Kingdom general election result in Cornwall).
Until 1832, Cornwall had 44 MPs-–more than any other county-–reflecting the importance of tin to the Crown. Most of the increase came between 1529 and 1584 after which there was no change until 1832.
There is a growing call within Cornwall for greater self-rule. Cornwall Council's February 2003 MORI poll showed 55% in favour of an elected, fully devolved regional assembly for Cornwall and 13% against. (Previous result: 46% in favour in 2002). The Cornish Constitutional Convention advocates the creation of a Cornish Assembly, along the lines of the National Assembly for Wales, Scottish Assembly and Northern Ireland Assembly. In 2001 it presented a petition to the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, calling for the change. It is claimed that many of the residents are calling for a high degree of autonomy within England, or a split from England, creating a fifth home nation of the United Kingdom. and/or a separate Cornish Development Agency, a result of discontent with the South West Regional Development Agency. It is also maintained by some[who?] that Cornwall already is a nation separate from England and that the Stannary Parliament, which has not been dissolved, could be recognised, achieving these goals by recognising the currently ignored status of Cornwall rather than making changes.
Cornish political parties
Cornish nationalists have organised into two political parties: Mebyon Kernow, formed in 1951, and the Cornish Nationalist Party. In addition to the political parties, there are various interest groups such as the Cornish Stannary Parliament and the Celtic League. In November 2000, the Cornish Constitutional Convention was formed to campaign for a Cornish Assembly. It is a cross-party organisation including representatives from the private, public, and voluntary sectors, of all political parties and none. Between 5 March 2000 and December 2001, the campaign collected the signatures of 41,650 Cornish residents endorsing the declaration for a devolved regional Cornish Assembly, along with 8,896 signatories from outside Cornwall.
The question of Cornwall's constitutional status
The question of Cornwall's constitutional status as a de facto county of England, as established by the Local Government Act 1888, a Duchy, i.e. the Duchy of Cornwall established in 1337 by Edward III of England for his son, Edward, Prince of Wales, or another constitutional entity of the United Kingdom is a complex one. In recent years there has been cross-party recognition of the issue at least as far as the calls for a Cornish Assembly are concerned. In addition there are also groups and individuals, including the Revived Cornish Stannary Parliament, the Cornish Constitutional Convention, and John Angarrack, who reject the present constitutional status of Cornwall, denying the legality of Cornwall's current administration as a county of England, and Cornwall's relationship to the Duchy of Cornwall.
Contemporary political parties
In 2007 David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party, in a departure from the Conservative Party's traditionally unionist stance, appointed Cornishman Mark Prisk, MP for Hertford, Hertfordshire, England, as "Shadow Minister for Cornwall". This appointment was called "the fictional minister for Cornwall", by a Liberal Democrat MP, as there was no government minister to shadow. The post was not continued following the 2010 election, and no longer exists. The Liberal Democrats recognise Cornwall's claims for greater autonomy, as do the Liberal Party.
- "The new single council is also the opportunity to gain more control over local issues from regional and national Government bureaucrats – the first step on our way to a Cornish Assembly." – The Liberal Democrat Manifesto for 2009
Settlements and communication
Cornwall's only city, and the home of the council headquarters, is Truro. Nearby Falmouth is notable as a port, while the ports at Penzance, the most westerly town in England, St Ives and Padstow have declined. Newquay on the north coast is famous for its beaches and is a popular surfing destination, as is Bude further north. St Austell is Cornwall's largest town and is larger than the capital Truro, and a centre of the china clay industry. Redruth and Camborne together form the largest urban area in Cornwall, and both towns were significant as centres of the global tin mining industry.
Cornwall borders the county of Devon at the River Tamar. Major road links between Cornwall and the rest of Great Britain are the A38 which crosses the Tamar at Plymouth via the Tamar Bridge and the town of Saltash, the A39 road (Atlantic Highway) from Barnstaple, passing through North Cornwall to end eventually in Falmouth, and the A30 which crosses the border south of Launceston. Torpoint Ferry also links Plymouth with the town of Torpoint on the opposite side of the Hamoaze. A rail bridge, the Royal Albert Bridge, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1859) provides the only other major transport link. The major city of Plymouth being the nearest large urban centre to east Cornwall makes it an important location for such services as hospitals, department stores, road and rail transport, and cultural venues.
Newquay Cornwall International Airport provides an airlink to the rest of the UK, Ireland and Europe, as does Plymouth City Airport in Devon.
Cardiff and Swansea, across the Bristol Channel, are connected to Cornwall by ferry, usually to Padstow. Swansea in particular has several boat companies who can arrange boat trips to north Cornwall, which allow the traveller to pass by the north Cornish coastline, including Tintagel Castle and Padstow harbour. Very occasionally, the Waverley and Balmoral paddle steamers cruise from Swansea or Bristol to Padstow.
The Isles of Scilly are served by ferry (from Penzance), helicopter (Penzance Heliport) and fixed wing aeroplane (Land's End Airport, near St Just) and from Newquay Airport. Further flights to St. Mary's Airport, Isles of Scilly, are available from Exeter International Airport in Devon.
Saint Piran's Flag is regarded by many as the national flag of Cornwall, and an emblem of the Cornish people; and by others as the county flag. The banner of Saint Piran is a white cross on a black background. Saint Piran is supposed to have adopted these two colours from seeing the white tin in the black coals and ashes during his supposed discovery of tin. Davies Gilbert in 1826 described it as anciently the flag of St Piran and the banner of Cornwall, and another history of 1880 said that: "The white cross of St. Piran was the ancient banner of the Cornish people." The Cornish flag is an exact reverse of the former Breton national flag (black cross) and is known by the same name "Kroaz Du".
There are also claims that the patron saint of Cornwall is Saint Michael or Saint Petroc, but Saint Piran is by far the most popular of the three and his emblem is internationally recognised as the flag of Cornwall. St Piran's Day (5 March) is celebrated by the Cornish diaspora around the world.
Cornwall is one of the poorest areas in the United Kingdom. The GVA per head was 65% of the UK average for 2004. The GDP per head for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly was 79.2% of the EU-27 average for 2004, the UK per head average was 123.0%.
Historically mining of tin (and later also of copper) was important in the Cornish economy. The first reference to this appears to be by Pytheas: see above. Julius Caesar was the last classical writer to mention the tin trade, which appears to have declined during the Roman occupation. The tin trade revived in the Middle Ages, and the Cornish Rebellion of 1497 is attributed to tin miners. In the mid-nineteenth century, however, the tin trade again fell into decline.
Today, the Cornish economy depends heavily on its tourist industry, which makes up around a quarter of the economy. The official measures of deprivation and poverty at district and 'sub-ward' level show that there is great variation in poverty and prosperity in Cornwall with some areas among the poorest in England and others among the top half in prosperity. For example, the ranking of 32,482 sub-wards in England in the index of multiple deprivation (2006) ranged from 819th (part of Penzance East) to 30,899th (part of Saltash Burraton in Caradon), where the lower number represents the greater deprivation.
Cornwall is one of four UK areas that qualify for poverty-related grants from the EU: it was granted Objective 1 status by the European Commission, followed by a further round of funding known as 'Convergence Funding'.
Tourism is estimated to contribute up to 24% of Cornwall's gross domestic product. Cornwall's unique culture, spectacular landscape and mild climate make it a popular tourist destination, despite being somewhat distant from the United Kingdom's main centres of population. Surrounded on three sides by the English Channel and Celtic Sea, Cornwall has many miles of beaches and cliffs; the South West Coast Path follows a complete circuit of both coasts. Other tourist attractions include moorland, country gardens, museums, historic and prehistoric sites, and wooded valleys. Five million tourists visit Cornwall each year, mostly drawn from within the UK. Visitors to Cornwall are served by airports at Newquay and Plymouth, whilst private jets, charters and helicopters are also served by Perranporth airfield; nightsleeper and daily rail services run between Cornwall, London and other regions of the UK.
Other industries are fishing, although this has been significantly re-structured by EU fishing policies (the Southwest Handline Fishermen's Association has started to revive the fishing industry), and agriculture, which has also declined significantly. Mining of tin and copper was also an industry, but today the derelict mine workings survive only as a World Heritage Site. However, the Camborne School of Mines, which was relocated to Penryn in 2004, is still a world centre of excellence in the field of mining and applied geology and the grant of World Heritage status has attracted funding for conservation and heritage tourism. China clay extraction has also been an important industry in the St Austell area, but this sector has been in decline, and this, coupled with increased mechanisation, has led to a decrease in employment in this sector.
Cornwall's population was 513,527 at the last count (2001), and population density 144 people per square kilometre, ranking it 40th and 41st respectively compared with the other 47 counties of England. Cornwall is 99.0% White British and has a relatively high level of population growth. At 11.2% in the 1980s and 5.3% in the 1990s, it has the fifth highest population growth of the English counties. The natural change has been a small population decline, and the population increase is due to inward migration into Cornwall. According to the 1991 census, the population was 469,800.
Cornwall has a relatively high retired population, with 22.9% of pensionable age, compared with 20.3% for the United Kingdom. This may be due to a combination of Cornwall's rural and coastal geography increasing its popularity as a retirement location, and outward migration of younger residents to more economically diverse areas. Inward migration of pensioners from southern England to Cornwall, and outward migration of young Cornish people, are persistent concerns.
Question of Cornish national identity
Cornwall is the homeland of the Cornish people and diaspora, and is recognised by many people, organisations and media (including politicians, Mebyon Kernow, the Celtic League, the International Celtic Congress, The Guardian, The Independent, and Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ)) alongside Brittany, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Scotland and Wales as one of the six Celtic nations. Alongside Asturias and Galicia, Cornwall is also recognised as one of the eight Celtic nations by the Isle of Man Government and the Welsh Government. Cornwall is represented, as one of the Celtic nations, at the Festival Interceltique de Lorient, an annual celebration of Celtic culture held in Brittany.
Cornwall Council consider Cornwall's unique cultural heritage and distinctiveness to be one of the area's major assets. They see Cornwall's language; landscape; Celtic identity; political history; patterns of settlement; maritime tradition; industrial heritage; and non-conformist tradition, to be among the features comprising its "distinctive" culture. However, it is uncertain how many of the people living in Cornwall consider themselves to be Cornish; results from different surveys (including the national census) have varied. In the 2001 census, 7 percent of people in Cornwall identified themselves as Cornish, rather than British or English. However, activists have argued that this underestimated the true number as there was no explicit "Cornish" option included in the official census form. Subsequent surveys have suggested that as many as 44 percent identify as Cornish. Many people in Cornwall say that this issue would be resolved if a Cornish option became available on the census. The question and content recommendations for the 2011 Census provide an explanation of the process of selecting an ethnic identity which is relevant to the understanding of the often quoted figure of 37,000 who claim Cornish identity.
On 12 July 2005 Andrew George MP put forward proposals in the House of Commons for a version of devolution for Cornwall which he debated with the minister Jim Fitzpatrick, speaking on behalf of the Government.
Cornwall has a comprehensive education system, with 31 state and 8 independent secondary schools. There are three further education colleges--Penwith College (a former sixth form college), Cornwall College (occupying the former home of the Camborne School of Mines) and Truro College. The Isles of Scilly only has one school while the former Restormel district has the highest school population, and school year sizes are around 200, with none above 270.
Higher education is provided by University College Falmouth, the University of Exeter (including Camborne School of Mines), the Combined Universities in Cornwall, and by Truro College, Penwith College (which combined in 2008 to make Truro and Penwith College) and Cornwall College.
Languages and dialects
English is the main language used in Cornwall, although the revived Cornish language may be seen on road signs and is spoken fluently by a small minority of people.
The Cornish language is closely related to the other Brythonic languages of Welsh and Breton, and less so to the Goidelic languages of Irish, Scots Gaelic and Manx. The language continued to function visibly as a community language in parts of Cornwall until the late 18th century. Some children used the language to converse in, and families used it as a language of the home through the 19th and possibly into the 20th century. Some elderly speakers were known to be still living into the 20th century including one still alive in 1914. There has been a revival of the language since Henry Jenner's Handbook of the Cornish Language was published in 1904. A study in 2000 suggested that there were around 300 people who spoke Cornish fluently. Cornish however had no legal status in the UK until 2002. Nevertheless, the language is taught in about twelve primary schools, and occasionally used in religious and civic ceremonies. In 2002 Cornish was officially recognised as a UK minority language and in 2005 it received limited Government funding. A Standard Written Form was agreed in 2008.
Four of the current members in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, Andrew George, MP for St Ives, Dan Rogerson, MP for North Cornwall, Stephen Gilbert, MP for St Austell and Newquay, and Sarah Newton, MP for Truro and Falmouth repeated their Parliamentary oaths in Cornish.
Since the 19th century, Cornwall, with its unspoilt maritime scenery and strong light, has sustained a vibrant visual art scene of international renown. Artistic activity within Cornwall was initially centred on the art-colony of Newlyn, most active at the turn of the 20th century. This Newlyn School is associated with the names: Stanhope Forbes, Elizabeth Forbes, Norman Garstin and Lamorna Birch. Modernist writers such as D. H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf lived in Cornwall between the wars, and Ben Nicholson, the painter, having visited in the 1920s came to live in St Ives with his then wife, the sculptor Barbara Hepworth, at the outbreak of the second world war. They were later joined by the Russian emigrant Naum Gabo, and other artists. These included Peter Lanyon, Terry Frost, Patrick Heron, Bryan Wynter and Roger Hilton. St Ives also houses the Leach Pottery, where Bernard Leach, and his followers championed Japanese inspired studio pottery. Much of this modernist work can be seen in Tate St Ives. The Newlyn Society and Penwith Society of Arts continue to be active, and contemporary visual art is documented in a dedicated online journal.
Music and festivals
Cornwall has a rich and vibrant folk music tradition which has survived into the present and is well known for its unusual folk survivals such as Mummers Plays, the Furry Dance in Helston played by the famous Helston Town Band, and Obby Oss in Padstow.
As in other former mining districts of Britain, male voice choirs and Brass Bands, e.g. Brass on the Grass concerts during the summer at Constantine, are still very popular in Cornwall: Cornwall also has around 40 brass bands, including the six-times National Champions of Great Britain, Camborne Youth Band, and the bands of Lanner and St Dennis.
On a more modern note, contemporary musician Richard D. James (also known as Aphex Twin) grew up in Cornwall, as did Luke Vibert and Alex Parks winner of Fame Academy 2003. Roger Taylor, the drummer from the band Queen was also raised in the county, and currently lives not far from Falmouth. The American singer/songwriter Tori Amos now resides predominantly in North Cornwall not far from Bude with her family.
Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch author of many novels and works of literary criticism lived in Fowey: his novels are mainly set in Cornwall. Daphne du Maurier lived at Menabilly near Fowey and many of her novels had Cornish settings, including Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, Frenchman's Creek, My Cousin Rachel, and The House on the Strand. She is also noted for writing Vanishing Cornwall. Cornwall provided the inspiration for The Birds, one of her terrifying series of short stories, made famous as a film by Alfred Hitchcock.
Conan Doyle's The Adventure of the Devil's Foot featuring Sherlock Holmes is set in Cornwall. Winston Graham's series Poldark, Kate Tremayne's Adam Loveday series, Susan Cooper's novels Over Sea, Under Stone and Greenwitch, and Mary Wesley's The Camomile Lawn are all set in Cornwall. Writing under the pseudonym of Alexander Kent, Douglas Reeman sets parts of his Richard Bolitho and Adam Bolitho series in the Cornwall of the late 18th and the early 19th centuries, particularly in Falmouth.
Hammond Innes's novel, The Killer Mine; Charles de Lint's novel The Little Country; and Chapters 24 and 25 of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows take place in Cornwall (the Harry Potter story at Shell Cottage, which is on the beach outside the fictional village of Tinworth in Cornwall). Elizabeth George's mystery, Careless in Red, takes place on the Cornish coast.
Author David Cornwell, who writes espionage novels under the name John le Carré, lives and writes in Cornwall. Nobel Prize-winning novelist William Golding was born in St Columb Minor in 1911, and returned to live near Truro from 1985 until his death in 1993. D. H. Lawrence spent a short time living in Cornwall. Rosamunde Pilcher grew up in Cornwall, and several of her books take place there.
The late Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman was famously fond of Cornwall and it featured prominently in his poetry. He is buried in the churchyard at St Enodoc's Church, Trebetherick. Charles Causley, the poet, was born in Launceston and is perhaps the best known of Cornish poets. Jack Clemo and the scholar A. L. Rowse were also notable Cornishmen known for their poetry; The Rev. R. S. Hawker of Morwenstow wrote some poetry which was very popular in the Victorian period. The Scottish poet W. S. Graham lived in West Cornwall from 1944 until his death in 1986.
The poet Laurence Binyon wrote "For the Fallen" (first published in 1914) while sitting on the cliffs between Pentire Point and The Rumps and a stone plaque was erected in 2001 to commemorate the fact. The plaque bears the inscription "FOR THE FALLEN / Composed on these cliffs, 1914". The plaque also bears below this the fourth stanza (sometimes referred to as "The Ode") of the poem:
- They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old
- Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn
- At the going down of the sun and in the morning
- We will remember them
Other literary works
Cornwall produced a substantial number of passion plays such as the Ordinalia during the Middle Ages. Many are still extant, and provide valuable information about the Cornish language. See also Cornish literature
Prolific writer Colin Wilson, best known for his debut work The Outsider (1956) and for The Mind Parasites (1967), lives in Gorran Haven, a little village on the southern Cornish coast, not far from Mevagissey and St Austell. A. L. Rowse, the historian and poet, was born near St Austell. The writer D. M. Thomas was born in Redruth but lived and worked in Australia and the United States before returning to his native Cornwall. He has written novels, poetry, and other works, including translations from Russian.
Thomas Hardy's drama The Queen of Cornwall (1923) is a version of the Tristan story; the second act of Richard Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde takes place in Cornwall, as do Gilbert and Sullivan's operettas The Pirates of Penzance and Ruddigore. A level of Tomb Raider: Legend, a game dealing with Arthurian Legend, takes place in Cornwall at a tacky museum above King Arthur's tomb.
The fairy tale Jack the Giant Killer takes place in Cornwall.
Sports and games
With its comparatively small, and largely rural population, major contribution by the Cornish to national sport in the United Kingdom has been limited. There are no teams affiliated to the Cornwall County Football Association that play in the Football League of England and Wales, and the Cornwall County Cricket Club plays as one of the minor counties of English cricket. Viewed as an "important identifier of ethnic affiliation", rugby union has become a sport strongly tied to notions of Cornishness, and since the 20th century, rugby union in Cornwall has emerged as one of,the most popular spectator and team sports in Cornwall (perhaps the most popular), with professional Cornish rugby footballers being described as a "formidable force", "naturally independent, both in thought and deed, yet paradoxically staunch English patriots whose top players have represented England with pride and passion". In 1985, sports journalist Alan Gibson made a direct connection between love of rugby in Cornwall and the ancient parish games of hurling and wrestling that existed for centuries before rugby officially began. Among Cornwall's native sports are a distinctive form of Celtic wrestling related to Breton wrestling, and Cornish hurling, a kind of mediaeval football played with a silver ball (distinct from Irish Hurling). Cornish Wrestling is Cornwall's oldest sport and as Cornwall's native tradition it has travelled the world to places like Victoria, Australia and Grass Valley, California following the miners and gold rushes. Cornish hurling now takes place at St. Columb Major, St Ives, and less frequently at Bodmin.
Surfing and other water sports
Due to its long coastline, various maritime sports are popular in Cornwall, notably sailing and surfing. International events in both are held in Cornwall. Cornwall hosted the Inter-Celtic Watersports Festival in 2006. Surfing in particular is very popular, as locations such as Bude and Newquay offer some of the best surf in the UK. Pilot gig rowing has been popular for many years and the World championships takes place annually on the Isles of Scilly. On 2 September 2007, 300 surfers at Polzeath beach set a new world record for the highest number of surfers riding the same wave as part of the Global Surf Challenge and part of a project called Earthwave to raise awareness about global warming.
Euchre (also known as "five hundred") is a popular card game in Cornwall. It is normally a game for four players consisting of two teams. Its origins are unclear but some[who?] claim it is a Cornish game. There are several leagues in Cornwall at present. Whist and pub quizzes are also popular.
Cornwall has a strong culinary heritage. Surrounded on three sides by the sea amid fertile fishing grounds, Cornwall naturally has fresh seafood readily available; Newlyn is the largest fishing port in the UK by value of fish landed. Television chef Rick Stein has long operated a fish restaurant in Padstow for this reason, and Jamie Oliver recently chose to open his second restaurant, Fifteen, in Watergate Bay near Newquay. MasterChef host and founder of Smiths of Smithfield, John Torode, in 2007 purchased Seiners in Perranporth. One famous local fish dish is Stargazy pie, a fish-based pie in which the heads of the fish stick through the piecrust, as though "star-gazing". The pie is cooked as part of traditional celebrations for Tom Bawcock's Eve, but is not generally eaten at any other time.
Cornwall is perhaps best known though for its pasties, a savoury dish made with pastry. Today's pasties usually contain a filling of beef steak, onion, potato and swede with salt and white pepper, but historically pasties had a variety of different fillings. "Turmut, 'tates and mate" (i.e. Turnip, potatoes and meat) describes a filling once very common. For instance, the licky pasty contained mostly leeks, and the herb pasty contained watercress, parsley, and shallots. Pasties are often locally referred to as oggies. Historically, pasties were also often made with sweet fillings such as jam, apple and blackberry, plums or cherries. The wet climate and relatively poor soil of Cornwall make it unsuitable for growing many arable crops. However, it is ideal for growing the rich grass required for dairying, leading to the production of Cornwall's other famous export, clotted cream. This forms the basis for many local specialities including Cornish fudge and Cornish ice cream. Cornish clotted cream has Protected Geographical Status under EU law, and cannot be made anywhere else. Its principal manufacturer is Rodda's, based at Scorrier.
Local cakes and desserts include Saffron cake, Cornish heavy (hevva) cake, Cornish fairings biscuits, figgy 'obbin, scones (often served with jam and clotted cream) and whortleberry pie.
There are also many types of beers brewed in Cornwall – those produced by Sharp's Brewery, Skinner's Brewery and St Austell Brewery are the best-known – including stouts, ales and other beer types. There is some small scale production of wine, mead and cider.
- Outline of England
- Celtic languages
- Celtic nations
- Ethnic groups in Europe
- High Sheriff of Cornwall
- List of Parliamentary constituencies in Cornwall
- List of schools in Cornwall
- Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall
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- Williams, Michael (ed.) (1973) My Cornwall. St Teath: Bossiney Books (eleven chapters by various hands, including three previously published essays)
Neighbouring counties Celtic Sea Celtic Sea Devon Celtic Sea Devon Cornwall Celtic Sea English Channel English Channel Geography of Cornwall Cornwall Portal Unitary authorities Major settlementsBodmin • Bude • Callington • Camborne • Camelford • Falmouth • Fowey • Hayle • Helston • Launceston • Liskeard • Looe • Lostwithiel • Marazion • Newlyn • Newquay • Padstow • Par • Penryn • Penzance • Porthleven • Redruth • Saltash • St Austell • St Blazey • St Columb Major • St Ives • St Just-in-Penwith • St Mawes • Stratton • Torpoint • Truro • Wadebridge
See also: Civil parishes in Cornwall
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