Cornwall is at the present time not a recognised country, but a county of England within the jurisdiction of that parliament. There is a strong movement at the moment for a return to a separate Cornish assembly - Senedh Kernow. www.cornishassembly.org
Cornwall is a beautiful rugged land of windswept moors, hidden valleys, sheltered bays and golden beaches, dramatic cliffs and coastlines, ruined castles and mysterious ancient burial mounds and standing stones, and steeped in myths and legends, and tales of smugglers and pirates. Cornwall also includes the beautiful Isles of Scilly, 21 miles offshore of Lands End.
The Island and Towan Beach, Newquay, Cornwall
Its Cornish name is Kernow, but the area has had several names from outsiders. Roman writers referred to it (and the Scilly Isles) as 'Cassiterides', the Tin Isles. Cornwall has been an important spot on the map since ancient times, due to the tin industry, and remained one of the world's biggest tin producers for centuries, and a lot of trade went between these lands and on to the rest of Europe. It has also been called 'Belerion', and 'Cornubia', and its people the 'Cornovii', and later was known as 'West Wales'.
Cornwall has been inhabited for at least 4000 years, the inhabitants at the time of the Roman invasion of Britain being Celtic tribes. They spoke a Brythonic language, in the same family as Welsh and Breton. Cornish died as commonly spoken community language, but has recently been revived, and is thankfully being taught again.
A Cornish Quoit
Early inhabitants built cliff and hill top fortresses, barrows (burial mounds), and quoits (huge stone burial chambers). Even after the invasion of 43 A.D., the Romans occupied very little of Cornwall, which was left to its own devices until Saxon times. The name 'Cornwall' possibly derives from the Saxon word 'Cornwalas' meaning something like 'land of strange/dark foreigners', which indicates that the Cornish Celts had maintained their own identity well apart from the Romans and Saxons.
Cornwall lays claim to the birthplace of King Arthur - King of the Britons, and the Saxons' legendary opponent - at Tintagel, on the north Cornish coast. He was probably a very powerful Celtic king who for the first time, united the local Celtic kingdoms to withstand the Saxon invasion. There is much speculation as to the origins of Arthur, and even his existence, but most evidence points to him being at large during the 5th century, ranging from Wales to Cornwall, even Brittany and as far north as Scotland. The village (with nearby castle) is now a tourist destinations with Celtic gift and bookshops and art galleries - of interest is fantasy artist Peter Pracownik's gallery 'Another Green World', which aside from his renowned art, houses a collection of 2 cases of ancient Celtic atifacts. A viilage landmark is the Tintagel Old Post Office, an amazing 14th-century stone house with a slightly sagging slate roof.
Tintagel Castle is out on Tintagel Island, which was actually connected by a peninsula, long since collapsed. The site was a fortress and trading settlement from at least the 5th century, but the castle ruins that stand today date from the 13th century. The castle is traditionally linked to Gorlois of Cornwall, who's wife Igraine was said to have been seduced by a magically disguised King Uther Pendragon, and conceived his son Arthur. The castle is also linked to King Mark of Cornwall, uncle of Cornish hero Tristan, sent to fetch Iseult back from Ireland to wed the king - that led to the secret affair and legend of Tristan and Iseult, or Isolde.
Tintagel Castle, King Arthur's legendary birthplace in North Cornwall, looking from the Island past the ruined gate and buildings, to the ruins on the mainland cliffs.
Under the 13th century ruins, at the bottom of the cliff is a cave now known as Merlin's Cave (right), which is eroded right through under the island from the bay to the open Atlantic. The view of the waterfall flowing into the bay, seen from inside the cave is spectacular.
The next picturesque village north along the coast is Boscastle, tucked in a deep valley with a very sheltered harbour built in 1584. Devastating floods came from the other direction in 2004, down from the moors, causing extensive damage and trapping villagers on the roofs, to be rescued by helicopters ! One famous local tradition is of Cornish witches and wise women - one building that survived the floods is still open after 50 years - the Museum of Witchcraft.
Cornwall eventually came under Saxon rule, but even as late as A.D.936 the Saxon King Athelstan set the River Tamar as the 'border' between Cornwall and England, again indicating the separate Celtic identity of the Cornish from their neighbours, and fixing the territory as it still remains today.
Celtic Christian monks arrived in Cornwall by the 5th century, spreading their new religion and building chapels and stone crosses. There is an old saying "there are more Saints in Cornwall than in Heaven", and many Cornish villages begin their name with "St.......". The Norman invasion of England in 1066 brought more changes than ever before, first making Kernow an Earldom, then in 1337 English King Edward 3rd made it the Duchy of Cornwall, giving the monarch's son the title of Duke of Cornwall, as it remains to this day. The area became the world's top tin producing country, and saw the 1201 introduction of the Stanneries, an institution protecting the rights, privileges and goverment of Cornish tin miners, which became very powerful.
The Cornish backed the Welsh Henry Tudor (who claimed descent from King Arthur) in the English War of the Roses, who gained the throne in 1485. Due to new taxes and rules levied on the tinners, 1497 saw Cornish rebellion, led by Michael Joseph "An Gof" (The Smith) and Thomas Flamank, who marched an army of 15,000 to Blackheath near London, but lost to the much larger army of Henry 7th. They were hung, drawn and quartered.
Cornwall, with it's hidden coves, is a land of smugglers and pirates. The author Daphne du Maurier wrote about smuggling activities around the famous 'Jamaica Inn' on Bodmin Moor, and pirate raids on the south coast port of Penzance, no doubt inspired the Gilbert and Sullivan opera "The Pirates of Penzance". Until the 17th century it was overshadowed by its near-neighbour Marazion, opposite the spectacular old monastery and castle of St. Michael's Mount, reached on foot by a man-made causeway at low tide, or by boat at high tide. A few miles away is Lands End, the most south-westerly part of Britain, and the great beaches at Sennen Cove, home of Bilbo the famous canine lifeguard !
St.Michael's Mount, near Penzance, South Cornish coast
Several of Maui Celtic's suppliers of bronze-coated sculptures, pewter art objects, and silver jewelry are in this beautiful and ancient Celtic area. Check out our Contact page to find out where you can see these treasures in person, or visit our online store.
The Cornish language died as commonly spoken community tongue in the late 1700s, but has recently gladly seen a revival.
In Cornwall in 1875 the price of tin fell heavily, and Cornish miners emigrated all over the world. It was said "Cousin Jack" (a Cornishman) could be found at the bottom of a mine anywhere in the world. They later sent home for "Cousin Jennie" , their wives, to join them. Cornish miners went to Australia, where there is a sizeable Cornish population (one area of South Australia was known as 'Little Cornwall'), the U.S.A., Canada, South America, South Africa, and Mexico. The ruins of 19th century engine houses from the abandoned tin mines can still be seen all over Cornwall, and have become a symbol of the region. Today, the Camborne College of Mining in Cornwall is world renowned in that field, attended by future miners from around the globe.
Engine houses of Tin Mines in South Cornwall
Cornwall has had it's share of inventors. A little known fact is that the fore-runner of the car, the steam carriage, was invented by Richard Trevithick and Andrew Vivian in Camborne, and demonstated in London in 1803 - they were pelted with eggs and vegetables by horse-driven cab drivers. In 1829 Goldsworthy Gurney of Bude drove his version from London to Bath, and was attacked by a hostile crowd. English legislature banned steam road transport. The first domestic solid fuel stove, the Cornish kitchen range, was invented in Cornwall, replacing the earthenware oven. It was in use until the 1950s when gas and electric cookers became popular. The ubiquitous Cornish pasty, a meat and vegetable filled pastry, baked on these ranges, became very popular with the miners.
In 1928 the Cornish Gorsedd of Bards was formed, dedicated to promoting Cornish culture and language. In 1951 Mebyon Kernow (Sons of Cornwall) was founded (www.mebyonkernow.org), and today is pushing hard for local government under a Cornish assembly - Senedh Kernow. www.cornishassembly.org
A world famous event is Mayday in Padstow, which is best known for its ancient 'Obby 'Oss folk tradition, with costumed dancers and musicians processing through the harbour town. More recently the town has become known as the hub of top British chef Rick Stein.
Padstow street, North Cornwall
Traditional music is alive and well in Cornwall, with several bands and festivals. The St.Ives Festival is in mid-September, with folk and Celtic music, and the other major Celtic festival in Cornwall is the Lowender Peran 'Festival of the Celts in Kernow' in mid-October in Perranporth (named after St.Piran - patron saint of Cornwall and tin-miners), 6 miles south of Newquay, which features traditional music, dance, songs, and story telling from Cornwall, Brittany, Ireland, Isle of Man, Scotland and Wales.
The Cornish flag, St.Piran's Cross, is said to have come from the patron saint of Cornwall (and also tin miners) showing Cornish tin over black rock, represented by the white cross on a black field.
Maui Celtic's own Hamish lived for many years in the north Cornish fishing town and tourist resort of Newquay, and his brother Dudley has a busy tattoo studio there, DNA Tattoo Studio (he's an accomplished artist, and one of Britain's best Celtic tattooists, with clients travelling from all over Europe and even America to have his specialist work done).
The area has been settled since at least the Bronze Age around 3500 years ago, with the clifftops having barrows, or burial mounds to this day. Nearby at the natural cliff-top defences provided by Trevelgue Head are the barely visible mounds of an Iron Age hill fortress.
Newquay Harbour, North Cornwall
By the 15th century the fishing village was called Towan Blystra, and after local officials secured funding for building a modern quay for thr thriving pilchard fishing industry, the town acquired it's present name. A local landmark is the Huers Hut, an old 13th century chapel, later used as a shelter by the cliff-top lookouts for the pilchard schools, who would send out the 'hue and cry' (how the term came into modern use) to the waiting fishing fleets in the harbour below. Still a working fishing harbour today, it is known for the sport of pilot-gig rowing (a working tradition from the old pilchard days), as well as being a busy tourist resort with good surfing beaches all around.
Chuck Wall by the Huers Hut, Newquay, Cornwall
Thursday and Friday nights in the summer - A regular performer around Cornwall is our old pal Alan Deane, The Belfast Busker, who sings at Treloy Tourist Park, Newquay on Thursday nights, and at a proper job pub, The Mermaid Inn in Porth right on the beach, just outside Newquay, on Friday summer nights. Alan is a one-man-band of singer, guitarist, harmonica and percussion, not to mention hilarious jokes and stories, possibly not for the kids ! Everything from classic Irish songs to old pop standards - if your'e in Cornwall, check him out. Try not to walk in or out during a song though, or expect a wee comment !
Less than an hour away is the picturesque harbour town and resort of St.Ives, with its steep old wynding cobblestoned streets, and great beaches, not to mention another good surfing town. Renowned for its number of artists and galleries, it is very busy with tourists in the summer.
St.Ives, on the north Cornish coast
Good pals took Hamish to dinner at an amazing location near Camborne in central Cornwall. The hilltop of Carn Brea has been settled since at least 3400 BC in Neolithic times, and was an Iron Age hillfort much later. Carn Brea Castle is a stone twin towered fortress, built originally as a chapel in 1379, perched on top of huge uncut boulders, which make up some of the inside walls. It was rebuilt by the Bassett family as an old hunting lodge in the 18th century, and nearby is a 90 feet high granite Celtic cross, the Basset Memorial (1836). It is now a restaurant, with the great food prepared by Jordanian chefs, the Sawalha Family - dinner was in medieval style with only candlelight, with aquick break for sunset rooftop views.
Carn Brea Castle near Camborne in central Cornwall
CELTIC EVENTS IN CORNWALL
16th-24th June 2012 - Golowan Festival 2012 Penzance - Cornwall's festival of Midsummer. Penzance, Cornwall. Golowan is Cornish for “The Feast of John”, and an important day in Penzance’s calendar, falling around Midsummer’s Day. The ancient name ‘Pen Sans’ means ‘Holy Head’ and refers to St.John, the town’s Patron Saint. The feast day has always been an occasion for wild celebration, with the unruly election of a Mock Mayor, and processions of burning torches with traditional music and Penglaz the obby oss. Golowan was suppressed in late Victorian times and all but forgotten for a hundred years, until 1991 when a group of local artists and performers revived the festival on the Saturday nearest to St John’s Feast which they called Mazey Day. Last year the festival included 30 separate events, 50 street entertainers, 20 local schools, 10 stage acts in Festival Square, fireworks, and dancing on the streets ! This year is the revival's 23rd anniversary and will be a memorable festival, which will have more emphasis on local Cornish talent. Full details at www.golowan.org
17th-21st October 2012 - Lowender Peran - Cornwall's Celtic Festival at the Ponsmere Hotel, Perranporth. The main festival site is in the ocean-facing Ponsmere Hotel, with satellite venues in Perranporth’s local pubs, Memorial Hall and Methodist Chapel.
"Dancing – Barn Dance/Ceilidh/Troyl/Noz Lowen/Fest Noz/Twmpath/Stomp - whatever you want to call them, Lowender Peran is famous for its evening dances! They go on until 1am throughout the weekend, and are a chance to have a go at different dancing styles.
Concerts – Our formal Thursday evening concert showcases some of the finest musical talent in Cornwall. On Saturday and Sunday afternoon we have a more relaxed ‘cabaret’ style of concert where you can enjoy tea, coffee, cake and some great performances from local and visiting performers. ‘Food and Folk’ events during lunch times and in the evening are a chance to enjoy some music while you eat.
Workshops – A key area of cultural exchange is our programme of workshops, which are an hour long and provide a more in-depth and practical insight into the different styles of dance, music or song from local and visiting performers.
Language – You'll have a chance to hear Cornish spoken throughout the festival, as well as having a go yourself.
Storytelling – Saturday afternoon is dedicated to the tradition of storytelling, where you may hear old favourites such as the Mermaid of Zennor, alongside stories you don’t know so well.
Sessions – Throughout the festival site and in the local pubs you’ll be able to hear informal music sessions, and join in if the urge takes you to learn and share a few tunes!
Song – Lowender Peran stages formal concerts featuring local choirs as well as informal singing sessions around the festival site and in the pubs.
Seminars – In association with CAVA, the Cornwall Audio Visual Archive, on the Friday afternoon of the festival Lowender Peran explores Cornwall’s cultural identity on a more academic level.
Theatre – The festival often showcases theatre projects, and staged a performance of Cornish Lads by Cornwall Songwriters in 2009."
More info at www.lowenderperan.co.uk
Around Solstice December 2012 - the Montol Festival 2012 Penzance - Cornwall's festival of Midwinter. Penzance, Cornwall.
Lantern, mask, costume workshop, Mummers play, Nos Lowen dances and Midwinter Tales. Full details coming soon at www.montol.co.uk