Cornwall’s First Golden Age by Bernard Deacon


The latest book by Bernard Deacon does as its blurb describes and ‘gives us a ground-breaking interpretation of the history of Cornwall between the departure of the Romans and the arrival of the Normans’.

During the introduction, Deacon explains that he ‘became increasingly surprised and not a little irritated that no-one had bothered to write an up-to-date or convincing narrative history of medieval Cornwall’ and to make sense of an age that no longer warrants the description of ‘dark’. He arrives at conclusions that echo those reached by John Angarrack and that ‘the central point about anglocentric historians’ attitude to early medieval Cornwall stands’. He also highlights the ‘failure to assimilate the Cornish culturally ultimately meant that they were never entirely assimilated politically’.

The Cornish language is now recognised and Cornish ethnicity finally afforded recognition by the UK Government. It can only be hoped that this recognition will see the Cornish become even less ‘culturally and politically’ assimilated; maybe even to the extent of their bringing recognition to Cornwall itself, rather than remain under an English administration and ‘county’ status.

This book is recommended reading for all those with an interest in this period of Cornish history, especially the Cornish themselves who, due to an assimilating anglocentric school curriculum, would remain ignorant of their ancestors’ progression during a period in Cornwall that may no longer be described as the ‘dark age’.

Cornwall’s First Golden Age
by Bernard Deacon

Available at Francis Boutle Publishers

Kernow/Cornwall: A country in its own right

Country –  definition: A territory distinguished by its people, history and language.

Kernow/Cornwall is such a territory, but became the victim of English ‘mission creep’.


The arrival of the first Celtics in Britain was between c1000 – 600 BC and according to some scholars, possibly as early as 2000 BC.

South west Britain was inhabited by a celtc tribe known as the Dumnonii, who held the area for centuries.  The later occupation of Britain by Rome (circa 45 AD) had little presence west of the Tamar and therefore little influence.

The emergence of territorial Dumnonii sub-groupings, and what is now Cornwall, is identified by its Late British name, Cornouia, the land of the Cornovii. The Welsh describe a succession of Dumnonian Kings through the 9th century, and a 10th century memorial to King Ricatus that today stands in the grounds of Penlee House, Penzance, Cornwall.

At this stage, Cornouia has become Cornubia (Latin), the Cernyw (Welsh) and the Kernow (Cornish) with the language of Dumnonia evolving into what becomes Cornish.

The departure of the Roman legions from Britain sees the arrival of the invading tribes from Angeln and Saxony (c500 AD), from which the English identity eventually evolved, to the shores of eastern Britain.

As the centuries pass, we see the Anglo-Saxon’s continuing advances into west Britain and in c577 AD, a battle of Deorham Down near Bristol, effectively divides what the Anglo-Saxons referred too as the ‘West Welsh’ (the Cornish) from the Welsh.  (‘Welsh’ or ‘wealhas’ being the Saxon word for stranger or foreigner.) Cornish historian, Craig Weatherhill (Cornish Place Names & Language) has the modern name, Cornwall, first recorded as Cornwalas in 891.

Weatherhill explains that, despite claims by some history books that Cornwall was conquered by the English King Ecgbert, in fact the English neither conquered nor subjugated it.

Although Ecgbert crossed the Tamar to “face a combined Cornish – Viking army that resulted in victory for Ecgbert, he could not follow it up with outright conquest. Renewed Viking activity on Britain’s east coast called his forces away from Cornwall and within a year Ecgbert was dead. This was the last known battle on Cornish soil between Cornwall and the English.”

Cornish independent spirit

The Kernewek/Cornish language that hundreds of Cornish people died to preserve, is also reflected in Cornish place-names (over 80%) that are derived from the same Cornish language (its development suppressed, which enabled its decline by the imposition of an English Language Prayer Book in 1549) which is now officially recognised.

Even further testament to the proud, independent spirit that overcame the centuries of attempted assimilaiton, this Cornish nation, these people bound by a common descent, language and history, have retained their identity which has also become officially recognised.

But it’s not over.  Cornwall has little influence in how it is governed.  Policies made in Westminster, carried out by Cornwall Council, ensures Cornwall remains relegated to the backyard of someone else’s region.

Policies such as the National Planning  Policy Framework (NPPF) allows Cornwall to be at the mercy of developers who have been given the right to build in numbers to suit MORE inward migration, rather than the natural progression of the Cornish population, which will effectively dilute the very Cornish identity the UK Government recognised.

Dr Bernard Deacon:

“ . . . as Cornwall is subjected to a process of de-Cornishization, its communities re-engineered and its countryside ransacked in the drive for profit, a growing number of voices are being raised in protest. Change is in the air, anger mounts. The issue now becomes the best strategy for the future for those who have concluded that we cannot afford to continue this insane and unsustainable growth project. How might we channel the righteous anger of the people at what is going on around them into effective action?”

Cornish votes for Cornish laws

The Cornish spirit that has served so well down the centuries must now reassert itself – onen hag oll.

Craig Weatherhill:

“The councillors and officers who claim to represent Cornish residents need to have it hammered home to them that, if they do not change tack, show real courage and leadership for the good of Cornwall, and not for the good of developers, then history will revile them for all time. They will become pariahs, their names a hissing in the street, their reputations – like the duchy itself – ruined forever”.


Cornwall Council and its ‘Case for Cornwall’ aimed at delivering  devolution to Cornwall,  (already being treated with disdain) and the Cornish, after the centuries of fighting assimilation, must not now allow themselves to remain the puppets of Westminster and demands should be made similar to the call for ‘English votes for English laws’.  In Cornwall, that would become ’Cornish votes for Cornish laws.’

Cornwall Council must ensure that a minority group shouldn’t be allowed to suffer at the expense of the majority, which is why the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities came into being,  and why the UK government applied its signature in recognition of Cornish identity.  After all, what’s the point of recognising the Cornish minority only to reduce that minority even further?

Related resources:

Kernow Bys Vyken! – Cornwall Forever!
Cornish History Timeline
Cornish Place Names and Language
The Cornish Language Partnership
Cornwall: A developers’ paradise? Don’t moan, organise 1: the problem re-stated
‘Stand up for Cornwall’ a spectacular flop
Our Future is History
Cornwall Information: What makes Cornwall unique
Cornwall Information: The Anglo-Cornish War of June – August 1549

April 2014: UK Government finally recognises Cornish ethnicity

Despite the UK Government blocking previous attempts by the Cornish, the UK Government finally recognised Cornish ethnicity in April 2014 by its inclusion within the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM)

The Cornish and Welsh are the oldest peoples on this island and as a proud Welshman I look forward to seeing St Piran’s Flag flying

What is the FCNM?

The Framework Convention is a legally binding instrument under international law, the word “Framework” highlights the scope for member states to translate the Convention’s provisions to their specific country situation through national legislation and appropriate governmental policies.

Communities Minister Stephen Williams said: “This is a great day for the people of Cornwall who have long campaigned for the distinctiveness and identity of the Cornish people to be recognised officially. The Cornish and Welsh are the oldest peoples on this island and as a proud Welshman I look forward to seeing St Piran’s Flag flying with extra Celtic pride on5 March next year.” It means that Cornish people will be afforded the same protections as the Welsh, Scottish and the Irish; with government departments and public bodies required to take Cornwall’s views into account when making decisions.

Market Jew Street Pensans





What commitments do states undertake when they ratify the FCNM?

The Framework Convention sets out principles to be respected as well as goals to be achieved by the states, in order to ensure the protection of national minorities, in this case the Cornish people. Parties to the Framework Convention undertake to promote full and effective equality of persons belonging to minorities in all areas of economic, social, political, public and cultural life together with conditions that will allow them to express, preserve and develop their culture, religion, language and traditions. They have to ensure their freedom of assembly, association, expression, thought, conscience, religion and their access to and use of media. The Convention also provides guidelines for their linguistic freedom and rights regarding education.