Some more Cornish Connections

With the G7 leaders coming to Cornwall in June 2021, we have been researching links between Cornwall and the countries represented.

Here's a few more interesting stories..

The Chynoweth League

While the Chynoweth name will be most familiar in Cornwall as the name of a family within the Poldark series, the Cornish surname – literally meaning ‘new house’ – has also given rise to a family powerhouse within the hockey world.

Ed Chynoweth acted as the president for one and then both of the Western and Canadian Ice Hockey Leagues over the course of 23 years, widely regarded as a pioneer of the modern game. His sons have since gone on to have successful careers in their father’s field, with Dean Chynoweth having coached such teams as the Carolina Hurricanes and the Seattle Thunderbirds while Jeff Chynoweth has managed the Calgary Hitmen.

The Ed Chynoweth Trophy and the Ed Chynoweth Cup have both been named in the elder Chynoweth’s honour, a Cornish heritage engraved forevermore.

Pot Luck

From the site of an old cowshed, two potters would produce art in beautiful contrast to their humble surroundings. Born in Kawasaki and trained in ceramics at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, a young Shōji Hamada would stumble upon a Toyo exhibition that would encourage him enough to write a letter to the artist; that chance encounter would carve out a friendship that would eventually see Hamada move to the other side of the world with the letter’s recipient, Bernard Leach.

Leach himself had spent a good portion of his childhood in Kyoto, and when studying in London he would read Japanese legends that would inspire him to return to the country. This was a move that would shape his career, first engaging with ceramics through raku ware – a traditional cupped bowl for tea ceremonies.

Hamada and Leach would form their pottery in St Ives, invited by a member of its blossoming art community. Their work would fuse Eastern and Western influences; moulded by their experiences in Japan and Leach’s London art education, the very first noborigama kiln constructed in the West would complete their own take on Japanese and English slipware whilst set against a Cornish backdrop.

With earthenware clay from St Erth, bricks from Hayle and timber from Carbis Bay, the Leach Pottery would become internationally renowned and is still operated today alongside its museum and gallery. While Hamada would later return to Japan, Leach would remain in St Ives throughout his life; ever fusing cultures together, Leach would serve tea for a shilling in his raku pots with a side of Cornish saffron buns.

Lobb’s Exotica

“In a tree that you can’t climb, there are always a thousand fruits.”

If Thomas Lobb was to hear that Indian Proverb, he would not be deterred; no jungle, mountain or cumbersome tree would ever stop the determined botanist from studying the thousand fruits, identifying them, describing them, collecting them.

Whilst his brother, William, would explore the Americas, Thomas Lobb would spend much of his career in the wilds of Asia and would be described as “the most exasperating of collectors, who never seemed to stay long in one place but hopped with a flea-like agility from one end of the map to the other in his quest for plants.” The brothers from Devoran would be two of the first plant collectors to perform a global hunt.

Thomas Lobb would plunge into leech-infested forests without as much as a second thought, bringing the rarest of beauties back to Britain such as the blue orchid of the Khasi Hills in Northern India, with its white petals basked like starfish to reveal a deep blue droplet in the middle.

Thomas Lobb’s intrepid adventures would one day catch up with him, suffering a leg injury on an expedition in the Philippines that resulted in an amputation. Returning to the familiar nature of Cornwall, the Lobb brothers would end their career having brought over 600 plant species back to Britain with many now brightening both our gardens including Pencarrow, and the Lobb memorial in Devoran. A species of orchid was named after Thomas; the phalaenopsis lobbii clambers around the northern reaches of India, the flower of a Cornishman most comfortable in the Himalayan heights.  

Beyond the Roman Reach

As with most of Europe, Cornwall felt the beauty and destruction of the Italian toga craze known as the Roman Empire. However, Roman remains in Cornwall are far fewer than what might be expected further north, challenging Roman enthusiasts to try and piece Cornwall into the Roman jigsaw. Many suggest that Cornwall may have been akin to their Celtic neighbours in Wales and Scotland where the Romans traded peacefully, building forts as outposts but never populating the land or exerting any overall control over the Celts.  But perhaps there is more to be found.

If you are on the hunt for the elusive Romans, there are the sites of forts at Nanstallon near Bodmin, close to Restormel Castle and at Calstock in the Tamar valley. With the latter, the fort finding has been recently joined by the uncovering of a Roman road in 2019, with more excavations expected in 2021. Don't expect to see stonework and fancy mosaics, all the sites are best viewed from above, being just slight humps in fields. Elsewhere, there is a Roman villa at Magor and inscribed stones on the grounds of Breage Church, Tintagel Church and St Hilary’s Church.

The Romans, brave as they were, never took the Cornish out of Cornwall.

Whelk I Never

Cornwall is well known for its bountiful waters and the seafood it provides, but amongst its array of daily catches there are certain species that do not quite fit with the appetites of its people. The whelks are very much in that category but, while Cornish and British tastes are sluggish to consider its merits, Cornish fishermen know to still catch them due to their favoured status amongst Asian countries – with South Korea at the top of that list.

Packed full of protein, the taste of this sea snail has a gently sweet and briny flavour that is more mild than its land-dwelling brethren. South Korean recipés include whelk salad and golbaengi-muchim, a spicy noodle dish topped with whelks, cucumber and sesame seeds. Alternatively, the delicacy is eaten as a simple appetiser with garlic and soy sauce.

The pots in which they are caught cause no harm to the seabed beneath them; a sustainable choice for the Cornish of the future, perhaps?