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Tintagel
Tintagel shown within Cornwall
Population 1,782 (United Kingdom Census 2011 including Bossiney and Knightsmill)
OS grid reference SX057884
Civil parish
  • Tintagel
Unitary authority
  • Cornwall
Ceremonial county
Region
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town TINTAGEL
Postcode district PL34
Dialling code 01840 77
Police Devon and Cornwall
Fire Cornwall
Ambulance South Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament
  • North Cornwall
List of places
UK
England
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Tintagel /tɪnˈtæəl/ or Trevena (Cornish: Tre war Venydh meaning village on a mountain) is a civil parish and village situated on the Atlantic coast of Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. The population of the parish was 1,820 people (2001 census), and the area of the parish is 4,281 acres (17.32 km2). The parish population decreased to 1,727 at the 2011 census. An electoral ward also exists extending inland to Otterham. The population of this ward at the same census was 3,990.

The village and nearby Tintagel Castle are associated with the legends surrounding King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table. The village has, in recent times, become attractive to day-trippers and tourists, and is one of the most-visited places in Britain.

Toponymy

Tintagel 01
View of Fore Street, Trevena
TheOldPostOffice
The Old Post Office, a historic building run by The National Trust

Toponymists have had difficulty explaining the origin of 'Tintagel': the probability is that it is Norman French as the Cornish of the 13th century would have lacked the soft 'g' ('i/j' in the earliest forms: see also Tintagel Castle). If it is Cornish then 'Dun' would mean Fort. Oliver Padel proposes 'Dun' '-tagell' meaning narrow place in his book on place names. There is a possible cognate in the Channel Islands named Tente d'Agel, but that still leaves the question subject to doubt.

The name first occurs in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae (c. 1136, in Latin) as Tintagol, implying pronunciation with a hard [g] sound as in modern English girl. But in Layamon's Brut (MS Cotton Otho C.xi, f. 482), in early Middle English, the name is rendered as Tintaieol. The letter i in this spelling implies a soft consonant like modern English j; the second part of the name would be pronounced approximately as -ageul would be in modern French.

An oft-quoted Celtic etymology in the Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names, accepts the view of Padel (1985) that the name is from Cornish *din meaning fort and *tagell meaning neck, throat, constriction, narrow (Celtic *dūn, "fort" = Irish dún, "fort", cf. Welsh dinas, "city"; *tagell = Welsh tagell, "gill, wattle").

Tintagel, Trevena and Bossiney

The modern-day village of Tintagel was always known as Trevena (Cornish: Tre war Venydh) until the Post Office started using 'Tintagel' as the name in the mid-19th century (until then Tintagel had been restricted to the name of the headland and of the parish).

The village also features the 'Old Post Office', which dates from the 14th century. It became a post office during the 19th century, and is now listed Grade I and owned by the National Trust.

Arthurian legends

In Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae (c. 1136), Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall, puts his wife Igraine in Tintagol while he's at war (posuit eam in oppido Tintagol in littore maris: "he put her in the oppidum Tintagol on the shore of the sea"). Merlin disguised Uther Pendragon as Gorlois so that Uther could enter Tintagel and impregnate Igraine while pretending to be Gorlois. Uther and Igraine's child was King Arthur.

Tintagel is also used as a locus for the Arthurian mythos by the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson in the poem Idylls of the King.

Algernon Charles Swinburne's Tristram of Lyonesse is a literary version of the Tristan and Iseult legend in which some events are set at Tintagel. Thomas Hardy's The Famous Tragedy of the Queen of Cornwall at Tintagel in Lyonnesse, a one-act play which was published in 1923, is another version of the same legend with events set at Tintagel (the book includes an imaginary drawing of Tintagel Castle at the period).

History

In Norman times a small castle was established at Bossiney, probably before the Domesday Survey of 1086; Bossiney and Trevena were established as a borough in 1253 by Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall. In Domesday Book there are certainly two manors in this parish (for a probable third see Trethevy). Bossiney (which included Trevena) was held from the monks of Bodmin by the Earl of Cornwall: there was land for 6 ploughs and 30 acres (120,000 m2) of pasture (before the Conquest it had been held from the monks by Alfwy). The monks of Bodmin held Treknow themselves: there was land for 8 ploughs and 100 acres (400,000 m2) of pasture. Tintagel was one of the 17 Antiqua maneria of the Duchy of Cornwall. The parish feast traditionally celebrated at Tintagel was 19 October, the feast day of St Denys, patron of the chapel at Trevena (the proper date is 9 October but the feast has moved forward due to the calendar reform of 1752). The market hall and the site of the fair were near the chapel.

Fields by Downrow - geograph.org.uk - 742006
View of Treknow, Tintagel and Bossiney from King's Down

The borough of Bossiney was given the right to send two MPs to Parliament c. 1552 and continued to do so until 1832 when its status as a borough was abolished. The villages of Trevena and Bossiney were until the early 20th century separated by fields along Bossiney Road.

The Tithe Commissioners' survey was carried out in 1840–41 and recorded the area of the parish as 4,280 acres (17.3 km2), of which arable and pasture land was 3,200 acres (13 km2). The land owned by the largest landowner, Lord Wharncliffe, amounted to 1,814 acres (7.34 km2), and there was 125 acres (0.51 km2) of glebe land. Precise details of the size and tenure of every piece of land are given. Sidney Madge did research into the history of the parish and compiled a manuscript Records of Tintagel in 1945.

On 6 July 1979, Tintagel was briefly subject to national attention when an RAF Hawker Hunter fighter aircraft crashed into the village following an engine malfunction. The unusual incident caused significant damage and consternation, but no deaths.

Treknow is the largest of the other settlements in the parish, which include Trethevy, Trebarwith, Tregatta, Trenale and Trewarmett.

Archaeology and architecture

RemainsofTintagel
Remains of Tintagel Castle, legendary birthplace of King Arthur

The Ravenna Cosmography, of around 700, makes reference to Purocoronavis, (almost certainly a corruption of Durocornovium), 'a fort or walled settlement of the Cornovii': the location is unidentified, but Tintagel and Carn Brea have both been suggested. (If this is correct then it would have been on the site of Tintagel Castle.)

Excavations

Major excavations beginning with C. A. Ralegh Radford's work in the 1930s on and around the site of the 12th-century castle have revealed that Tintagel headland was the site of a high status Celtic monastery (according to Ralegh Radford) or a princely fortress and trading settlement dating to the 5th and 6th centuries (according to later excavators), in the period immediately following the withdrawal of the Romans from Britain. Finds of Mediterranean oil and wine jars show that Sub-Roman Britain was not the isolated outpost it was previously considered to be, for an extensive trade in high-value goods was taking place at the time with the Mediterranean region. Finds from the excavations are preserved at the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro. In 1998, excavations discovered the Artognou stone, which has added to Tintagel's Arthurian lore, although historians do not believe the inscription refers to King Arthur. Two seasons of excavation work were undertaken in Tintagel churchyard in the early 1990s.

Antiquities

The largest of the Bronze Age barrows is at the highest point in the parish, Condolden, another is at Menadue, and there are a number of others along the cliffs. In the Iron Age there were probably fortifications at Willapark and Barras Head, and inland at Trenale Bury. Two of the Roman milestones found in Cornwall are at Tintagel (the earlier of the two is described under Trethevy): the later one was found in the walls of the churchyard in 1889 and is preserved in the church. The inscription can be read as '[I]mp C G Val Lic Licin' which would refer to the Emperor Licinius (d. 324).

There are many other relics of antiquity to be found here such as the so-called King Arthur's Footprint on the Island and a carved rock from Starapark which has been placed outside the Sir James Smith's School at Dark Lane, Camelford. Rodney Castleden has written about these as Bronze Age ritual objects. "King Arthur's Footprint" is a hollow in the rock at the highest point of Tintagel Island's southern side. It is not entirely natural, having been shaped by human hands at some stage. It may have been used for the inauguration of kings or chieftains as the site is known to have a long history stretching back to the Dark Ages. The name is probably a 19th-century invention by the castle guide.

The Victoria history of the county of Cornwall (1906) (14777326862)
Illustration from The Victoria History of the County of Cornwall (1906); nos. 3 & 4 in the bottom row show the "ornamented cross standing in garden in front of the Wharncliffe Arms Hotel"

Stone crosses, of which there are two, have both been moved from their original positions: the plainer of the two is Hendra cross (described under Bossiney). Aelnat's cross which was found at Trevillet and then moved to the Wharncliffe Arms Hotel at Trevena, is finely carved. The inscription can be read as 'Aelnat fecit hanc crucem pro anima sua' (Ælnat made this cross for [the good of] his soul) (the back of the stone has the names of the four evangelists): the name of this man is Saxon (together with Alfwy mentioned in 1086 he is the only Anglo-Saxon recorded in connection with the area). One of Thomas Hardy's poems, "By the runic stone" (1917) was interpreted by Evelyn Hardy as referring to Aelnat's cross.

Notable secular buildings

See also: Tintagel Castle and Tintagel Old Post Office
Former School, Tintagel - geograph.org.uk - 1384188
The Old School, Fore Street

Tintagel Primary School was built at Treven in 1914 to replace the old church school (founded 1874) and has been extended since. Those who go on to a comprehensive school attend Sir James Smith's School, Camelford. The Gift House was purchased by the Trustees of Tintagel Women's Institute in 1923 from Catherine Johns and not donated as previously thought. It adjoins the Old Post Office.

Vicarage

The former Vicarage was built in the early 17th century and substantial additions were made in the late 18th and mid-19th centuries. In the grounds is Fontevrault Chapel and a columbarium which is one of the best preserved in Cornwall. In 2008 the Diocese of Truro decided to acquire new accommodation for future vicars and to sell the vicarage. However the site and glebe lands were the home of the vicars as early as the mid-13th century when the benefice came into the hands of the Abbey of Fontevraud in Anjou, France.

King Arthur's Hall

The Arthurian Centre, Tintagel - geograph.org.uk - 1385369
King Arthur's Hall

King Arthur's Hall at Trevena is a substantial building of the early 1930s. It was built for custard powder manufacturer F. T. Glasscock as the headquarters of the "Fellowship of the Knights of the Round Table", behind Trevena House. A variety of Cornish stones are used in the construction and the 73 stained glass windows illustrating the Arthurian tales are by Veronica Whall; there are several paintings of scenes from the life of King Arthur by William Hatherell.

In 1927, the "Order of the Fellowship of the Knights of the Round Table" was formed in Britain by Frederick Thomas Glasscock (a retired London businessman, d. 1934) to promote Christian ideals and Arthurian notions of medieval chivalry. Glasscock was resident at Tintagel (in the house "Eirenicon" which he had built) and responsible for the building of King Arthur's Hall (an extension of Trevena House which had been John Douglas Cook's residence and had been built on the site of the former Town Hall and Market Hall). The hall is now used as a Masonic Hall, and is home to four Masonic bodies:-

  • King Arthur Lodge No. 7134 which was warranted on 13 November 1951;
  • St Enodoc Lodge No. 9226 which was consecrated on 30 May 1987;
  • King Arthur Royal Arch Chapter No. 7134 which was consecrated on 31 March 1962;
  • Tintagel Castle Lodge of Mark Master Masons No. 1800 which was consecrated on 23 April 1999.

Geology, scenery and sea bathing

Geology and geography

The coastline around Tintagel is significant because it is composed of old Devonian slate; about a mile southwards from Tintagel towards Treknow the coastline was quarried extensively for this hard-wearing roofing surface. Quarries inland at Trebarwith and Trevillet continued to be worked until the mid-20th century. Apart from the island headlands on the coast include Willapark and Start Point.

The turquoise green water around this coast is caused by the slate/sand around Tintagel which contains elements of copper: strong sunlight turns the water a light turquoise green colour in warm weather. The rocks contain various metal ores in small amounts: a few of these were mined in the Victorian period.

Though very near the coast the hill of Condolden (or Kingsdown) is among the very few areas in Cornwall outside Bodmin Moor which exceeds 1000 feet. At Trethevy is the waterfall known as St Nectan's Kieve in a wooded valley. The beach at Bossiney Haven is close by and Trebarwith Strand, just half an hour's walk south of Tintagel, is one of Cornwall's finer beaches, boasting clear seas, golden sands, and superb surf: there is a small beach at Tintagel Haven immediately north of the castle. The voluntary life-saving club is based at Trebarwith Strand and also has members from Boscastle, Camelford, etc.

The cliffs from Backways Cove, south of Trebarwith Strand to Willapark just to the south of Boscastle are part of the Tintagel Cliffs SSSI (a Site of Special Scientific Interest), designated for both its maritime heaths and geological features. There are also four Geological Conservation Review sites.

Tintagel lies within the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Almost a third of Cornwall has AONB designation, with the same status and protection as a National Park.

Bird and plant life

Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax -Penwith -Cornwall -flying-8b
Cornish chough (P. p. pyrrhocorax) flying in west Cornwall

The birds of the coast are well worth observing: in 1935 an anonymous writer mentions Willapark as the scene of spectacular flocks of seabirds (eight species); inland he describes the crows (including the Cornish chough and the raven) and falcons which frequent the district. 'E.M.S.' contributes: "Within easy reach of Tintagel at least 385 varieties of flowers, 30 kinds of grasses, and 16 of ferns can be found ... a 'happy hunting ground' for botanists" and a list of thirty-nine of the rarest is given. (by the 1950s there were no longer choughs to be seen). This bird is emblematic of Cornwall and is also said to embody the spirit of King Arthur. B. H. Ryves mentions the razorbill as numerous at Tintagel (perhaps the largest colony in the county) and summarises reports from earlier in the century. In 1942 another amateur botanist recorded 262 species of flowering plants at Tintagel.

Tintagel DSC 7889
Lichen on a rock on the coast at Tintagel

In 1991 a local bird keeper, Jon Hadwick, published Owl Light about his experiences keeping ten owls and a buzzard.

In the early days of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Charles Hambly (also known for saving shipwrecked sailors) was a correspondent for the Society. A hundred years later Harry Sandercock observed that even modern agricultural changes had not reduced the bird populations.

Shipwrecks

Lye Rock - geograph.org.uk - 443246
Lye Rock, site of the Iota shipwreck

Trebarwith was the scene of the shipwreck of the Sarah Anderson in 1886 (all on board perished), but the most famous of the wrecks happened on 20 December 1893, at Lye Rock when the barque Iota was driven against the cliff. The crew were able to get onto the rock and apart from a youth of 14 were saved by four men (three of these from Tintagel: one of them Charles Hambly received a Vellum testimonial and three medals for bravery afterwards). The story is told in verse in 'Musings on Tintagel and its Heroes' by Joseph Brown, 1897; the youth was buried in Tintagel Churchyard and the grave is marked by a wooden cross (his name is given in the bureaucratic Italian usage, surname first: Catanese Domenico).

National Trust properties

These include the Old Post Office, Trevena (see above) and fine stretches of the cliffs along the coast including Glebe Cliff, Barras Nose and Penhallick Point. The coastal footpaths include part of the South West Coast Path.

Hotels

The King Arthur Castle Hotel in Tintagel - geograph.org.uk - 1518333
Castle Hotel
Castle Beach Cafe - geograph.org.uk - 507982
Castle Beach Café

The most notable of the hotels is the King Arthur's Castle Hotel (Castle Hotel; now called Camelot Castle Hotel), an enterprise of Sir Robert Harvey and opened in 1899: the architect was Silvanus Trevail. It was originally intended as the terminus hotel for a planned branch railway line from Camelford that was never built. The hotel stands alone on land previously known as Firebeacon. The hotel was built in 1896. The front has battered walls, a central entrance tower rising to five storeys and projecting four-storey corner towers; the towers have machicolations and rise above the three storeys of the rest of the building. The Great Hall on the first floor is designed around a replica of the Winchester Round Table and has Romanesque arcades with Italian marble piers. In November 2010, an exposé of the hotel's business practices was broadcast by the BBC television programme Inside Out South West.

At Trevena are the Wharncliffe Hotel, which has now been converted into flats (next to the King Arthur's Hall): the Aelnat Cross (Hiberno-Saxon) stands in the grounds. It is named after the Earl of Wharncliffe who was the largest landowner in the parish until his holdings were sold at the beginning of the 20th century. Opposite the Wharncliffe is the former Tintagel Hotel, once commonly known as Fry's Hotel: this was the terminus for coaches in the days before the railway to Camelford Station and stands on the site of the medieval chapel of St Denys.

Near Dunderhole Point on Glebe Cliff stands a building from the former slate quarry: this has been used as Tintagel Youth Hostel (managed by YHA) for many years.

Social and cultural life

Social and sporting activities and associations

Community Hall, Bossiney Road, Tintagel - geograph.org.uk - 487073
The Social Hall, Bossiney Road

The Social Hall established by Mrs Ruth Homan and the Old School in Fore Street have been the chief meeting places during most of the 20th century. Both the Women's Institute and the football and cricket teams are well-supported. Tintagel A.F.C. were champions of Cornwall in 1955/56 and have been in existence over a hundred years; their most notable player was Harry Cann who was goalkeeper for Plymouth Argyle F.C.. Until the 1930s there were two golf courses and a few tennis courts: neither golf course reopened in the postwar period. Camelford Rugby Football Club was formed in 2008 and plays its home matches at Parc Tremain, Tintagel.

The Tintagel Orpheus Male Voice Choir was founded in 1926 by Jack Thomas, a Welshman who worked at Trevillet Quarry. The choir has rehearsed weekly, and performed frequently, ever since.

Literary associations

Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson by George Frederic Watts
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Thomashardy restored
Thomas Hardy OM

Tintagel is used as a locus for the Arthurian mythos by the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson in the poem Idylls of the King and Algernon Charles Swinburne's Tristram of Lyonesse is one of the versions of the Tristan and Iseult legends where some of the events are set at Tintagel. Another version is Thomas Hardy's The Famous Tragedy of the Queen of Cornwall at Tintagel in Lyonnesse, a one-act play which was published in 1923. Hardy and his first wife visited Tintagel on various occasions: she drew a sketch of the inside of the church as it was about 1867 Robert Stephen Hawker's poem about the bells of Forrabury refers also to those of Tintagel, but more notable is his one on the Quest for the Sangraal (first published at Exeter in 1864).

The novelist Dinah Craik visited Tintagel in 1883 and published an informative account of her journey through Cornwall the following year. William Howitt's visit is quite different: his account is called 'A day-dream at Tintagel' (in 'Visits to Remarkable Places'). Relatively few works of fiction have Tintagel as a setting: these include Anthony Trollope's short story Malachi's Cove and the Williamsons' epistolary novel Set in Silver, 1909 (by Charles and Alice Williamson). Ernest George Henham was a novelist resident in Devon who used the pseudonym, John Trevena, for many of his books. It is probable that the surname he chose was derived from the original name for Tintagel, though his writings are concerned mainly with Devon.

Tintagel features prominently in Edith Wharton's final, unfinished novel, The Buccaneers. The book's protagonist, Nan St. George, meets her future husband, the Duke of Tintagel, while exploring the ruins of Tintagel Castle. Wharton styled the characters as Duke and Duchess of Tintagel, while Tintagel actually lies within the Duchy of Cornwall. In the novel, the Duke and Duchess live in a newer, fictional Tintagel Castle, built in approximately the late 18th century.

Tintagel was the venue for the Gorsedh Kernow in 1964.

Musical associations; location filming

Arnold Bax was inspired to compose his symphonic poem Tintagel after a visit to the village. Edward Elgar also composed while on a visit to Tintagel.

The film Knights of the Round Table had some sequences filmed near Tintagel Castle with local people as extras: this was in 1953 though it was not released until 1954. Some other filming has been carried out in Tintagel, e.g. Malachi's Cove at Trebarwith. The exterior of the Camelot Castle Hotel was used to portray Dr. Seward's asylum in the 1979 film, Dracula starring Laurence Olivier and Donald Pleasence.

Images for kids


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