(with the Isles of Scilly)
Missing image

Status:Ceremonial & (smaller) Administrative County
Region:South West England
- Total
- Admin. council
- Admin. area
Ranked 12th
3,563 km²
Ranked 9th
3,547 km²
Admin HQ:Truro
ISO 3166-2:GB-CON
ONS code:15
- Total (2003 est.)
- Density
- Admin. council
- Admin. pop.
Ranked 40th
144 / km²
Ranked 24th
Ethnicity:99.0% White
Cornwall County Council
Executive:Liberal Democrats
MPs:Julia Goldsworthy, Dan Rogerson, Colin Breed, Andrew George, Matthew Taylor
Missing image

  1. Penwith
  2. Kerrier
  3. Carrick
  4. Restormel
  5. Caradon
  6. North Cornwall
  7. Isles of Scilly (unitary)

Cornwall (Cornish: Kernow or occasionally Curnow) is a county of England, the part of Great Britain's south-west peninsula that is west of the River Tamar, often known as the Cornish peninsula or plateau. The region has a distinctive culture and identity, and some residents speak the Cornish language. Cornwall's motto is "One And All" (Cornish: "Onan Hag Oll"). Many residents think of Cornwall as a separate home nation within the United Kingdom (much like Wales or Scotland), and there is a political movement calling for the legal status to be changed to reflect this.

Cornwall's county town and only city is Truro, situated at Template:Coor dms. 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 Template:Ref.



The modern English name may derive from the Celtic tribe of the Cornovii. [1] ( 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 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 placenames 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; a famous example is Gerardus Mercator's Atlas [2] (

Cornwall 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: East, Kerrier, Lesneweth, Penwith, Powder, Pydar, Stratton, Trigg, and West. The shire suffix has been attached to various of these, notably Powdershire and Triggshire, and East and West appear to be divisions of Wivelshire. The 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.

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Since the decline of tin mining, farming 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 one of the poorest counties in England and it has been granted Objective 1 status by the EU. A political party, Mebyon Kernow, the MK, or 'Sons of Cornwall', has been formed in order to attempt to reassert 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 interesting 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. Campaigners, although happy with this change, expressed reservations about the lack of publicity surrounding the issue, the lack of a clear tick box for a Cornish option on the census and the need to deny being British in order to write Cornish in the "others" box.

In 2004 the schools census in Cornwall carried a Cornish option as a subdivision of white British. This came about after a successful campaign by parent groups and Cornwall 2000.

Additionally within the past few years the Council of Europe has been applying increasing pressure on the UK government to recognise the Cornish for protection under the Council's Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

Physical geography

Missing image
The granite cliffs at Land's End.

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 charactoristic 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 celsius, with slightly lower temperatures on the moors Template:Ref. The county has relatively high rainfall, though less than more northern areas of the west coast, at 1051 to 1290 mm per year Template:Ref. Most of the county enjoys over 1541 hours of sunshine per year Template:Ref.


Missing image
Brown Willy on Bodmin Moor.

Cornwall's population is 513,527, and population density 144 people per square kilometre, ranking the county 40th and 41st respectively compared to 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 Template:Ref. The natural change has been a small population decline, and the population increase is due to imigration into the county Template:Ref.

Cornwall has a relatively high retired population, with 22.9% of pensionable age, compared to 20.3% for the United Kingdom Template:Ref. This may be due to a combination of Cornwall's rural and coastal geography, popular as a retirement location, and due to the emigration of younger residents to more economically diverse areas.


Main article: Cornish language

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, 100-150 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.


Missing image
St Ives harbour.

Parliamentary representation for Cornwall is dominated by the Liberal Democrats. Currently all five of the Cornish MP's are Liberal Democrat. Two of the current MP's -- 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 libdem members. The Liberal Democrats often support moves for devolved agencies and governance to Cornwall.

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 cultural issues.

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 over 50,000 people endorsing the Declaration for a Cornish Assembly. 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 the smallest region of England.


Saint Piran's Flag

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-based company.


Missing image
Minack Theatre, carved from the cliffs.

Main article: Culture of Cornwall

Cornish studies and literary references

The Institute of Cornish Studies, established in 1970, is a branch of the University of Exeter, and now part of the Combined Universities in Cornwall Campus at Tremough, Penryn. Philip Payton, professor Cornish studies, has written a history of Cornwall as well as editing the Cornish studies series, and other academics, including Mark Stoyle of the University of Southampton and John Angarrack of the human rights organisation Cornwall 2000, have also produced work on Cornish culture.

A detailed overview of literature is provided by A. M. Kent's 'The Literature of Cornwall'. It covers everything from Medieval mystery plays to more recent literary works that draw on the Cornish landscape. Notable Cornish writers include Arthur Quiller-Couch alias "Q", the deaf short story writer, Jack Clemo and D M Thomas acclaimed author and poet.

Cornwall also produced a substantial amount of passion plays during the Middle Ages. Many are still extant, and provide valuable information about the Cornish language.

Daphne du Maurier lived in Cornwall and set many of her novels there, including Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, Frenchman's Creek, My Cousin Rachel, and The House on the Strand. She is also noted for writing Vanishing Cornwall. Charles de Lint's novel The Little Country, Winston Graham's series Poldark, Susan Cooper's novels Over Sea, Under Stone and Greenwitch, and Gilbert and Sullivan's musical The Pirates of Penzance are all set in Cornwall.


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 Cornish.

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 religious feeling.

In 2003, a campaign group was formed called Fry an Spyrys (free the spirit in Cornish) [3] ( 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 festival.

Cornish Celtic Music is a relatively large phenomenom 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 night, a dance night more similar to Breton fest noz, and generally a younger audience).

Sports and Games

Cornwall has its own unique form of wrestling related to Breton wrestling.

Cornwall's other national sport is hurling, a kind of medieval football played with a silver ball. Hurling is distinct from Irish Hurling. The sport now takes place in St Columb and St Ives only.

Rugby has a large following in Cornwall. The county team often drawing very large crowds of supporters, dubbed Trelawny's Army. Football and Cricket are played more, with most villages and towns having clubs, but it is Rugby that captures the imagination and when the Cornish rugby team go to play in the county championships everyone in the county takes big notice of the events. If the side reaches the finals at Twickenham Stadium, home of the English Rugby Union, as many as 50,000 Cornishmen (a tenth of the population) go to see the final. The last success was in 1999, when the county side beat Gloucestershire.

Cornwall has produced many fine rugby players which have represented England. Such players as Phil Vickery, Trevor Woodman and Graham Dawe have all represented England, along with Andy Reed who has represented Scotland due to having a Scottish grandparent.

Also, the Cornish rugby team can boast an Olympic silver medal. In 1908, they won the County Championship for the first time, and the prize was to represent England at rugby in the 1908 Olympic Games. They lost to Australia 32-3 in the final, and to this day remain the only county side to represent England at rugby in the Olympics, currently rugby is not a sport at the Olympic games.

Due to its large coastline, various maritime sports are popular in Cornwall, notably sailing, surfing and gig rowing. International events are frequently held in Cornwall. Cornwall will host the Inter Celtic Watersports Festival in 2006 and the Isles of Scilly hosts the World Pilot Gig Championships every year.

Euchre 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.


Cornwall is famous for its pasties (a type of pie), 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.


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Ruin of Cornish tin mine

This is a list of the main towns and cities in the county; for a complete list of settlements see list of places in Cornwall.


Cornwall borders the county of Devon at the River Tamar. Major road links between Cornwall and the rest of England are the A38 which crosses the Tamar at Plymouth via the Tamar Bridge, and the A30 which crosses the border south of Launceston. A car ferry also links Plymouth with the town of Torpoint on the opposite side of the Hamoaze. A rail bridge, the Royal Albert Bridge, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1859) provides the only other major transport link.

Places of interest


The Isles of Scilly have in some periods been served by the same county administration as Cornwall, but are today a separate Unitary Authority. Some secessionists have found the phrase "English Heritage" to be controversial, and in 2003, there has been a general move to replace these signs, and the Tudor Rose with the Cornish flag, after a group started removing them.

See also

External links



  1. Template:Note Office for National Statistics, 2003 Population estimates (
  2. Template:Note Office for National Statistics, 2001. Population Change in England by County 1981-2000 (
  3. Template:Note Office for National Statistics, 2001. Births, Deaths and Natural Change in Cornwall 1974 - 2001 (
  4. Template:Note Office for National Statistics, 1996. % of Population of Pension Age (1996) (
  5. Template:Note Met Office, 2000. Annual average temperature for the United Kingdom (
  6. Template:Note Met Office, 2000. Annual average rainfall for the United Kingdom (
  7. Template:Note Met Office, 2000. Annual average sunshine for the United Kingdom (

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