Cornish miners had been migrating in limited numbers from Cornwall to other parts of the UK from the early 1700s. In particular, their skill was to be increasinly in demand in the mining regions of Wales, northern England and Ireland over the next 200 years. Today there are communities across the UK and Ireland which retain clear signs of a Cornish presence.
Cornish miners were involved in the metal mines of Wales. One of these was the Llywernog Mine which was leased in 1825 to the Williams family of Scorrier House in Gwennap. This began a long association between the mining districts of Cardiganshire and Cornwall that continued through to the 1900s. As Cornish continued to migrate to Wales, they took with them their beliefs and culture, building Methodist chapels in the mining villages. They also introduced aspects of their regional vernacular to Welsh mining communities, calling mine managers ‘captains’ and the mine accountant a ‘purser’.
In the early 1800s, some Cornish mine workers migrated to West Cork to mine for copper, where they again left their cultural mark on the landscape. Notably, in the staunchly Roman Catholic area of Allihies on the Beara Peninsula, there stands a Baptist Chapel that was patronised by Cornish settlers in the area. The building is now home to the Allihies Copper Mine Museum.
Rest of the UK
Skilled Cornish mine workers had been migrating from Cornwall to other parts of the UK from the early 1700s. Their skill was to be in increasing demand in the mining regions of Wales, northern England and Ireland particularly, over the following 200 years.
Cornish miners were drawn to other areas of Britain, particularly the North East where their skills could be put to good use in the coal mines. There is a concentration of Cornish surnames around the area of Teesside which persists to this day. Another area where Cornish miners settled was Roose in Cumbria, where iron mining was the draw. In 1881, 70% of the population of Roose had Cornish birthplaces.
The Cornish also settled in Spain, particularly in the lead mining area of Linares, Andalucia. This area is unique in Spain due to the multitude of Cornish engine houses and chimneys that nod to the influence of Cornish technology here.
In the 1870s and 1880s, New Zealand had an immigration drive to bring skilled labour into the country. As the Cornish had built a reputation as hard workers who were also suitable to colonial life, as demonstrated by their successful settlement in South Australia.
Could you be Cornish?
Due to the expansive migration of Cornish mine workers throughout the 19th century, a large number of people from around the world have Cornish ancestry. Please visit one of the following websites if you would like to find out if you might have Cornish roots: