Cornwall facts for kids
Onen hag oll (Cornish)
One and all
Cornwall in England
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Region||South West England|
|Area||[convert: needs a number]|
|• Ranked||12th of 48|
|Population (2005 est.)||519,400|
|• Ranked||40th of 48|
|Density||146/km2 (380/sq mi)|
|Ethnicity||99.7% White British, 0.3% Other|
|Area||3,546 km2 (1,369 sq mi)|
|• Ranked||2nd of 326|
|• Ranked||of 326|
|Density||[convert: needs a number]|
Districts of Cornwall
|Members of Parliament|
|Time zone||GMT (UTC)|
|• Summer (DST)||BST (UTC+1)|
Cornwall (// or //; Cornish: Kernow IPA: [ˈkɛɹnɔʊ]) is a ceremonial county and unitary authority area of England within the United Kingdom. It is bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, 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 519,400 and covers an area of 3,563 km2 (1,376 sq mi). The administrative centre, and only city in Cornwall, is Truro, although the town of Falmouth has the largest population for a civil parish and the conurbation of Camborne, Pool and Redruth has the highest total population.
Cornwall forms the westernmost part of the south-west peninsula of the island of Great Britain, and a large part of the Cornubian batholith is within Cornwall. This area 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 and Brittany. There is little evidence that Roman rule was effective west of Exeter and few Roman remains have been found. Cornwall was the home of a division of the Dumnonii tribe – whose tribal centre was in the modern county of Devon – known as the Cornovii, separated from the Brythons of Wales after the Battle of Deorham, often coming into conflict with the expanding kingdom of Wessex before King Athelstan in AD 936 set the boundary between English and Cornish at the high water mark of the eastern bank of the River 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 Domnonée and Cornouaille and the Celtic Christianity common to both territories.
Historically tin mining was important in the Cornish economy, becoming increasingly significant during the High Middle Ages and expanding greatly during the 19th century when rich copper mines were also in production. In the mid-19th 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 (notably dairy products and vegetables) were the other important sectors of the economy. Railways led to a growth of tourism in the 20th century; however, Cornwall's economy struggled after the decline of the mining and fishing industries. The area is noted for its wild moorland landscapes, its long and varied coastline, its attractive villages, its many place-names derived from the Cornish language, and its very mild climate. Extensive stretches of Cornwall's coastline, and Bodmin Moor, are protected as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Cornwall is the 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 Cornish Assembly. On 24 April 2014 it was announced that Cornish people will be granted minority status under the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.
- Christianity in Cornwall
- Physical geography
- Cornish national identity
- Settlements and communication
- Languages and dialects
- Images for kids
The modern English name Cornwall derives from the concatenation of two ancient demonyms from different linguistic traditions:
Corn- records the native Brythonic tribe, the Cornovii ("peninsula people"). The Celtic word "kernou" ("horn" or "headland") is cognate with the English word "horn" (both deriving from the Proto-Indo-European *ker-). -wall derives from the Old English exonym w(e)alh, meaning "foreigner" or "Roman" (i.e. a Welshman).
The Ravenna Cosmography first mentions a city named Purocoronavis in the locality. This is thought to be a latinized rendering of Duro-cornov-ium, meaning 'fort of the Cornovii'. The exact location of Durocornovium is disputed, with Tintagel and Carn Brea suggested as possible sites.
In later times, Cornwall was known to the Anglo-Saxons as "West Wales" to distinguish it from "North Wales" (the modern nation of Wales). The name appears in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 891 as On Corn walum. In the Domesday Book it was referred to as Cornualia and in c. 1198 as Cornwal.
Other names for the county include a latinisation of the name as Cornubia (first appears in a mid-9th-century deed purporting to be a copy of one dating from c. 705), and as Cornugallia in 1086.
Prehistory, Roman and post-Roman periods
- See also: Dumnonia
The present human history of Cornwall begins with the reoccupation of Britain after the last Ice Age. 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 people. 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, in modern-day Ireland, England, France, Spain and Portugal. During the British Iron Age, Cornwall, like all of Britain south of the Firth of Forth, was inhabited by a Celtic people known as the Britons with distinctive cultural relations to neighbouring Wales and Brittany. The Common Brittonic spoken at the time eventually developed into several distinct tongues, including Cornish.
The first account of Cornwall comes from the 1st century BC Sicilian Greek historian Diodorus Siculus, supposedly quoting or paraphrasing the 4th-century BCE 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. Professor Timothy Champion, discussing Diodorus Siculus's comments on the tin trade, states that "Diodorus never actually says that the Phoenicians sailed to Cornwall. In fact, he says quite the opposite: the production of Cornish tin was in the hands of the natives of Cornwall, and its transport to the Mediterranean was organised by local merchants, by sea and then over land through France, well outside Phoenician control." (For further discussion of tin mining see the section on the economy below.)
There is little evidence that Roman rule was effective west of Exeter in Devon and few Roman remains have been found. However, after 410, Cornwall appears to have reverted to rule by Romano-Celtic chieftains of the Cornovii tribe as part of Dumnonia including one Marcus Cunomorus with at least one significant power base at Tintagel. 'King' Mark of Cornwall is a semi-historical figure known from Welsh literature, the Matter of Britain, and in particular, the later Norman-Breton medieval romance of Tristan and Yseult where he is regarded as a close kinsman of King Arthur; himself usually considered to be born of the Cornish people in folklore traditions derived from Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae. Archaeology supports ecclesiastical, literary and legendary evidence for some relative economic stability and close cultural ties between the sub-Roman Westcountry, South Wales, Brittany and Ireland through the fifth and sixth centuries.
Conflict with Wessex
The Battle of Deorham in 577 saw the separation of Dumnonia (and therefore Cornwall) from Wales, following which the Dumnonii often came into conflict with the expanding English kingdom of Wessex. 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 a West Saxon force, 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 stated in 815 (adjusted date) "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 Chronicle states that in 825 (adjusted date) a battle took place between the Wealas (Cornish) and the Defnas (men of Devon) at Gafulforda. In the same year Ecgbert, as a later document expresses 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 Eahlstan, 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 in the Battle of Hingston Down at Hengestesdune (probably 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 who 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, particularly Harold Godwinson himself. However, the Bodmin manumissions show that two leading Cornish figures nominally had Saxon names, but these were both glossed with native Cornish names. Naming evidence cited by medievalist Edith Ditmas suggests that many post-Conquest landowners in Cornwall were Breton allies of the Normans and further proposed this period for the early composition of the Tristan and Iseult cycle by poets such as Beroul from a pre-existing shared Brittonic oral tradition.
Soon after the Norman conquest most of the land was transferred to the 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 with his stronghold at Trematon Castle near the mouth of the Tamar. Cornwall and Devon west of Dartmoor 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.
Later medieval administration and society
Subsequently, however, Norman absentee landlords became replaced by a new Cornu-Norman elite including scholars such as Richard Rufus of Cornwall. These families eventually became the new ruling class of Cornwall (typically speaking Norman French, Breton-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.
Cornish piracy was active during the Elizabethan era on the west coast of Britain.
Christianity in Cornwall
- See also: List of Cornish saints
Many place names in Cornwall are associated with Christian missionaries described as coming from Ireland and Wales in the 5th century AD and usually called saints (See List of Cornish saints). The historicity of some of these missionaries is problematic. The patron saint of Wendron Parish Church, "Saint Wendrona" is another example. 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 is still recognised by the Anglican Church as the Protector of Cornwall. The title has also been claimed for Saint Petroc who was patron of the Cornish diocese prior to the Normans.
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.
The whole of Cornwall was in this period in the Archdeaconry of Cornwall within the Diocese of Exeter. From 1267 the archdeacons had a house at Glasney near Penryn. Their duties were to visit and inspect each parish annually and to execute the bishop's orders. Archdeacon Roland is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as having land holdings in Cornwall but he was not Archdeacon of Cornwall, just an archdeacon in the Diocese of Exeter. In the episcopate of William Warelwast (1107–37) the first Archdeacon of Cornwall was appointed (possibly Hugo de Auco). Most of the parish churches in Cornwall in Norman times were not in the larger settlements, and 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.
From the Reformation to the Victorian period
In the 16th 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 19th to the mid-20th 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, which is formed almost entirely by the River Tamar and (to the north) by the Marsland Valley.
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 and the large beach at Praa Sands further to the south west. 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 seaside town of Newlyn is a popular holiday destination, as it is one of the last remaining traditional Cornish fishing ports, with views reaching over Mount's Bay.
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, Hensbarrow north of St Austell, Carnmenellis to the 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.
Hills and high points
- See also: Flora and fauna of Cornwall
Cornwall has varied habitats including terrestrial and marine ecosystems. One noted species 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 (52.9 °F) on the Isles of Scilly to 9.8 °C (49.6 °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. Summers are however not as warm as in other parts of southern England. The surrounding sea and its southwesterly position mean that 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 in eastern Great Britain, at 1,051 to 1,290 mm (41.4 to 50.8 in) per year, however not as much as in more northern areas of the west coast. The Isles of Scilly, for example, where there are on average less than two days of air frost per year, is the only area in the UK to be in the USDA Hardiness zone 10. In Scilly there is on average less than one day of air temperature exceeding 30 °C per year and it is 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.
Cornish national identity
Cornwall is recognised by several organisations, including the Cornish nationalist party Mebyon Kernow, the Celtic League and the International Celtic Congress, as one of the six Celtic nations, alongside Brittany, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Scotland and Wales. 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 making up 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 provided 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 24 April 2014 it was announced that Cornish people would be granted minority status under the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.
Settlements and communication
- See also: List of settlements in Cornwall by population, Transport in Cornwall, and Media in Cornwall
Cornwall's only city, and the home of the council headquarters, is Truro. Nearby Falmouth is notable as a port. St Just in Penwith is the westernmost town in England, though the same claim has been made for Penzance, which is larger. St Ives and Padstow are today small vessel ports with a major tourism and leisure sector in their economies. Newquay on the north coast is famous for its beaches and is a popular surfing destination, as is Bude further north. St Austell is the county's largest town and more populous than the capital Truro; it was the centre of the china clay industry in Cornwall. Redruth and Camborne form the largest urban area in Cornwall, and both towns were significant as centres of the global tin mining industry in the 19th century (nearby copper mines were also very productive during that period).
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 in Falmouth, and the A30 which crosses the border south of Launceston crosses Bodmin Moor and connects Bodmin and Truro. Torpoint Ferry links Plymouth with 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, a large urban centre closest to east Cornwall is an important location for services such 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.
The Isles of Scilly are served by ferry (from Penzance) and by aeroplane, having its own airport — St Mary's Airport. There are regular flights between St Mary's and Land's End Airport, near St Just, and Newquay Airport; during the summer season, a service also exist between St Mary's and 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 (in terms of heraldry 'sable, a cross argent'). 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.
For the heraldry of Cornwall see:
- Cornish heraldry
- Cornish corporate heraldry
Cornwall's population was 537,400 at the last census, with a population density of 144 people per square kilometre, ranking it 40th and 41st respectively among the 47 counties of England. Cornwall's population was 95.7% White British and has a relatively high level of population growth. At 11.2% in the 1980s and 5.3% in the 1990s, it had the fifth-highest population growth rate 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 as a whole. 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.
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, and it was claimed in 2011 that the last native speaker did not die until 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.
Several Cornish mining words are used in English language mining terminology, such as costean, gossan, gunnies, kibbal, kieve and vug.
In the 2010–15 Parliament of the United Kingdom, four Cornish MPs, Andrew George, MP for St Ives, Dan Rogerson, MP for North Cornwall, Steve 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 of 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 full 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.
Newlyn is home to a food and music festival which hosts live music, cooking demonstrations, and displays of locally caught fish.
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.
Cornish players are regular participants in inter-Celtic festivals, and Cornwall itself has several lively inter-Celtic festivals such as Perranporth's Lowender Peran folk festival.
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. The lutenist, lutarist, composer and festival director Ben Salfield lives in Truro.
Cornwall's rich heritage and dramatic landscape have inspired writers since at least the 19th century.
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.
Medieval Cornwall is the setting of the trilogy by Monica Furlong, Wise Child, Juniper, and Colman, as well as part of Charles Kingsley's Hereward the Wake.
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).
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
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), lived in Gorran Haven, a small village on the southern Cornish coast. 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 museum above King Arthur's tomb.
The fairy tale Jack the Giant Killer takes place in Cornwall.
Sports and games
As its population is comparatively small, and largely rural, Cornwall's contribution to British national sport in the United Kingdom has been limited; the county's greatest successes have come in fencing. In 2014, half of the men's GB team fenced for Truro Fencing Club, and 3 Truro fencers appeared at the 2012 Olympics. Truro, all of the towns and some villages have football clubs belonging to the Cornwall County Football Association, 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. Cornwall is also one of the few places in England where shinty is played; Cornwall Shinty Club was set up in 2012 after the sport was extinct for centuries in the county. English Shinty Association is based in Penryn.
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.
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, and is known for its wide range of restaurants. Television chef Rick Stein has long operated a fish restaurant in Padstow for this reason, and Jamie Oliver 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", turnip being the Cornish and Scottish term for swede, itself an abbreviation of 'Swedish Turnip', the British term for rutabaga) 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 A. E. Rodda & Son of Scorrier.
Local cakes and desserts include Saffron cake, Cornish heavy (hevva) cake, Cornish fairings biscuits, figgy 'obbin, Cream tea and whortleberry pie.
There are also many types of beers brewed in Cornwall – those produced by Sharp's Brewery, Skinner's Brewery, Keltek 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.
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