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Cornwall (Cornish: Kernow or occasionally Curnow) is a county
of England's south-west peninsula, lying west of the River Tamar.
Cornwall's county town and only city is Truro, situated at 50° 15′ 48″ N, 5° 03′
04″ W. The county covers an area of 1,376 square miles (3,563 km²), and includes
the Isles of Scilly, 28 miles offshore. Cornwall has a relatively low population
at 513,527, and population density at 144 people per square kilometre .
Cornwall is the poorest region in the United Kingdom.
Somewhere between 6% and 55% (sources differ) of Cornish people do not consider
themselves to be English, and regard Cornwall as a Celtic home nation and Duchy
of the UK. It should be noted that Cornwall, the county, has been described as a
Duchy on occasion by official bodies, see the constitutional status of Cornwall.
The revival of the Cornish language in the 20th century has boosted Cornish
cultural identity, and although currently less than 0.1% of the population speak
it fluently, it is taught in many schools and used in religious and civic
History of Cornwall
The modern English name is likely to derive from the same
root as Wales (Walea, meaning foreigner) combined with its Roman name of
Cornubia (see below). It is also proposed that it may derive from the Celtic
tribe of the Cornovii. . A people of this name are known, from Roman sources,
to have lived in the Outer Powys to Shropshire area of the later Wales and
England. One theory suggests that a contingent was sent to the West Country in
order to rule the land there and keep out the invading Irish. A similar
situation occurred in North Wales. However, there is no evidence for this move
west, and Cornish place names of a similar age indicate that there was an
independent tribe of Cornovii in the West Country. The Romans knew the area as
Cornubia, probably a sub-kingdom of the greater Dumnonia that covered much of
the West Country at that time, while in Cornish it was known as Kernow or Curnow;
a name which has regained some currency today. It is worthy of note that on many
maps produced before the 18th century Cornwall was depicted as a nation of Great
Britain; famous example are Gerardus Mercator's Atlas and the famous Mappa
1783 map of Cornwalll was the principal source of tin for the civilisations of
the ancient Mediterranean, and at one time the Cornish were the world's foremost
experts at mining. As Cornwall's reserves of tin began to be exhausted many
Cornishmen emigrated to places such as the Americas, Australia, New Zealand and
South Africa where their skills were in demand. The Cornish Rebellion of 1497 is
attributed to Tin miners. The tin mines in Cornwall are now economically
worked-out at current prices, but the expertise and culture of the Cornish tin
miners lives on in a number of places around the world. It is said that,
wherever you may go in the world, if you see a hole in the ground, you'll find a
Cornishman at the bottom of it. Several Cornish mining words are in use in
English language mining terminology, such as costean, gunnies, and vug.
In 1841 there were nine hundreds of Cornwall: Stratton, Lesneweth and Trigg;
East and West; Powder; Pydar; Kerrier and Penwith. The shire suffix has been
attached to several of these, notably: the first three formed Triggshire; East
and West appear to be divisions of Wivelshire; Powdershire and Pydarshire. The
old names of Kerrier and Penwith have been re-used for modern local government
districts. Caradon, Carrick, Kerrier, North Cornwall, Penwith, Restormel, and
the Isles of Scilly compose the modern civil parishes of Cornwall.
Since the decline of tin mining, agriculture and fishing, the area's economy has
become increasingly dependent on tourism some of Britain's most spectacular
coastal scenery can be found here. However Cornwall is the poorest county in
England and it has been granted Objective 1 status by the EU. A political party,
Mebyon Kernow, the MK, or 'Sons of Cornwall', was formed in 1951 to attempt to
assert some degree of autonomy (see Cornish nationalism); although increasingly
the flag of St. Piran is seen across Cornwall at protests and demonstrations,
the party has not achieved significant success at the ballot box, although they
do have some councillors.
Recently there have been some developments in the recognition of Cornish
identity or ethnicity. In 2001 for the first time in the UK the inhabitants of
Cornwall could record their ethnicity as Cornish on the national census and in
2004 the schools census in Cornwall carried a Cornish option as a subdivision of
Cornwall, being exposed to the full force of the Atlantic Ocean, is composed
entirely of resistant rocks, as less resistant rocks have been eroded away. The
centre of the county is largely Devonian sandstone and slate. The north east of
the county lies on Carboniferous sandstone. Cornwall is particularly known for
its igneous outcrops, which include the granite of Bodmin Moor and the areas
around Camborne and Land's End, and the dark green serpentine of the Lizard
Peninsula. The granite forms high treeless moors on which sheep graze, and the
characteristic Cornish cliffs.
Cornwall is the southernmost county of the British Isles, and therefore has a
relatively warm and sunny climate. However, being unprotected from the Atlantic
it also has more extreme weather. The average annual temperature for most of the
county is 10.2 to 12 degrees Celsius, with slightly lower temperatures on the
moors. The county has relatively high rainfall, though less than more northern
areas of the west coast, at 1051 to 1290 mm per year. Most of the county enjoys
over 1541 hours of sunshine per year.
Parliamentary representation for Cornwall is dominated by the
Liberal Democrats. Currently all five of the Cornish MPs are Liberal Democrat.
Two of the current MPs Andrew George, MP for St Ives; and Dan Rogerson, MP for
North Cornwall repeated their Parliamentary oaths in Cornish. The local
councils also have a large portion of Lib Dem members. Most local Liberal
Democrat MPs and councillors strongly support moves for devolved agencies and
governance to Cornwall, as do some Welsh nationalists.
Although Cornwall is a county of England, an independence movement exists that
seeks more autonomy. Additionally some groups and individuals question the
constitutional status of Cornwall and its relation to the Duchy of Cornwall.
Cornish nationalists have organised into two political parties: Mebyon Kernow
and the Cornish Nationalist Party. In addition to the political parties the
Cornish Stannary Parliament acts as a pressure group on Cornish constitutional
issues and Cornwall 2000 the Human Rights organisation works with Cornish
In November 2000 the Cornish Constitutional Convention was formed. It is a
cross-party organisation including representatives from the private, public and
voluntary sectors, of all political parties and none.
Between 5 March 2000 and December 2001, the campaign for a Cornish Assembly
collected the signatures of 41,650 Cornish residents endorsing the Declaration
for a Cornish Assembly, in total 50,546 including people outside Cornwall. The
British government however has no plans to devolve more power to Cornwall and
the issue does not receive much political or media attention. Cornwall is one of
the smaller counties by population and has around a fifth of the population of
what is the smallest region of England.
There is some dispute about whether the patron saint of
Cornwall is Saint Michael, Saint Petroc or Saint Piran. Saint Piran is the most
popular of the three; his emblem (a vertical white cross on a black background)
is recognised as the flag of Cornwall, and his day (March 5) is celebrated by
Cornish people around the world. The Saint Piran's Flag even features on the
packaging for Ginster's Cornish pasties to advertise their status as a
Cornwall is the poorest region in the United Kingdom. The GDP
is 62% of the national average. Cornwall is one of four UK regions that
qualifies for poverty-related grants from the EU (European Social Fund). Today,
the Cornish economy depends heavily on its successful tourist industry, which
makes up around a quarter of the Cornish economy. In particular, Newquay is a
popular destination for surfers. In recent years, the Eden Project has been a
major financial success.
Other industries are fishing, although this has been significantly damaged by EU
fishing policies, and agriculture, which has also declined significantly. Mining
of tin and copper was also an industry, but today no longer exists, and several
defunct mines have applied for status as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Culture of Cornwall
Cornwall, in the United Kingdom, though administratively part
of England, has many cultural differences from the culture of England. These
cultural differences are central to the Cornish independence movement, which
advocates ceremonial independence from England.
Traditionally, the Cornish have been nonconformists, in religion. Celtic
Christianity was a feature of Cornwall and many Cornish saints are commemorated
in legends, churches and placenames.
In contrast to the Welsh language, the churches failed to produce a translation
of the Bible into the local language, and this has been seen by some as a
crucial factor in the demise of the language. The Bible was translated into
Cornish in 2004.
In the 1540s, the Prayer Book Rebellion caused the deaths of thousands of
The Methodism of John Wesley also proved to be very popular with the working
classes in Cornwall in the 18th century. Methodist chapels became important
social centres, with male voice choirs and other church-affiliated groups
playing a central role in the social lives of working class Cornishmen.
Methodism still plays a large part in the religious life of Cornwall today,
although Cornwall has shared in the post-World War II decline in British
In 2003, a campaign group was formed called Fry an Spyrys (free the spirit in
Cornish) . It is dedicated to disestablishing the Church of England in
Cornwall and to forming an autonomous province of the Anglican Communion - a
Church of Cornwall. Its chairman is Dr Garry Tregidga of the Institute of
Cornish Studies. The Anglican Church was disestablished in Wales to form the
Church in Wales in 1920 and in Ireland to form the Church of Ireland in 1869.
Music and festivals
Cornwall has a rich and vibrant folk music tradition which has survived into the
present. Cornwall is well known for its unusual folk survivals such as Mummers
Plays, the Furry Dance in Helston, and Obby Oss in Padstow.
Cornish players are regular participants in inter-Celtic festivals, and Cornwall
itself has several lively inter-Celtic festivals such as Perranporth's folk
Cornish Celtic music is a relatively large phenomenon given the size of the
region. A recent tally found over 100 bands playing mostly or entirely Cornish
folk music. Traditional dancing is associated with the music. These dance events
are either troyls (a Cornish ceilidh) or Nozow looan, (literally "happy nights",
a dance night more similar to a Breton fest noz, and generally appealing to a
Cornwall is famous for its pasties (a type of pie often containing meat), but
saffron buns, Cornish Heavy (Hevva) Cake, Cornish fairings (biscuit), Cornish
fudge and Cornish ice cream are also quite common.
Cornwall with the South West shares clotted cream and many types of cider. There
are also many types of beers brewed in Cornwall including a stout and there is
some small scale production of wine.
The Cornish language is closely related to Welsh and Breton,
and less so to Irish, Scots Gaelic and Manx. It continued as a living Celtic
language until 1777 and the death of Dolly Pentreath, the last person thought to
have used only the Cornish language (although this is disputed on a number of
counts). The publication of Henry Jenner's "Handbook of the Cornish Language" in
1904 caused a resurgence of interest in the Cornish language and efforts are
being made to revive it. Although there has never been a census, there are some
2,000 Cornish speakers, 100150 of whom are fluent. It has recently been
officially recognised by the UK government as a minority language.
Some Cornish surnames are prefixed by Tre, Pol, or Pen, as indicated in the
rhyme "by Tre, Pol and Pen ye shall know Cornishmen." These come from Cornish
language words meaning, respectively, town (or farm), pool, and head.