The Names






There are several early references to the name Trenear in West Cornwall. In 1493 John Trenear, freeman, owned a mill at Trenar Wolas (Trenear Bottom). This was situated where the Wendron Forge/ Poldark mine complex now stands.

Both as a place name and a surname Trenear is found in various forms. In Penzance the area known as Treneere was called “Trenyar” in 1280 which supports the suggestion that the name is derived from the Cornish “tre an yer” – the hen farm. Evidence points to the St Just Trenears having descended from the Penzance Trenears, albeit by a rather circuitous route.

Poultry in medieval times were not kept for food or egg production but to support the “sport” of cock fighting which had been introduced by the Romans. There is archaeological evidence for cock fighting in Cornwall in the Dark Ages and there seems very likely that Trenear was a fighting cock farm. The 1327 Lay Subsidy Rolls for Madron parish (which included Penzance) listed a Thomas Trenear who was taxed three shillings (15 p). A fighting cock breeder well up the social scale and probably a Freeman.


According to the Cornish language scholar, Morton Nance the name Harvey means “battleworthy” and originates from the Breton word “aerviu”. He says the word was “Hervi” before 1066 and so the name probably came to Cornwall after that date. Presumably he thought it came with the Normans. He is probably correct that the name as we now use it appeared some time after the invasion but variants existed some time before this date.

He seems to suggest that the name changed from the Breton variant to the Norman and then came to Cornwall but his assertion ignores the contiguity of Breton and Cornish both as sister Celtic languages and races. There is evidence of Breton settlements in Cornwall up to the time of the reformation and so both languages would have had an effect on each other.

Lord Arthur Harvey writing in the “proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of archaeology” in 1858 says the name Herve, (warrior of host) which is written variously as Herive, Herve, Ervais, Hervays and Ervisz, is evidently not of Norman but of Frankish origin. It apparently has the same derivation as hero and herzog – a Duke. The name appears to have come to England (he claimed), during the Norman conquest and says it is not found in Britain prior to the battle of Hastings. Perhaps this is where Morton Nance got the idea from.

Apart from the apparent link to the invasion Lord Harvey differs from Morton Nance claiming that the word or name was used by the Normans who adopted it from the Germanic Franks who invaded France in the third century A.D.

The dates chosen by the above writers are thrown into doubt by the Suffolk Green Books which contains a dictionary of Herveys 1040 to 1500, which includes 22 Herveys in Cornwall. Unfortunately the precise dates of these Harveys are unknown to me but the interesting point is that the name was known before 1066.

All the foregoing is certainly curious but it doesn’t get us very far.

All we can safely say is that there are similar words used over a wide area with very similar meanings, battleworthy, warrior hero and duke. It is not surprising then there is a Cornish word “arva” which means “to arm” and another “arveth” which means to attack.

In a fascinating study based on surname concentrations in parish records, Richard Blewett has shed considerable light on the origin of the name “Harvey” in Cornwall. The Harveys, he suggests, in an unpublished document held in the Royal Institution of Cornwall, Truro, were the Cornish armed warriors and at first it was a generic name which became a surname in the 11th century. In his thesis Blewett shows how the Cornish Celtic warriors – the Harveys – and the Irish Celtic warriors – the Kerns – fought against the Saxon army led by Athelstan. The Harveys fought their last battle at Paul, near Mousehole, circa 900 a.d. when they failed to stop the Saxons overrunning the County to Land’s End.

Blewett’s researches show a striking concentration of Harveys in far West Cornwall with numbers dwindling as one looks eastwards. However, as Lord Arthur Harvey points out concentrations are to be found in Suffolk, Bristol and Donegal as well as Cornwall.

Whichever explanation one accepts does not really matter. All the offerings above are from closely linked languages. My own feeling is that the Cornish Harveys were already there when the other settlers arrived in various parts of the British Isles from the continent and that whilst there is a common etymological root in the names, there is not necessarily a genealogical link between the groups

All this will to help to explain why a warrior was used on the family device designed by Dennis Endean Ivall. The inscription translates literally as “to arm without aggression” which is simply an attempt to put a more peaceful emphasis on a warlike name.

I should mention that is a family device and not a coat of arms. There are several Harvey coats of arms and some are shown at the end of these notes, but none, as far as I know, belong to us and we are therefore not entitled to use them although legally there is nothing to prevent anyone doing so.


The name Asket is as important to this story as Trenear and Harvey. The name has been spelled Arscot, Ascot, Arscott, Ascott, Ascots and Asscott. It first appears in our records as Ascot when Mary Ascot married Robert Trenear in 1590. Mary’s father had the appellation “Gentleman” – as did her husband’s father – Richard Trenear.

In 1583 Sir Thomas Smith in De Republica Anglorum, described an Elizabethan gentleman as:-

Whosoever studieth the laws of the realme, who studieth in the universities, who professeth liberal sciences, and to be shorte, who can live idly and without manuall labour, and will bear the port, charge and countenance of a gentleman, he shall be called master … and shall be taken for a gentleman.

Some disputed the academic part of this definition and many substituted it with the traditional values of inherited wealth and real (or assumed) lineage.

I know that many Cornishmen would rather be born the wrong side of the blanket than being born the wrong side of the Tamar. However that was the case with a major contributor to our story. Mary’s father was William Arscott. The Arscotts were an important Devon family. For hundreds of years the Arscotts of Tetcott were typical of the small-scale landed gentry and one member of the family became Sheriff of Devon and another Sheriff of Cornwall.

Mary’s great uncle was an MP with influential contacts – one of whom may have been Catherine Parr. The family were acquaintances of important families such as the Carews and the Poles. Her great grandmother was a member of the ancient Floyer family so Mary came with a first class pedigree and she was born within pasty throwing distance to the Tamar.

The last of the line - Squire John Arscott – was a great eccentric and even though he is not an ancestor, the links below are interesting.

John Arscott


As late as the 1700s the Arscotts had a jester, a dwarf known as Black John. In behaviour and lifestyle he and his master were a throw-back to the Middle Ages.

In 1788 the direct family line failed and the estate went to cousins, the Molesworths of Pencarrow in Cornwall.  The Molesworths, and later the Molesworth-St. Aubyn family, continued to use Tetcott first as a farm and then as the family seat and the estate remains in the hands of the Molesworth-St Aubyns to this day

In 1788 the direct family line failed and the estate went to cousins, the Molesworths of Pencarrow in Cornwall.  The Molesworths, and later the Molesworth-St. Aubyn family, continued to use Tetcott first as a farm and then as the family seat and the estate remains in the hands of the Molesworth-St Aubyns to this day.

Sadly the Trenear Harveys have only one Asket left and that is Asket Trenear Harvey son of Asket and Charity. Asket is pleased that his granddaughter is called Kate because that is almost an anagram of Asket. However all is not completely lost. In South Africa we have a cousin Greg Hutchinson and his son both of whom have Asket as a middle name. They are descended from Grandfather William’s brother Asket.

To download a large version of the pictures above, right click here and select save target as

- The Trenear-Harveys of St Just-in-Penwith -