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Cornwall ( , ) is a county of Englandmarker in the United Kingdommarker, forming the tip of the south-western peninsula of Great Britainmarker. It is bordered to the north and west by the Atlantic Oceanmarker, to the south by the English Channelmarker, and to the east by the county of Devonmarker, over the River Tamar. Taken with the Isles of Scillymarker Cornwall has a population of , and covers an area of . The administrative centre and only city is Truromarker.

The area now known as Cornwall was first inhabited in the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic periods. It continued to be occupied by Neolithic and then Bronze Age peoples, and later (in the Iron Age) by Celts. There is little evidence that Roman rule was effective west of Exeter and few Roman remains have been found. Cornwall was afterwards part of the Brythonic (Celtic) area of Dumnonia, separated from Walesmarker after the Battle of Deorhammarker, often coming into conflict with the expanding English kingdom of Wessexmarker before King Athelstan in 936 A.D. set the boundary between English and Cornish people at the Tamar. Today, Cornwall's economy struggles after the decline of the mining and fishing industries, and has become more dependent on tourism: however some decline in this has also occurred. The area is noted for its wild moorland landscapes, its extensive and varied coastline and its mild climate.

Cornwall is recognised as one of the "Celtic nations" by many Cornish people, residents and organisations. It retains a distinct cultural identity, reflecting its history, and modern use of the formerly extinct Cornish language is increasing. Some people question the present constitutional status of Cornwall, and a self-government movement seeks greater autonomy within the UKmarker.


The name Cornwall comes from combining two different terms from separate languages. The Roman term for the Celtic tribe which inhabited what is now Cornwall at the time of Roman rule in Britain, Cornovii, came from a Brythonic tribal name which gave modern Cornish Kernow, also known as Corneu to the Brythons. This could be from either of two sources; the common Celtic root cern, or the Latin cornu, both of which mean "horn" or "peninsula", suggestive of the shape of Cornwall's landmass. There is a problem with this theory however. At least two other known Celtic tribes bore the name Cornovii, one tribe in Caithness which may also be considered a "headland" or "horn-land", yet another, the principal tribe known to the Romans as Cornovii lived in the West Midlands and Powysmarker areas, calling into question the derivation of the name from a peninsula (however Celtic tribes were not necessarily permanently settled and the Latin forms may be based on different British names). Another theory suggests that the name of the Cornovii tribes may well be connected to totemic worship of the "horned god" such as the Gaulish Cernunnos or a similar totemic cult. Nevertheless, the Cornovii were sufficiently established in the present day area recognised as Cornwall for their territory to be recorded as Cornubia by AD 700, and remained as such into the Middle Ages. The Ravenna Cosmography, of around 700, makes reference to Purocoronavis, (almost certainly a corruption of Durocornovium), 'a fort or walled settlement of the Cornovii', (unidentified, but possibly Tintagelmarker or Carn Breamarker).

During the 6th and 7th centuries, the name Cornubia became corrupted by extensive changes in the Old English language. The Anglo-Saxons provided the suffix wealas, meaning "foreigners", creating the term Corn-wealas. Some historians note that this was the word for Walesmarker, however it is understood that the term applied instead to all Brythonic peoples and lands, who were considered foreign by the Anglo-Saxons. As Cornwall was known as West Wales (as being west of Wessexmarker) and present-day Cumbria as North Wales during those times, the "Wales" meaning is probable: this is because the word 'wealhas' is Anglo-Saxon for foreigners.


Prehistory, Roman and post-Roman periods

The present human history of Cornwall begins with the reoccupation of Britain after the last Ice Age. During the British Iron Age Cornwall, like all of Britain south of the Firth of Forthmarker, was inhabited by the Celtic people known as the Britons. The Celtic British language spoken at the time eventually developed into several distinct tongues, including Cornish. The first account of Cornwall comes from the Sicilian Greek historian Diodorus Siculus (c.90 BC–ca. 30 BC), supposedly quoting or paraphrasing the fourth-century BC geographer Pytheas, who had sailed to Britain:

Celtic tribes of Southern Britain
The identity of these merchants is unknown. There has been a theory that they were Phoeniciansmarker, however there is no evidence for this. (For further discussion of tin mining see the section on the economy below.)

There is a theory that once silver was extracted from the copper ores of Cornwall in pre-Roman times, as silver is easily converted to its chloride (AgCl) by surface waters containing chlorine. After a period of Roman rule, Cornwall reverted to independent Celtic chieftains.

Conflict with Wessex

The chronology of English dominance over Cornwall is unclear. In the 8th century Cornwall came into conflict with the expanding kingdom of Wessexmarker. There are no recorded charters or legal agreements showing Cornwall as part of Wessex. Furthermore, there is little economic, military, social, cultural or archaeological evidence that Wessex established control over Cornwall, although some historians, notably Michael Swanton, and Malcolm Todd assert to the contrary.

The Annales Cambriae report that in 722 AD the Britons of Cornwall won a battle at Hehil. Annales Cambriae However, it is not stated whether the Cornish fought the West Saxons or some other enemy. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle states in 815 (adjusted date) "& þy geare gehergade Ecgbryht cyning on West Walas from easteweardum oþ westewearde."..."and in this year king Ecgbryht raided in Cornwall from east to west." and thenceforth apparently held it as a ducatus or dukedom annexed to his regnum or kingdom of Wessex, but not wholly incorporated with it. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles states that in 825 (adjusted date) a battle was fought involving the "Welsh", presumably those of Cornwall, and the Defnas (men of Devon). It only states:- "The Westwealas (Cornish) and the Defnas (men of Devon) fought at Gafulforda". However, there is no mention of who won or who lost, whether the men of Cornwall and Devon were fighting each other or on the same side, and no mention of Egbert. This is the only record of this battle. In the same year Ecgbert, as a later document phrases it, "disposed of their territory as it seemed fit to him, giving a tenth part of it to God." In other words he incorporated Cornwall ecclesiastically with the West Saxon diocese of Sherbornemarker, and endowed Ealhstan, his fighting bishop, who took part in the campaign, with an extensive Cornish estate consisting of Callingtonmarker and Lawhittonmarker, both in the Tamar valley, and Pawton near Padstowmarker.

In 838, the Cornish and their Danish allies were defeated by Egbert at Hengestesdune (Anglo-Saxon Chronicles): an unknown location (various places have been suggested over the years from Hengistbury Head in Dorset, Hingston Down, Devonmarker to Hingston Down in Cornwall). Around the 880s Anglo-Saxons from Wessex had established modest land holdings in the eastern part of Cornwall, notably Alfred the Great had acquired a few estates. William of Malmesbury, writing around 1120, says that King Athelstan of England (924–939) fixed the boundary between English and Cornish people at the east bank of the River Tamar.

Norman period

One interpretation of the Domesday Book is that by this time the native Cornish landowning class had been almost completely dispossessed and replaced by English landowners, the largest of whom was Harold Godwinson himself. However, this is highly questionable: The Bodmin manumissions show that two leading Cornish figures, nominally had Saxon names, but these were both glossed with native Cornish names. This suggests that Saxon names in Cornwall indicate not ethnicity, but preferences in naming, perhaps as means to establish membership of a pro-Saxon ruling class.

However, after the Norman conquest most of the land was seized and transferred into the hands of a new Breton-Norman aristocracy, with the lion's share going to Robert, Count of Mortain, half-brother of King William and the largest landholder in England after the king. Ultimately this aristocracy eventually became a Cornu-Norman ruling class, a phenomenon closely resembling the situation in the rest of England, and later in Ireland.

Later medieval administration and society

Subsequently however, Norman absentee landlords became replaced by a new Cornu-Norman elite. These families eventually became the new ruling class of Cornwall (typically speaking Norman French, Cornish, Latin and eventually English), many becoming involved in the operation of the Stannary Parliament system, Earldom and eventually the Duchy. The Cornish language continued to be spoken and it acquired a number of characteristics establishing its identity as a separate language from Breton. Cornwall showed a very different type of settlement pattern from that of Saxon Wessex and places continued, even after 1066, to be named in the Celtic Cornish tradition with Saxon architecture being uncommon. The earliest record for any Anglo-Saxon place-names west of the Tamar is around 1040: they are particularly noticeable in the north-east of the county.

Christianity in Cornwall

Many place names in Cornwall are associated with Christian missionaries described as coming from Ireland and Wales in the fifth century AD and usually called saints (See List of Cornish saints). The historicity of some of these missionaries is problematic and it has been pointed out by Canon Doble that it was customary in the Middle Ages to ascribe such geographic origins to saints. Some of these saints are not included in the early lists of saints.

St Piran, after whom Perranporthmarker is named, is generally regarded as the patron saint of Cornwall.However in earlier times it is likely that St Michael the Archangel was recognized as the patron saint and the title has also been claimed for St Petroc.

The Church in Cornwall in Celtic and Anglo-Saxon times

The church in Cornwall until the time of Athelstan of Wessex observed more or less orthodox practices, being completely separate from the Anglo-Saxon church until then (and perhaps later). The See of Cornwall continued until much later: Bishop Conan apparently in place previously, but (re-?)consecrated in 931 AD by Athelstan. However, it is unclear whether he was the sole Bishop for Cornwall or the leading Bishop in the area. The situation in Cornwall may have been somewhat similar to Wales where each major religious house corresponded to a cantref (this has the same meaning as Cornish kevrang) both being under the supervision of a Bishop. However if this was so the status of kevrangow before the time of King Athelstan is not recorded. However it can be inferred from the districts included at this period that the minimum number would be three: Triggshire; Wivelshire; and the remaining area. Penwith, Kerrier, Pydar and Powder meet at a central point.

The Middle Ages

It is notable that in Cornwall that most of the parish churches in existence in Norman times were generally not in the larger settlements and that the medieval towns which developed thereafter usually had only a chapel of ease with the right of burial remaining at the ancient parish church. Over a hundred holy wells exist in Cornwall, each associated with a particular saint, though not always the same one as the dedication of the church.

Various kinds of religious houses existed in medieval Cornwall though none of them were nunneries; the benefices of the parishes were in many cases appropriated to religious houses within Cornwall or elsewhere in England or France.

Religious history from the Reformation to the Victorian period

In the sixteenth century there was some violent resistance to the replacement of Catholicism with Protestantism in the Prayer Book Rebellion.. The Cornish, amongst other reasons, objected to the English language Book of Common Prayer, protesting that the English language was still unknown to many at the time. The Prayer Book Rebellion was a cultural and social disaster for Cornwall, the reprisals taken by the forces of the Crown have been estimated to account for 10-11% of the civilian population of Cornwall. Culturally speaking, it saw the beginning of the slow "death" of Cornish language.

From the early nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century Methodism was the leading form of Christianity in Cornwall but is now in decline. The Church of England was in the majority from the reign of Queen Elizabeth until the Methodist revival of the 19th century: before the Wesleyan missions dissenters were very few in Cornwall. The county remained within the Diocese of Exetermarker until 1876 when the Anglican Diocese of Truromarker was created(the first Bishop was appointed in 1877). Roman Catholicism was virtually extinct in Cornwall after the 17th century except for a few families such as the Arundells of Lanherne. From the mid-19th century the church reestablished episcopal sees in England, one of these being at Plymouth. Since then immigration to Cornwall has brought more Roman Catholics into the population.

Physical geography

Satellite image of Cornwall

Cornwall forms the tip of the south-west peninsula of the island of Great Britain, and is therefore exposed to the full force of the prevailing winds that blow in from the Atlantic Ocean. The coastline is composed mainly of resistant rocks that give rise in many places to impressive cliffs. Cornwall has a border with only one other county, Devonmarker.

The north and south coasts

The north and south coasts have different characteristics. The north coast is more exposed and therefore has a wilder nature. The prosaically named High Cliff, between Boscastlemarker and St Gennysmarker, is the highest sheer-drop cliff in Cornwall at . However, there are also many extensive stretches of fine golden sand which form the beaches that are so important to the tourist industry, such as those at Budemarker, Polzeathmarker, Watergate Baymarker, Perranporthmarker, Porthtowanmarker, Fistral Beachmarker, Newquaymarker, St Agnesmarker, St Ivesmarker, and on the south coast Gyllyngvasemarker beach in Falmouthmarker. There are two river estuaries on the north coast: Hayle Estuarymarker and the estuary of the River Camelmarker, which provides Padstowmarker and Rockmarker with a safe harbour. The south coast, dubbed the "riviera", is more sheltered and there are several broad estuaries offering safe anchorages, such as at Falmouthmarker and Foweymarker. Beaches on the south coast usually consist of coarser sand and shingle, interspersed with rocky sections of wave-cut platform.

Inland areas

The interior of the county consists of a roughly east-west spine of infertile and exposed upland, with a series of granite intrusions, such as Bodmin Moormarker, which contains the highest land within Cornwall. From east to west, and with approximately descending altitude, these are Bodmin Moor, the area north of St Austellmarker, the area south of Cambornemarker, and the Penwithmarker or Land's Endmarker peninsula. These intrusions are the central part of the granite outcrops of south-west Britain, which include Dartmoormarker to the east in Devonmarker and the Isles of Scillymarker to the west, the latter now being partially submerged.

Cornwall is known for its beaches and rugged coastline.
The intrusion of the granite into the surrounding sedimentary rocks gave rise to extensive metamorphism and mineralization, and this led to Cornwall being one of the most important mining areas in Europe until the early 20th century. It is thought Tin was mined here as early as the Bronze Age, and copper, lead, zinc and silver have all been mined in Cornwall. Alteration of the granite also gave rise to extensive deposits of China Clay, especially in the area to the north of St Austellmarker, and the extraction of this remains an important industry.

The uplands are surrounded by more fertile, mainly pastoral farmland. Near the south coast, deep wooded valleys provide sheltered conditions for flora that like shade and a moist, mild climate. These areas lie mainly on Devonian sandstone and slate. The north east of Cornwall lies on Carboniferous rocks known as the Culm Measures. In places these have been subjected to severe folding, as can be seen on the north coast near Crackington Havenmarker and in several other locations.

The Lizard Peninsula

The geology of the Lizard peninsula is unusual, in that it is mainland Britain's only example of an ophiolite, a section of oceanic crust now found on land. Much of the peninsula consists of the dark green and red Precambrian serpentine rock, which forms spectacular cliffs, notably at Kynance Covemarker, and carved and polished serpentine ornaments are sold in local gift shops. This ultramafic rock also forms a very infertile soil which covers the flat and marshy heaths of the interior of the peninsula. This is home to rare plants, such as the Cornish Heath, which has been adopted as the county flower.


Cornwall has varied habitats including terrestrial and marine ecosystems. One of the lower plant forms in decline locally is the Reindeer lichen, which species has been made a priority for protection under the national UK Biodiversity Action Plan.

Red-billed chough: P. p. pyrrhocorax
The birds of the coast are well worth observing: in 1935 an anonymous writer on Tintagelmarker mentions Willapark as the scene of spectacular flocks of seabirds (eight species); inland he describes the crows (including the Cornish chough and the raven) and falcons which frequent the district. 'E.M.S.' contributes: "Within easy reach of Tintagel at least 385 varieties of flowers, 30 kinds of grasses, and 16 of ferns can be found ... a 'happy hunting ground' for botanists" and a list of thirty-nine of the rarest is given. (by the 1950s there were no longer choughs to be seen). This bird is emblematic of Cornwall and is also said to embody the spirit of King Arthur. B. H. Ryves mentions the razorbill as numerous at Tintagel (perhaps the largest colony in the county) and summarises reports from earlier in the century.

Botanists divide Cornwall and Scilly into two vice-counties: West (1) and East (2). The standard flora is by F. H. Davey Flora of Cornwall (1909). Davey was assisted by A. O. Hume and he thanks Hume, his companion on excursions in Cornwall and Devon, and for help in the compilation of that Flora, publication of which was financed by him.


Cornwall is the southernmost part of Britain, and therefore has a relatively warm and sunny climate. Winters are mild, and frost and snow are very rare away from the central upland areas. The average annual temperature for most of Cornwall is 9.8 to 12 degrees Celsius (49.6 to 53.6 °F), with slightly lower temperatures at higher altitude. Cornwall is exposed to mild, moist westerly winds from the Atlantic Ocean and has relatively high rainfall, though less than more northern areas of the west coast of Britain, at 1051 to 1290 mm (41.4 to 50.8 in) per year. Most of Cornwall enjoys over 1541 hours of sunshine per year.

Politics and administration

With the exception of the Isles of Scillymarker, Cornwall is now governed by a unitary authority known as the Cornwall Council based in Truromarker. Cornwall's Courts of Justice are also located in Truro.

The Isles of Scilly form part of the ceremonial county of Cornwall and have, at times, been served by the same county administration. However, since 1890, they have been administered by their own unitary authority, now known as the Council of the Isles of Scilly. They are still grouped with Cornwall for other administrative purposes, such as the National Health Service and Devon and Cornwall Police.

Prior to reorganisation on 1 April 2009, council functions throughout the rest of Cornwall were organised on a two-tier basis, with a county council and district councils for the six districts of Caradonmarker, Carrickmarker, Kerriermarker, North Cornwallmarker, Penwithmarker, and Restormelmarker. While projected to streamline services, cut red tape and save around £17 million a year, the reorganisation was met with wide opposition, with a poll in 2008 giving a result of 89% disapproval from Cornish residents.

The first elections for the new unitary authority were held on 4 June 2009. The new council has 123 seats; the largest party is the Conservative Party with 50, followed by the Liberal Democrats with 38, Independent with 32 and Mebyon Kernow with 3 seats.

Prior to the creation of the new unitary council, the former county council had 82 seats, the majority of which were held by the Liberal Democrats, elected at the 2005 county council elections. The six former districts in Cornwall had a total of 249 council seats, and the numerically largest groups represented on them were Liberal Democrats, Conservatives, and Independents.

Cornwall currently elects five MPs to the House of Commons of the United Kingdommarker, all of whom are Liberal Democrats as from the 2005 general election. A reshuffle of parliamentary boundaries will create a sixth parliamentary constituency in Cornwall which will be fought for the first time at the next British general election due in 2010. Until 1832, Cornwall had 44 MPs-–more than any other county-–reflecting the importance of tin to the Crown. Most of the increase came between 1529 and 1584 after which there was no change until 1832. The chief registered parties contesting elections in Cornwall are Conservatives, Greens, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Mebyon Kernow, Liberal Party and the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). In July 2007, Conservative leader David Cameron appointed Mark Prisk to the newly-created post of Shadow Minister for Cornwall.

There is a growing call within Cornwall for greater self-rule. Cornwall Council's Feb 2003 MORI poll showed 55% in favour of an elected, fully-devolved regional assembly for Cornwall and 13% against. (Previous result :46% in favour in 2002). However the poll also showed that 72% were in favour of a "South West Regional Assembly.The Cornish Constitutional Convention advocates the creation of a Cornish Assembly, along the lines of those for Walesmarker, Scotlandmarker and Northern Irelandmarker, and in 2001 presented a petition to the then Prime minister, Tony Blair calling for the change. It is claimed that many of the duchy residents are calling a high degree of autonomy within England, or a split from England, creating a fifth home nation of the United Kingdom. and/or a separate Cornish Development Agency, a result of discontent with the South West Regional Development Agency.

Cornish political parties

Cornish nationalists have organised into two political parties: Mebyon Kernow, formed in 1951, and the Cornish Nationalist Party. In addition to the political parties, there are various interest groups such as the Cornish Stannary Parliament and the Celtic League. In November 2000, the Cornish Constitutional Convention was formed to campaign for a Cornish Assembly. 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 collected the signatures of 41,650 Cornish residents endorsing the declaration for a devolved regional Cornish Assembly, along with 8,896 signatories from outside Cornwall. In 2003 a MORI poll showed 55 per cent of respondents favoured establishing a regional assembly for Cornwall. The campaign also has the support of all five Cornish Lib Dem MPs and Mebyon Kernow.

The question of Cornwall's constitutional status

The question of Cornwall's constitutional status as a county of England, as established by the Local Government Act 1888, a Duchy, i.e. the Duchy of Cornwall established in 1337 by Edward III of England for his son, Edward, Prince of Wales, or another constitutional entity of the United Kingdommarker is a complex one. In recent years there has been cross-party recognition of the issue at least as far as the calls for a Cornish Assembly are concerned. In addition there are also groups and individuals, including Mebyon Kernow, the Cornish Constitutional Convention, and John Angarrack, who reject the present constitutional status of Cornwall, refuting the legality of Cornwall's current administration as a county of England, and Cornwall's relationship to the Duchy of Cornwall.

Contemporary political parties

In 2007 David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party, in a departure from the Conservative Party's traditionally unionist stance, appointed Cornishman Mark Prisk as "Shadow Minister for Cornwall". The Liberal Party recognise Cornwall's claims for greater autonomy as do the Liberal Democrats.

"The new single council is also the opportunity to gain more control over local issues from regional and national
Government bureaucrats – the first step on our way to a Cornish Assembly." - The Liberal Democrat Manifesto for 2009 [550]

The Cornish civic nationalist party Mebyon Kernow also bases much of its policy on greater civic autonomy for Cornwall.

An additional political issue is the rights of the Cornish people as a minority.

Settlements and communication

Cornwall's only city, and the home of the council headquarters, is Truromarker. Nearby Falmouthmarker is notable as a port, while the ports at Penzancemarker, the most westerly town in England, St Ivesmarker and Padstowmarker have declined. Newquaymarker on the north coast is famous for its beaches and is a popular surfing destination, as is Budemarker further north. St Austellmarker is Cornwall's largest town and is interestingly larger than the capital Truromarker, and a centre of the china clay industry. Redruthmarker and Cambornemarker together form the largest urban area in Cornwall, and both towns were significant as centres of the global tin mining industry.

Cornwall borders the county of Devonmarker at the River Tamar. Major road links between Cornwall and the rest of Great Britainmarker are the A38 which crosses the Tamar at Plymouthmarker via the Tamar Bridgemarker and the town of Saltashmarker, the A39 road (Atlantic Highway) from Barnstaplemarker, passing through North Cornwallmarker to end eventually in Falmouthmarker, and the A30 which crosses the border south of Launcestonmarker. A car ferrymarker also links Plymouthmarker with the town of Torpointmarker on the opposite side of the Hamoazemarker. A rail bridge, the Royal Albert Bridge, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1859) provides the only other major transport link. The major city of Plymouth being the nearest large urban centre to east Cornwall makes it an important location for such services as hospitals, department stores, road and rail transport, and cultural venues.

Newquay Airportmarker provides an airlink to the rest of the UK, Ireland and Europe.

Cardiffmarker and Swanseamarker, across the Bristol Channel, are connected to Cornwall by ferry, usually to Padstowmarker. Swanseamarker in particular has several boat companies who can arrange boat trips to north Cornwall, which allow the traveller to pass by the north Cornish coastline, including Tintagel Castlemarker and Padstowmarker harbour. Very occasionally, the Waverley and Balmoral paddle steamers cruise from Swanseamarker or Bristolmarker to Padstowmarker.

The Isles of Scillymarker are served by ferry (from Penzancemarker), helicopter (Penzance Heliportmarker) and fixed wing aeroplane (Land's End Airportmarker, near St Just) and from Newquay Airportmarker. Further flights to St. Mary'smarker, Isles of Scillymarker, are available from Exeter International Airportmarker in Devonmarker.


Souvenir flags outside a Cornish café
Saint Piran's Flag is regarded as the national flag of Cornwall, and an emblem of the Cornish people; and by others as the county flag. The banner of Saint Piran is a white cross on a black background. Saint Piran is supposed to have adopted these two colours from seeing the white tin in the black coals and ashes during his supposed discovery of tin. Davies Gilbert in 1826 described it as anciently the flag of St Piran and the banner of Cornwall, and another history of 1880 said that: "The white cross of St. Piran was the ancient banner of the Cornish people." The Cornish flag is an exact reverse of the former Breton national flag (black cross) and is known by the same name " Kroaz Du".

There are also claims that the patron saint of Cornwall is Saint Michael or Saint Petroc, but Saint Piran is by far the most popular of the three and his emblem is internationally recognised as the flag of Cornwall. St Piran's Day (5 March) is celebrated by the Cornish diaspora around the world.


Falmouth Docks is the major port of Cornwall, and the third-largest natural harbour in the world.
Cornwall is one of the poorest areas in the United Kingdom. The GVA per head was 65% of the UK average for 2004. The GDP per head for Cornwall and the Scillies was 79.2 of the EU-27 average for 2004, the UK per head average was 123.0.

Historically tin mining was important in the Cornish economy. The first reference to this appears to be by Pytheas: see above. Julius Caesar was the last classical writer to mention the tin trade, which appears to have declined during the Roman occupation. The tin trade revived in the Middle Ages, and the Cornish Rebellion of 1497 is attributed to tin miners. In the mid-nineteenth century, however, the tin trade again fell into decline.

Cornwall is one of four UK areas that qualifies for poverty-related grants from the EU: it was granted Objective 1 status by the European Commissionmarker, followed by a further round of funding known as 'Convergence Funding'.


Today, the Cornish economy depends heavily on its successful tourist industry, which makes up around a quarter of the economy. The official measures of deprivation and poverty at district and 'sub-ward' level show that there is great variation in poverty and prosperity in Cornwall with some areas among the poorest in England and others are among the top half in prosperity. For example, the ranking of 32,482 sub-wards in England in the index of multiple deprivation ranges from 819th (part of Penzance East) to 30, 899th (part of Saltash Burraton in Caradon), where the lower number represents the greater deprivation.

Cornwall's unique culture, spectacular landscape and mild climate make it a popular tourist destination, despite being somewhat distant from the United Kingdom's main centres of population. Surrounded on three sides by the English Channelmarker and Celtic Seamarker, Cornwall has many miles of beaches and cliffs. Other tourist attractions include moorland, country gardens, historic and prehistoric sites and wooded valleys. Five million tourists visit Cornwall each year, mostly drawn from within the UK. Visitors to Cornwall are served by airports at Newquaymarker and Plymouthmarker, whilst private jets, charters and helicopters are also served by Perranporthmarker airfield; nightsleeper and daily rail services run between Cornwall, London and other regions of the UK.

Newquaymarker and Porthtowanmarker are popular destinations for surfers. In recent years, the Eden Projectmarker near St Austellmarker has been a major financial success, drawing one in eight of Cornwall's visitors.

Other industries

Other industries are fishing, although this has been significantly re-structured by EU fishing policies, (the Southwest Handline Fishermen's Association has started to revive the fishing industry), and agriculture, which has also declined significantly. Mining of tin and copper was also an industry, but today the derelict mine workings survive only as a World Heritage Site However, the Camborne School of Minesmarker, which was relocated to Penryn in 2004, is still a world centre of excellence in the field of mining and applied geology and the grant of World Heritage status has attracted funding for conservation and heritage tourism. China clay extraction has also been an important industry in the St Austell area, but this sector has been in decline, and this, coupled with increased mechanisation, has led to a decrease in employment in this sector.

In recent years Cornwall's creative industries have undergone significant growth, thanks in part to Objective One funding , as it is the only British county poor enough to receive such money. There is now a significant creative industry in Cornwall, encompassing areas like graphic design, product design, web design, packaging design, environmental design, architecture, photography, art and crafts.


Graph showing Cornwall's population from 1800 to 2000
Cornwall's population was 513,527 at the last count, and population density 144 people per square kilometre, ranking it 40th and 41st respectively compared with the other 47 counties of England. Cornwall has a relatively high level of population growth, however, at 11.2% in the 1980s and 5.3% in the 1990s, giving it the fifth highest population growth of the English counties. The natural change has been a small population decline, and the population increase is due to immigration into Cornwall. According to the 1991 census, the population was 469,800.

Cornwall has a relatively high retired population, with 22.9% of pensionable age, compared with 20.3% for the United Kingdom. This may be due to a combination of Cornwall's rural and coastal geography increasing its popularity as a retirement location, and the emigration of younger residents to more economically diverse areas. Immigration of pensioners from southern England to Cornwall, and emigration of young Cornish people, are persistent concerns.

Cornwall is the homeland of the Cornish people and diaspora, and is recognised by many people and organisations—alongside Brittany, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Scotland and Wales—as one of the six "Celtic nations", including the Celtic League, Cornish Stannary Parliament, Mebyon Kernow, Raidió Teilifís Éireann marker, Celtic Congress and the BBC, and, as one of the eight Celtic nations—the other two being Asturiasmarker and Galiciamarker—by the Isle of Man Governmentmarker and the Welsh Assembly Government. Cornwall is represented, as one of the Celtic nations, at the Festival Interceltique de Lorient, a celebration of Celtic culture held annually in Brittany.

There is some ambiguity over how many of the people living in Cornwall consider themselves to be Cornish, since results from different surveys (including the national census) have given results varying from 7% to 79%. Many people in Cornwall say that this issue would be resolved if a Cornish option became available on the census.

Cornwall has a comprehensive education system, with 31 state and 8 independent secondary schools. There are three FE colleges - Penwith Collegemarker (a former sixth form college), Cornwall Collegemarker (occupying the former home of the Camborne School of Mines) and Truro Collegemarker. The Isles of Scilly only has one school while the former Restormel district has the highest school population, and school year sizes are around 200, with none above 270.

Higher education is provided by University College Falmouthmarker, the University of Exetermarker (including Camborne School of Minesmarker), the Combined Universities in Cornwall, and by Truro College, Penwith College and Cornwall College.

Languages and dialects

Both the English and Cornish languages are used in Cornwall.

Cornish language

The Cornish language is closely related to Welsh and Breton, and less so to Irish, Scots Gaelic and Manx. The language continued to function as a community language in parts of Cornwall until the late 18th century, and there has been a revival of the language since Henry Jenner's "Handbook of the Cornish Language" was published in 1904. A study in 2000 suggested that there were around 300 people who spoke Cornish fluently. Cornish however had no legal status in the UK until 2002. Nevertheless, the language is taught in about twelve primary schools, and occasionally used in religious and civic ceremonies. In 2002 Cornish was officially recognised as a UK minority language and in 2005 it received limited Government funding. A Standard Written Form was agreed in 2008.

Several Cornish mining words are still in use in English language mining terminology, such as costean, gunnies, and vug.

Two of the current Members of Parliament (MPs) in the Parliament of the United Kingdommarker, Andrew George, MP for St Ives, and Dan Rogerson, MP for North Cornwallmarker, repeated their Parliamentary oaths in Cornish.

English dialect

See West Country dialects


The Tate Gallery at St Ives

Visual arts

Since the 19th century, Cornwall, with its unspoilt maritime scenery and strong light, has sustained a vibrant visual art scene of international renown. Artistic activity within Cornwall was initially centred on the art-colony of Newlynmarker, most active at the turn of the 20th century, and associated with the names: Stanhope Forbes, Elizabeth Forbes, Norman Garstin and Lamorna Birch. Modernist writers such as D. H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf lived in Cornwall between the wars, and Ben Nicholson, the painter, having visited in the 1920s came to live in St Ives with his then wife, the sculptor Barbara Hepworth, at the outbreak of the second world war. They were later joined by the Russian emigrant Naum Gabo, and other artists. These included Peter Lanyon, Terry Frost, Patrick Heron, Bryan Wynter and Roger Hilton. St Ives also houses the Leach Pottery, where Bernard Leach, and his followers championed Japanese inspired studio pottery. Much of this modernist work can be seen in Tate St Ivesmarker. The Newlyn Society and Penwith Society of Arts continue to be active, and contemporary visual art is documented in a dedicated online journal.

Music and festivals

Cornwall has a rich and vibrant folk music tradition which has survived into the present and is well-known for its unusual folk survivals such as Mummers Plays, the Furry Dance in Helstonmarker played by the famous Helston Town Band, and Obby Oss in Padstowmarker.

As in other former mining districts of Britain, male voice choirs and Brass Bands, e.g Brass on the Grass concerts during the summer at Constantinemarker, are still very popular in Cornwall: Cornwall also has around 40 silver bands.

Cornish players are regular participants in inter-Celtic festivals, and Cornwall itself has several lively inter-Celtic festivals such as Perranporthmarker's Lowender Peran folk festival.

On a more modern note, contemporary musician Richard D. James (also known as Aphex Twin) grew up in Cornwall, as did Luke Vibert and Alex Parks winner of Fame Academy 2003. Roger Taylor, the drummer from the band Queen was also raised in the county, and currently lives not far from Falmouthmarker. The American singer/songwriter Tori Amos now resides predominantly in North Cornwall not far from Bude with her family.


Daphne du Maurier lived in Fowey, Cornwall and many of her novels had Cornish settings, including Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, Frenchman's Creek, My Cousin Rachel, and The House on the Strand. She is also noted for writing Vanishing Cornwall. Cornwall provided the inspiration for The Birds, one of her terrifying series of short stories, made famous as a film by Alfred Hitchcock. Conan Doyle's The Adventure of the Devil's Foot featuring Sherlock Holmes is set in Cornwall.

Medieval Cornwall is also the setting of the trilogy by Monica Furlong, Wise Child, Juniper, and Colman, as well as part of Charles Kingsley's Hereward the Wake.

Winston Graham's series Poldark, Kate Tremayne's Adam Loveday series, Susan Cooper's novels Over Sea, Under Stone and Greenwitch, and Mary Wesley's The Camomile Lawn are all set in Cornwall. Writing under the pseudonym of Alexander Kent, Douglas Reeman sets parts of his Richard Bolitho and Adam Bolitho series in the Cornwall of the late 18th and the early 19th centuries, particularly in Falmouthmarker.

Hammond Innes' novel, The Killer Mine; Charles de Lint's novel The Little Country;; and Chapters 24 and 25 of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows take place in Cornwall (the Harry Potter story at Shell Cottage, which is on the beach outside the fictional village of Tinworth in Cornwall).

Novelists resident in Cornwall:- Highly respected spy author John le Carré lives and writes in Cornwall. The Nobel-prizewinning novelist William Golding was born in St Columb Minormarker in 1911, and returned to live near Truromarker from 1985 until his death in 1993. D. H. Lawrence spent a short time living in Cornwall.


The late Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman was famously fond of Cornwall and it featured prominently in his poetry. He is buried in the churchyard at St Enodoc's Church, Trebetherickmarker.Charles Causley, the poet, was born in Launceston and is perhaps the best known of Cornish poets. The Scottish poet W. S. Graham lived in West Cornwall from 1944 until his death in 1986.

The poet Laurence Binyon wrote For the Fallen (first published in 1914) while sitting on the cliffs between Pentire Point and The Rumps and a stone plaque was erected in 2001 to commemorate the fact. The plaque bears the inscription For The Fallen Composed on these cliffs 1914 The plaque also bears the fourth stanza (sometimes referred to as 'The Ode') of the poem:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them

Other literary works

Cornwall produced a substantial number of passion plays such as the Ordinalia during the Middle Ages. Many are still extant, and provide valuable information about the Cornish language. See also Cornish literature

Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch author of many novels and works of literary criticism lived in Fowey: his novels are mainly set in Cornwall. Prolific writer Colin Wilson, best known for his debut work The Outsider (1956) and for The Mind Parasites (1967), lives in Gorran Havenmarker, a little village on the southern Cornish coast, not far from Mevagisseymarker and St Austellmarker. A. L. Rowse, the historian, was born near St. Austell.

Thomas Hardy's drama The Queen of Cornwall (1923) is a version of the Tristan story; the second act of Richard Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde takes place in Cornwall, as do Gilbert and Sullivan's operettas The Pirates of Penzance and Ruddigore. A level of Tomb Raider: Legend, a game dealing with Arthurian Legend, takes place in Cornwall at a tacky museum above King Arthur's tomb.

The fairy tale Jack the Giant Killer takes place in Cornwall.

Sports and games

With its comparatively small, rural population, major contribution by the Cornish to national sport in the United Kingdom has been limited. There are no teams affiliated to the Cornwall County Football Association that play in the Football League of England and Wales, and the Cornwall County Cricket Club plays as one of the minor counties of English cricket. Viewed as an "important identifier of ethnic affliation", rugby union has become a sport strongly tied with notions of Cornishness, and since the 20th century, rugby union in Cornwall has emerged as one of,the most popular spectator and team sports in Cornwall (perhaps the most popular), with professional Cornish rugby footballers being described as a "formidable force", "naturally independent, both in thought and deed, yet paradoxically staunch English patriots whose top players have represented England with pride and passion". In 1985, sports journalist Alan Gibson made a direct connection between love of rugby in Cornwall and the ancient parish games of hurling and wrestling that existed for centuries before rugby officially began. Among Cornwall's native sports are a distinctive form of Celtic wrestling related to Breton wrestling, and Cornish hurling, a kind of mediaeval football played with a silver ball (distinct from Irish Hurling). Cornish Wrestling is Cornwall's oldest sport and as Cornwall's native tradition it has travelled the world to places like Victoria, Australiamarker and Grass Valley, Californiamarker following the miners and gold rushes. Hurling now takes place at St. Columb Majormarker and St Ivesmarker although hurling of a silver ball is part of the beating the bounds ceremony at Bodminmarker every five years.

Surfing and other water sports

Surfers in Cornwall.
Due to its long coastline, various maritime sports are popular in Cornwall, notably sailing and surfing. International events in both are held in Cornwall. Cornwall hosted the Inter-Celtic Watersports Festival in 2006. Surfing in particular is very popular, as locations such as Budemarker and Newquaymarker offer some of the best surf in the UK. Pilot gig rowing has been popular for many years and the World championships takes place annually on the Isles of Scillymarker. On September 2, 2007, 300 surfers arrived at Polzeathmarker beach, Cornwall to set a new world record for the highest number of surfers riding the same wave (as part of the Global Surf Challenge and part of a project called Earthwave to raise awareness about global warming).

Indoor games

Euchre (also known as Five hundred) is a popular card game in Cornwall, it is normally a game for four players consisting of two teams. Its origins are unclear but some claim it is a Cornish game. There are several leagues in Cornwall at present. Whist and pub quizzes are also popular.


Cornwall has a strong culinary heritage. Surrounded on three sides by the sea amid fertile fishing grounds, Cornwall naturally has fresh seafood readily available; Newlynmarker is the largest fishing port in the UK by value of fish landed. Television chef Rick Stein has long operated a fish restaurant in Padstowmarker for this reason, and Jamie Oliver recently chose to open his second restaurant, Fifteen, in Watergate Baymarker near Newquaymarker. Masterchef host and founder of Smiths of Smithfield, John Torode, in 2007 purchased Seiners in Perranporthmarker. One famous local fish dish is Stargazy pie, a fish-based pie in which the heads of the fish stick through the piecrust, as though "star-gazing". The pie is cooked as part of traditional celebrations for Tom Bawcock's Eve.

Cornwall is perhaps best known though for its pasties, a savoury dish made from pastry containing suet. Today's pasties usually contain a filling of beef steak, onion, potato and swede with salt and white pepper, but historically pasties had a variety of different fillings. "Turmut, 'tates and mate" (i.e. Turnip, potatoes and meat) describes a filling once very common. For instance, the licky pasty contained mostly leeks, and the herb pasty contained watercress, parsley, and shallots. Pasties are often locally referred to as oggies. Historically, pasties were also often made with sweet fillings such as jam, apple and blackberry, plums or cherries.The wet climate and relatively poor soil of Cornwall make it unsuitable for growing many arable crops. However, it is ideal for growing the rich grass required for dairying, leading to the production of Cornwall's other famous export, clotted cream. This forms the basis for many local specialities including Cornish fudge and Cornish ice cream. Cornish clotted cream is protected under EU law and cannot be made anywhere else. Its principal manufacturer is Rodda's, based at Scorriermarker.

Local cakes and desserts include Saffron cake, Cornish heavy cake, Cornish fairings biscuits, figgy 'obbin, scones (often served with jam and clotted cream) and whortleberry pie.

There are also many types of beers brewed in Cornwall – those produced by Sharp's Brewery, Skinner's Brewery and St Austell Brewery are the best-known – including stouts, ales and other beer types. There is some small scale production of wine, mead and cider.


Further reading

  • Balchin, W. G. V. (1954) Cornwall: an illustrated essay on the history of the landscape. (The Making of the English Landscape). London: Hodder and Stoughton
  • Boase, George Clement; Courtney, W. P. (1874-1882) Bibliotheca Cornubiensis: a catalogue of the writings, both manuscript and printed, of Cornishmen, and of works relating to the county of Cornwall, with biographical memoranda and copious literary references. 3 vols. London: Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer
  • (illustrated edition Published by Victor Gollancz, London, 1981, ISBN 0-5750-2844-0, photographs by Christian Browning)
  • (Available online on Google Books).
  • (Available online on Digital Book Index)
  • A 2nd edition was published in 2001 by the House of Stratus, Thirsk: the original text new illustrations and an afterword by Halliday's son
  • (Available online on Google Books).
  • Revised edition Cornwall: a history, Fowey: Cornwall Editions Ltd, 2004 ISBN 1-9048-8000-2 (Available online on Google Books).
  • Williams, Michael (ed.) (1973) My Cornwall. St Teath: Bossiney Books (eleven chapters by various hands, including three previously published essays)

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