Please note: This project is now formally at an end (although work continues!). Please treat this page and linked pages as archive.

Taves an Tir in Redruth

Gallery - some project volunteers

Carol Manley (project volunteer at Heamoor) shares her memories.

Taves an Tir in Lanivet

Read about a part of the project in Lanivet by volunteer Sarah Cooke.

A PowerPoint presentation from the Project Officer, Rob Simmonds. February 2015.


Heritage Lottery Fund LogoIn June 2014, Kowethas an Yeth Kernewek was awarded Heritage Lottery funding to carry out a two-year project in Cornwall focussing on Cornish language in the landscape and in family names.  This project is called Taves an Tir – the Tongue/Language of the Land – and focusses on three areas of Cornwall: Lanivet near Bodmin, Heamoor near Penzance and Redruth.  We’ve worked with the local populations of Lanivet and Heamoor in the recent past, looking at language use and signage in local community areas - such as the signs in restaurants, pubs, and shop door open/closed signs - and it’s these relationships the current project has built upon.  Redruth was a ‘new’ area to us.

Although the Cornish language is still spoken, it’s not widespread, and remains listed as ‘criticallyt endangered’ by UNESCO.  The most visible evidence of its existence is in the continued presence of Cornish place names and family surnames which have been in use for hundreds of years, although the actual meanings of these names are not well understood by many who use them on an everyday basis.  Furthermore, in some parts of Cornwall mining terms still in use have come from the language, as have other dialect words, and houses are commonly named in Cornish.  The Cornish people increasingly see the language as an important and valuable aspect of culture, which adds to the diversity of the UK and helps provide a ‘sense of place’ and local identity to everyone within Cornwall’s boundary.

Rob Simmons at Radio CornwallEach town, village or hamlet in Cornwall has a number of unique Cornish field and settlement names.  These can preserve important information, such as descriptions of the main characteristics of the landscape, what used to happen there, or who owned the place.  Place-names can also help us track the language itself and how it has changed over time.  For instance, ‘Bodmin’ means ‘the dwelling of monks’, and refers to a priory once situated there.  However ‘bod’ – ‘dwelling’ – later became ‘bos’, so we know that the name ‘Bodmin’ must have been fixed in English at an early date in time.  By uncovering the meanings of such place-names, the project has attempted to reconnect the community with the knowledge of their local environment and with their heritage.  Similarly, Cornish language in family-names can tell us about former occupations, personal descriptions and previous connections to places, and can help to track changes in the language throughout its history.


The project plan

The plan for the Taves an Tir project fell into three distinct areas: the volunteer recruitment stage, the research stage and the exhibitions and outputs stage. The central point of the project is to foster awareness in the Cornish language by highlighting place-names, family-names and other examples of Kernewek in everyday Cornwall throughout the stages. This formula was taken to all three of the communities involved. Currently the project has completed all three of the research stages and is moving onto the exhibition stage.
We had the same project plan for each of the three areas mentioned above, with the work for each running into the next.  In each of the three chosen places we held a launch event, where people from the language community got together with family, friends and other local people to enjoy themselves and hear all about the Taves an Tir project at the same time.  At these events, we recruited local volunteers to help the project and its research stages.

After the launch events, we held ‘Kernow Kwizs’ in each of the areas.  These were fun events designed to test local knowledge and trivia with a Cornish language twist. These quizzes were hosted in the different areas by Cornish language expert Pol Hodge, Cornish Oaf Luke Stevens and expert on Cornish culture and tradition Simon Reed.  At these events, we had lots of fun and gave prizes (donated by local businesses) to the top teams. The project used these events to encourage people to come forward to help with the research.
In Lanivet and Heamoor the quizzes were be followed by an informal seminar led by MAGA, at which attendees heard more about Cornish place-names, how their meanings are studied, the importance of translation and the work of the Cornish Language Place-name and Signage Panel. For our community volunteers it was an introduction to the kinds of things one might expect to find in the online historical data and other aspects of Taves an Tir research.

Project volunteers from all three of the areas, received a formal training session at the Cornwall Records Office in Truro from Records Office staff and the Cornwall and Scilly Historic Envionment Service. This provided our them with a good grasp of some of the online research materials available and the wealth of archives available.
Our partner Kesva an Taves Kernewek has published bespoke booklets for each area based on volunteer research and with substantial help from the Signage Panel.. The booklets for Lanivet and Heamoor have been published and are available on this website and the Redruth booklet will be ready in the coming weeks.

There is a tour of a few museums in Cornwall planned for this summer so please revisit for more details and come along.

For more information please contact: Rob Simmons, Project Officer at or phone 07907 462294. You can also read our newsletters:






Six N.B. - according to the newletter itself this is the fifth edition, but it is in fact the sixth!