Cornwall (county, England)

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Cornwall (county, England)

Cornwall, county (1991 pop. 469,300), SW England, administratively (since 2009) a unitary authority. Bodmin was the county seat, but the local government is now based in Truro. Cornwall is a peninsula bounded seaward by the English Channel and the Atlantic Ocean and landward by Devon. It terminates in the west with the rugged promontory of Land's End. The region is a low-lying plateau, rising to its greatest height at Brown Willy (1,375 ft/419 m) in Bodmin Moor. The principal rivers are the Tamar, which forms most of the border with Devon, the Fowey, the Fal, and the Camel.

In the lush river valleys are productive vegetable and dairy farms. The uplands are used for sheep and cattle pastures. The climate is mild and moist, with subtropical vegetation along the southern coast. Various types of fish are caught, including pilchard, that are not plentiful elsewhere in Britain. Engineering, ship repairing, rock quarrying, and tourism are major industries. Cornish tin and copper mines were known to ancient Greek traders, and during World War II the old mines were reworked. Cornwall's climate, coastal towns (Penzance, Falmouth, Land's End, and St. Ives), and the romance of its past, interwoven with Arthurian legend and tales of piracy, have made the region popular with tourists.

Cornwall's history has been somewhat distinct from that of the rest of England. The Cornish language, related to the Welsh and Breton tongues, continues to survive, but all Cornish speakers have been bilingual since the 18th cent. The county was organized in the 14th cent. as a duchy. (The monarch's eldest son is the Duke of Cornwall.) Cornwall was slow to accept the Reformation. In 1549 thousands of Cornishmen marched to defend the Roman Catholic Church service. In the 18th cent. the Wesleyan movement took a firm hold in Cornwall, which has remained a predominantly Methodist area.

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