Every month at The Morrab Library we host talks in the Reading Room for library members and non-members alike. The programme is as eclectic as the library’s collection – from the Holy Wells of Cornwall to the History of the English Miniature Painting – and meander through Literature, Poetry, Art, Geology and a host of other fascinating subjects in between. 

Often, the writers, academics, poets and artists we invite to speak at the Library generously let us record their talk so we can share them with a wider audience online. You can browse the selection of recorded talks here.

Some of our brilliant speakers also use the Library’s archive, newspaper and book collections for their own research. In homage to BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time, we are hoping to share a “Reading List” to go with each talk recording, in case you would like to follow up on the talk by borrowing related titles from the Library or delving into our archives. 

We’ll be publishing these reading lists here on our blog on a monthly basis so please do keep checking back for updated reading lists. 

Several items in The Morrab Library collection offer us insights into how Cornish was being spoken, used, and regarded during the nineteenth century in West Penwith. The Reverend Wladislaw Lach-Szyrma of Newlyn carried out investigations into the use of Cornish during the 1870s and worked to promote the language. He instigated an essay prize, the entries for which are held in the Morrab Library’s archives (Ref. MAN/58). 

At the same time, Cornish was featuring in regional newspapers and novels. In March 2024, Kensa Broadhurst gave a fascinating talk on “The Cornish Language in West Penwith in the 19th Century” at The Morrab Library through which she explored what these sources tell us about how Cornish was being used during the nineteenth century and what this means for the wider history and status of the language

Kensa has just completed her PhD at the Institute of Cornish Studies, Exeter University. Her studies were funded by the Cornwall Heritage Trust and the Q Fund. She researched the status of the Cornish language between 1777-1904, that is, the period in which it is widely believed to have been extinct. A former modern languages teacher, Kensa is a fluent speaker of Cornish, a bard of the Cornish Gorsedh, and both teaches and examines the language. She is currently the Languages Coordinator for the University of Exeter’s Cornwall Campus. 

You can watch a recording of her talk here.

She has also kindly put together a “Reading List” if you would like to follow up on the talk with any further reading. 

Queen of the Guarded Mounts – John Oxenham

Deep Down – R.M. Ballantyne

Beatrice of St Mawes 

Tin – Edward Bosanketh

The Story of the Cornish Language – Peter Beresford Ellis

The Handbook of the Cornish Language – Henry Jenner

Pentreath and Victor’s essays on the Cornish Language are held in our Archive (MAN/58). Please email enquiries@morrablibrary.org.uk  if you would like to arrange an appointment to see these documents or if you would like to reserve any of the books mentioned on her Reading List.