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There were not many people here in the early Stone Age, but a drift across the land bridge from Europe brought settlers to Cornwall. The first stone tools found date from about 4500BC. There is the remains of a stone age settlement at Carn Brea near Redruth. The name "Cornwall" comes from Cornovii, meaning hill dwellers, and Waelas, meaning strangers. There also exists many burial chambers from this period. Most of these have been damaged by weather or by man.
Around 2500BC a trade started growing in tin and copper to foreign shores. The traders brought Bronze tools and gold ornaments to exchange for the minerals. The remains of such Bronze Age villages can still be seen on Bodmin Moor and the West Penwith Uplands. Excavations have shown these peoples to be well organised, living in villages and practicing farming and metalworking.
Around 1000 BC a near group of warrior like settlers arrived in Cornwall from Europe, these were the Celts. They brought with them knowledge of forging iron into weapons. These Celts are the ancestors of modern Cornwall. They lived in villages, farmed, mined for tin, copper, bronze and iron, smelted and worked the metal. The best known of their Iron Age settlements is at Chysauster, near Penzance. Here the low stone walls, the grinding stones and the fireplaces still remain. Most of their settlements were fortified against attack - hence many were on hilltops or on promontories that could be easily defended. Hence the word "Car" or "Caer" in Cornish place name from the Celtic "ker" meaning fort., and "Dinas" meaning hill.
The Romans landed in Britain in 55BC, but they had very little influence in Cornwall. The last major Roman settlement in the west was at Exeter.The Tamar, the wild moors of Dartmoor, Exmoor and Bodmin Moor, plus the lack of safe ports effectively kept the Romans at bay. And the Roman presence kept other raiders way. The Cornish Celts were left much to themselves.
When the Romans abandoned Britain, Cornwall came under Saxon influence, and following the Norman conquest, the first real integration of Cornwall into Britain took place. The whole of Cornwall was given to William's half brother, Robert. He made his headquarters at Launceston, where he built the castle to enforce his rule. Then for the next few hundred years Cornwall was rule by a succession of relatives of the Norman and Plantagenet kings. The first Duke of Cornwall was Edward, the Black Prince, son of Edward III. Then there was a succession of rebellions through the middle ages. 1497, Perkin Warbeck landed near Sennan , claiming to be one of the Princes murdered in the tower, he was defeated in battle at Exeter. The Prayer Book Rebellion of 1549 against te imposition of the English Prayer book, saw many Cornishmen executed. There was the Spanish invasion at Mounts Bay in 1595.The Civil War between 1642-1649 led to a number of battles and sieges in Cornwall. And in 1685 there was the Monmouth Rebellion with its bloody aftermath.
Georgian & Victorian Age
The invention of the steam engine in the 18th century and its rapid development in the 19th, led to revolutional advances in mining. Engines could pump dry mines at a great depth, they could haul up ore and on the surface could perform many of the jobs that previously had to be done by hand.. The Cornishman, Richard Trevithick, was one of the leaders in steam engine development. Mines were sunk deeper, ports had to be developed to get the ore out, and there was plenty of employment available in the mines. But by the middle of the 19th century vast deposits of tin and copper ore were found abroad, and deep, expense Cornish mines became uncompetitive. Cornish mines started a long downhill decline, and the last mines have now closed.
The permanent legacy is the Cornish communities that prospered in other countries, as many Cornish miners emigrated to take their mining skills to Australia, North and South America and South Africa. In Cornwall all that remains are the ruined engine houses with their massive granite walls and high brick chiminies. Mining has finished, the fish stocks are not what the were, Cornwall has little industry, but it has its scenery and the best climate in Britain. Miles of sandy beaches, coastal walks, open moorland and a benign climate that sees spring arriving early, and autumn lingering longer. Hence tourism is the mainstay of the Cornish economy. As Cornwall tries hard to capitalise on it's geography, it is striving to attract visitors here all year round.