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Cornwall, England

Historical Description

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 kinds—the 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.

Wheat, barley, and potatoes give good yield, and hops have been tried. Cattle and sheep are chiefly a cross between native breeds and the breeds of Devonshire, goats abound, and mules are reared for walking the bills. Extensive fisheries of various kinds are carried on, and about 20,000 hogsheads of pilchards, chiefly for exportation, are annually obtained. A great commerce exists in the export of minerals, and in the import of articles required for the mines and the fisheries. The chief railway communication is divided into sections called the Cornwall and West Cornwall railways, but worked by the Great Western Railway Company. The Cornwall railway enters the county at Saltash by the Royal Albert Bridge across the Tamar, the principal stations being Liskeard, Bodmin, Lostwithiel, St Austell, Truro, and Falmouth The West Cornwall railway branches off a short distance south of Truro to Chacewater, Redruth, Camborne, and Penzance, with branches to Helston and St Ives. The other lines carrying passengers are a branch from Plymouth of the G.W.R. through Tavistock, running almost entirely in Devonshire to Launceston, and a short line from Bodmin to Wadebridge, which forms a stepping stone to the extensive "invasion" which the L. & S.W.R. is making in North-east Cornwall. It enters the county at Launceston, and is planned to run by Tresmeer - Camelford and Wadebridge to Padstow, the Tresmeer-Camelford section having been opened in 1893. The Cornwall Minerals railway, also carrying passengers, and worked by the G.W.R., crosses the county from New-quay on the north-west coast to Par and Fowey in the south, and is connected with the Cornwall railway at St Blazey. There is a direct line from Moorswater to Looe, and there are also smaller mineral lines. Canals go from Bude to Launceston, and from St Cleer and Liskeard to St Looe, Main lines of road traverse the county lengthways, and connecting lines go across the moors.

The county formerly returned four members to Parliament in two divisions, but under the Redistribution of Seats Act, 1885, it now returns a member for each of the following six divisions;—Western or St Ives, North-Western or Camborne, Truro, Mid or St Austell, South-Eastern or Bodmin, and the North-Eastern or Launceston division. The borough representation is confined to Penryn and Falmouth, which jointly return one member. The towns, or what rank as such, are exceedingly numerous, and about twenty-eight are market-towns, but some of these, and most of the others, are merely small villages. Some of the seats are Mount Edgecumbe, Godolphin, Port Elliot, Werrington, Tregothnan, Trefusis, Tehidy, Glynn, Pencarrow, Trelawney, Carclew, Haldon, Prideaux, Trengwainton, Trelowarren, Trewinnard, Whitford, Boskenna, Carhayes, Carynes, Harlyn, Helston, Heligan, Harewood, Coldrinnick, Clowance, Menabilly, Pendarves, Llanhydrock, Morval, Penrose, Restormel, St Minver, Pentilly, Tregehan, Trelaske, Treneere, Trewarthenick, and Trewithian The metalliferous territories of Cornwall and Dartmoor were constituted by Edward III. a peculiar appanage of the eldest son of the English monarch, under the name of the Duchy of Cornwall. The revenue from them arose mainly out of tin dues till 1838, and was then commuted into a tax on the net annual produce as averaged over ten years.

The county council consists of 66 councillors and 22 aldermen. There are 222 civil parishes in the county, 227 ecclesiastical parishes or districts and part of another, and 11 municipal boroughs. The county has one court of quarter sessions and 17 petty sessional divisions, and the boroughs of Bodmin, Falmouth, Launceston, Liskeard, Penryn, Penzance, St Ives, and. Truro, have separate commissions of the peace. The borough of Penzance has a separate court of quarter sessions. It is in the Western circuit and in the diocese of Truro. The assizes and the quarter sessions are held at Bodmin. Population in 1801, 192,281, (1821) 261,045, (1841) 342,159, (1861) 369,390, (1881) 330,686, (1891) 322,571.

According to the census returns issued in 1893, the chief occupations of the people of the county were:—Professional, 6707 males and 3482 females; domestic, 674 males and 20,354 females; commercial, 8921 males and 166 females; agricultural, 26,068 males and 1236 females; fishing, 3136 males and 5 females; industrial, 45,722 males and 14,778 females; and "unoccupied," including retired business men, pensioners, those living on their own means, and others not specified, 20,273 males and 95,611 females; or a total in the county of 111,496 males and 135,622 females. The number of men employed in the leading industries was as follows—agricultural labourers, 12,945; tin miners, 9453; farmers, 7785; general labourers, 4185; seamen, &c., 3282; and masons, 3223. The chief occupations of women were, domestic service, with a total of 16,845; millinery and dressmaking, 5932; teaching, 1625; and tin mining, 1279. There were also in the county 479 blind persons, 183 deaf, 174 deaf and dumb, and 1095 mentally deranged.

Cornwall was the Cassiterides or "tin islands" of the Phoenicians and the Greeks. It was inhabited previous to the Roman conquest by the Carnubii, the Cimbri, and the Damnonii, was included by the Romans in their province of Britannia Prima, became with Dartmoor in 446 a separate kingdom under Vortigern, was overrun by the Saxons under Egbert in 813, under Alfred in 892, under Athelstane in 927, was annexed by Athelstane in 938 to the kingdom of Wessex, was ravaged by the Danes in 977-81, assumed more fixity and quietness under the English crown than most other counties, prior to its erection into a duchy in 1333, has ever since maintained the same quiet character, and was the last scene of triumphant display by Charles and his cavaliers. The language of its ancient people was a variety of the Celtic, akin to the Welsh, the Gaelic, and the Breton, was used in the pulpit so late as 1678, continued till a few generations ago to be generally spoken, and has left traces in the speech of the present inhabitants. The title of Earl of Cornwall was held by Robert de Mortain who came from Normandy with the Conqueror, by Reginald de Dunstanville, by John Plantagenet, by Richard Fitz-Count, by Richard, King of the Romans, and by John of Eltham, and that of Duke of Cornwall was created for the Black Prince, and has ever since belonged to the eldest son of the British sovereign. Ancient British antiquities of great variety, some of them Druidical, and many highly interesting, are very numerous. Castles which belonged to the old Earls are at Launcester, Lostwithiel, Trematon, and Restormel, and other castles of the middle ages are at Pengerswick, St Michael's Mount, and many other places. Twenty monasteries, a preceptory of the Knights-Hospitallers, eleven colleges, and seven hospitals were in Cornwall before the Reformation, but the only monastic remains of any note are at St Germains, Rialton, and St Roche. Interesting ancient churches are at Probus, Truro, Bodmin, St Neots, St Germains, and Duloe.


Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5

Archives and Libraries

Cornwall Record Office
County Hall,
Truro
TR1 3AY
Tel 01872 323127
Fax 01872 270340
email cro@cornwall.gov.uk.


Civil Registration

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.

We have transcribed the entry for Cornwall from the following:


Historical Geography

A listing of the Hundreds in Cornwall, with the parishes contained in them.


Maps

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:


Parishes & places

Advent
Altarnun
Alverton
Annet
Antony
Baldhu
Baripper
Bartinney
Beacon
Beacon Hill
Beardon
Belidden
Bellurian Cove
Benboule
Bessies Cove
Biscovey
Bishop Rock
Black Head
Black Head (headland)
Blackaton
Blisland
Boconnoc
Bodinnock
Bodmin
Bodmin Road
BoIIait
Bolventor
Boscastle
Boscawen
Boskednan
Boskenna
Bossiney
Boswiddy
Botallack
Botus Fleming
Boyton
Brisons or Sisters
Broadoak or Bradock
Brown Gilly
Brown Willy
Bryher
Bude Canal
Bude or Bude Haven
Budock
Burngullow
Buryan
Cadgewith
Caer Bran
Callington
Calstock
Camborne
Camelford
Cape Cornwall
Caradon
Carcarrick Tor
Carclaye
Carclew
Cardinham
Carlyon
Carmeirs or Cairnmeirs
Carn Brea
Carn Galva
Carn Marth
Carn Mumis
Carnanton
Carnmenellis
Carnon
Carraton Hill
Carthamartha Rocks
Castle an Dinas
Castle Horneck
Castledoor or Castle Dor
Cawsand
Chacewater
Chair
Chapel Amble
Chapel Cambrea
Chapel Point
Charlestown
Cheesewring
Chun or Chywoon
Chyandour
Clether
Clicker Tor
Clowance
Cober
Colan
Combe Valley
Compass Point
Consols
Constantine
Constantine Bay
Cooks Kitchen
Cornelly
Cotehele
Coverack
Crantock
Creed
Crinnis
Crowan
Crowsan Wra
Crumplehom
Cubert or Cuthbert
Cuby
Cuddan Point
Cury
Davidstow
Dazard Head
De Lank
Deadman Head or Dodman
Delabole
Devoran
Dolor Hugo
Doublebois
Doveran
Dozmare or Dosmery Pool
Drakewalls
Dubwalls
Duloe
Dupath Well
East and West Bridgerule
East and West Taphouse
East Looe
Egloshayle
Egloskerry
Ethy
Falmouth
Fistral Bay
Five
Five Lanes
Flushing
Forrabury or Fotherbury
Four Hole Cross
Four Lanes
Fowey
Fraddon
Gampen
Garrah
Gear or Gaer
Germoe
Gerrans
Godolphin
Godrevy
Goldsithney
Gorran
Grade
Grampound
Grampound Road
Gravesend
Great and Little Ganilly
Great and Little Gannick
Greber Head
Grimsby, New and Old, or Grinzey
Guahall
Gulval
Gunnislake
Gunwalloe
Gurnards Head
Gweek
Gwennap
Gwinear
Gwineas
Gwithian
Gwynhill and Gwynhillveor
Hampton
Harlyn
Hatt
Hawks Tor
Hayle
Helford
Heligan Hill
Helland
Helston
Hengeston Down or Hingston Down
Henncliff
Hensbarrow or Hensborough
Herodsfoot
Hessenford
Hewas Water
High Cliff
Highway
Holy Vale
Hugh Town
Illogan
Jacobstow
Jamaica Inn
Kea
Kenwyn
Kilkhampton
Kilmarth
Kingsand
Kynanace or Kinance Cove
Ladock
Lamorna
Lamorran
Landewednack
Landrake
Landulph
Laneast
Langhean
Lanherne
Lanhydrock
Lanivet
Lank
Lanlivery
Lanner
Lanreath
Lansallos
Lanteglos by Camelford
Lanteglos by Fowey
Launcells
Launceston
Launceston St Mary Magdalen
Lawhitton
Lenin
Lescaddock Castle
Lesnewth
Lewannick
Lezant
Linkinhorne
Liskeard
Little Falmouth
Little Petherick
Lizard Town
Loe Pool
Looe Island
Lostwithiel
Lower and Upper Sharpnose
Ludgvan
Luxulyan
Madron
Maen
Maen Rock
Maer
Maker
Malpas
Manaccan
Manacles
Marazion
Marhamchurch
Mawgan in Meneage
Mawnan
Mear
Medrose
Meneage
Menegwins
Menheniot
Merrifield
Merrifield (Antony)
Merry Maidens
Merthea
Merther
Mevagissey
Michaelstow
Millbrook
Mincarlo
Minewithen
Mingise
Minnard
Minster
Mitchell, Michell, or St Michael
Mithian
Moorswater
Morvah
Morval
Morwenstow
Mount Hawke
Mounts Bay
Mousehole
Mulfra
Mullion
Mylor
Nakeris
Nancegollan
Nancledry
Nare Point
Newlyn
Newlyn or East Newlyn
Newport
Newquay
North Tamerton
Northill or North Hill
Northwood
Norton
Ocrinum
Otterham
Padstow
Par
Pardenick
Paul
Pelynt
Penare Head
Penberth
Pencarrow
Pencoys
Pendeen St Just
Pengerswick
Pengreep
Pengrugia
Penhallow
Penkinna Head
Penolver
Penponds
Penpoul
Penrest
Penrose
Penryn
Pensilva
Pentewan or Pentowan
Pentire
Pentire Point
Penwarne
Penwarne (Mevagissey)
Penwerris
Penzance
Permizen Bay
Perran Round
Perranarworthal
Perranporth
Perranuthnoe
Perranwell
Perranzabuloe
Phillack
Philleigh
Pill
Pillaton
Plangary
Polbathick
Polgrain
Polkerris
Polmear
Polpeer
Polperro
Polruan
Pomanvon
Ponsanooth
Pool
Porkellis
Port Gavorn
Port Isaac
Porthcurnow
Porthgwarra
Porthilly
Porthleven
Porthloe
Porthmeer
Porthqueen
Portquin
Portreath
Poughill
Poundstock
Pradanack Point
Probus
Quethiock
Rame
Redruth
Relubbus
Rilla Mill
Roche
Roseland
Rosemerin
Rosemullion Point
Rosewin
Rough Tor or Bovtor
Ruan Lanihorne
Ruan Major
Ruan Minor
Saltash
Sampson
Sancreed
Sandplace
Scilly Islands
Scorrier
Sennen
Seven Stones
Sheviock
Sithney
South Petherwin
Southill
St Agnes
St Agnes (Scilly Isles)
St Allen
St Anthony in Meneage
St Anthony in Roseland
St Austell
St Blazey
St Breage
St Breock
St Breward
St Buryan
St Cleer
St Clement
St Columb Major
St Columb Minor
St Day
St Dennis
St Dominick
St Endellion
St Enoder
St Enodock
St Erme
St Erth
St Ervan
St Eval
St Ewe
St Feock
St Gennys
St German
St Gluvias
St Helens
St Hilary
St Issey
St Ive
St Ives
St John
St Juliot
St Just in Penwith
St Just in Roseland
St Keverne
St Kew
St Keyne
St Levan
St Mabe
St Mabyn
St Martin
St Martin by Looe
St Martin in Meneage
St Mary
St Mary Week
St Mawes
St Mawgan in Pydar
St Mellion
St Merryn
St Mewan
St Michael
St Michael Carhayes
St Michael Penkevil
St Michaels Mount
St Minver
St Neot
St Pinnock
St Sampson
St Stephen by Launceston
St Stephen by Saltash
St Stephen in Brannel
St Stithians
St Teath
St Thomas Street
St Thomas the Apostle
St Tudy
St Veep
St Wenn
St Winnow
Stoke Climsland
Stonehenge
Stratton
Summercourt
Talland
Tean
Temewan
Temple
The Alan or Camel
The Attery or Atre
The Fal
The Fowey
The Hannon
The Hayle or Heyl
The Hel
The Inny
The Kannal
The Kensey
The Ladock
The Lank
The Lizard
The Looe
The Lynher
The Tidi
Tideford
Tintagel
Torpoint
Towednack
Townshend
Trebigh or Turbigh
Tregaminion
Tregavethan
Tregeare
Tregiskey
Tregony
Tregoos
Tregothnan
Trelaven
Treleigh
Tremaine
Trematon
Treneglos
Treninick
Trescoe
Tresilian
Treslothan
Tresmeer
Trevalga
Trevarrick
Trevear
Trevena
Trevenson
Treverbyn
Trevose Head
Trewarlet
Trewen
Truro
Tuckingmill
Tywardreath
Uny Lelant
Veryan
Wadebridge
Wainhouse Corner
Warbstow
Warleggan
Week St Mary
Wendron or St Wendron
West Looe
White Island
Whitsand Bay
Whitstone
Widemouth Bay
Withiel
Wolf Rock
Zennor

Visitations Heraldic

We have a copy of The Visitations of Cornwall, by Lieut.-Col. J.L. Vivian online.

Map of Cornwall