I'll do it dreckly me 'andsome.
Ahh, Cornwall. Or Kernow in Cornish. A small county at the south-western tip of The West Country, but also so much more than that.
With its only land border consisting mainly of a river (the Tamar), Cornwall's boundaries have remained unchanged for over a thousand years. It has a distinctly Celtic heritage, making it closer to Wales and Brittany (which has a sub-division called Cornouaille) in historical and cultural terms than the rest of England.
Cornwall is known for sunshine (which comes as a surprise to its inhabitants), stunning coastal scenery, tin mining, fishing, surfing, farming, great beaches, Cornish pasties, wrecking, holidays (for people who live elsewhere in the UK), cider, smuggling, clotted cream, mining, granite, putting jam first on scones when having a cream tea, King Arthur, Cornish pasties, fishing, mining, farming, the Eden Project, a long-standing rivalry with Devon, farmers driving tractors on main roads, the Beast of Bodmin Moor, surfing, its own language that went extinct around 1777 but is currently undergoing a revival, mining, fishing, farming, Cornish pasties and a dialect that is nigh-indeciperable to anyone from 'up country', otherwise known as England. Large stretches of the coastline, as well as Bodmin Moor, are protected as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
With tin mining gone, fishing in decline and farming on wobbly territory, Cornwall thrives mostly on tourism and tourists, known locally as "emmets" note . In fact, Cornwall is one of only four areas in the UK eligible for EU 'Objective One' funding: money given to poverty-stricken areas note . Ironically, in the June 23 2016 Brexit referendum, Cornwall voted to leave the EU by 56.5%, but then got desperate to keep the funding.
Cornwall has its own flag, the Cross of St Piran (white cross on a black background). It's widely flown west of the Tamar and is available on badges, bumper stickers, etc. From around 2002 onwards, knowledge of this elsewhere has led to most other English counties adopting or promoting their own flags.
Cornwall has an ongoing rivalry with Devon, its neighbour across the Tamar and the only other county with which it shares a border. To outsiders (especially those not from the rest of the UK), the whole "cream or jam first" debate may seem tame, but this is serious stuff note . To add fuel to the fire, a few years ago historians claimed to have found evidence of pasties being made in Devon mining villages before the earliest known making of them in Cornwall, to the indignation of the Cornish who claimed that this was cultural appropriation note . Since 2011, the Cornish pasty actually has Protected Geographic Indication (PGI) status; if it's not made in Cornwall, you can't call it a Cornish pasty. The trade organisation which defines what a Cornish pasty is is the Cornish Pasty Association, sometimes humourously (or perhaps semi-seriously) referred to as the "pasty police".
Cornish nationalists, relatively few in number and limited in actual political support, are fanatically proud of their Celtic heritage. Some of the more extreme nationalists occasionally burn down holiday homes, like their brethren in Wales, while the very concept of Cornish nationalism tends to be regarded as absolutely ridiculous (and hilarious) by anyone not from Cornwall. In any event, nationalists will insist Cornwall is a separate country or constituent - with England but not of it. Largely because it should be. Who says Wales gets all the fun?
Famous people from (or strongly associated with) Cornwall include the following:
- The Duchy of Cornwall is the oldest dukedom in England, dating back to 1337. The title of Duke of Cornwall is held by the eldest legitimate son of the British monarch - but only if they are next in line of succession to the throne. Hence, Prince William is the present Duke of Cornwall among his other titles.
- King Charles I offered to elevate Cornwall to a kingdom during the English Civil War in return for support from that county, which was a Royalist stronghold. Though this didn't happen, up until the Great Reform Act of 1832 Cornwall was ridiculously over-represented in Parliament due to a corrupt practice of enfranchising boroughs where hardly anyone lived.
- Michael Adams, Britain's current #1 chess player, was born and brought up in Cornwall.
- King Arthur, in some versions of Arthurian Legend. According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Arthur's mother Igraine was wife to Gorlois Duke of Cornwall. She was bedded by the disguised Uther Pendragon at Tintagel, the result being Arthur. Camelford has been suggested as a possible location for Camelot, while nearby Slaughterbridge has been suggested as the site of Camlann; an inscribed memorial stone dating from the sixth century at the latter is popularly known as "King Arthur's Stone" note .
- Tom Bawcock - the legendary fisherman who saved the village of Mousehole from famine by going out to fish in a heavy storm. To this day, Mousehole commemorates Tom Bawcock's Eve every 23rd December - an event with which stargazy pie is indelibly associated. The children's story The Mousehole Cat by Antonia Barber is based on this legend.
- The London-born poet Sir John Betjeman enjoyed family holidays in Cornwall as a child and moved there in later life, taking inspiration from the churches and the landscape. He died there, and is buried at St Enodoc's Church in Trebetherick.
- Rowena Cade, creator of the cliff-top Minack Theatre.
- Ana Coppola from Strawberry Marshmallow is originally from Cornwall.
- Richard of Cornwall - younger son of King John. His fascination with Arthurian Legend (the result of reading Geoffrey of Monmouth at an impressionable age) led him to build a castle at Tintagel despite it being of no strategic value note . The castle was built in a notably old-fashioned style for the time (the 1230s) to make it appear more ancient.
- Sir Humphrey Davy, chemist and inventor.
- Daphne du Maurier, author of Rebecca and many other works, was born in London but lived in Cornwall for much of her life and drew great inspiration from the area.
- The Fisherman's Friends are a folk group from Port Isaac who specialise in sea shanties. They've recorded several albums - one of which got into the top ten in the British album charts - and had a movie made about them in 2019.
- Dawn French, of French and Saunders and The Vicar of Dibley fame, has lived in Cornwall for many years.
- William Golding, author of Lord of the Flies, was born in Newquay.
- The sculptor Barbara Hepworth was one of several artists who settled in St Ives during the twentieth century; along with the likes of Peter Lanyon and Ben Nicholson (her second husband), she was a founder and leading member of the abstract Penwith Society of Arts.
- Cinque Izumi from Dog Days is half-Japanese and half-Cornish.
- Richard D. James, prolific electronic musician. Has referred to Cornwall, its landmarks, and its dialect in several songs.
- Jesus. According to legend, He visited Cornwall (and Glastonbury, which is in Somerset) during His youth. The legends say that He did so in the company of Joseph of Arimathea, to whom He was related (on His mother's side, obviously) — Joseph being a tin merchant who had trading connections with Cornwall. These legends inspired William Blake to write the poem "And did those feet in ancient time", the basis for the hymn "Jerusalem".
- Jethro, a stand-up comedian, known for his politically incorrect jokes. His actual name is Geoff Rowe.
- King Mark is the best-known of Cornwall's kings during the Dark Ages. He's the cuckolded husband in the Tristan and Iseult legend.
- Rory McGrath, comedian born and raised in Redruth, best known for appearing in They Think It's All Over.
- Robert Newton, the actor who started the whole Talk Like a Pirate thing with his portrayal of Long John Silver in Treasure Island. For that, he used an exaggeration of his natural West Country accent (he was in fact born in Dorset but was raised in Lamorna, not far from Penzance).
- St Piran - Cornwall's patron saint was one of many holy people who settled in Cornwall during the Dark Ages. According to legend, he was thrown off a cliff in his native Ireland tied to a millstone - but rather than sinking, he floated across the sea to Cornwall.
- Rick Rescorla, the hero of 9/11 who died when the South Tower collapsed (having gone back into the building to help get more people out after successfully evacuating over 2,000 people), was born in Hayle.
- Although he's actually from Oxfordshire, celebrity chef Rick Stein has lived in Cornwall for many years and owns several restaurants (ranging from the high-end Seafood Restaurant to a fish & chip shop) in the fishing town of Padstow, which is sometimes nicknamed "Padstein" due to his impact on the local economy. He explores Cornwall at length in his 2021 travelogue Rick Stein's Cornwall which, in a notable inversion of British Brevity, runs to 30 episodes over two series.
- Richard Trevithick, the first person to build a moving steam-powered locomotive. The folk song "Camborne Hill" celebrates the first journey made by this vehicle, known as the Puffing Devil, on Christmas Eve 1801.
- Brenda Wootton, the poet and folk singer best remembered for her renditions of traditional Cornish songs like "Camborne Hill", "Lamorna" and "Pasties and Cream", was actually born in London (to Cornish-born parents who had temporarily moved there to find work) but grew up in Newlyn. She was active in the Cornish folk music scene from the early 1960s until her death in 1994.
Media based in Cornwall:
- Arthur Christmas is set in Cornwall. (Specifically Mylor, a civil parish near Falmouth)
- Barrow Hill
- The protagonist of Alexander Kent's Bolitho novels is from Falmouth.
- The Camomile Lawn focuses on holidays in Cornwall before and after World War II.
- Given Daphne du Maurier's links with Cornwall, it's not surprising that many of her stories are set there:
- Her short story The Birds is set in Cornwall. Of course, it's been eclipsed by the better-known Film of the Book by Alfred Hitchcock, who moved it to California.
- Frenchman's Creek is set during the reign of Charles II and follows the love story of a noble English lady and a French pirate who is terrorizing the Cornish coast.
- Jamaica Inn takes place in Cornwall and is mainly about wreckers - people tricking ships to wreak themselves on the shores of Cornwall so that they can steal their cargo. The actual Jamaica Inn (where Daphne stayed in 1930) is located in the village of Bolventor, just off the A30 (it used to be on the A30 until the bypass was built in the 1980s).
- In Rebecca, Manderley (Max de Winter's manor house) is in Cornwall. It's based on Menabilly, the house in which Daphne lived near Fowey.
- Doc Martin is set in a small fishing village - it's called Portwenn in the show but is actually Port Isaac, which benefitted from a Tourist Bump thanks to the show.
- Echo Beach, a short running Soap Opera set in the fictional Cornish village "Polnarren".
- Fisherman's Friends, the movie about the singing group, was filmed in and around Port Isaac, which is where they're from.
- Harvest Home is set in Connecticut in the U.S., but it is based in a Cornish settlement, with names such as Tamar and other Cornish words popular among the townspeople, who still speak with Cornish accents.
- Inspector Lynley, also the 8th Earl of Asherton, has the family seat, Howenstowe, in Cornwall, and thus grew up there. He and partner Barbara Havers visit the Lynleys in a couple of episodes, only to get tangled up in a local mystery each time.
- Jack the Giant Killer: The eponymous Jack is Cornish and he outwits and kills giants.
- King Lear takes place in Britain, with the kingdom divided between his daughters Goneril and Regan, whose husbands are the Dukes of Cornwall and Albany. Most of Cornwall's scenes actually take place in Gloucester, which is located over a hundred miles north-east of modern Cornwall.
- The Plague of the Zombies a Hammer Horror Film set in a Cornish village.
- Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance is based in Cornwall and features Cornish characters.
- The Pale Horseman, the second novel in Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Stories, has the Saxon protagonist Uhtred briefly visit Cornwall and get entangled in the local politics.
- Peril at End House, one of Agatha Christie's Poirot novels, is set in the fictional Cornish resort of St. Loo.
- Poldark and the novels on which it's based are set in Cornwall. The author, Winston Graham, lived in Cornwall for many years. The 2015-19 series saw Cornwall benefit from a notable Tourist Bump, with postcards depicting Aidan Turner proving to be particularly popular!
- The 2000 comedy film Saving Grace starring Brenda Blethyn and Craig Ferguson is set in Cornwall and was primarily filmed in and around the village of Port Isaac and surrounding Cornish coast. It's very much the Spiritual Predecessor to Doc Martin - Martin Clunes played a doctor called Martin in it.
- Straw Dogs is set in Cornwall; most of the outdoor scenes were shot near St Buryan.
- The titular hero of the Cormoran Strike Novels was partly raised in Cornwall and has a deep attachment to it; he's even named after a giant from Cornish folklore.
- Although Jim Hawkins is the son of a Bristol innkeeper (and therefore most definitely not Cornish), Treasure Island does have a few hints of Cornwall, and not just because of Robert Newton's accent in the film. Squire Trelawney is named for an old Cornish family note and one of his servants, Redruth, is named for a Cornish town. Also, at the time when Robert Louis Stevenson was writing it, the only pub in England called the Admiral Benbow was the one in Penzance.
- Wild West a Dawn French sitcom featuring "quirky" characters.
- Wycliffe, another TV drama series filmed in Cornwall. It was 1990s detective drama, based on the characters created by W.J. Burley who was Cornish himself.