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Cornwall's tin trade was the largest in Europe. Stannary towns grew around the places where tin was brought to be tested for purity. The Reformation brought sad times for Cornwall with churches closed and the bible the New Prayer book printed in English, a language which the Cornish neither liked nor wanted.
The county of Cornwall is in the extreme south west of Britain, bordered by the Tamar River. Its length from Lands End to the southern boundary with Devon is 70 miles and it is about 25 miles wide, although only 7 miles wide at the narrowest part. The long and rugged coastline is an important factor in the lives of the people.
Ships were wrecked so frequently providing "wrecking" or the gathering of wreckage as a lucrative pastime. Smuggling was a recognized sport and fishing a huge industry.
The Cornish language was mostly extinct by 1800.
It may be that Cornwall has stimulated writers of greater outpourings than any other English County; and certainly as many as Scotland or Wales. Thomas Hardy wrote in 1870: "The place is pre-eminently the region of dream and mystery."
The decline of the mining deposits of Cornwall coincided with the discoveries of gold in Australia and the United States. Not all Cornish miners made their money as miners. In 1875, more than 10,00 people left Cornwall for Australia. Dr Philip Payton in "The Cornish Miner in Australia" states that between the years 1836 to 1886 in South Australia alone, of the 162,853 migrants who settled, 12,967 (8% of the population) came from Cornwall. When taking into account the possible migration from other states together with missing data a figure of perhaps 16,000 is quite likely. Furthermore Dr Payton suggests that from an analysis of population estimates and surname origins it is possible that in 1900 some 30,000 people may claim to be of direct Cornish descent in the colony of South Australia alone.
March 30, 1872, Foreign News, London, England
Information has been received of a shocking accident in Cornwall. An explosion occurred in a safety fuse manufactory, where a number of females were employed, causing a sad loss of life. Seven women were killed, and several others seriously injured, it is feared some of them may not survive.
August 14, 1876, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.
Destitution Among English Miners.
The effect of the great depression in the mines of Cornwall, England, has been to reduce not only the Working miners, but the small shop-keepers in the mining districts, to the borders of starvation, and, all who can raise money by any means are emigrating. The bread-winners are leaving the country by hundreds, and leaving the women, children, old and infirm to be supported by the parishes.
It is reported that in one parish alone there are 600 women and children thus left, though many of them received aid from their adult male kindreds as soon as money can be earned elsewhere.
Groups of emigrants can be seen almost dally at the railway stations on the Cornwall and West Cornwall lines.
September 4, 1884, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.
A Valuable Discovery
The tin mines discovered some months ago on the top of the Blue Ridge, in Rockbridge county, near the Amherst line, may prove to be the most valuable mineral discovery in the United States.
There are only four or five localities in the world where tin is found, the oldest mines being those in Cornwall. They have been worked from a very remote period. The Phoenicians are supposed to have delved in them, and the Carthaginians are said to have operated them at a later period. They were certainly worked by the Romans, and are, therefore, considered practically inexhaustible.
It is thought that the Virginia mines will rank next in importance to those of Cornwall.
February 22, 1891, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California, U.S.A.
CURIOUS CORNISH CUSTOMS.
Brave Fisher-Folk. Sturdy Miners and Independent Farmers.
Cornishmen Who Have More Than Once Modified the Purposes and Policies or English Kings and Parliaments.
Bodmin (Cornwall), February 4, 1891
Everywhere behind the coasts of Cornwall are footsteps of the giants; relics of pagan life, remains of Cyclopean builders in huge monolith, cromlech and cairn, a noble field for the student of antiquity — while the student of men will find Inhabiting this region a race of sturdy folk, old as the Phoenicians, almost as isolate as those of Connaught, proud of their Arthurian blood, strong in noble toil, grudging of innovation, loyal in life and friendships, and holding with brave tenacity to the folk-lore and all legends, forgivable superstitions and customs which link their work-a-day lives to the dimmest pagan days into which a loyal and loving Cornish fancy may soar.
They are fisher-folk, the bravest and most daring known to the sea-swept shores of the British Isles. They are miners, the sturdiest and most manly in all the world that bring riches from the earth's depths. They are peasant farmers, who have wrung from British landlordism, through tremendous Independence, something like shining homes and ample comfort. They are all Cornishmen, whose united roar, as in the old ballad.
And will they scorn Tre, Pol and Pen,
And shall Trelawney die?
Then twenty thousand Cornish men
Will know the reason why!
Have more than once modified the purposes of English Parliaments and changed the policies of English kings.
Their superstitions are innumerable and outlandish; though, so far as I can judge, they in no wise lessen or abate Cornish religious zealous loyalty. They neither hinder nor detract from devout lives. But, as near as I can define them, they are a transfused and not unwelcome heredity of paganistic myths to which simple and far from intellectual people cling as a prideful proof of their own extreme antiquity.
Out of this half-fairy, half black art mythology of Cornwall have come numberless curious Cornish customs, which all the telegraphs, all the railways, all the newspapers, and indeed all the vigorous Wesleyan Methodism of England have so far been unable to "lau" or dispel, or even modify in any marked degree. Miners will pound a church bench to splinters from their glorious fervor at "prayer-meeting," and in an hour thereafter go on tiptoe to their all-night's labor in the "shift," from 3,000 to 5,000 feet "below grass," fearing to give affront by honest noise from their nob-nailed boots to the "buccas," or "knockers," those elves of the mines who they sacredly believe control their good or ill luck at al mine labor.
Fisherman of Whites and, Mansion, Penzance or ancient St. Ives, will experience and exhibit equal spiritual and physical elation at prayer or class-meeting, and, at the turn of the tide the same night, as they brave death along a lee shore in the howling Atlantic, calmly throw a companion overboard, who might, by even whistling a bar of "How Vain is All Beneath the Sea," " tempt the malevolent attentions of every bacha-boo and fury of the sea.
So. too, the peasant farmers will hasten back from church service to engage in the pagan sacrifice by lire of a bull calf, that their herds may be relieved from "fairy-strokes" and the various and vagarious powers of witches. While villagers of all faiths and works will walk nine times around a churchyard at midnight to have certainty of every-day avoidance of the devil, and will on all occasions lift their hats sooner to a dreaded magpie than a beloved parson, to guard against the possibility of ill-luck.
These superstitions are but a hint of the thousands that exist among Cornish people. From time immemorial "a man must take the new year in" to all habitations; that is, good luck will only come to woman where a man or boy has first entered the house on New Year's day, and all Cornish women will so manage matters, the simplest and most general method being to employ boys to wind their door-steps. The American custom of "watching the old year oat and the new year in," has almost a prototype among Cornish folk in "watching"' all night for the arrival of May Day. Immediately after midnight it is ushered in with a great uproar of songs, general hilarity, and an especial profusion of all manner of shrill musical instruments.
Tintagel, Cornwall, England, Atlantic Coast. 1902.
One of the most rigidly preserved of Cornish customs is that the mother of a newly-christened child must bestow a gift, of proportionate value to her means and position, upon the first person she may meet upon the road, after the ceremony of christening. At St. Ives and other western towns of Cornwall processions of uproarious boys on Shrove Tuesday march through the streets banging at doors with stones tied to strong cord, the meantime demanding,
"Give me a pancako, now -- now -- now,
Or I'll souse in your door with a row -- tow -- tow!"
Pancakes or ha'pennies are invariably bestowed. Apple trees are "blessed" by some on July 26th, St. James' day, and by others at Christmas-time. A panful of cider containing broken roasted apples is carried into the orchard. Each member of the family then takes a cup of the cider, drinks a portion, and casting the remainder upon the tree amid the shoulds of companions, "gives health" to the tree with
"Health to the good apple tree!
Well to bear, pocketfuls, hatfuls,
The nature-worship, which had so prominent a part in the customs of ancient Europe, is in many other ways kept permanently alive in Cornwall. The general May-day festivities do not materially differ from those in other parts of England. But the olden fires of Baal still born brightly along the entire Cornish coast on the eve of June 24th. These midsummer fire-fesals, though corrupted by long usage, are undoubtedly of Druidic origin, and bear every evidence of remaining a lasting relic of the pagan Irish Bealtina, of whose extraordinary celebrations at Taillten (now Telltown) near Tara, before the introduction of Christianity in Erin, there are preserved the most exact and fascinating records. All of the idolatrous features of these orgies, such as the fire ordeal for the cure of disease, and leaping through head-high flames to preserve from evil during the succeeding year, have ben eliminated; but not so long ago that those yet living have forgotten them.
The scenes now witnessed at Penzance and other west-Cornwall towns are chiefly interesting from a certain awe which the huge bonfires always compel among the peasantry, and the exultant torch-dancing, occasionally almost reaching a species of frenzy, which may always be observed. Analagous to this, and singularly indicative of the preservation of medieval rites, are the Peter-tide fires, which always flame from the circling shores of Mount's Bay, above Marazion and Penzance, and are challenged by responsive flames wreathing the castellated head of somber St. Michael's Mount.
Of the more modern and wholly quaint and innocent customs of Cornwall, a few pleasant illustrations may be cited.
Coast of Cornwall. William Trost Richards.
The fish-wives of ancient St. Ives are an incorrigible lot. Should you visit the town at the height of pilchard-fishing, and enter the dark cellars where hundreds of women and girls are engaged in "bulking," or salting the fish, scores of grinning Amazons will rush at you, and the fleetest one will daub your shoes generously with the odorous fish-oil which has drained from the piles of curing fish.
This is called '"wiping the shoe." and if you do not respond with tribute of al least half a crown for luck of the "fair maids that feed and clothe the poor,"that is, the pilchard fishers, your subsequent "hustling by these savory wenches will certainly cost you a new suit of clothing. The same custom, save that the daubing is done with "miner's clay," prevails within the mines, where the stranger is expected to pay something for his initiation into their weird mysteries.
Cornwall is not blessed in being an exception to other regions in the matter of shrewish wives; and Cornish shrews are the most eloquent of all women in their profusion and exuberance of bitter household curses and spiteful nicknames. In many parts of Cornwall where the "woman that owns" Jack or Jan has become sufficiently notorious as a scold, the neighbors organize what they call a "stang courant," proceed to the house of the termagant, and scatter wheat-chaff upon her door-sill. This hint usually suffices; but if it prove insufficient to bridle her tongue, then "riding the stang" is resorted to. This consists of constructing an effigy of the scold, mounting it on a deal board or pole, and exhibiting it in front of the woman's cottage to the lugubrious accompaniment of bells and horns.
Tho delightful custom of "harvest-home" suppers, which unfortunately is dying out among American farmers, is universal in Cornwall There is also a custom of very ancient origin of celebrating the finishing of work in any particular harvest-field, especially in completing the labor of "stooking" or "shocking" the sheaves of grain into "arrishmows." The custom is called "crying the neck," and consists in elevating a small sheaf of the best heads of grain three times in the air, among the harvesters, who thereupon cry at the top of their voices, "The neck!" finally changing this shout to "We yen! we yen!" -- meaning "we end" the harvesting of this field. This is fallowed by a good deal of boisterous though harmless jollity, to which the lips of maidens pay tribute" in proportion to their lack of physical prowess. The clergy of all denominations in Cornwall benefit from a cheery harvest custom of long-standing. The parson's grain is all gathered by voluntary offerings of labor. Every person whom he employs in any capacity during the year—the butcher, painter, carpenter, cobbler, saddler, sexton, and all his own servants — come together when desired and gather the "parson's" crops. Their only reward consists in a rousing supper in his kitchen, where his wife, daughters, and all female members of his domicile, hospitably serve those who have served them.
Two other curious and interesting customs should not be omitted. These are the annual " Furry-day" of Helston and "Taking Sunday," with its attendant peculiarities at Clowance Park, in Clowan Parish. The original of the Cornish Furry Day is unquestionable found in the "Floralia" anciently observed by the Romans on the fourth of the calends of May. It is annually celebrated throughout Cornwall by little home and neighborhood parties, and at Helston, from time immemorial, as a festivity peculiar to that place, on the eighth day of May. Long before daylight happy groups of lads and lasses start in every direction for the country lanes and hedges, singing.
"For we are up as soon as any day, O,
And for to fetch the summer home,
The summer and the May, O.
For summer is a-come, O.
And winter is a-gone, O!"
or a dozen other ballads of similar import, the refrain of which is,
"On the eighth of May
We all set off a -dancing."
And indeed do they. At every farmhouse there are mad rushes of these merry-makers to be first to hang a twig of "sloane" blossoms upon the latch; for such for centuries have been entitled to a portion of bread and cream. The blossoms of the "sloane," a kind of cherry, are gathered everywhere, with all precious buds and blooms of spring. Garlanded with these the floral troopers return to Helston, when the festivities of the day really begin. The old town is fairly embedded in spring blossoms and garlands. This completed, all classes join in a universal carnival of dancing. Every door in Helston is thrown open to the merry marauders. Arm in arm. and usually four abreast, thousands, dancing to a sort of quickstep time and accompanied by May-day songs, pass in the front doors of houses and thence from rear to front of other houses; and from dawn to dark weave serpentine threads of blossom, odor and song through and through the old Cornish town.
"Taking Sunday" in Clowan parish, is not only the precursor of Mazard Fairat Praze, but also of numberless life-long joys and pathetic miseries. In Clowance Park, on the noted St. Aubyn's estate, is a magnificent mall, bordered with some of the noblest beech trees in all England. On the afternoon of the Sunday two weeks before Mazard Fair—which derives its name from the mazard-cherry fair annually held at Praze, in the latter part of June, when tons of this luscious fruit are disposed of by the farmers of the surrounding country -- ten thousand Cornish youths and maidens may always be found promenading in Clowance Park mall.
They sometimes come from a distance of ten and twenty miles. Cornish young men resort here to choose their "pairdners" or "company" for Mazard Fair, and here the blooming lasses come to be "taken," that is, pledged for Mazard fair day. Many an exultant or broken heart returns home that night, successful in the secretly-cherished hope, or stinging from bitter disappointment. But Mazard Day come, the Cornish lad walks miles for the girl he has chosen on "Taking Sunday," and together they tramp away to Praze. The experiences of these thousands of young folk are in the main the same as at all English country fairs. But the marital destinies of all Cornwall are said to center here. It is a glorious thing to the Cornish maiden to be chosen or "taken" at Clowance Park; but her whole fate hangs upon a parcel of cookies and almonds at Praze. These constitute the "ferin," or pledge of betrothal; and it is asserted that half of the women of the Cornwall have been married through this curious troth. If the maiden's "pairdner" buy her one pound of ginger-cookies and a half pound of almonds, and she accept the same, the two are as sacredly betrothed as though bans had been read from the pulpit.
The lucky maiden carefully preserves the "ferin" and triumphantly divides it with her relatives and friends. She is now a person of consequence in her little world, and "axing out," that is, the proclamation of her betrothal at church and marriage, the blessed haven of all good women, are sequentially but matters of time. But woe to the poor Cornish lass that returns from Mazard Fair without a "ferin." She shuns, and is shunned by all, until the hard hand of labor or her work-a-day duty forces her appearance at neighbors or upon the streets. With hopeless defiance she meets the gossiping crones.
"Dee'st dedn't git aw ferin, dost ee?" sneers some crooning old wench to further wound her.
"Aw s'pose thee's allus been aw lucky un!" she snaps back with desperate savagery. And thus with lance for lance she battles her way back from positive disgrace to sturdy calm and renewed hope; for
"Mazard Fair comes once a year,
An' ferins come as cheap as beer!"
Edgar L. Wakeman.
September 23, 1893, London
May All Be Saved
Another of the miners entombed in the mine in Cornwall was rescued this morning, leaving now only seven below. There is reason to believe they are still alive and may be saved.
August 20, 1895, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.
GETS AN ENGLISH ESTATE.
William Foxwell Triumphs in His Fight for Vast Wealth.
Property Valued at Two Million Dollars Falls Into His Possession.
PLATTSMOUTH, Neb., August 19. William Foxwell, whose family resides here, has won his title to the famous Harris-Hartley estates in Cornwall, England. He went to England last November to look after the Foxwell interests, and has just forwarded the following cablegram to his family:
"We have won."
The estate is valued at over $2,000,000, and Mr. Foxwell's income from rents will amount to fully $30,000 per year. When Mr. Foxwell went to England he got the depositions of several old residents in the vicinity of Racine, Wisconsin,, as to his identity, and the depositions were a great aid in winning his case. The estates include Rosewarne house (built c. 1815), Conborne, and Rosetague house, Crosswell, and a large number of lesser estates, Rosewarne house being the home of William Harris and Rosetague the home of Henry Harris, his brother. Many claimants appeared for the estate, including William Foxwell of this City, who chanced to see an advertisement in a newspaper that he could learn something of interest if he would appear at Cornwall, England.
November 26, 1898, Sausalito News, Sausalito, California, U.S.A.
By. Henry C. Donnell.
Lashed cruel waves on coast of Cornwall,
Iron, dark, and bitter Cornwall
Here bore they the corpse of Duncan,
Woe is now to name of Duncan.
Beside him laid his wife and daughter,
The child his fair young daughter.
For all time now law scorn and clamor
Hush'd now be noise and clamor.
His wife and pleading child beside him,
A father's holy name surrounds him.
May 28, 1899, Los Angeles Herald, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.
Still on the Rocks
Coverack, Cornwall. May 17.—The attempt made yesterday to float the American Line steamer Paris failed chiefly on account of the leakage of the engine room tank. The sea Is smoother this morning and the damage to the steamer is apparently not increasing.
June 12, 1908, Amador Ledger, California
FAIRIES OF CORNWALL
Superstitions that Still Live in this Corner of England
Cornwall, that corner of Britain that has resisted modernism, made a strong appeal to the imagination of Katherine Lee Bates, and she writes of it in her "From Gretna Green to Land's End." In Cornwall, as in Ireland, the fairy is still in possession and folk lore is almost a religion. "The small people have been gay and kindly neighbors, sometimes whisking away a neglected baby and returning the little mortal all pink and clean, wrapped in leaves and blossoms, 'as sweet as a nut.' These are the spirits of Druids or of other early Cornwall folk who, as heathen, may not go to heaven, but are too innocent for hell. So they are suffered to live on in their old happy haunts, but ever dwindling and dwindling, till it is to be feared that by and by, what with all the children growing stupid over school books and all the poets writing realistic novels, the small people will twinkle out of sight.
"The spriggans, lurking about the cairns and cromlechs, where they keep guard over buried treasure, could better be spared. They are such thievish and mischievous trolls, with such extraordinary strength in their ugly bits of bodies, it is more likely they are the diminished ghosts of the old giants. The piskies are nearly as bad, as any bewildered traveler who has been piskey led into a bog could testify. The only sure protection against their tricks is to wear your garments inside out.
"Many a Cornish farmer has found a fine young horse all sweated and spent in the morning, his mane knotted into fairy stirrups, showing plainly how some score of the piskies had been riding him overnight. And many a Cornish miner, deep down in the earth, has felt his hair rise on his head as he heard the 'tap, tap, tap' of the knockers, souls of long imprisoned Jews sent here by Roman emperors to work the tin mines of Cornwall."
December 11, 1910, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.
SEVEN DEADLY SINS SHOWN ON TAPESTRY
Panel Made for Cardinal Wolsey Found in England
LONDON, December - 10. Two pieces of ancient tapestry recently discovered at Langford Hill, a Jacobean house near Bude, Cornwall, have been sold for 6,600 at Messrs. Puttick & Simpson's rooms. The purchaser was Captain H. Lindsay.
The principal piece, measuring 13 feet 4 inches by 13 feet 9 inches, was one of a set of panels of fifteenth century Arras tapestry, originally belonging to Cardinal Wolsey and representing the seven deadly sins. Three others of the panels are now hanging at Hampton Court palace.
Arras, of Gallo-Roman origin, was the chief town of the Atrebates, one of the last Gallic peoples to surrender to Caesar. It was famous for its woolen industry, which dates from the 4th century. The Middle Ages was a period of great material and cultural wealth; Arras became the English word for tapestry hangings.
Textiles have long provided metaphors for storytelling: a compelling novel “weaves a tapestry” and we enjoy hearing someone “spin” a tale. To what extent, however, should we take these metaphors seriously?
The second piece of tapestry was part of a frieze, 14 feet by 2 feet 4 Inches, originally made for Hampton Court palace. Small pieces of the frieze still hang there In the great hall.
Arras Hanging: The Textile That Determined Early Modern Literature and Drama reveals that in the early modern period, when cloth-making was ubiquitous and high-quality tapestries called arras hangings were the most valuable objects in England, such metaphors were literal.
The arras provided a narrative model for writers such as Edmund Spenser and William Shakespeare, who exploited their audience’s familiarity with weaving to engage them in highly idiosyncratic and “hands on” ways. Specifically, undescribed or “blank” tapestries in the period’s fiction presented audiences with opportunities to “see” whatever they desired, and thus weave themselves into the story.
The Seven Celtic Nations
- Eire (Ireland): Ireland is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island in the world. A Norman invasion in the Middle Ages gave way to a Gaelic Resurgence in the 13th century.
- Galicia (Spain): Galacia is in northwest Spain, and descends from one of the first tribes of Celtic heritage in Europe. The name Galicia comes from the Latin name Gallaecia, associated with the name of the ancient Celtic tribe that resided above the Douro river.
- Kernow (Cornwall): Cornwall forms the tip of the south-western peninsula of Great Britain. It was occupied in the Iron Age by Celts. Cornwall was a division of the Dumnonii tribe—whose tribal centre was in the modern county of Devon.
- Mannin (Isle of Man): The Isle of Man is located in the Irish Sea between the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, within the British Isles. It began to be influenced by Gaelic culture in the AD 5th century and the Manx language, a branch of the Gaelic languages.
- Breizh (Brittany): Brittany occupies a large peninsula in the north west of France. Its land area is 34,023 km² (13,136 sq mi). After the Neolithic period, Brittany became home to several different Celtic tribes.
- Alba (Scotland): Alba is the Scottish-Gaelic name for Scotland. It occupies the northern third of Great Britain and it includes over 790 islands. Groups of settlers began building the first known permanent houses on Scottish soil around 9,500 years ago, and the first villages around 6,000 years ago.
- Cymru (Wales): During the Iron Age and early medieval period, Wales was inhabited by the Celtic Britons. A distinct Welsh national identity emerged in the centuries after the Roman withdrawal from Britain in the 5th century, and Wales is regarded as one of the modern Celtic nations today.
The history of the Celtic cross goes back to a time before the Christian conversion of Scotland, Ireland and Wales. It’s believed by some that the four arms of the cross represents the four elements, earth, air, fire and water. They also represent the four directions of the compass, North, South, East and West. And finally the four parts of man, mind, soul, heart and body. The horizontal line of the cross symbolizes earth and the vertical portion symbolizes heaven.
1899. World's Fleet. Boston Daily Globe
Lloyds Register of Shipping gives the entire fleet of the world as 28,180 steamers and sailing vessels, with a total tonnage of 27,673,628, of which 39 perent are British.
|10,990 vessels, total tonnage of 10,792,714
|3,010 vessels, total tonnage of 2,405,887
|2,528 vessels, tonnage of 1,604,230
|1,676 vessels, with a tonnage of 2,453,334, in which are included her particularly large ships.
|1,408 vessels with a tonnage of 643, 527
For Historical Comparison
Top 10 Maritime Nations Ranked by Value (2017)
|# of Vessels