The Jews of Cornwall – A History

Keith Pearce writes to us about his new book which will be publish around April / May of 2014…
The Jews of Cornwall – A History – Tradition and Settlement to 1913
Halsgrove pp. approx 650 & illustrations 100; hardcover £24.99. ISBN 978-0-85704-222-4
Jew Street Penzance
It is likely to be one of the most substantial books published on an aspect of Anglo-Jewish Provincial history and of a specialised aspect of Cornish history. It represents thirty years of research on my part, and has taken me some 15 years to compile.
The book has 3 sections:
The first deals with the persistent but unsubstantiated traditions and folklore which have linked Jews with Cornwall since ancient times, their putative role in the (medieval) stannries and in mining, and how the death of the Cornish language and the resulting linguistic and cultural confusion ascribed an early Jewish presence to Cornwall and meanings derived from Biblical roots to Cornish Place-Names.
The second and third sections deal with the known and verifiable settlement of Jews in Cornwall in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The second section: All of the names, families, biographies and trades of the most prominent Cornish Jews receive expensive coverage with separate chapters for the Jews of Falmouth, Penzance, Truro, Redruth and other towns of minor settlement. There are comprehensive Trade Directories incorporated into the chapters.
There is also a chapter on Jews and Cornish Freemasonry.
The third section: deals with Congregational & Religious Life. The background history to the two cemeteries (Falmouth and Penzance), with complete headstone transcriptions and translations.
All of the Rabbis known to have served these 2 congregations are also covered in detail.
There are extensive sections on the congregational affairs and concerns of the two communities in Falmouth and Penzance.
Privately funded and part sponsored by the Cornish Jewish Community, Kehillat Kernow.


  1. Michael Rosenberg

    Keith Pearce’s book is a wonderful and detailed account of the history of the Jews in Cornwall. It is especially meaningfull to me because I was evacuated to Penzance (after a brief stay in Marazion) in 1940 from the Jewish East End of London. I left Cornwall for University in 1957 and never lived in Cornwall again. However, after living “overseas” for over fourty years my interest in the history of the Jews of Cornwall was rekindled (by Susan Soyinka’s writings) and I am in awe at the depth of scholarship revealed in the chapters of Keith Pearce’s book.
    Thank you

  2. Linda Roberts-Schroeder

    Hello Dlane
    My Grandfather Daniel Rowland Roberts born 1895 in Aberystwyth married my grandmother Margaret Lily Kapp in 1916.She always spoke about Falmouth in Cornwall.Her Mother was Abella Martha Norman. Have we any connection???

    Linda Margaret Roberts-Schroeder

  3. DIane Penberthy nee Roberts

    I have discovered that my Roberts family married into the family of Abraham Relph, and also the Tom(e) family that go back in Cornwall to before 1600, so why say that they came 100 years later. ABraham Relph/Ralph 1654 to 1727 of Gwennap and the Tom family from Blisland 1595.
    They certainly intermingled as I have found many marriages in my family over 2 generations, however by 1780 my Abraham had gone back to be staunch Church of England in Paul Parish, Cornwall.
    I have yet to find if they came from Spain or Portugal, or the other Jews from Europe. I will keep searching. DIane

  4. Dear Keith,

    Thank you for the above introduction to your book. As yet I haven’t purchased any books on the subject of Jews and any connection they might historically have with Cornwall. It’s an interesting subject because there seems to be a differing views, with each view both for or against unable to fully substatiate their claims.
    Linda Marriot, yourself, and at least one other, have all been dismissive of any ancient historical Jewish influence, where Cornish place names are concerned, or that of any major influence on Cornish life. Linda Marriot, makes reference to folklore, particularly with regards to Glastonbury, where she is keen to make a point of the fable concerning Joseph of Arimathea having supposedly set foot on this fair Isle. Whilst she has a point (as do others), that a few myths have made an impression upon the susceptible looking for romantic answers, there remains something of a truth about Jews in Cornwall from earliest times.

    I remember reading an article, as well as listening to a Cornish historian on the subject of my name (Curnow). Apparently, the suffix ow on Cornish words give them plurality. Thus the singular of my name ought to be curn. Curnow is the anglicised version of Kernow, again the singular should be Kern. The root of Kern is a reference to slightly dark people, some of whom lived in Ireland. It is believed that traders/merchants from the middle east did considerable business with the Cornish for tin. I was informed (whether true or not), that Cornish tin was used to produce bronze for Solomon’s Temple. A friend of mine claims that a Jewish professor has researched this, and found it to be true from archaeological finds in Israel. Having visited Penzance I couldn’t help but notice the darker complexion and countenance of some of its inhabitants. Furthermore, I remember during my teens being asked if I was Jewish or Greek. The fact that the mines in Cornwall were said to have been dubbed Dan’s mines or Jews houses, surely must have some merit.

    The other thing, and there are anomalies in such an idea, that Jew Market Street, is a corruption of Thursday Market Street, why would anyone decide to make such a mistake in renaming with such a great margin of error. And the Joseph thing is typically Christian, but Marazion etc is typically Judaic. If the folklore was so tainted by Christian thinking, why not Mount Olivet instead of Marazion.

    There are many other things I would like to bring up, but time (at least for the moment), doesn’t permit.

    Steve Curnow (Kern)

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