Musings of Marrak

On Crossing the Tamar into Cornwall

To many people who cross the Tamar into Cornwall, the sense of having moved out of England into another land is immediately apparent as they catch sight of signposts and nameboards at the roadside. To a very large extent, the familiar Ango-Saxon place-names like Hendon, Appleby, Millvale and so on, abruptly vanish, or take a back seat, to thoroughly unfamiliar ones like those listed above. Just as perplexing to many are the roadsigns at the Tamar crossings, which declare they are now in Cornwall, Kernow.

On William Scawen and the Decline of Cornish

In 1680, Wm Scawen write of the further decline of the Cornish language, citing several reasons for it, not least the shocking events of 1549, and the shameful attitude of several members of the Cornish gentry, who were all too ready to denigrate the language to the level of a peasant tongue in order to further ingratiate themselves with high society and influential people in London. Not all were so prejudiced. Scawen himself had been Vice-Warden of the Stannaries, in effect, the Duchy’s Chief Justice, and the High Sherriff of Cornwall. His account urged Cornish speakers and enthusiasts to start putting pen to paper, and the result of his idea was immediate. Writers of Cornish appeared immediately and for a further next 50 years produced an astonishing amount of material between them.

On Place Names in the Standard Written Form of Cornish

A Cautionary Note: One major source of place-name history is the pair of unpublished manuscripts, “The Place-Names of Cornwall”, compiled in 1948 by J.E.B. Gover; these being lodged at the Royal Institution of Cornwall, River Street, Truro. This valuable work has been relied upon by many over several decades.

However, Dr O.J. Padel has been at considerable pains to point out that the Gover manuscripts are replete with error, with some historical forms attributed to wrong locations and, therefore, Gover can no longer be regarded as reliable. The task of checking each of Gover’s entries against his cited sources is a mammoth one which Dr Padel himself has now undertaken with a view to producing a corrected edition. This work is likely to take several months, if not longer and, with this in mind, several names in the appended list might need to be reviewed in the future.