Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A slave trade protest - 'No sugar in my tea please - I'm Cornish'

I've finally cracked a bit of a mystery that has been puzzling me for years.

I have often heard the expression "I don't have sugar in my tea - Cornish people don't". I don't either and have always been rather proud of it.

Of course, when I ask people like my parents and other relatives about this, they immediately disappoint me and say they have never heard of such a thing. It is obviously me being a soft-headed exile in posh Berkshire.

At the weekend I visited the absolutely excellent Bude Heritage Centre at the Castle, Bude. If you are ever within 50 miles of Bude, make sure you go to the Heritage centre. It is mind-blowingly brilliant.

Any road up. One of the displays was about the very strong Methodist background in Bude. There was an active Band of Hope group which educated youngsters and paid for one of the lifeboats. There was a bed and breakfast establishment in Landsdown road which hosted the Liberal Methodist Cycling Club or somesuch (I'll have to check the inscription the next time I visit the Halifax office there). (Of course, the Liberal party had a very strong anti-establishment church/Methodist background which probably helped keep North Cornwall Liberal even through some very dark days for the Liberal Party).

The display mentioned that Methodists refused sugar in their tea as a protest against the slave trade.

I wondered whether this was the foundation of the oft-heard (by me at least) saying that Cornish people don't take sugar in their tea.

Thank you BBC. I have now found an article on BBC Cornwall which confirms the whole thing:

The minister of the Newlyn Trinity Methodist chapel, the Reverend Julyan Drew explains why a protest campaign more than 200 years ago means that many people in Cornwall refuse to take sugar in their tea.

...This year is the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slavery. One of the key figures in the abolitionist movement was John Wesley, who was one of the founders of Methodism. The Methodist Church was and still is very strong in Cornwall. It was almost the established church here. Most of us who were reared here, were taught not to have sugar in our tea because Mr Wesley said that we shouldn't as a protest against the slave trade.

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