Down 'Ere In Devon

June 2018
A lighthearted(ish) monthly look at 
Life in Devon
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Us and Them
Helen Hollick

There is a tradition of rivalry in Devon  and Cornwall. All just good-humoured banter… or is it?

From whether you put the clotted cream or the jam first on your cream-tea scones, to who made the first pasties, there is rivalry between the counties of Devon and Cornwall.  (To clarify:  a 16th century Devonian recipe for how to make a pasty was recently found, so it isn’t a Cornish Pasty but a Devonish Pasty?) Cornwall would claim that their pasty recipes have been handed down via word of mouth since 8,000 BC. That might be stretching it a bit for credibility, though.
The Cornish Pasty
The Devonshire Pasty
spot the difference!
And no, they are not the same county, but yes, they are included in the more general term ‘The West Country’ which also incorporates Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire.
I live 11 miles or so from Barnstaple
I soon found, when I moved here to Devon from London, and was still classed as a ‘grockle’ (a tourist), that the rivalry is, in fact, taken seriously. Very seriously.

Widening the link road from the M5 to take traffic more comfortably down into Cornwall? Whatever for? There’s nothing in Cornwall worth going there for – although the Cornish would say that the prospective link road would serve a good purpose for it would ‘Bypass Devon’ (a nifty pun on the word ‘bypass’ : for my US readers this is what we call a stretch of freeway that deliberately bypasses towns etc., to ease congestion and keep traffic flowing.)

Then there is the ‘discussion’ about which of us has the best coastline (Devon, of course), and whether Cornwall has one or two coastlines. (One. OK one is on the south side of Cornwall, one on the north – but the bit in between joins them together, ergo one continuous coastline.) Devon has two distinctive unconnected coastlines. North and South – about 600 miles in total.

Cornish coast - Tintagel
North Devon Coast
Valley of the Rocks, Exmoor
The difference between the expanse of land that sticks out from the western end of England with Land’s End at the bottom (the west) to the Blackdown Hills at the top (the east) Cornwall is the end bit that sticks out beyond the River Tamar. The bit before that is Devon. The names come from the pre-Roman British tribes.  The Cornovii for Cornwall, the Dumnonii for Devon. (OK I know these two don’t sound at all alike, but I’m told they did, back then.)

When the Romans cleared off back to Rome and other Sunnier Climes in the early fifth century, the Britons of the West Country were left to do their own thing (argue about cream teas and pasties, I expect) for a few centuries. Then, in 927, the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of England was emerging and consolidating its political presence, much of the country was divided up into ‘shires’, each one with an administer called a Shire Reeve – which has since mutated into ‘sheriff’. (And yes, that is where the gun-toting star-wearing John Wayne James Stewart look-alike cowboy name of the American West comes from.) So we get Yorkshire, Hampshire, Buckinghamshire, Gloucestershire and Devonshire. OK don’t ask me why it isn’t Cornwallshire. I’ve no idea.

DNA seems to be showing, however, that ‘natives’ of Cornwall and Devon are closely related from the time of the Ancient Britons, or Celts – pre-Romans will do. It appears ‘we’ (I class myself as a Devonian as I am certain my ancestors came from these parts) might share the same origins.

Blood samples were taken from people who have lived in rural Devon and Cornwall areas, for all their lives, and who had parents and grandparents – and even grandparents who were  born in the same area, for many that even meant the same village – or the same house! In my own North Devon village there are a few families who can trace back to great-great grandparents who lived here. Until relatively recent there was very little migration away from rural areas, especially where farming was the mainstay and homes and farms were passed from father to son, to grandson.

So while much of the English population was expected to have DNA from the Anglo-Saxon and Viking incomer groups, (no racism, but I am referring to people with ancestors living in England from pre- World War I and II.) in the far South West (i.e Devon and Cornwall) the genes seem to be predominantly that of the Ancient Britons – people who settled here from Europe soon after the Ice Age, when Britain was still joined to the Continent. We’re talking 12,000 plus years ago! (Did they bring the pasty recipe with them, I wonder?)  

The Doone Valley, Exmoor
The only thing I will grant that Cornwall has over Devon: 
Devon has Lorna Doone, but Cornwall has Poldark. The Doone Valley on Exmoor is beautiful but probably no contest where Ross and Demelza are concerned.

This is a hilarious spoof which just goes to show that the rivalry for 'jam first/cream first' is nothing new (not that George Warleggan is a Devonian... or perhaps he is!)

Needless to say, this was made by a Cornishman! :-)

My DNA has been shown conclusively to be that of Ancient Briton. I’m certain my ancestors were Devonians.  I can’t prove it, but apart from feeling very at home here, how else to explain that I prefer clotted cream first, then the jam on my scones?

Cornish - wrong!
Devonshire - right!

 so how do you prefer your cream tea?
 You are welcome to leave a comment below!

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  1. Has to be jam then cream for me :)

    1. I won't say a word.... just mutter a bit *laugh* The theory is that the cream is instead of butter - you don't put the jam on and then the butter do you? *chuckle* Thanks for leaving a comment Libby :-)

  2. Ah! memories of childhood come flashing back: cream teas in Ilfracombe and Doughnuts in Barnstaple! Of course, to make a 'nest' of the cream and fill it with jam does sound logical, Captain - as long as the scones don't contain sultanas or raisins, which are the Devil's Food. Oddly, the last cream tea \I had was in Brighton Pavilion (and damn good it was too!) but I don't recall if it was Devonian or ... the other one. But back then I wouldn't have known the difference. i do wonder, now that I have read this, whether any tea shops (outside of those two counties) actually offer both - after all, they only have to split the scone, butter both halves and then slap on the cream and jam (or jam and cream) depending on the request. What a super wheeze that is!

    1. LOL - and did you know you are supposed to break a scone open, not cut it with a knife? A proper scone should easily split in half top from bottom.

    2. Yes, I did! I do have some decorum, you know! (That's what you do to apples before you bake'em!!!)

    3. Butter! you may well enjoy a buttered scone but please do not butter a scone that's intended for a cream tea ;-) and I'm with you, raisins and their like have no place in a cream tea scone that I make :-D

  3. I’d eat scones made either way lol but when I make them it’s cream then jam so the Devon way. Might be because my Mother’s family may have come from the West Country. (Hooper) Need to do a bit more research!
    Enjoyed the post xx

    1. apologies for the delay - only just discovered your comment Marsha (Blogger had a glitch a few weeks ago) Let me know if you discover anything from your research!

  4. Helen, I love this diversion and look forward to the next. Can't see that I'll get my DNA tested but I too have a greater sense of belonging in Devon (and Cornwall too) than I ever felt about the place of my birth and upbringing. ( maybe I'm decended from ancients that travelled back and forth across the Tamar ;-D )

    1. I wonder if the Ancients had the 'traditional' fifteen minute wait for the ferry to cross the Tamar? Or the queue of a morning to cross the bridge... *laugh*


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