History

Cornish World Timeline

The history of Cornwall and the Cornish people is that of an ancient land interwoven with myth and legend.

Cornwall’s history has been formed by the geological make up of this rugged peninsular that divides the Atlantic Ocean and the English Channel. Prior to the Carboniferous and Devonian periods most of what we know of as Cornwall lay under the sea. During this time a complex mixture of sedimentary material was laid down on the seabed by the geological activity-taking place. Then approximately 300 million years ago, during the late Carboniferous period, two landmasses collided to form what is today Cornwall. These events created a land rich in minerals and hard rock (granite) and these have played a vital role in the forming of the history of the Cornish people.

We can see as we travel around Cornwall the importance that man has attached since prehistoric times to the rocks created by the geological activity. There are many examples of magnificent chambered tombs, stone circles and hut rings where the people of Cornwall have used the stones in religious contexts and for shelter.

Dominating the history of Cornwall however was the discovery of tin in Cornwall. Many students of Cornish history claim that the Phoenicians and Carthagians were the earliest traders to visit Cornwall in search of this vital material. In addition there are many references in the classics to the Tin Isles (Cassiderides) and many suppose these to refer to Cornwall. This may well be true, however a Roman official who visited the Cassiderides in the first century BC made the first recorded mention of the Cornish tin.

His name was Publius Crassus and he stated that the tin was easily available and the natives friendly. He went on to recommend that a trade route be established to Cornwall and that began the commercial exploitation of the mineral resources of Cornwall. This continued until the closure of the last tin mine, South Crofty on 6th. March 1998.

It is somewhat ironic that the house that Richard Trevithick, (the inventor of high-pressure steam engine, the first motorcar ‘Puffing Devil’ and the first train ‘Penydarren engine’), was born in is within sight of the mine.

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