A Brief History of Cornwall

Map of Cornwall

Cornwall is one of the ancient Celtic nations and has a long, rich history. The first inhabitants arrived in Cornwall in the first millenium BC, crossing the English Channel during the Ice Age. The Celtic people arrived in the 4th to 6th centuries BC, bringing with them cultural ideas and traditions that persist to this day. Cornwall came under the control of the Dumnonii tribe, who also held nearby Devon, Somerset, and part of Ireland. Despite their dominance in other areas of the British Isles, the Romans never gained a foothold in Cornwall. The Romans were interested in Cornwall's tin mines and tried to take control of the tin trade, but the Cornish resisted their influence on the community.

Cornwall has several ancient historic sites that are associated with the legendary King Arthur. These include Tintagel, popularly believed to be the birthplace of Arthur, as well as Dozmary Pool, the burial place of Arthur. Over the next a period of several centuries, the invading Saxons began to dominate the Celts of the British Isles. Cornwall was one of the last of the Celtic kingdoms to fall, holding out until the region was finally concurred in AD 931 by Athelstan, grandson of King Alfred.

During the Hundred Years War, Cornwall supplied and manned merchant ships for England. However, in AD 1688, the Cornish rose up against the English to fight for Trelawny, Bishop of Trelawne, who had protested the Declaration of Indulgence. Trelawny and several other bishops stood trial for treason and were acquitted. Parson Hawker, Vicar of Morwenstow, wrote a poem about the incident, which has become part of the Cornish National Anthem.

Cornwall is famous for its pasties, pastries filled with meat and vegetables, such as turnip. The pasties were popular among Cornwall's miners, who took the pastries down into the caves with them for their midday meal. Mining in Cornwall, mainly tin, predates the Roman times and had been the foundation of the Cornish economy for centures. More recently, the tin mining industry has fallen on difficult economic times due to changing economic times. Most of the mines in Cornwall are now closed, but several remain in operation, and the ruins of tin mine engine houses dot the landscape.

St Piran

Cornwall is also home to many saints, including St. Piran, the patron saint of Cornwall and of tin miners. St. Piran, who is not officially recognized by the Catholic Church, was made a saint by the Celtic church. The Celtic church was separate from the Catholic Church until the early 10th century, and had canonized several saints that are not officially recognized by the Catholic Church to this day. The St. Piran's flag, black with a white cross, is the official flag of Cornwall.

Visiting Cornwall

Useful links to help plan your trip to Cornwall.