Why Do Lots Of Places In Cornwall Start With Tre




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If you’ve ever visited Cornwall, you may have noticed the prefix “Tre” in many of the place names.

But have you ever wondered why so many places in this picturesque corner of England start with this unique but confusing three-lettered word? Well, the answer lies in the region’s rich history, dating back to the time of the Celts. 

“Tre” means “homestead” or “farmstead” in the Cornish language, which was spoken by the ancient inhabitants of the area. Over time, as the Cornish language evolved, “Tre” became a popular prefix for names of places across the country.

But there’s more to it than that – some “Tre” names have hidden meanings, revealing stories of the historic land and its people. So, join us as we delve deeper into the fascinating origins of these quintessentially Cornish place names!

What Does Tre Mean In Cornwall?

Almost every place in Cornwall, like Trebarwith, Tregony, Trenance, and Trelawny, starts with “Tre.” In the ancient Cornish language, as mentioned earlier, “Tre” means “homestead” or “farmstead,” and today, it can be referred to as a “town.” 

So, names starting with “Tre” often refer to the historic settlements or farms that were once located in these areas. They even provide valuable insight into the region’s rich history and culture. 

Today, even though the Cornish language is not as widely spoken, its influence on these place names remains a fascinating subject of study for both linguists and historians. 

How Many Places In Cornwall Start With Tre?

There are approximately 1,300 places in Cornwall that have the prefix “Tre” in their names. So, it’s no surprise that 2.9% of the Cornish population in 1861 boasted surnames derived from these place names.

That said, some Tre surnames may have become extinct over the centuries or merged with more common names. However, some places could give rise to multiple surnames, such as Trewern, a farm in Madron near Penzance.

Trewern was originally Treyouran, meaning Uren’s farm, with Uren being a common Brittonic Celtic first name. Interestingly, the three-syllable name Treuren evolved into Truran over time. However, some families kept the original name as Trewern.

Why Are So Many Places Called St. In Cornwall?

Many places in Cornwall start with “St” because they are named after a local saint. In fact, Cornwall is often referred to as the land of saints. Boasting a rich culture of Celtic Christianity, many Cornish saints were revered in the region for their contributions to the faith. 

Notably, some of the most well-known Cornish saints include St. Piran, St. Petroc, St. Ives, and St. Michael. These saints were often associated with specific locations, such as churches or holy wells, and over time, these locations became known by the name of the saint. 

Today, many of these places bear the name “St.,” such as St. Austell, St. Agnes, St. Blazey, and St. Just. The prevalence of these names is a testament to the enduring influence of Cornwall’s Christian heritage on its culture and identity. 

Here’s a brief look at some popular Cornwall places starting with St:

1. St. Endellion

If you travel north from Wadebridge for four miles, you will arrive at the charming village of St. Endellion near Port Isaac. The village was named after Saint Edelienta, who was the offspring of King Brycha and the sibling of St. Miniver. The St. Endellion Church, located in the village, hosts fantastic festivals during Easter and summer, attracting musicians from all around the globe!

The Cornwall Guide

2. St. Mawes

St Mawes is a coastal town situated in the southern region, believed to have been named after Saint Maudez, a Celtic saint. Legend has it that he established a monastery on the Island Saint-Maudez in Brittany with the help of two of his disciples, Saint Tudy and Saint Budoc. Both of them are associated with other place names in Cornwall.

The Cornwall Guide

3. St. Minver

St. Minver is a village located inland from Rock on the north Cornish coast, centred around St. Menefreda’s Church. The village is named after St. Minver, who was one of the 24 offspring of St. Brychan, a Welsh king and saint from the fourth century.


What Cornish Surnames Start With Tre?

Just like place names in Cornwall, you will find many surnames starting with “Tre” and other common prefixes. So, if you want to figure out if you’ve got Cornish ancestry, your surname could be a major clue!

Between 1815 and the onset of World War I, as many as half a million people left Cornwall, with over half settling in other parts of the UK. The rest migrated to places like Australia, North and South America, New Zealand, South Africa, and Europe. 

During this time, Cornwall was a significant mining district with rich copper and tin resources, and its skilled miners were highly sought after for their expertise. They exported their knowledge and technology to mines across Britain. As such, many famous personalities, like actors Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett and singer Shakin’ Stevens, can trace their ancestry back to Cornish mining emigrants.

Stephen Colwill, a genealogist, used census records to trace specific Cornish surnames and mining professions throughout the UK. He discovered clusters of Cornish mining communities in locations like Cumbria, Wales, and Northumberland. Here’s a list of some common Cornish surnames:

  • Tre (e.g. Tregoning, Trevaskis, Treloar, Trevethan, Trethewey, Tregenza, Treweek)
  • Ros (e.g. Rosemergy, Roskruge, Roskilly, Rosevear, Rosewarne)
  • Pol (e.g. Polglaze, Polmear, Polkinhorne, Polsue)
  • Bos and Bod (e.g. Boscawen, Bosanko, Bodilly, Bosustow)
  • Lan (e.g. Landeryou, Lansallos, Lander, Lanyon)
  • Car (e.g. Carvossow, Carlyon, Carthew, Carveth, Cargeeg)
  • Nans (e.g. Nankervis, Nancekivell, Nance, Nancarrow, Nanchollas)
  • Pen (e.g. Penaluna, Pengelly, Penberthy, Penhaligon, Penhale)
  • Chy (e.g. Chellew, Chirgwin, Chegwin, Chenhalls, Chynoweth)

To Sum Up

So, you see, the prevalence of the prefix “Tre” in Cornish place names reflects the rich history and culture of the region. These names not only provide insight into the geography of Cornwall but also the language and customs of the Cornish people. 

Furthermore, the existence of many surnames derived from these place names is proof of the lasting influence of Cornwall’s unique heritage. So, whether you’re a local or a curious traveller, exploring the origins of these names can deepen your understanding and appreciation of this fascinating region!

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