Reading List for Kensa Broadhurst’s talk “The Cornish Language in West Penwith in the 19th Century”

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  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. 

Faye Dobinson Exhibition in the Elizabeth Treffry Room at Morrab Library | Tuesday 23rd to Saturday 27th April 2024

Artist Faye Dobinson will be displaying the artwork created during her residency at The Morrab Library in the Elizabeth Treffry Room from Tuesday 23rd to Saturday 27th April 2024.

Faye called her residency ‘Community Power Structure’, a title borrowed from a 1953 book cover that caught her eye while visiting the library. You can find out more about Faye’s work in this blog we shared last July. 


As the months progressed, she shared glimpses of the work on @communitypowerstructure, where she highlighted some of the lesser spotted details within the Library rooms, such as the locks and escutcheons. She explored the library through a myriad of different artistic processes and through that, different facets of the space revealed themselves and found form in curious and unexpected works of art. From moulds of obsolete locks to cyanotypes of plants outside.

Reflecting upon her residency, Faye commented:

“I have found that my time at Morrab has impacted my practice moving forward. I have a curious mind that is alive with possibilities, and a library – ESPECIALLY the Morrab is like an embodiment of possibility. 

You begin looking for a book on one thing, then find yourself on a magical mystery tour, led by what piques your curiosity. It is a broadly roaming journey that is impossible to have via google and other online means to research: Your own curiosity cannot be prescribed by the library, you are not just a generalised algorithm being presented with ideas. To a library you are an intrigued, vital intersection of interests, events, loves, likes and dislikes. You are a human being.

I have been watching myself make more work around the initial keyhole studies that I made: the keyholes have taken on layers of meaning over time, becoming portals populating mystical, rural spaces or suggestive openings to unknown rooms, they are signifiers of quiet and peace. They are guardians of knowledge.  

I am really looking forward to presenting my findings and sharing my journey within the walls of Morrab Library” 

Visitors are welcome to pop in during library hours (10am – 4pm) next week to see the exhibition. The Elizabeth Treffry Room is upstairs, turn right at the top of the stairs and it is the first door on the left. The artist will be in situ on Thursday 25th (1-3pm), Friday 26th (1-3pm) and Saturday 27th (10am – 1pm) to chat to visitors about her work.  

She will be running the last of her series of Art Clubs, “art and soul sessions”, at the library on Thursday 25th April from 10.30am – 12pm. Tickets are £10 and available to book directly from

She will also be giving a talk at the Library on Wednesday 24th about her affection for The Morrab Library, what she unearthed about the space and herself through being one of the recent Artists in Residence. Tickets have already been allocated via a ballot but we will be recording it to share on our website.


First John le Carré Memorial Lecture to feature “Slow Horses” author Mick Herron

On Thursday evening 2 May 2024 the inaugural John le Carré Memorial Lecture will be presented by The Morrab Library at the Acorn Theatre in Penzance. Tickets for the event have sold out.

Sponsored by The Arts Society West Cornwall and planned to be a biennial event, the first lecture will feature guest speaker Mick Herron, celebrated author of the Slow Horses / Slough House espionage novels, which have been adapted into a successful TV series starring Gary Oldman and Kristin Scott Thomas.

World-renowned espionage writer John le Carré (real name: David John Moore Cornwell) lived in St Buryan, Cornwall, until his death in 2020, at the age of 89. He was the author of 26 novels, including The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Constant Gardener, The Night Manager, The Little Drummer Girl, A Perfect Spy et al, many of which have been adapted into feature films and television series, plus five works of nonfiction, including his 2016 memoir, The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life.

Carré was a passionate supporter of the Morrab from the 1970s, later serving as president (1997-2002), then for many years as a patron. He called the library “a Cornish treasure house, a meeting place for like-minded souls, and a vibrant forum for contemporary writing,” with a special interest in encouraging young people to read and be inspired by the place.

The title of Herron’s lecture is “Running Away with the Circus.” Raised in Newcastle upon Tyne, he studied English Literature at Oxford. His first novel, Down Cemetery Road, set in Oxford, was published in 2003. Herron’s most recent novel, The Secret House, provides insights to the Slough House series with its riveting reveal about a disastrous MI5 mission in post-Cold War Berlin.

Associated events for this inaugural lecture include a loaned exhibition of John le Carré memorabilia at Penlee House Gallery & Museum (17 April-6 May); a “meet the author” gathering hosted by Penzance Mayor Cllr Stephen Reynolds; a writing workshop with students at Penwith College; and a “Conversation with Mick Herron” plus book signing at the Edge of the World Bookshop, on Market Jew Street in Penzance (3 May).

The Acorn event has been planned with the full and enthusiastic cooperation of le Carré’s family. His son Nick Cornwell will speak about his father in advance of the lecture, and Nick’s brother Simon Cornwell and their families plan to attend.

Author Mick Herron by Mikael Buck

Wastelands to wonderland | Vicki Aimers Artist Residency

For one week in August (Tuesday 22nd-Saturday 26th), the Book Artist and Authorial Illustrator Vicki Aimers will have an artist residency entitled – ‘Wastelands to wonderland’ – in the Elizabeth Treffry Room.

We’re going to let Vicki introduce herself in her own words and tell you a bit about her residency…  

“I’m a Book Artist and Authorial Illustrator. My work focuses on creative storytelling intertwined with elements of social history. For the last few years, I have focused on the fascinating lives of some forgotten women in history and, in particular, female astronomers such as Caroline Herschel and Maria Mitchell. These were stories I explored in my MA in Authorial Illustration at Falmouth University.

To retell stories, I collaborate with a number of institutions and museums to bring items in their collections to life in creative ways. Throughout the year, I take part in various public events, organise bespoke workshops and develop online activities on a variety of art and storytelling techniques. These can include simple printing, book and zine making, stitch and inventive writing and poetry exercises.

“When we read a story, we inhabit it. The covers of the book are like a roof and four walls. What is to happen next will take place within the four walls of the story. And this is possible because the story’s voice makes everything its own.”  

John Berger, Artist and Author

At the moment, I’m working with several organisations, including Morrab Library, researching the story of Catherine Payton Phillips (1727 – 1794). Originally from Dudley in the West Midlands, Catherine settled in Redruth and married a local widower, a Copper Agent – William Phillips. The story of William’s descendants is fascinating too. 

They had met years before when Catherine was a young woman. However, from what I’ve read about her, I don’t think she wanted to settle down so young and be a stepmother to two very young boys. She extensively travelled throughout her life, through the U.K., Ireland, Europe and America – encountering crocodiles and journeying through swamps and prairies. 

Catherine and William met again later in life and married. William had never stopped wanting for them to be together all through the time they were apart. 

She was many things, as a well travelled Quaker preacher, but also a campaigner and interested in local ecology and communities. In particular, Catherine had two amazing ideas that have fuelled my research – the desire to ‘beautify wastelands’ and to grow fruit trees to feed communities.  

Over the last two years, I have devised a programme of artist residences at various locations to share my project, and the story of her life and ideas. So far, I have taken part in residencies at Kresen Kernow, Redruth Library and held events for Fun Palaces. 

As part of this programme of events, I have created a Cabinet of Curiosities, which is full of objects that all hint at aspects of her life, her ideas, the importance of orchards and facts about apples (a symbol of the project). There are many exciting and engaging strands to this project, as well as the Cabinet, including an interactive art piece called ‘The Library of Forgotten Fruits’, which will be on display during my residency. 

I also arrange workshops at Krowji and across the South West, enabling others to explore their stories and memories through interesting projects. I offer creative mentoring, where we work together over a number of sessions experimenting with different art techniques to bring your narrative into focus.

Finally, I’m the founder of the @palimpsest_project. This initiative helps record fragmented memories and stories of families through projects and kits. My recent research has been about the history of piecework. This is particularly apt in light of the pandemic crisis, where parents were trying to navigate how to work from home, while looking after loved ones.

Why did you want to do an Artist Residency at Morrab Library?

“It has been a wonderful opportunity to make contact with Morrab Library. I’ve been wanting to find a project that would be a perfect collaboration to work together on. 

I feel that, through the story of Catherine, there are common threads that run between all of us, such as the importance of community, the need to preserve and celebrate local history, and particularly women’s stories. This is at the heart of this inspiring and exciting collaboration.”

When did you first visit the Morrab and what do you remember about that visit? 

“My first visit to the Library was a very welcoming experience. I met Lisa and we discussed Catherine’s life and legacy. We both soon realised that this could be an exciting opportunity for both of us to tell a story that hasn’t been told before in Penzance and at the Library too. 

Since that first meeting, I ran a botanical sketchbook workshop for visitors, which was a lovely and popular event, and raised some funds for the Library too.”   

What do you hope to bring to the library through your work?

“My hope is that by sharing Catherine’s at the Library through this project, another woman’s story will not be forgotten. 

Also, her ideas for loving where we live and caring for the communities that we are part of – will be ‘paid forward’. We can learn so much from those who have gone before us. Small positive changes taken from Catherine’s ideas, that benefit everyone, such as growing a sunflower or planting a fruit tree. The author Nancy Kunhardt Lodge said ‘a library is a place vibrating with ideas’, and I feel this is so true, especially at Morrab Library.”

Members and visitors alike are welcome to pop in to see Vicki’s ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ which will be displayed in the Elizabeth Treffry Room (upstairs) for the duration of the week. Vicki will also be running workshops and events which you can find out about on our events page.

Faye Dobinson is our new Artist in Residence

We are delighted to announce that Faye Dobinson is our new Artist in Residence.  Her residency at Morrab Library is titled ‘Community Power Structure’, a phrase she borrowed from a book cover she spotted while visiting the library recently.

She says: “I was drawn to the cover of a book for its formal qualities – the colour, the typography, and the illustration. The 1953 cover will be the visual starting point for my residency.”

She adds, “I realised the title of ‘Community Power Structure’ contains three threads of interest that run through my art practice. These will act as both the activation point and the scaffold for the artwork that I make in my time at the library.”

Faye is a South East London born and West Cornwall based multi-disciplinary artist, activist and educator. She is an artist, curator, a Celebrant and also leads ‘Defining Practice,’ a yearlong practical based art mentoring course at The Newlyn Art School. She is passionate about art and creativity’s role in creating conversation, community, and heart led change. The relational aspect within her work has resulted in her exhibiting and teaching in Mongolia, exhibiting and working with artists in Tibet, helping open Europe’s first Contemporary Tibetan Art Gallery in East London, ‘The Sweet Tea House’ and saw her implementing ‘The Jupiter Project’, a space of possibility for artists and creative that was based at Jupiter Gallery in Newlyn and finished in April 2023.

She lives in Penzance, UK, with her daughter. We asked her when she first remembers coming to the Morrab Library and what her memories are of the library from that time.

“I first visited Morrab Library late 2019 when I moved into town after living in Phillack (Hayle) then Perranuthnoe for 12 years. I was astonished at the tangible peace, the active and alive stillness of the place. It vibrated with all the words and thoughts contained within it. I felt that Lisa and her staff had made a special place even more potent.”

Faye works in a range of disciplines including painting, drawing, printing, site-specific work and assemblage, and has travelled widely to meet other creative communities and look at the role of art in their lives. This socially engaged practice has run through her 25-year career, finding form in leading a wide range of creative projects in London with disaffected young people, working with children with emotional and behavioural problems, within her teaching and also in her own artistic output that asks questions of culture, power and love.

Faye says: “I will be using different artistic processes to let the space of the library unpack around me: the architectural space, the library as a container of meaning, as a space for the community and as a loved space, special to me and many others”.

We asked her why she wanted to be Artist in Residence at Morrab Library.

“I wanted to bring the different approaches of my artistic process to this wonderful building – to celebrate it through the act of tenderly paying attention.”

Faye has already begun creating artwork inspired by the library which you can have a look at on @communitypowerstructure. The first few pieces draw attention to some of the lesser spotted details of the rooms, such as the locks and escutcheons.

“Artist in Residencies create an opportunity for a place to influence and inspire an artist and for that artist to represent the place back to the community. It is a beautiful feedback loop!

I appreciate the very special space that it offers, the sense of community that it forges. My work is an active memorialising of this special community space: not in a solemn, static sense but, I hope, in a celebratory ‘alive’ sense.


I hope to bring a loving quality of attention to the details of the library – the idiosyncrasies and particulars that, for me, create a portrait of the place. I will be noticing what I notice and chronicling that. To me a place can be explored through myriad artistic processes and through that, different facets of the space can be revealed as it begins to unpack through the details of the sounds, smells and sights. I hope to help the often quiet and unseen be noticed and appreciated.”

We’re thrilled to be hosting Faye until November 2023 and you may spot her around the library over the course of the next few months, gathering inspiration and creating pieces.  She will be exhibiting the work created during her residency in the library in January 2024.