Cornwall in focus

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Cornwall as part of a United Kingdom

I am indebted to my colleagues at the Institute of Cornish Studies from whom I have gleaned a great deal of useful information. Cornwall was, in fact, the last part of Britain to accede to the Saxons in 838 AD. Cornwall (Kernow) became federated but very much apart from Wessex when the borders between Cornwall and Wessex were set in about 927AD by Athelstan.

Indeed, much more recently than that, legislation refers to Anglia, Cornubia etc. and so Cornwall always maintained its distinctive identity and rulership under the Duke of Cornwall who held in Cornwall identical powers to the ruling Monarch of England.

In 1066 William the Conqueror made Cornwall an earldom and in 1337 Edward, the 'Black Prince' was named as Duke of Cornwall by his father King Edward III. A title held by the monarch's eldest son to this day.

Onen hag Oll

The Arms of Cornwall

The Arms of Cornwall depict a black shield containing 15 gold balls - known as besants. The history of the besants is that they were gold coins found in Byzantium. The legend being, that an Earl of Cornwall fighting in the Crusades in the 12th Century, was captured by the Saracens. The people of Cornwall ('One And All') had to raise the sum of 15 besants to ensure his release.


A Stannary or 'Tinner's' Parliament was set up in the 11th Century to govern and legislate for the people of Cornwall. It was suspended in 1496 leading to the Cornish Rebellion of 1497 and abandoned in 1752. However its powers were never rescinded by the English Government at Westminster.

From the Dark Ages to the industrial revolution Cornwall retained most of its Celtic identity, however improved transport links in the 17th Century slowly began to change its demographics.
The coming of the railway opened up hitherto unknown parts of Britain to the masses and tourists began flooding west to take advantage of the milder climate and gentler pace of life. Within Cornwall, the population moved around following job opportunities.

In the 19th century the workforce left the agricultural industry in large numbers to 'seek their fortune' at the numerous Tin and Copper mines as miners, ore dressers and 'bal maidens'. The towns of Camborne and Redruth grew rapidly, so much so that until very recently they were home to about 10% of the total population of Cornwall - some 40,000 people.
When the mining boom faded at the start of the 20th Century, Cornwall had to look elsewhere for its income: This was to come from Tourism. Indeed, large posters at GWR (Great Western Railway) stations extolled the virtues of the Cornish Riviera. To learn more about Cornwall before 1900, Click HERE.

Recently, a new apolitical, broad based movement, 'Cornish Solidarity' has been formed to fight for 'Cornish Rights'. The Government at Whitehall seeing the need for investment in the Duchy to replace the flagging mining and fishing industries, applied for and received 'Objective One Status' in late 1999. 'The Cornish National Minority Report' was written by Cornish academic Bernard Deacon, with research assistance by Julian German. It set out the case for the Cornish to be recognised as a cultural group by describing the ways in which the Cornish are distinctive from the other British peoples and has been sent to experts on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. Please click on the Cornish Stannary Parliament for more information.

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