Cornwall has a rich, interesting, but much forgotten, history.
In September I was inspired to draw Cornish images.
I like to research and understand what I draw as it helps me be more accurate.
Now that I’ve learned all those things, I thought you might enjoy knowing a snippet of history too.
(Artist note: I am building this web site myself and the images don’t always appear accurately. Please click on a button to go to the Shop and see the correct proportions of the stamps. Thank you)
Cornish Fun Facts
• Kernow is the native language name for Cornwall
• The Cornish language is of the same linguistic branch as Welsh and Breton but different
• The Kernowyon people are a Celtic group that pre-date Roman invasion
• Pheonicians sailed to Cornwall 5000 years ago to acquire copper and tin for forging bronze weapons
• Cornish mining has existed continuously until 2007, yet one mine may be opened again. Cornwall mined many different metals.
• Stone Wheal House (Cornish spelling not a typo) ruins of the old mines can still be seen
• Cornwall is famous for its Pasty (The Cornish never spell it pastie) a fully enclosed pie that was easy for miners to carry to work and eat
• The Cornish Saint Piran’s Flag is a white cross on a black background, and was integrated into the design of the Union Jack of the United Kingdom.
• Saint Piran is the patron saint of tin miners
• Cornwall is now famous for the TV programs Poldark and Doc Martin, especially Port Isaac and Bodmin Moor, yet The Pirates of Penzance pre-dates those
• King Arthur was said to be born in Tintagel Castle, and Camelot was in Cornwall
• It is one of the 7 Celtic nations: Brittany (Breizh), Cornwall (Kernow), Wales (Cymru), Scotland (Alba), Ireland (Éire) and the Isle of Man (Mannin or Ellan Vannin), and Galicia in Spain. Some might include the diaspora of the Celtic nations: USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc.
The Cornish never spell their pie ‘pastie.’ This was the miners only lunch away from home. There were no bags, containers, refrigeration, ovens, break rooms, or eating implements in the mine. Women made a strong pastry, with a tight edge, to enclose meat and vegetables into a baked pie. The men would keep the pie inside their shirt next to their skin, while they worked, so it would be with them wherever they were, and warm at lunchtime. (I imagine it also had an unique salty, sweaty taste, too.)
Cousin Jack is the friendly, generic name to address a miner.
Candles were the source of illumination in the mines until the early 20th century. The hat helmet is felt. A wad of sticky pine tar holds the candle to the hat. The miner wears a “necklace” of the candles he will need to get through the day. The brim of the hat collects the dripping wax.
I drew this image from photos of Wheal Coates engine house and stack. The engine powered a huge wooden wheel that lowered miners and raised ore from the mine shaft. Stonework is all that’s left of these industrial complexes. However Wheal Trewavas is being restored by the National Trust. It is perched on a cliff in SW Cornwall, and the Project Manager is amazed that men could have built it 150 years ago without modern equipment since they are finding it especially challenging.
Mên-An-Tol (Holed Stone)
This stone arrangement is believed to be about 3,500 years old and of the Bronze Age. There may have been a full stone circle associated with it, since stones are detected underground in a circle around it.
Historians can only conjecture as to its significance, so I will leave you to investigate that further. What I do know is that the ancients lived with, and connected to, nature in every way. To carve a stone like this took a massive amount of effort, which means they believed it would help them connect with nature even more, whether it was health, fertility, spiritual, something else, or all of the above. Visually speaking, it is totally cool.
Tartan of Cornwall
Each colour in the National Tartan has a special meaning: White on Black for St. Piran’s Banner (The Patron Saint of Tinners), Black and Gold were the colours of the ancient Cornish kings; red is for the beak and legs of the Chough, the Cornish National bird and blue is for the sea surrounding Cornwall. The ancient kingdom of Cornwall is remembered in this tartan, designed by the Cornish poet, E.E. Morton-Nance. 1984 . He regarded tartan as the “heritage of all Celts” and extoll brave Cornishmen to wear the kilt of black and saffron, “Tints blazoned by her ancient Kings”.