Vol. 48 No. 3 (2000)
Research Article

The Saints Come Marching In: Saints' Names in the Toponymy of Cornwall

Published 2000-12-01



Cornwall, virtually cut off from the rest of Britain until the end of the eighteenth century, about the time the last native speaker of Cornish died, offers a rich storehouse of still extant placename oddities. Here I survey one aspect of that toponymy: the names of saints on the map of Cornwall. All saints’ names connect the existing placenames with the religion and folklore of the earlier days and underline the heritage which the modern Cornish have for a century been trying to recapture with the revival of the ancient language. The ancestors of the Cornish were driven westward by Anglo-Saxons in AD 500. In what is now Cornwall, the language became Cornish. Cornwall and Brittany share certain early saints, some originally from Ireland, some antedating Anglo-Saxon Christianity, and some with their names on the land in both Cornwall and Brittany. This paper is meant to underline the need in toponymic study to review the historic, linguistic and folkloric concerns, not just the geographic.


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