16.4.16 Grand Bard of Cornwall: Historic site protection unfit for purpose

Grand Bard, Merv Davey, Telynor an  Weryn with Deputy Grand Bard, Elizabeth Carne, MelennekGrand Bard of Cornwall: Historic site protection unfit for purpose

“A little over 500 years ago Michael Joseph of St Keverne lead a Cornish host against one of the most powerful institutions in Europe, the English Crown. His was a protest against the poor treatment of the Cornish and this memory continues to fuel the Cornish Spirit to the present day.”

Thus began the spirited words of Merv Davey, Telynor an Weryn, Grand Bard of Cornwall and passionate Cornishman, as he delivered his Proclamation speech on behalf of the bards of Gorsedh Kernow gathered in St Keverne in front of the iconic statue of Thomas Flamank and Michael “An Gof” Joseph. 

“Today it is our culture and heritage which is under threat but unlike Michael Joseph we have the use of some powerful democratic tools” said the Grand Bard.

“We now have recognition of the Cornish language, Kernewek, in 2002, National Minority Status in 2014 and the Devolution Deal of 2015 which includes a clear commitment to cherish and promote our precious Cornish heritage.”

Standing alongside the celebrated statue of Flamank and An Gof the Chairman of St Keverne Parish Council, Cllr David Lambrick, warmly welcomed the gathering of blue robed bards and formally invited Gorsedh Kernow to hold their bardic ceremony and Esedhvos Festival of Cornish Culture in the town later in the year.

Continuing his address, the Grand Bard cited recent debate around the commercialisation of Tintagel and expressed his increasing dismay at the story unfolding in the press and on social media.

“Under these recognitions and agreements Government departments and public bodies are required to take Cornwall’s views into account when making decisions about our heritage.”

“However, unlike Cornwall Council’s planning system, we find that these commitments have not been translated into action and, worse still, that the process to grant consent for developments took place behind closed doors,” said the Grand Bard.

“The views of Cornish people and institutions were not sought and the processes by which these consents are given for the development of heritage sites are undemocratic and unfit for purpose. We cannot ease back and allow these committments to fall by the wayside, we must hold Government departments and public bodies to account.”

Commending English Heritage for their use of the Cornish language and some of the archaeological interpretations at the Tintagel site, the Grand Bard was nevertheless fearful that crass commercialism might become the driving force.

“Cornish identity is not on the agenda of English Heritage and I fear that when interpretation is translated into promotion it will be commercially driven by Disney type images of knights and wizards. We will not be seeing much of the Cornish language, ancient Cornish Kingdoms or any recognition as a Celtic Nation.” 

Welcoming the establishment of the Heritage Kernow Board as set out by the Cornwall Devolution Deal the Grand Bard called for the new Board to be representative of Cornish organisations across the entire range of heritage and to work towards Cornwall’s full ownership of her heritage assets. 

“Gorsedh Kernow calls on the Government to transfer ownership of these iconic sites and the Consents that protect them to Cornwall when the franchise is due for renewal in 2023.”

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Further notes for editors

Gorsedh Kernow exists to maintain the national Celtic Spirit of Cornwall and to give expression to such spirit, to encourage the study of Cornish history and literature, the Cornish language, to foster Cornish art, music, dance and sport and to link with other Celtic countries.

The Cornish language, Kernewek, was formally recognised by European Charter in 2002; the Cornish were given National Minority Status under the European Framework Convention in 2014; and the Devolution Deal of 2015 includes a clear commitment to cherish and promote Cornish Heritage.

The cliffs of Tintagel have protected status and are designated as “Regionally Important Geological Sites (RIGS)”  and the geology of Tintagel is designated as a “Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)”, a designation as strong as Scheduled Ancient Monument status.

As part of the Cornwall Devolution Deal, published July 2015, Cornwall Council and Historic England will jointly produce a study of the cultural distinctiveness of Cornwall’s historic environment. This will inform the work of the new Cornish Historic Environment Forum and the development of the Framework Convention for National Minorities (FCNM). Local partners have already set up a new body – Heritage Kernow – to promote and manage the culture and heritage of Cornwall.

For more information about the Cornwall Devolution Deal please visit


For information about the statutory SSSI network please visit https://designatedsites.naturalengland.org.uk/

For information about SSSIs in Cornwall please visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Sites_of_Special_Scientific_Interest_in_Cornwall

For information about Cornwall’s historic buildings, sites and monuments record please visit


For further information about Scheduled Monument Status please visit  https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/what-is-designation/scheduled-monuments/

For further information about Cornwall Council and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities please see


and https://www.cornwall.gov.uk/community-and-living/equality-and-diversity/cornish-minority-status/

For more general information about Gorsedh Kernow please contact

Delia Brotherton, Myrghwyn Melynor, Communications Officer, Gorsedh Kernow,

email  communications@gorsedhkernow.org.uk

or visit the website  www.gorsedhkernow.org.uk