The Cornish Stannary Gazette
First issue - January 1975
The re-appearance of the Cornish Stannary
Parliament is no joke or something 'dreamed up" by a group of people, It
is the Right of Cornwall and without it Cornwall is not legally governed.
For the Enactments of the Parliament at Westminster have no validity in
Cornwall unless, they receive the consent and ratification of the Cornish
Stannary Parliament - THIS IS THE LAW
How or why these laws of Cornwall have been swept under the carpet for the
last two hundred or so years is not easily explained, let it be sufficient
to say, at this juncture, that successive Parliaments at Westminster,
particularly since the advent of the Georgian Monarchs, have been quite
adept at disposing of those persons and institutions that would be likely
to impede their progress. No excuse can be put forward of ignorance to the
existence of Stannary Law. As recently as 1973 a book called "Stannary
Law" was written by
Professor Robert R. Pennington LL.D.
The office of Lord Warden of the Stannaries has always been maintained
through the offices of the Duchy of Cornwall. Further the Stannary Court
has, for many years, been retained, alongside the County Court at Truro.
THE STANNARY PARLIAMENT AND LEGAL SYSTEM
The beginnings of the Stannary Institutions
are shrouded in the mists of time, but the principle of an Assembly of
Tinners is very much in line with the original democratic ideals of the
St. Pauls' Epistle to the Galatians was, in fact, to the Celtic
Commonwealth of Galatia, which operated a Parliamentary system in the
first century A.D.
The first surviving reference to the Cornish system, is in the Black Book
of the Exchequer, issued in the ninth year of Richard I, AD. 1198, the
Carta Stannaniarum Domini Regis, followed in 1201 by a Charter of King
John, concerted with usage of water resources by the mining interests.
One hundred and four years later, in 1305, a new Charter was issued by
King Edward I, creating the Tinners into a Corporation, and giving freedom
to them from toll and tallage, and was the origin of the Great Seal of
Blackmore, the principal Stannary.
This Seal, of the Comunitatis Stangnatorum Cornubie, was kept at Luxulian,
until allegedly destroyed in the Great Civil War. A replica replacement
was produced in 1974.
The government of the Stannaries continued thus until 1496, when Prince
Arthur, brother of Henry VII, introduced certain ordinances to be observed
in the Stannaries of Devon, and Cornwall. Whilst Devon complied, their
Celtic colleagues across the Tamar refused, this action resulting, in
1508, of the purchase by Blackmore Stannary, on behalf of all the people
of Cornwall, the famed Charter of Pardon.
At this juncture, the entry in the M. S. Book of the Duchy of Cornwall,
regarding the Rights of the Stannaries, should be mentioned. Any Custom,
or Liberty, practised without lawful interruption, over a very
considerable period of time, becomes what is known as a prescriptive
right, that is, a right from time immemorial.
On this, the following entry :-
"The Stannaries hath many privileges belonging unto it, some by
prescription, and some by charter. By prescription it hath, inter alia.
Firstly, Power in Chancerie to judge in Equity
Secondly, Power of the Star Chamber to judge and to punish Ryotts,
Thirdly, Power to hold a parliament and to make laws
Fourthly, to muster Tinners,"
What the Charter of Pardon actually did, was
to regularise the make-up of the Stannary Parliament, the method of
election, and also, to grant an extremely powerful right of veto over
The Lord Warden of the Stannaries. The principal officer, appointed by the
Duke of Cornwall as his representative, the powers of the Warden being, ex
officio (a) to convene the Stannary Parliament as the Convocation of
Cornwall, (b) as judge of appeal in the Stannary Courts system, and, (c)
to muster the Tinners.
The first known Warden was William do Wrotham, appointed 1197.
His deputy is the Vice-Warden, whose Court is the principal Stannary Law
Court, and below these, the stewards, and Bailiffs.
Under the new Charter, upon presentation of petition by a Tin-miner to the
Lord Warden, the Warden was to issue Writs to the Mayors of the four
Stannary Towns, Launceston, for Foweymore, Lostwithiel for Blackmore,
Truro, for Tywarnhayle, and Helston, for Penwith / Kerrier.
The Mayors, and Corporations, were then required to elect six Stannators
each, from the lists of nominees prepared.
The Lord Warden was then to obtain the Commission of Instructions,
equivalent to the Queens' Speech, from the Duke of Cornwall, to be read to
the assembled Stannators at the inaugural meetings, and then withdraw ,
taking no further part in the proceedings. The Warden is also required to
sign the various Enactments of the Convocation, in effect, to give the
This method worked quite well, until the mid-eighteenth century.
By 1588, however, the Stannators were no longer satisfied by the
narrowness of election powers, and desired that the franchise be enlarged,
to take in more voters, within the mining industry.
A Bill was prepared, to improve this, which went through Westminster
twice, and received the recommendation of the Lords, that the number of
Stannators be increased to eight per Stannary.
This Bill, however, never became Law, and later, another half-successful
attempt was made, with the same result.
Meanwhile, the practice had been established for the Stannators to appoint
their own Assistant Stannators, to keep them informed of the requirements
of the "lower social orders", as the Stannators themselves were of the
landed gentry class, and knew little of the trials and tribulations of the
Although the Assistants did not have any voting powers in Convocation, by
the early 1700's they had become almost comparable to the Stannators that
had appointed them, and Convocation itself was a legislative Assembly in
its' own right, in effect a provincial Cornish Parliament on a par with
the Manx Government, in the Channel Islands.
That the Convocation exercised self-government is obvious, but the
irregularity of its' meetings, and the rise of the Political Parties in
England militated against it.
THE STATUS OF WESTMINSTER, AND THE CHARTER OF
The situation here is a complex one, involving
not only the aspirations of national' politics, but also super-politics as
it has been, and is currently being, practised. When the Charter of Pardon
was framed, the interference of Westminster in Cornish affairs was quite
minimal, totally different from the present situation. This, very largely,
was the reason that the power of veto was never used in Cornwall. Having
said this, it should be realised, that Westminster's powers in Cornwall,
as in many other privileged places, were extremely limited, almost
non-existent, in point of fact.
When Henry IV became a king, in l399, he insisted that his title, lands,
jurisdictions, etc, as Duke of Lancaster, must be preserved, and that
these should descend from him, as they had descended to him, without in
any wise being altered or changed. One of those places under the
jurisdiction of the Royal Kingdom and Duchy of Lancaster, is the sister
Duchy of Cornwall, and where Henry was Duke of Lancaster, his Writ, as
King, would not run, thus divorcing his Crown interests from his Duchy
interests, for where his Writ did not run, there his Ministers might not
trespass. One of the specific requirements is that "the barons of the
Exchequer" may not interfere within the Duchy. That they clearly do, is
obvious. It is also true, that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster,
is a party political appointment, by a Crown Minister, of one of his own
Party, quite illegally, under the Great Charter of Lancaster!
The progressive assumption of non-existent powers was already well
advanced, by the time the last Convocations of the 1700's met, in 1752-3,
and a number of coups d'etat had already been accomplished.
The Westminster equivalent to the Lord Warden is the Hereditary Lord High
Steward of England and Lancaster, Vice-Roy, and supreme Law Officer of the
Realm. His Court of Justice is empowered to over-ride Acts of Parliament
in the interests of Justice his presence is vital to the convention of
Parliament, and at Coronations. His signature is required, to legalise
every Act of Westminster, without the same, these Acts are not lawful. By
1753, the Lord High Steward had long been "removed".
Similarly, to prevent control of the Armed Forces by political interests,
responsibility fur them lay with the Constable of England. He too has been
illegally removed and control now lies with the Political parties with
their own Minister of Defence."
1721 saw the self-appointment of the "Prime Minister", an office not
recognised by the Legislature until 1937
The salary, and title of "First Lord of the Treasury", was flinched from
the kings' hereditary Lord High Treasurer, also "removed".
The rise of Empire, the Industrial Revolution, and the Napoleonic Wars,
resulted in more and more assumption of non-existent powers by Westminster
Political parties. From the 1750's until the 1960's Stannary, or
Convocation, was virtually forgotten, although the Courts of Stannary most
certainly were not.
In the 1860's realization of the tax freedoms granted by the 1305 Charter,
caused the mining Adventurer's to attempt to re-call Convocation, but as a
result of deliberately misleading information, regarding the Joint Stock
Companies, and Limited Companies Acts, it was believed that these
liberties no longer existed, and the attempt faded out.
The 1870's saw the onset of collapse in the vital mining industry, with
many Cornish families brought to virtual destitution, and the beginning of
the exodus of young and fit Cornishmen, to more rewarding areas in the
mining world, Butte, Montana, Tombstone, Arizona, South Africa and
Australia, from whence money came home, to help the desperate straits of
The 1880's saw one of the final nails being driven into the coffin of
Cornish rights and privileges, the County Councils Act, not passed by the
Stannary Parliament, quite illegal.
As early as 836 AD. the degradation of Cornwall had been insidiously
proceeding. In that year, the Cornish were expelled from their capital,
Kernsk Exeter) by Aethelstan, defeated, with their allies, the Danes, at
Hingston Down, and the last Cornish king, Howel died. The river Tamar was
then declared to be the boundary between the Cornish and the West Saxon
Cultural and religious control was taken by the Anglo-Saxon, and the new
"king" was titled "Earl", although still a Cornishman. With the Normans'
coming, the Earldom had passed to a Saxon, so the Normans took it over.
Later a small degree of restoration took place with the "creation" of a
Royal Duchy, but already the appellation of "County" was creeping in.
The Prayer Book Rising of 1548 was the last effort of the Cornish language
against the enormous pressure 0f English, and by the 1800's the Cornish
had become "just another English County". That is until 1874, for in
February of this year, a petition to the Lord Warden arrived in the Duchy
of Cornwall Office, in London, in accordance with time honoured custom.
This petition had been circulated to all the Cornish mines, and many
hundreds of signatures were obtained, although one only would have
sufficed. At the same time, the Clerks of the Stannary Towns were
appraised of impending elections, again in accordance with their special
prerogatives. The result of this, was a query by the Duchy as to why they
should recommend the calling of Convocation, followed by their passing,
again, of deliberately misleading information to the Stannary Towns, and
eventually, by refusal to convene.
On April 18th the ancient Miners', or Tin Court of Haldhu was
re-assembled, attended by representatives of the various miners, as was
customary, The whole position was then explained to the assembled miners,
who then elected the Convenor, the Clerk, and Chairman of their Court. The
Court was then presented with the names addresses and occupations of the
proposed nominees, which was originally intended for perusal by the
Stannary Towns, before they had withdrawn, on receipt of the Duchy's
contrived "information", mentioned above. The Court then decided, that as
the original Parliament, the Assembly of Tinners, was normally nominated
by the miners themselves, that approval of election at the nominees would
be voted upon, by the representatives present at the court. The result of
this vote, was unanimous, that the nominees were fully acceptable, to
represent the tinners, in Convocation.
The Duchy was immediately informed, of the results of the miners'
election, but remained alto unmovable from their previous refusal to
On the 20th May, 1974, the Clark of the Court of Haldhu, having advised
the various successful nominees of their election, called the Parliament,
under protection of the Great Seal of Blackmore, and assembly took place
at Lostwithiel, Stannary Town of Blackmore. After lengthy
discussion, it was unanimously agreed, that one more effort should be made
to secure the attendance of the Lord Warden, in accordance with his
bounden duty. Further negotiations with the Duchy however, proved
fruitless, and at the next session 24th June, the Speaker, and Lord
Protector of the Stannaries was elected to act as locum tenens until the
Warden attended upon his duties.
On 14th September, it was decided to present a Petition of Right to the
Queen claiming redress of grievance, in that the Duchy refused to allow
election by the Stannary Town Councils, and refused to recommend the
Warden to attend upon his duties, also asking for the Cornish National
Flag, the Cross of St. Piran, to be recognised by Her Majesty. The
provisions of Magna Carta require, that forty days was allowable, before
redress of such grievances became mandatory, and on the thirty-eighth day,
a reminder was despatched to Buckingham Palace. A communication was then
received from the Home Office, requiring details of the method of election
employed, to enable a decision to be reached. On 4th October, a final Note
was despatched to Buckingham Palace, stating that if redress was not
received forthwith, the provisions of Magna Carta was to be invoked, by
seizure of Crown property, in accordance with these provisions, on 16th
December. On the 12th December, a reply was received from the Home Office,
to the effect that only election by the Stannary Towns, as required by the
Charter of Pardon of 1508, would be acceptable to the Home Office, thus
giving confirmation of the validity of the Charter as had been claimed by
the Parliament on 20th May.
In consequence of this confirmation, it has been unanimously decided, by
the Statuary Parliament, that the names of the Stannators, elected by the
miners to serve in the Stannary Parliament, will again be presented to the
Stannary Mayors and Councils, for ratification, in accordance with the
stated requirements of the Home Secretary. This ratification will then
raise the status of the Stannary Parliament, to that of full Convocation.
It is, however, the considered opinion of the Stannators, that should a
repetition of the previous experience again recur, the consequences to Law
and order within Cornwall could well be catastrophic, and blame for this
situation must rest squarely upon the shoulders of those, whose duty it is
to ratify the elections of those persons who have already been selected by
the miners of Cornwall, to serve their interests in full Convocation, and
who presently serve, in the Stannary Parliament.
It is intended that the Second House, of 24 members, shall be elected by
the people enlarge, to serve the people at large, and to be responsible
for the general administration of Cornwall's' affairs, thus providing the
parallel to Westminster, of Lords and Commons, the Commons, or Second
House, carrying the bulk of responsibility to the people.
To what extent have they admitted the truth of
When John Davies was purporting to be Chancellor of the Duchy of
Lancaster, he admitted to John Pardoe that there was no link, between the
Duchy of Lancaster and the E.E.C., and that the Local Government Boundary
Revisions Act of 1972 did not apply to the County Palatine. Neither does
Crown Courts are illegal here also, an affront to the Arms and Dignity of
the Duke of Lancaster, and to all Lancastrians. To pretend that they are
legal, as with all those various Acts of Parliament that purport to govern
us, is a criminally indictable offence. That does not touch upon that
requirement of Magna Carla, which provides that an illegal Act shall be
void, and "holden for naught".
This provides the answer to the apparent latency of Henry the VII's in
giving away the powers of the Parliament, and himself, in the Charter of
Pardon of 1508. Because he knew that the Charter of Lancaster expressly
forbad interference with us any way! The Charter of Pardon merely gave a
form of resume of the rights and liberties we already possessed under
Lancaster. For how can an illegal Act become legal, if we do not veto it,
in accordance with the Charter of Pardon? It is unlawful before we even
The political coup d'etat that have been perpetrated are so many and
varied, that it seems almost invidious to single them out. The
self-appointed office of Prime Minister, and the shutting out of the
King's Heriditary Lord High Treasurer, to enable the filching of his
salary no pay for this self appointment.
The removal of the Hereditary Lord High Steward of England and the Duchy
of Lancaster, Principal Officer of State, and Viceroy, whose presence is
essential at the Coronations, and for whom, Bordeaux has paid a 10% Levy
on their wine trade, in accordance with the provisions of the
Constitution, confirmed by the Mayor of Bordeaux as late as 1966.
The Cornish Stannary Parliament next hit the
headlines in 1978, again at St Austell Magistrate's Court. Hambley had
been charged with having failed to pay motor tax and displaying the
Stannary seal in place of a tax disc. His defence was that he was exempt
from the court's jurisdiction as he was a "privileged tinner", having
staked out several acres of moorland with a view to working them for tin
on land belonging to the lord-lieutenant of the county. After two and a
half hours consultation the magistrates agreed they had no jurisdiction.
The following day a court in Bodmin adjourned a similar case sine die
against Frederick Trull. On 11 July, the county court (which had the
powers of the old Stannary courts, under the Stannaries Court (Abolition)
Act 1896), declared that the lands Hambley claimed to have staked were
already bounded, and ordered him to pay the landowners' costs. By the end
of July over a hundred people were refusing to pay road tax in Cornwall,
but a decision of the High Court gave the Home Office leave to quash the
original magistrate's decision.
The Cornish Stannary Parliament's next large campaign was in 1989, and
related to the introduction of the unpopular community charge or poll tax.
They claimed that as the law imposing the charge had not been approved by
the Stannary Parliament "all tin-miners and former tin-miners, all
descendants of tin-miners, all shareholders in tin-mines and anyone who
supplied equipment for tin-mining" were exempt from the tax. Shares were
made available for sale in the Royal Cornish Consols United Tin Mines Cost
Book Company at one pound each, the claim being that shareholders would
not be liable for the charge. The company was owned by Frederick Trull,
who had rejoined the group as its clerk. By March 1990 up to one and a
quarter million applications for shares had been made. On 22 March the
Department of Trade and Industry was granted an injunction in the High
Court freezing the company's assets on the grounds that the company was
not registered under the Companies Act 1985 and that Mr Trull was not
authorised under the Financial Services Act 1986 to conduct investment
business. On 27 June the company was placed in receivership, with
shareholders potentially facing the payment of costs. On 5 September the
receiver announced that Trull had vanished and that there was no trace of
the estimated £1 million paid by members of the public. On 12 October
Trull was found guilty of contempt by breaching High Court orders to stop
issuing shares and for failing to disclose the whereabouts of the money.
He was sentenced in his absence to six months imprisonment. The presiding
judge, Mr Justice Harman, said "The matter may be based on a genuine
belief by Mr Trull in the privileges of Cornish tin miners but has all the
appearance of being a con trick. On 22 February 1991, Trull appeared
before the High Court, and his sentence was reduced to three months and
suspended for two years, on the condition that he undertook to help the
Department of Trade and Industry recover the money invested by the public.
Mr Trull's counsel, told the court that the money had gone to "the sharks
of this world" and that Mr Trull was "fired not by dishonesty, but by
obsessive belief in the Stannary laws". Mr Trull remained clerk of the
parliament and in November was again before the courts claiming the Bodmin
magistrates had no jurisdiction to make orders for payment against him on
behalf of Restormel Borough Council as 'a privileged tinner within the
Stannaries of Cornwall.' The case was finally settled against Mr Trull in
In 1999 the Cornish Stannary Parliament
commenced a new direct action campaign they termed "Operation Chough". The
organisation wrote to English Heritage ordering them to remove all signs
bearing that title from sites in Cornwall by 31 July. Over eleven months
eighteen signs were removed from sites in Cornwall including Carn Euny,
Chysauster, Pendennis Castle and Tintagel. The "Keeper of the Seal of the
Stannary Parliament" wrote to English Heritage saying "The signs have been
confiscated and held as evidence of English cultural aggression in
Cornwall. Such racially motivated signs are deeply offensive and cause
distress to many Cornish people". On 18 January 2002, at Truro Crown
Court, three members of the group agreed to return the signs and pay
£4,500 in compensation to English Heritage and to be bound over to keep
the peace. In return, the prosecution dropped charges of conspiracy to
cause criminal damage. The case was unusual as a Public Interest
Immunity Certificate was presented to the court by the Crown Prosecution
Service after about ten minutes of the hearing. A possible reason for the
introduction of the PII certificate, given by the Stannary Parliament, was
that the Duchy of Cornwall refuses to reveal the circumstances under which
it transferred several of its properties (including Tintagel Castle) to
the care of English Heritage. This prevented some defence evidence from
The name Operation Chough is now used for an unrelated project to
reintroduce the chough to Cornwall
Other Readings -
Copy of letter sent to the Mayors and
Corporations of the four Stannary
Address To Stannary Parliament by the Speaker & Lord Protector of the
Cornwall – A Background Paper by John Kirkhope B.A.
(Hons.), LL.B. (Hons.), Dip. N.P., TEP
Prayer for the Government
Professor Robert R. Pennington LL.D
List of the Lord Wardens of the Stannaries