Cornwall, a maritime county in the extreme south-west of England, bounded on the north-east by Devonshire, on all other sides by the sea. It is divided from Devonshire chiefly by the river Tamar, and washed along the north-west coast by the Bristol Channel, along the south-east coast by the English Channel. Its form is cornute or horn-shaped, extending south-westward from a base at the boundary with Devonshire to a point at Lands-End. Its breadth at the boundary with Devonshire is about 45 miles; its average breadth over the 17 miles next Lands-End is about 5 1/2 miles; its average breadth elsewhere is about 20 miles; its length from the middle of the boundary with Devonshire, along the centre to Lands-End is about 80 miles; its circuit, including sinuosities, is about 265 miles; and its area, which includes some near islets and the Scilly Islands, is 868,208 acres. A ridge of bare rugged hills, with one summit 1368 feet in height, and several others nearly as high, extends along all the centre; bleak moors lie among the hills and spread down from their sides; mounds of drifted sand, in some instances several hundred feet high, occupy considerable space along the north-west coast, and only very fertile valleys and bottoms, together with pieces of exceedingly romantic scenery, redeem the entire county from one general aspect of dreariness and desert. The chief rivers are the Tamar, the Lynher, the Looe, the Fowey, the Camel, and the Fal. Rocks of millstone grit form a tract in the extreme north, toward the boundary with Devonshire; rocks of carboniferous limestone and shale form a belt immediately south of that tract; rocks of old red sandstone form the greater part of the county, all southward and south-westward of that belt; rocks of granite and intrusive felspathic trap form four large tracts and many small ones amid the old red sandstone region or contiguous to it; and rocks of greenstone, basalt, and other traps, with serpentine, form a considerable tract around, the Lizard. Tin and copper ores are worked in a large number of mines. The annual output of the former is over 9000 tons, which is very nearly the entire production of the United Kingdom, and of the latter about 200 tons. The next mineral products in point of importance are china clay and china stone, of which the annual output is upwards of 400,000 tons, and arsenic, the output of which is between 3000 and 4000 tons. Antimony, lead, iron, ochre, wolfram, zinc, slate, and building-stone are also worked, and cobalt, bismuth, and many other minerals are found.
The soils are generally light, often largely mixed with gravel, yet show considerable variety, and range from sterility on the moors to fertility in the valleys, and they may be classified, into three kindsthe gritty and black, the shelvy and slaty, and the clayey and reddish. About 115,000 acres are waste, and the rest of the area is variously pasture, meadow, and arable land. Much moisture, both in frequent mists and frequent rains, characterises the climate; but this is favourable to agriculture, in consequence of the lightness of the soils, especially as few days pass without alternations of sunshine, and there is not a much greater aggregate of water throughout the year than in most other English counties. Agriculture has undergone great improvement, yet, being secondary here to mining, is not so improved as amongst most entirely agricultural populations, Lime, shellsand, sea-weed and pilchards are largely used as manures.
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Archives and Libraries
For general information about Civil Registration (births, marriages and deaths) see the Civil Registration page.
List of Registration Districts in Cornwall from 1837 to 1974.
Directories & Gazetteers
The Historical Directories web site have a number of directories relating to Cornwall online for the period 1833-1915, including:
Kelly's, Pigot, Slater, Harrod.
A listing of the Hundreds in Cornwall, with the parishes contained in them.
Old map of Cornwall circa 1848 (Samuel Lewis)
Old map of Cornwall circa 1895 (Gazetteer of England and Wales)
Newspapers and Periodicals
The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Cornwall papers online:
- Royal Cornwall Gazette
- West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser
- Lake's Falmouth Packet and Cornwall Advertiser
Parishes and places
The towns and parishes have now been moved to a separate page.
We have a copy of The Visitations of Cornwall, by Lieut.-Col. J.L. Vivian online.