Cornwall has a rich and fascinating history, capturing the imagination of many writers and artists over the years. It’s also one of the reasons why the county is such a hit with tourists as thousands flock down to visit our abundance of museums and historical sites.
We hear a lot about the Duchy’s holiday hotspots but us locals know that they are just the tip of the iceberg. There are also a host of villages in Cornwall that ooze history and are just waiting to be explored – if you know where to look.
From the village that once homed Cornwall’s first cathedral to the village named after Pocahontas, there’s some fascinating tales behind some of the county’s less popular tourist haunts.
This village is perched on the eastern edge of Bodmin Moor, and has retained its historic charm and character. Arguably one of the prettiest inland villages in Cornwall, Altarnun boasts quaint granite dwellings and is surrounded by picturesque farmland.
A packhorse bridge spans Penpont Water, a tributary of the River Inny, and leads to the Grade I listed Church of St Nonna, also known as the Cathedral of the Moors, from which the village takes its name. The parish itself is the largest in the county, covering 15,014 acres.
Indian Queens is a roadside village just north of Fraddon along the busy stretch of A30, near “Hamburger Hill.” The village is steeped in history, starting with its unusual name. There are several theories about the origin of the name Indian Queens, the most popular being that Pocahontas stayed there on her way from Falmouth to London.
Pocahontas was the youngest daughter of Powhatan, the chief of the Native American tribes who lived along the Virginia coast in the early seventeenth century.
The village also has a strong Methodist traditional, which is particularly reflected in the Indian Queens Pit, built by villagers in 1850. The amphitheater was constructed on top of disused open mine workings but had a relatively short life as an open-air church.
It is now protected as a Scheduled Monument and continues to be a living monument at the very heart of its local community. It is looked after by the Indian Queens Pit charity, which also promotes numerous events at the site including fetes, concerts and plays.
Located in southeast Cornwall, this village is home to St Germanus, a Grade 1 listed Norman priory church, which was built in the early 1200s as part of an Augustinian Priory, on the site of the county’s first cathedral. St Germans boasts pretty views over the River Lynher and has picturesque walking trails nearby.
It is perhaps most well-known for its stately home, Port Eliot, which has been lived in for over 1,000 years and have the rare distinction of both being awarded Grade 1 status. It is believed to be the oldest continually inhabited dwelling in the UK and full of the accumulated treasures of such a long history.
In recent years, Port Eliot estate hosted the popular arts and music festival of the same name and will soon host the new series of events, Tunes in the Park, which will bring major international music acts to Cornwall.
Situated in a valley on the edge of Bodmin Moor, St Neot is arguably one of south Cornwall’s prettiest villages. The road through the village was once the main route from Bodmin to Liskeard before the construction of the A38 along the Fowey valley.
A medieval stone church is the focal point of the village with its well-preserved stained-glass windows which are at least 500 years old. The church has the most complete set of medieval stained glass windows anywhere in England.
There were several mines around St. Neot mainly for tin and copper. All had fluctuating fortunes and none were in production for a long period of time. It is said that when the mines in west Cornwall were suffering from ill fortunes, some miners came to St. Neot hoping for better luck. There was quite a population shift from west to east in the mid-nineteenth century.
Veryan is an idyllic and postcard-pretty village, located on the Roseland Peninsula. It is perhaps most famous for its five iconic roundhouses – four thatched and one slate-roofed, built by Parson Jeremiah Twist between 1815 and 1818 as lodges for his own estate and adapted from a plan for laborers’ cottages.
Legend has it they were constructed without any corners, so the devil couldn’t hide in them. These cottages and the many other thatched cottages across Veryan, give the real sense of classic English charm.
Veryan church also has what is believed to be the longest grave in the UK. On February 1, 1914 the Hera, a German cargo ship, was shipwrecked at Gull rock, a quarter mile off Nare Head. The bodies of fifteen of the nineteen sailors who died that night are buried head to foot in Veryan graveyard.
Opposite the church lies the Well of St Symphorian, which like the church, also dates back to the thirteenth century. Restored in 1912, the well is now Grade 2 listed.