The Old Cornwall Movement

The Old Cornwall Movement is Cornwall’s oldest heritage organisation, with over 100 years of community action to protect, preserve and promote Cornish history, heritage and culture.
Learn about how the Old Cornwall movement began, our objectives, the work of individual Old Cornwall Societies, how to join a Society, and about the Federation of Old Cornwall Societies.
St Columb OCS, Crying The Neck 2021


The Old Cornwall Movement emerged with the first Old Cornwall Society, which was formed in St Ives in 1920. At this time, the Cornish Revival was well underway with strides being made in language revival and linking with other Celtic nations. The Old Cornwall movement was created to collect, preserve and perpetuate information, customs and traditions relating to an ‘Old Cornwall’ which people felt were in danger of disappearing in a rapidly changing world.

This saw the emergence of more ‘Old Cornwall’ Societies across Cornwall in the following years, with the Federation also quickly formed as an umbrella organisation to help steer, support and advise. Over the years, the work of Old Cornwall Societies has covered the very broadest interests: in the protection and preservation of ancient monuments; Cornwall’s people, ranging from our language and dialect, folk traditions, music, and leisure pursuits; our industrial, maritime, social and political history; the diaspora, and in the place itself, its geography and environment, natural history and human ecology.

Over the last 100 years, the ‘Old Cornwall’ movement has played a pivotal role in the resurgence of Cornwall’s heritage and culture. Its structure of individual Societies throughout Cornwall, with the Federation of ‘Old Cornwall’ Societies as coordinator and facilitator, has enabled the work of committed members to preserve, maintain and promote Cornish culture in all its aspects, notably in the areas of practical work in the field, folk traditions, publishing and Cornish language and dialect. 

Find out more about the work of the Old Cornwall Movement in our special book published for the centenary year in 2020, ‘A Uniquely Cornish Concept’.

Our Objectives

Our motto is:

“Gather the fragments that are left that nothing be lost”

Cuntelleugh an brewyon ues gesys na vo kellys travyth

To do this, our objectives are:

  • To collect, record and share information about Cornish history, place-names, folk-lore, traditions, dialect, music, industries etc.
  • To protect the natural beauty of Cornwall
  • To encourage the study and use of the Cornish language
  • To preserve Cornish antiquities and relics of the past
  • It is about collecting, recording and sharing the remaining fragments of our history and culture.

All of this work is undertaken by volunteers.

The Old Cornwall Societies

Newquay Old Cornwall Society on a guided walk

Each of the Old Cornwall Societies is autonomous, setting their own programme, electing their own committee, and setting their own subscription and administering their own membership.

Each of the 40 plus societies has a page on this website where you can find contact information, their programme of talks and events, details of where and when they meet, and their subscription level.

Each Society is encouraged to nominate a Recorder who is prepared to record information about the Society’s local area in whatever format they are most happy in, whether that is a diary, scrapbook or some other way of providing a record for the future of what our towns, villages, landscapes, seascapes, communities have been like and how they have changed. The Federation provides training and support for Society Recorders.

FOCS President Nev Meek with OCS Banners and Bardh Meur Pol Hodge at Hayle in 2022.

Societies put on their own events, take part in traditions, and carry out Cornish traditional customs and ceremonies such as Crying The Neck (a Cornish harvest celebration) and a midsummer bonfire. If you join, you will be able to learn more and take part – and if your Society doesn’t put on their own version of this event, you are very welcome to attend other Societies’ events.

Each Society has a banner, which is part of a long tradition in the Old Cornwall movement. The Banner Bearers take part in the Gorsedh ceremony, at St Piran’s Day parades, and other events throughout the year to showcase the contribution of their Old Cornwall Society and the Old Cornwall movement overall.

Old Cornwall Banner Bearers at the Gorsedh in Padstow, 2023. Photo by Sue Biscoe.

Joining a Society

St Just & Pendeen Society visit a mine, summer 2023.

If you’re interested to learn more about your local history, Cornish heritage, history and culture, you should find and join your local Old Cornwall Society – find it here.

Membership is open to all, whatever your age and whether or not you were born in Cornwall or have Cornish ancestry. Societies will welcome all who are interested in, and care about, Cornwall’s history, heritage, culture and distinctiveness.

Joining a society involves simply paying a small annual subscription to attend their programme of lectures and other Cornish events. You will meet like-minded people of all different ages and interests whose aim is preserve what we hold dear about Cornwall.

Cury & Gunwalloe OCS Banner Dedication


  • Choose which society you would like to join (probably the one nearest to you)
  • Go along to the next meeting, where you will be given a welcome
  • If you want to get in touch before going to a meeting, there are contact details on each Society’s webpage. A Membership Officer may be listed but, if not, then the Secretary will be pleased to help. You can also check Facebook as many Societies now have a Facebook page where they share their latest news and events.

The Federation of Old Cornwall Societies

The Federation of Old Cornwall Societies is the Cornwall-wide body that links the societies, provides insurance for meetings and events, liaises with organisational partners, and provides a lead on matters of common interest and activity.

The Federation has a lively publishing remit, and alongside stand-alone publications, we also produce a twice-yearly journal which is available to Societies and also for sale in the bookshop. This is an important contribution to Cornish history and heritage. 

The Federation holds annual festivals which are open to all members, and has a number of subcommittees to facilitate events, publications and look to the future of the Old Cornwall movement.

There is a Federation Grant Scheme, which is open to member Societies in order to support their work, projects and events. 

Federation Recorders are specialists and experts in their subject areas, and provide a pivotal role in the study and safeguarding of Cornish archaeology, dialect, history, music, and place names.  

Please feel free to contact any member of the Federation’s Executive Committee, including the Federation President, with any questions or queries you have.