Genuki-Cornwall | England GenWeb | IrelandGenWeb | Northern IrelandGenWeb | British IslesGenWeb
last update February 12, 2015
Topographical Dictionary of England, Volume 1, by Samuel Lewis, 1831
CORNWALL, a maritime county, bounded on the north by the Bristol channel, on the west by the Atlantic ocean, on the south by the English Channel, and on the east by Devonshire; extending from 49° 57' 30" to about 51° (N. Lat.), and from about 4° to 5° 40' (W. Lon.); it contains eight hundred and forty-nine thousand two hundred and eighty acres, or one thousand, three hundred and twenty-seven square miles. The population, exclusively of the Scilly islands, amounted in 1821 to 257,447. The name is thus derived: the part of the Brititsh including this county and a portion of Devonshire, from its shape, was called by its ancient British inhabitants Kernou, or as it is written by the Welsh, Kerniw, signifying the horn, which word was latinized to Carnubia, or Cornubia; when the Saxons gave the name of Weales to the Britons, they distinguished those who had retired into Kernou or Cornubia, by that of Cornweales; and their country was thus called Cornuwll, or Cornwall, this is, Cornish Wales. At the time of the arrival of the Romans, the northern part was inhabited by the Cimbri, the eastern by the Danmonii, and the remaining portion by the Carnabii. The Danmonii had subdued the two other tribes, and taken possession of their territories; but the Romans having effected the conquest of the whole island, and divided it into districts, Cornwall was included in that of Britannia Prima. Of the less authenticated portion of Cornish history are the traditions relative to the birth of King Arthur, at Tintagell castle, and his death at the battle fought near Camelford with his rebellious nephew Mordred. At a later period occurred various acts of hostility between the Saxons and the Cornish Britons, which obliged the latter to call in the Danes to their assistance. The Danish fleet arrived on the coast of Cornwall in 806; notwithstanding which, King Egbert, in 813, overran the territory from east to west. In 823, a great battle was fought at Camelford, between the Cornish Britons and the Saxons of Devonshire. Twelve years afterwards, another severe battle was fought at Hengston Hill, in the parish of Stoke-Chinsland, in which the Britons and their allies, the Danes, were defeated by Egbert. They were at length finally brought under the Saxon yoke by Athelstan, prior to which time they had occupied a great port of Devonshire, and inhabited Exeter in common wth the Saxons. Athelstan having defeated Howell, King of Cornwall, near Exeter, drove the Britons out of that city, and obliged them to retire to the west of the river Tamar. Nine years after, the Cornish men having shown symptoms of revolt, Athelstan entered their territory, and traversed without opposition to the Land's End, where he embarked his army, and having reduced the Scilly islands, is considered to have thus completed the conquest of Cornwall. In 997, the Danes ravaged the territory, which, in 1068, was again plundered by Godwin and Edmund, sons of Harold, on their return to Ireland.
Owing probably to its remote situation, this county participated only in a very trifling degree in the military transactions of the three following centuries. In the reign of Stephen, the Cornish people declared openly for the Empress Matilda, and, although the war did not extend into their own county, they fought for her under the Earl of Cornwall, her brother. During the foreign captivity of Richard I, some slight skimmishing took place, in consequence of the seizure of St. Michael's Mount, by Henry de la Pomeroy, in behalf of Prince John. In 1471, when Queen Margaret had landed at Weymouth, the whole force of Cornwall and Devonshire joined her at Exeter, and accompanied her to the field of Tewkesbury. In September of the same year, John de Were, Earl of Oxford, having by stratagem got possessions of St. Michael's Mount, established himself in that fortress, with a garrison of nearly four hundred men, and held it till the 3rd of February, 1472, when he surrendered it on condition that his life should be spared. The year 1497 is memorable for the rebellion of the commons of Cornwall, under Lord Audley, occasioned by the levy of a tax for the Scottish war; as also the subsequent landing of Perkin Warbeck, who raised in this county a force of three thousand men, with which he marched to besiege Exeter. In 1548 occurred here the rebellion (one of those occasioned by the recent change in religion) of which Hugh Arandel, governor of St. Michael's, was one of the principal leaders. In July 1595, a small party of Spaniards, having landed near Mousehole, burned that town, Newlyn, and Penance.
During the parliamentary war, the partisans of the king, being very numerous in Cornwall, had, about the close of the year 1642, secured entire possession of it, and volunteer regiments were raised, which made occasional incursions into Devonshire. The parliamentarian forces having entered the county from Dorsetshire and Somersetshire, were defeated on the 9th of January, 1643, on Broadoak, or Bradock down, and soon after driven ou the the county. Not long after this a treaty was concluded between the contending parties, and adjusting the strife in the counties of Cornwall and Devon, and for removing the war into other parts, but it was annulled by the parliament. The subsequent hostilities, owing to the strength of the royal party, were various and important; on the 16th of May, 1643, the battle of Stratton was fought, in which the royalists obtained a brilliant victory over their opponents, and drove them entirely out of the county, proceeding immediately afterwards to join their party in Somersetshire, under Prince Maurice and the Marquis of Hertford; they particularly distinguished themselves at the battle of Lansdown, and at the siege of Bristol, for which services the king addressed a letter of thanks to the county, dated Sudeley Castle, Sep. 10th, 1643, commanding it to be printed and published, and a copy to be read in every church and chapel therein, which copies are still preserved in many of the churches. In the middle of July 1644, the queen, having retreated to Pendennis castle, embarked there for France. On the 20th of the same month, the Earl of Essex entered the county at Newbridge on the Tamar, and was pursued by the king, who entered it at Polston bridge, on the 1st of August; on the 1st of September, the army under Essex capitulated at Fowey, the earl himself having the same morning made his escape thence by water. The parliamentary army, under Sir Thomas Fairfax, again entered Cornwall, in the beginning of March 1646, and the whole county was subjected to the parliament by the 23rd of April, excepting only Pendennis castle, which held out until the middle of August. In May 1648, a small force which had been raised here, in the hope of restoring Charles I., was defeated by Sir Hardress Waller. Sir John Berkeley and Col. Slingsby having been sent into Cornwall, in the autumn of 1649, to encourage their friends to take up arms for Charles II., were seized at Co. Trevanion's house, and sent prisoners to Truro. In 1650, the Scilly islands were held against the parliament by a considerable body of English and Irish forces. In May 1651, Admiral Sir George Ayscough, acting for the parliament, took all these islands, excepting St. Mary's, which was not surrendered until June. In 1667, the Dutch made an attempt to land near Cawland, in this county, but were driven back by the infantry on shore; they also made an attempt on Fowey harbour, but were repulsed.
Cornwall is within the diocese of Exeter, and province of Canterbury, and forms, together with three parishes in Devonshire, an archdeaconry, comprising the deaneries of East, Kerrier, Penwith, Powder, Pyder, Trigg-Major, Trigg-Minor, and West, and containing two hundred and three parishes, of which eighty-five are rectories, ninety-six vicarages, and twenty-two perpetual curacies; there are also three donatives, and several chapels; the spiritual court is held at Bodmin every second Friday, except during the Easter and Christmas holidays; and the archdeacon's visitations are held annually, about a month after Easter, at Launceston, Liskeard, Bodmin, Truro, Helston, and Penzance. The office of rural dean, which in many parts of the kingdom has become nearly nominal, is in Cornwall and efficient office; the rural deans are appointed annually, make regular visitations to every church within their deanery, and report the state of each of the archdeacon's visitations. For civil purpose the county is divided into the nine hundreds of East, Kerrier, Lesnewth, Penwith, Powder, Pyder, Stratton, Trigg, and West, in which are sixteen borough and market towns, viz., Bodmin, Bossiney, Callington, Camelford, East Looe, Fowery, Helston, Launceston, Liskeard, Lostwithiel, Pemryn, St. Ives, St. Mawes, Saltash, Tregoney, and Truro; four boroughts which have not market, viz., Newport, St. Germans, St. Michaels, and West Looe; and fifteen market towns which are not boroughs, viz., Boxcastle, Camborne, Falmouth, Grampound, Marazion, Mevagissey, Padstow, Penzance, Polperro, Redruth, St. Agnes, St. Austell, St. Columb, St. Day, and Stratton. Of the above towns, ten are sea-ports, viz., Falmouth, Fowey, Looe, Marazion, Mevagissey, Padstow, Penryn, Penzance, Polperro, and St. Ives; besides which there are the smaller ports of Bude, Charlestown, Hayle, Helford, Perth, PortIsaac, Portreath, or Basset's Cove, and Trevaunance. Two knights are returned to parliament for the shire, and two representatives for each of the twenty boroughs. It is included in the western circuit; the spring assizes are held in Launceston; the summer assizes, and the Michaelmas quarter sessions, at Bodmin; the Easter quarter sessions at Truro; and the Epiphany and Mid-summer quarter sessions at Lostwithiel. The county gaol and house of correction is at Bodmin, and there is also a county gaol at Launceston. There are ninety-nine acting magistrates. The rates raised in the county for the year ending march 25th, 1829, amounted to £118,628, and the expenditure to £115,641, of which £98,520 was applied to the relief of the poor.
Cornwall is a royal duchy, settled by act of parliament upon the eldest son of the king. The immediate government of the county is vested in the duke, who has his chancellor, attorney-general, solicitor-general, and other officers, and his court of exchequer, with the appointment of sheriffs, &cc. The important concerns of the mining trade are under a separate jurisdiction, the miners being, by ancient privilege confirmed to them by Edward III., exempt from all other civil jurisdiction than that of the stannary courts, except in cases affecting land, life, or limb. At the head of this jurisdiction is the lord-warden of the stannaries, under whom is the vice-warden; the final appeal being to the duke and his council. The vice-warden's court, held generally once a month, is a court of equity for all matters relating to the tin mines and trade, from which no writ of errorlies so the courts at Westminster, but there is an appeal to the lord-warden, and from him to the duke and his council. Issues are frequently directed by the vice-warden to be tried in the stannary courts, which are held at the end of every three weeks (except in the stannary of Foymore, in which there is scarcely any business for the court), before the steward of each stannary and a jury, for determining on all civil actions arising within the stannaries, in which either the plaintiff or defendant is a privileged tinner; but the decision of each of these courts is subject to an appeal to the vice-warden, and from him to the superior authorities. Henry VII., on confirming their ancient privileges, granted that no new laws affecting the miners should be enacted by the duke and his council, without the consent of twenty-four persons, called stannators, six being chosen out of each of the four stannaries, or mining districts, of Foymore, Blackmore, Tywarnhaile, and Penwith and Kerrier. The stannators for Foymore are chosen by the mayor and corporation of Lostwithiel, those for Blackmore by the mayor and corporation of Launceston, those for Tywarnhaile by the mayor and corporation of Truro, and those for Penwith and Kerrier by the mayor and corporation of Helston; they are some of the principal gentlemen of property in the mining districts; on assembling, they elect a speaker, and their meeting is called stannary parliament. These parliaments have been convened occasionally by the lord-warden, as the circumstances of the times have required new laws, or the revision of the old; the last met at Truro, in 1752, and continued by adjournments until September 11th, 1753. The stannary prison is at Lostwithiel, where the ancient records of the stannaries were kept previously to their being burned during the parliamentary war. The amount of the annual revenue of the duchy, in 1814, was £22,000, of which, £8,600 arose from the tin duty in this county, and £3,500 from rents of manors, fines &c. The tin duty, before the late continental war, amounted to nearly £14,000 per annum.
The climate is remarkably salubrious, the southern coast, especially towards the Land's End, being on account of the superior mildness of the air, much resorted to by invalids in the winter season. The surface of the county is hilly, and a large portion of it is occupied by uncultivated heaths and moors. The moors extend from near Blisland on the west, to near Northill on the east, about ten miles, and from Davidstow on the north, to near St. Neots on the south, about twelve miles, lying in the four hundreds of Leanewth, East, West, and Trigg; they abound with picturesque hills, and tors composed of immense masses of granite. The height of the principal elevations in the county, according to Col. Mudge's observations, is as follows: Brown Willey, by far the highest, is one thousand three hundred and sixty-eight feet above the level of the sea at low water; Carraton hill, one thousand two hundred and eight feet; Kill hill, one thousand and sixty-seven feet; Henborough, one thousand and thirty-four feet; and Cadonborough, one thousand and eleven feet. The rivers and smaller streams, owing to the inequalities of the surface, and to the many springs, are very numerous. The most considerable lakes, or pools, are the Lo pool, about two miles long and a furlong wide, between the town of Helston and the sea, noted for excellent trout; and Dosmery pool, in the parish of Alternon, about a mile in circumference, formed by the union of the waters from the surrounding hills. The high grounds, through which the great roads chiefly pass, present a dreary aspect; but there is much beautiful scenery near the southern coast, particularly at East and West Looe, Fowey, and Polperro, and on the bans of the Lynher, near Trematon castle, and Nottarbridge. Falmouth bay and Mount's bay are considered equal in beauty to any spot in Great Britain. The banks of the Tamar, in the neighbourhood of Calstock, Cothele, Pentillie, &c., abound with fine scenery. The surface of the ground in many parts of the mining district has been greatly disfigured, particularly by the stream-works of successive ages. Some of the most remarkable and interesting scenes occur along a bold line of broken coast, bounded by the Atlantic ocean and the British channel, where, amidst a great variety of striking objects, may be enumerated the magnificent groups of granite rocks at the Land's End, Cape Cornwall, and Castle Treryn, the rocks of schiatus at Tintagel, and the stupendous rocks near Portreath, with a lofty perforation called Tabbin's Hole. The rocks of serpentine at Kynan's Cove, near the Lizard Point, exhibit a variety of picturesque forms. The interior of the county also presents some remarkable objects in the rude masses of granite, in various fantastic shapes, which appear above the surface. The soil is various, the prevailing kinds being the black growan, or gravelly; the shelfy, or slaty; and loam, differing in colour, texture, and degree of fertility. The first abounds in all the higher grounds, and occupies a considerable part of the area of the county, the substratum being granite, frequently in a decomposed state. This soil is not generally so fertile as the others, but is particularly well suited to the culture of potatoes; and in some parts, where the growan is mixed with a large portion of loam, the land is remarkably productive. The shelfy, or slaty, soil takes its name from the rock schistus, or soft slate, on which it lies, and of which, with a mixture of light loam, it is composed. There are three extensive and very fertile districts in which it prevails, viz., on the banks of the Alan, the Fowey, and the Fal. The loamy or alluvial soils of various descriptions, more or less mixed with clay, which is their substratum, are very fertile, and occur in many parts of the county, chiefly in the valleys and on the banks of the rivers. The serpentine soil, or that which covers the serpentine rock on Goonhilly downs, is noted for the production of that remarkable plant, the erica vagans, which is peculiar to Cornwall. Some of the high grounds on the north coast are covered to the depth of many feet with sea sand, which is composed of very minute fragments of sea shells, or coral, and appears to have been deposited by the spray of the sea at a remote period. The sea has considerably encroached upon the coast, within the last sixty years, in the hundreds of Stratton and Lesnewth, especially near Bude harbour, where the waves are rapidly wasting the sand hills. The substratum which prevails in the greater part of the county is that species of stratified rock usually called slate, or schiatus, but known in the mining district by the name of killas; this, varying in substance and in colour, is found in every part of Cornwall, with the granite, or moorstone, the serpentine, and a few others of small extent. Of the granite there are four considerable districts; the first is nearly bounded by the church-towns of Northill, St. Neots, Blisland, St. Breward, and St. Clether; the second by those of Llanlivery, Roach, St. Denis, St. Stephens, St. Austell, and St. Blazey; the third by those of Constantine, Crowan, Redruth, and Stithians; the fourth occupying the western extremity of the county, from St. Paul and Zennor to the Land's End; and four small spots, one of them between Calstock and Callington, another east of Redruth, a third west of Breage, and St. Michael's Mount. In the southern part of the district of Meneage the substratum is serpentine, except a small portion of green-stone, being a species of trap, in the parish of St. Keverne. There are also three narrow veins of what is called irestone, or iron-stone, two of them bounding the granite of the Land's End toward the east and west, the third bounding the granite in the neighbourhood of Redruth, to the north-west. Some thin beds of limestone occur alternately with the slate near Padstow, and in the parishes of Carantoe and Lower St. Columb; and there are some isolated strata of limestone between Liskeard and Tamar. Beds of clay of various colours are also found in several parts.
Some districts produce an abundance of corn, particularly that part extending from Endellion to St. Columb on the north coast, that called Meneage, the neighbourhoods of Burian and St. Germans, the lands near the Fawy, and a great part of the hundred of Stratton; but the fertility of these districts scarcely compensates for the barrenness of other parts of the county. The crops commonly cultivated are wheat, barley, and oats, including the naked oat, called in Cornwall, pillis, or pill-corn, from the Cornish word pilez, bald, which brings the same price as wheat; its chief use is in making gruel for calves, and as food for poultry. The manures are sea-sand, sea-weed, and damaged pilchards; the sand being well adapted for manure, from the abundant mixture of pulverized shells and coral, is conveyed into the interior in great quantities, sometimes to the distance of twenty miles. Potatoes have been cultivated to a great extent in Cornwall longer than in other parts of the kingdom; in the vicinity of Penzance the land produces two crops of them in the year; and an acre has been known to yield three hundred bushels (Winchester measure) of the early kidney potatoes, at the first crop, and at the second six hundred bushels of apple potatoes; a large quantity is sent to London, Plymouth, and Portsmouth. There are numerous orchards in all the southern parts of the county, in some parts of the hundred of Stratton, and in that part of the hundred of East which borders on the Tamar. The parishes of Calstock and Stocke-Climsland abound also in cherry orchards. Owing to the cooling effect which the sea breezes produce upon the atmosphere, the harvest is later here than in the midland counties. Nearly a fourth part of the surface of the county, from one hundred and fifty thousand to two hundred thousand acres, consists of unenclosed waste lands, which are appropriated to no other purpose than as a scanty pasture for an inferior breed of sheep, and for goats, throughout the year; and about ten thousand acres to the summer pasture of cattle and sheep. Many of the valleys are well wooded, particularly in the south-eastern part of the county, and in the vicinity of Lostwithiel and Bodmin; and there are extensive plantations at Tregothnan, Clowance, Tehidy, Port-Ellot, Carclew, &c.; the principal landowners having of late directed their attention to planting, the face of the county, in the course of twenty or thirty years, will present extensive woodland scenery, both useful and ornamental. Much of the waste land in the mining district has been rendered more valuable by assigning on lease, for ninety-nine years, determinable on three lives, to the operative miners, portions of about three acres each, at an annual rental of ten shillings, on condition that they build a cottage and cultivate the land. It is worthy of observation, that the common sea-rush, which is very abundant on the northern coast, is planted there, as the only means of arresting, by the spread of its fibrous roots, the progress of the moving heaps of sand. Several plants indigenous to the south-eastern parts of Europe grow wild in this county. The Devonshire breed of cattle, more or less mixed, prevails throughout Cornwall; those of the larger sort, which are very numerous, are sold annually to graziers and contractors; the native cattle are very small and hardy, black, short-horned, and thick-boned; draught oxen are much used. Several mules, too, are bred and employed in the mining district, where also are many goats, these animals being much more numerous in Cornwall than in any part of South Wales. The Cornish choughs, once so abundant, and so well known as having afforded an armorial device to many of the Cornish gentry, have become rather scarce.
Cornwall has been celebrated for the produce of its tin mines from very remote antiquity. Strabo, Herodotus, and other ancient writers, relate that the Phoenicians, and after them the Greeks and the Romans, traded for tin to Cornwall and the Scilly islands, under the name of the islands Cassiterides, from a very early period; and Diodorus Siculus, who wrote in the reign of Augustus, gives a particular account of the manner in which the tin-ore was dug and prepared by the Britons. At what period the coinage of the tin obtained within the earldom of Cornwall was first established, is not certain, but it was practised so early as the reign of King John. In the reign of Edward I. it was first ordered, for better securing the payment of the duty to the earl, that all tin should be brought to certain places appointed for that purpose, to be weighed and stamped, or, as it is usually termed, coined; and that no tin should be sold until this stamp had been affixed. The quantity raised annually from the Cornish mines has varied with circumstances; the average annual quantity raised in the years 1788, 1800, and 1801, was sixteen thousand eight hundred and twenty blocks; each block weighing about three hundred and a quarter, and about six blocks and a sixth making a ton; in 1811, the quantity produced was fourteen thousand six hundred and ninety-eight blocks; in 1824, twenty-eight thousand three hundred and ten; in 1825, twenty-four thousand four hundred and seventy-nine; and in 1826, twenty-five thousand seven hundred and eighty-seven. At the commencement of the present century, according to Dr. Berger, there were twenty-eight tin mines then in operation in Cornwall, of which seven were in the parish of St. Agnes, four in that of Wendron, three in Gulval, and two each in Lelant, Redruth, and Perran-Zabuloe; besides which there were thirteen mines producing tin and copper, of which four were in the parish of Redruth, four in Gwennap, three in St. Agnes', and two in St. Neot's; and one mine worked for tin and cobalt in Madron. Drakewall's tin mine, on Hingeston down, in the parish of Calstock, is said to be the oldest mine now wrought, having been in operation about one hundred and sixty years. The principal tin mines are, Huel-Vor, in the parish of Brengne; Poldice, in the parish of Gwennap; Huel-Reeth, in the parish of Lelant; and Beam, in the parish of Roche; tin-ore is also found in beds usually thought diluvial; the most extensive deposits of this description occurring at Carnun, in the parish of Feock; Pentewan, in the parish of St. Ewe; and the Gorse and Fore moors, in the parishes of Roche and St. Columb. The mineral rights of tin in the duchy manors were, about fifteen years ago, sold for a term of years. The tin-ore has always been smelted in the county; in the year 1705 a patent was obtained for smelting it in iron furnaces. Soon afterwards reverberatory furnaces were introduced; and the blowing-houses, in which the metal had before been smelted, fell into disuse. For some purposes, however, particularly for fixing the grain of the scarlet dye, the tin smelted in blowing-houses is esteemed more valuable than the other, and it bears a higher price; the smelting establishments are principally at St. Austell's, Hayle, Huel-Vor, Penzance, Porheath, and Truro.
The working of copper mines was not carried on in this county to any great extent until the close of the seventeenth century, since which the quantity of ore raised has been gradually increasing, so that, in the year 1824, were obtained one hundred and ten thousand, tons of ore, producing eight thousand four hundred and seventeen tons of copper, of the value of £743,253; in 1825, one hundred and eighteen thousand seven hundred and sixty-eight of ore, producing nine thousand one hundred and forty of copper, of the value of £798,790; in 1826, one hundred and twenty-eight thousand four hundred and fifty-nine of ore, producing ten thousand four hundred and fifty of copper, of the value of £755,358. The average depth of the mines is about one hundred fathoms, but Dolcoath mine, in the parish of Camborne, which is the deepest is about two hundred and thirty fathoms, being one hundred and eighty fathoms below the level of the sea. At Botallock and Huel-Cock, in the parish of T. Just, the workings extend beneath the ocean, the nose of which is distinctly heard by the workmen. About the year 1800 there were forty-five copper mines in operation, of which eleven were in the parish of Gwennap, six in that of St. Agnes, five in that of Camborne, four in that of Gwinear, four in that of St. Hillary, three in each of the parishes of Germoe, Crowan, and Illogan, and two in St. Neots, the remainder being scattered singly in other parishes. Besides these were the mines already described as being worked both for copper and tin; a mine in Gwinear, for copper, and silver; and one in Camborne, for copper and cobalt. The most productive copper mines in 1813 were, one near Hayle, one near St. Austell, one in the parish of Camborne, four in Gwennap, one in Crowan, one in St. Agnes', and one in Calstock; the two first were the most profitable, it being calculated that the one near St. Austell yielded about £2000 a month, and that near Hayle about half as much; the Huel-Damul mine, in the parish of Gwennap, in the course of about seven years, yielded a profit to the proprietors of about £230,000; the monthly expense of working Dolcoath mine is about £4000; and that is of the Consolidated mines £6000. There are about one hundred and twenty steam-engines employed in drawing the water, rubbish, and ore out of the mines, and in working the apparatus for crushing the ore; the steam power in operation at the Consolidated mines, in the parish of Gwennap, is equal to that of two thousand five hundred horses; there are several engines of four hundred and sixty horse power each. Cooper-ore is said to have been first smelted in Cornwall at Polruddan, in the parish of St. Austell; about the year 1754, some gentlemen of Camborne erected furnaces for smelting the ore at Entrall, in that parish; but, for the convenience of importing coal, the works were removed to Hayle, where are now the only copper smelting-houses in the county; in these about six thousand tons of ore are smelted annually; but the greater part is still shipped to be smelted in Wales.
The produce of the lead mines is considerable; the ore is chiefly found at Huel Rose, in the parish of Newlyn, and Huel Penrose, in the parish of Sithney. Gold-ore has never been found in sufficient quantities to have been regarded as an object of profit. Some portion of silver was obtained so early as the reign of Edward I.; of late years the principal silver mines have been, one in each of the parishes of Cubert, Gwinear, and Calstock; of these, the only one now worked is the Calstock mine, which about the year 1814 yielded a profit of £5000. Other minerals of less importance, which are occasionally objects of commerce are, cobalt-ore, found at Huel-Sparnon, near Redruth; antimony-ore in the neighbourhood of Calstock. There are iron-foundries at Perran wharf and Hayle; manufactoies for gunpowder at Kennall Vale, in the parish of Stythians, and at Coseawes, in the parish of St. Gluvins; for paint and colours at Peryn; and for the preparation of oxyde of arsenic at Perran-Arworthal. The ores are found in veins, of which the prevailing direction is from east to west, being crossed by other veins extending from north to south; most of the productive mines are situated near the union of the slate and granite strata. The ores are not found indiscriminately throughout the county, but lie chiefly in fields, or district; these are, first the "Eastern," near Calstock; secondly, the "St. Austell," in the parish of St. Blazey; thirdly, the "Grennap and Redruth," in the parishes of Gwennap, Redruth, St. Agnes, Stythian, Kenwyn, and Kes; fourthly, the "Camborne," in the parishes of Camborne and Illogan; fifthly, the "Huel-Vor," in the parishes of Crowan, Breague, Germoe, and Gwinear; and sixthly, the "Western," extending along the north coast from Lelant to the Land's End; in each of these there are several mines, but there are also some in the intervening tracts. The mineral rights of copper, lead, &c., in the duchy manors were sold, about the year 1812, for a term of thirty-one years. The mines are private property, and are let during a term of years for a pecuniary consideration, varying in amount from one-twelfth to one-thirtieth of the produce. A debenture is allowed by government of Norway timber and coal consumed in the mines. The Cornish slate is a considerable article of commerce; the principal quarries are those on the southern coast, those between Liskcard and the Tamar, those in the parishes of Padstow and Tintagel, and the celebrated quarry of Delabole, or Dennybal, in the parish of St. Teath, the produce of which is held in the highest esteem, and is shipped in large quantities from Port Isaac, about five miles distant, both coastwise and to the continent; this remarkable quarry was described by Dr. Borlase, about sixty years ago, as being three hundred yards long, one hundred yards wide, and forty fathoms deep; the quartz chrystals found in it are of great brilliancy. There is a great quantity of stone in various parts of the county suitable for building; it is principally taken from the porphyry dykes, or courses, which traverse both the granite and slate strata, in a direction from east to west; the granite, or moorstone, which abounds on the surface of the moors, has of late years been exported for the erection of bridges and other public buildings. An abundance of felspar clay, resulting from the decomposition of granite, is found in the parishes of Roche, St. Stephen, and St. Denis, and is shipped, chiefly at the neighbouring port of Charlestown, for the manufacture of china and fine earthenware. A yellow sandy dry clay, which from its resisting intense heat is called fire-clay, found near Lelant, is sent to Wales for laying the bottoms of copper furnances.
The abundance of fish on the coast, besides supplying a great portion of food to the inhabitants, once furnished an important article of commerce, but of late years has greatly declined; the most esteemed fish, such as the turbot, sole, piper, dory, red mullet, whiting, mackarel, &c., are still caught. The London market is said to be chiefly supplied with mackarel, in the early part of the season, from the fisheries at Newlyn. But the most important branch of the Cornish fishery is that of herrings and pilchards, particularly the latter, which are peculiar to these coasts, the opposite coasts of Britanny, and those of the south of Ireland. The pilchard trade had become so extensive before the late continental war, that sixty thousand hogsheads, caught in St. Austell's bay, were exported from Fowey in one year. During the war this fishery almost wholly declined, so that in 1808 and 1810 there was no trade coastwise. In 1811 it revived a little, in consequence of the exportation of pilchards to the West Indies. Of late years a great quantity has been sold for manure, the oil being first extracted. The chief pilchard fisheries at present are in St. Austell bay and Mount's bay, on the south coast, and at St. Ives and New Quay on the north coast. Good oysters are found in great abundance in the creeks of the Hele.
Cornwall has few branches of manufacture, except such as relate to the smelting and preparation of its metallic ores; there is a carpet-manufactory at Truro; and coarse woollen cloths are made at Truro and Perran-Arwortbal. The principal articles of export are tin, copper, and fish; to which may be added slate, granite, china-stone, china-clay, and potatoes. The principal imports are coal, timber, iron, hemp, and other articles of consumption in mining and fishing, besides a considerable quantity of grain and flour, grocery, and various manufactured goods. With respect to the state of the harbours, the mouths of nearly all the tide rivers on the northern coast have been nearly choked with sand cast up by the surge, or drifted in by the north-westerly winds.
The principal rivers are the Tamar, the Lynher or Lyner, the Tide of Tidi, the Leaton, the East Looe, the Duloc, the Fawy, the Fal, the Hele or Heyl, and the Alan or Camel. The Tamar rises in the parish of Moorwinstow, about three miles from the Bristol channel, and, after receiving the Tavy on the east, and the Lynher creek on the west, constitutes the fine harbour of Hamoaze; then, after forming two large creeks on the west, and one on the east, it falls into the English channel, between Mount-Edgecumbe and the lands of Stonehouse and St. Michael's island, in Plymouth South; its course is about forty miles, nearly south, in which it receives numerous small rivers, and forms from the sea up to its source (excepting only for the space of about three miles) the boundary between this county and Devonshire. The Lynher rises about eight miles west of Launceston, and flows south-south-east, near Callington, or Noddetor, or Notter, bridge, where it becomes navigable, and spreads into the Lynher creek; four miles further it falls into the Tamar, after a course of about twenty-four miles. The Tide, or Tidi, rises on the south side of Carraton hill, near Liskeard, and becomes navigable two miles above St. Germans, below which town it is called St. German's creek, which forms a junction with the Lynher creek. The Leaton rises about four miles north-east of Liskeard, and passing near that town, falls into the sea, after a course of twelve miles. The East Looe river rises in the parish of St. Cleer, and, becoming navigable at Sand-place, falls into the sea between East and West Looe, after a course of ten miles; the West Looe river rises in the parish of St. Pinnock, and becoming navigable at Trelawn-wear, falls into the East Looe river near its mouth. The Fawy rises in the parish of Alternon, near the hill called Brown Willey, and becomes navigable (at high water) at Lostwiethfel, three miles below which it joins the Leryn creek, and forms a wide and deep haven; two miles further it passes the town of Fowey, and falls into the sea after a course of twenty-six miles. The Fal rises about two miles west of Roach hills, and a mile below Tregoney its waters begin to spread, and form Lamorran creek, which is joined by Maples, or Mopas road, formed by the junction of Truro and St. Clement's creeks; two miles below this junction it reaches Falmouth harbour, which is four miles long, and upward of a mile broad, and on the eastern side has fourteen fathoms of water; on the western side it has three creeks. At the bottom of this harbour the Fal opens into the sea, between Pendennis castle and St. Mawe's and Anthony point, its channel being there nearly a mile broad. The river Hele rises on the hills in the parish of Wendron, becomes navigable (at high tide) at Gweek, and being joined in the latter part of its course by several small creeks, forms Helford haven, within a mile below which it falls into the sea, after a course of twelve miles, with an estuary of about a mile broad. The Alan, or Camel, rises about two miles north of Camelford, and becomes navigable at Polbrock; flowing by Padstown, where it is about a mile broad, it falls into the sea about two miles below. An act of parliament was passed, in 1774, for making a navigable canal from Bude harbour to join the river Tamar, in the parish of Calstock, and another in 1769, for making a navigable canal, to be called the Polbrock canal, from Guinen port, near Wade bridge, to Dummeer bridge, in the parish of Bodmin, with a collateral cut to, or near, Ruthern bridge, in the same parish.
The great mail-coach road from London to Falmouth, Penzance, &c., enters Cornwall at Poulston bridge, one mile and three quarters from Launceston, and passes through that town, Bodmin, Truro, the borough of Michell, and Penryn. The road to Penzance branches off between Truro and Penryn, at the village of Perranwell, and joins the turnpike road from Penryn to Helston, six miles from the latter town, through which and Marazion it passes to Penzance. The great road from London to the Land's End, by way of Devonport, enters Cornwall at Tor-point, and passes near St. Germans, through Liskeard, Lostwithiel, St. Austell, and Grampound, to Truro, where it joins the other great road. The mail-coach roads are very good; there is little travelling on the cross roads.
Cornwall abounds with rude monuments of its aboriginal inhabitants, much resembling those found in Ireland, Wales, and North Britian, consisting of large unwrought stones placed erect, either singly or in circles, or with others laid across; and barrows and tumull; the numerous circles of erect stones are generally termed Dawns-mén, the stone dance. There are also several circular enclosures of stone, or earth, within which are rows of seats, having formed amphitheatres, originally designed for the exhibition of various sports, and where in later times, the Cornish plays were acted; these are called rounds, or Plan an guare, the place of sport. Tumuli and barrows, the latter commonly called by the British name of cairns, are found in all parts of the county. Another kind of rude stone monument, most probably sepulchral, is found in many places, vis., the cromlech, which consists of a large flat stone, laid horizontally upon several others fixed upright in the ground, and is provincially called the quoit, or the giant's quoit. Those ancient instruments of mixed metal, commonly called celts, have been found here more abundantly than in any other part of the kingdom. Several artificial caves, or subterranean passages, have been discovered, consisting of long galleries running in various directions, formed of upright stones with others laid across. In the year 1749, a great number of gold coins, believed to be British, were found in the middle of the ridge of Cambre hill. In several parts of the county may be seen rude upright stones of granite, with inseriptious of a date anterior to the Norman Conquest, and some of them coval with the time of the Romans. The other Roman antiquities consist for the most part of coins, which of late years have been discovered in abundance in the western part of the county; and of spear-heads, swords, and other weapons of mixed metal, which have frequently been found in the ancient mines and stream-works. The situation of any of the Roman stations has not been ascertained. Ancient roads, or fragments of them, are visible in various parts of the county; one of these, believed to be British, traverses the hills, with barrows at intervals along its line, from the Land's End towards Stratton and the north of Cornwall, passing near the great British station of Cambre. Two Roman roads enter the county from Devonshire, one of which was a continuation of the great road from Dorchester and Exeter; the other appears to lead from Torrington and the northern part of Devonshire towards Stratton. Several of the Cornish churches retain traces of Saxon, or early Norman, architecture, some of them exhibiting curious specimens; the most considerable of which appears in the church of St. Germans, anciently the cathedral of the bishoprick of Cornwall, which was founded in 614, and annexed to the see of Crediton, in the county of Devon, in 1031; most of these churches appear to have been rebuilt in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; the towers are extremely well constructed, and those of St. Austell and Probus are highly ornamented. In the churches of the St. Kew, St. Neot, and St. Winnow, are considerable remains of ancient painted glass. Several others contain richly ornamented screens, rood-lefts, pulpits, &c. Of the ancient fonts, many are in the grotesque Saxon style. There is a great number of sepulchral monuments of the sixteenth century, consisting of large slabs of slate, with effigies carved in bas-relief. Before the Reformation there were about twenty religious houses in Cornwall, including two Alien houses, and one preceptory of the Knights Hospitallers; there were also eleven colleges, and seven ancient hospitals; the monastic remains are few, and, excepting those of St. German's priory, not remarkable. Small chapels, or oratories, erected over wells or springs to which extraordinary properties have been attributed, abound in most parts of the county, the greater part of them in ruins; and in every part of it, are ancient stone crosses, not only in the churchyards, but also on the moors, and in other solitary situations. There are also, particularly in the narrowest parts of the county, from St. Michael's Mount to the Land's End, remains of several rude circular buildings on the summits of hills, of very remote antiquity, and still denominated castles; besides several cliff castles, formed by gla?e walls running across necks of land from cliff to cliff on the sea coast. Of more regular fortresses the principal remains are those of the castles of Launceston, Cambre, Tintagal, Trematon, and Restormel, all of high antiquity, and the first believed to be of British origin. St Catharine's castle at Fowey, and those of Pendennis and St. Mawes, were built in the reign of Henry VIII, and resemble other castles, or blockhouses, erected by that sovereign for the defence of the southern coast. The most perfect specimen of ancient domestic architecture is Cothele House, erected in the reign of Henry VII. Ancient camps and earthworks are here particularly abundant, the greater part of them being nearly round or oval. In many places along the coast, a single vallum runs across the edge of one cliff to that of another, with a ditch on the land side. There are considerable remains of a vallum called the Giant's Hedge, which appears to have been originally about seven miles and a half in length, extending in an irregular line from the river Looe, a little above the town of West Looe, to Leryn.
Of peculiar customs still observed, the following are the most remarkable. The lighting of bonfires on the eve of St. John the Baptist's day, and on that of St. Peter's day; the custom among the reapers of dressing up the last handful of corn, and parading about with it; and that of saluting the apple-trees at Christmas, which prevails also in Devonshire; to which may be added, the Furry at Helston, and the Bodmin riding, described in the account of those places. The Cornish were formerly addicted to sports and pastimes, especially to the miracle-play, wrestling, and hurling; the practice of wrestling, after that particular mode, still prevails here more generally than in any other part of England. The miracle-plays having been composed in the Cornish language, a dialect of the ancient British, have not survived its extinction; that language was generally spoken until the time of Henry VIII, when, by the introduction of the English Liturgy, it gradually fell into disuse, and towards the close of the last century it had entirely ceased to be spoken.
|Select an English County|
Adopted by Pat Connors, Jan 21, 2006