Cornwall’s linguistic history is a tapestry woven with unique threads. In this blog post, we delve into the remarkable contributions of Nicholas Tregear, a pivotal figure in the revival of the Cornish language. We also explore the Tregear Homilies, a significant historical treasure that reflects the challenges and triumphs of preserving Cornish during a time of profound change.

The Tregear Homilies: A Glimpse into History

The earliest surviving examples of Cornish prose are the Tregear Homilies, a collection of 13 Catholic sermons. These sermons, originally written in English around 1560, underwent a transformation when John Tregear translated them into Cornish. In addition to these translations, there were also 12 homilies in Edmund Bonner’s Homilies meant for the diocese of London, which John Tregear adapted into Cornish. Together, they constitute the largest single work of traditional Cornish prose.

John Tregear’s Efforts

John Tregear’s translation work was groundbreaking, but he was not without his challenges. His translations often incorporated English loanwords or loan translations. Scholars believe this might have been due to the declining knowledge and understanding of Cornish during his time. Tregear’s intent may have been to revisit and refine these translations later, but the pressing circumstances of language loss left their mark.

Rediscovery of the Homilies

The Tregear Homilies, a testament to the enduring spirit of the Cornish language, were rediscovered in April 1949 by John Mackechnie. These treasures were found among the papers of the Puleston family, housed in the collection of the British Museum. Their recovery marked a significant moment in the ongoing efforts to understand and revive Cornish.

Content of the Homilies

The Tregear Homilies touch upon a variety of themes and subjects, mirroring the traditional content of religious sermons of the era:

  • Spiritual Guidance: The Homilies offer moral and spiritual guidance, emphasizing virtues, faith, and righteous living.

  • Religious Instruction: They delve into Christian beliefs, practices, and the importance of attending church.

  • Exhortations: Tregear encourages his audience to lead virtuous lives and adhere to Christian principles.

  • Parables and Biblical Stories: Like many religious texts, the Homilies feature parables and stories from the Bible to illustrate moral lessons.

  • Prayers and Devotion: These writings include prayers and expressions of devotion, promoting a deepening of faith.

  • Repentance and Forgiveness: Central themes in Christian theology, the Homilies discuss the concept of repentance and the forgiveness of sins.


Nicholas Tregear’s life and work stand as a testament to the enduring power of language and culture. Through the Tregear Homilies, he left an indelible mark on the Cornish language, ensuring that its voice, though challenged, would continue to echo through time. As we explore and celebrate Cornwall’s linguistic heritage, let us not forget the bard who ensured that Cornish would live on, even in the face of adversity. Nicholas Tregear remains a vital figure in Cornwall’s linguistic and cultural tapestry, inspiring future generations to preserve and cherish this unique language.