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He was born 26 April 1928, the son of Donald Woodroffe Thomas and Viva Warrington Thomas, his wife.
He attended Elmhirst Preparatory day school, Camborne and Upcott House School, Okehampton. In 1940 he received a scholarship to Bradfield College, but on the advice of a family friend was instead sent to Winchester College on a 'Headmaster's Nomination'. In 1945 at the age of 17 he joined the army as a Young Soldier and later was an ammunition examiner in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps; he would serve in Northern Ireland, Portsmouth, Scotland and Egypt, the latter of which helped inspire his interest in archaeology. He demobilised in 1948 at which point he matriculated into Corpus Christi College, Oxford, receiving a BA Honours degree in Jurisprudence in 1951. He then studied under V. Gordon Childe at the UCL Institute of Archaeology and received a Diploma in Prehistoric Archaeology in 1953.
Thomas' first public lecture was entitled 'The Glebe Lands of Camborne' for the Camborne Old Cornwall Society in 1946, while on a week's leave from the Army in Portsmouth. His academic career officially began as a part-time Workers' Educational Association lecturer in archaeology in Cornwall 1954-58. He became Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh from 1958 to 1967. From 1967 to 1971, he was appointed the first Professor of Archaeology at the University of Leicester. During this period, he became a FSA in 1960 and was awarded a Leverhulme Fellowship for 1965 to 1967.
"the study of all aspects of man and his handiwork in the regional setting (Cornwall and Scilly), past, present and future. The development of society, industry and the landscape in our fast changing world is as much of concern ... as the history of those vast topics in the recent and remote past."
In 1983, he was awarded a Doctorate of Literature by the University of Oxford. He was Sir John Rhys Fellow of the University of Oxford and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at Jesus College from 1985 to 1986.
He retired as Director of the Institute and Professor of Cornish Studies in 1991; he was awarded an Emeritus Fellowship at Exeter by the Leverhulme Trust (1992-94). Thomas was also awarded Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, by the National University of Ireland in 1996.
Thomas' first archaeological excavation was at the Bronze Age barrow on Godrevy headland, St Ives Bay in 1950, and he initially saw himself as a prehistorian. He was Director of excavations at Gwithian, Cornwall (1949-1963), which revealed an important post-Roman occupation.
He was best known for his contributions to early medieval archaeology, particularly to the archaeology of early Christianity in Britain and Ireland. After Gwithian, excavations at early Christian sites included Nendrum Monastery, County Down in 1954; a chapel at East Porth, Teän, Isles of Scilly in 1956;Iona Abbey, Argyll in 1956-1963;Ardwall Island, Kirkcudbright; and Abercorn, West Lothian 1964-65. His first major work in this field was The Early Christian Archaeology of North Britain (1971), followed by similarly influential volumes including Christianity in Roman Britain to AD 500 (1981) and And Shall These Mute Stones Speak?: post-Roman inscriptions in Western Britain (1994).
An Archaeological Survey of the Rame Peninsula. Institute of Cornish Studies. 1974.
'An Archaic Place-name Element from the Isles of Scilly'; The Bulletin Board of Celtic Studies, Vol XXVIII, Pt II, May 1979, pp. 229-233.
And shall these mute stones speak?: post-Roman inscriptions in western Britain; Cardiff : University of Wales Press, 1994. ISBN0-7083-1160-1
'Archaeology and Local Government', New Approaches to our Past, T C Carvill (ed), University of Southampton Department of Archaeology, 1978, pp. 63-77.
'Archaeology in Cornwall'; Summer Meeting Programme, Royal Archaeological Institute, 1973, pp. 10-13.
Bede, Archaeology, and the Cult of Relics: Jarrow Lecture 1973; 1973
Britain and Ireland in Early Christian times : A.D. 400-800; Library of medieval civilization series; London : Thames and Hudson, 1971 ISBN0-500-56002-1
The Bronze Age In the South West, Papers In Regional Archaeology series, 1; Bristol : Univ. of Bristol, Archaeological Review, 1969
'Bronze Age Spade Marks at Gwithian, Cornwall'; The Spade in Northern and Atlantic Europe, Alan Gailey and Alexander Fenton (eds), Ulster Folk Museum, Institute of Irish Studies, Belfast, 1970, pp. 10-17.
'Carwynnen Quoit'; Camborne Festival Magazine, November 1985, pp. 14-15.
Christian Sites In West Penwith Excursion Guide : Saturday, 6 April 1968 / The Society For Medieval Archaeology and the Cornwall Archaeological Society ; Truro : Cornwall Office Services (printers), 1968
Christian sites in West Penwith : excursion guide, Thursday 27 June 1974 [for] the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland; [Redruth], Institute of Cornish Studies, 1974. General note '... produced for the RSAI Summer Conference (Penzance), 1974 ISBN0-903686-04-X
Christianity in Roman Britain to AD 500 ; London : Batsford Academic and Educational, c1981. ISBN0-7134-1442-1.
'Chun Castle and Quoit'; Summer Meeting Programme, Royal Archaeological Institute, 1973, pp. 56-59.
The cliff castle at The Rumps, St. Minver (Series: Cornwall Archaeological Society. Field Guides; no.9 ); Cornwall Archaeological Society, 1963.
'Coast and Cliff Names of Gwithian and the North Cliffs'; Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall New Series Vol.5, Pt.1, 1965, pp12-36; with corrections and additions in Vol.5, Pt.3, 1967, pp291-6.
'The context of Tintagel : a new model for the diffusion of Post-Roman Mediterranean imports'; Cornish Archaeology 27, 1988, pp. 7-25; also offprint(Institute of Cornish Studies Varia series, No. 8).
Cornish Chapel Stories; Lambessow : Summaries and Plain Digits, 2008 [compiled and edited under the nom de plume 'Cornubiensis'].
Cornish Studies and Cornish Topics : Some Notes on the Scheme of Subject-headings, in Use in the Catalogue of the Library at Lowenac, Camborne; Worthing : E. D. Paine [Printing], 1970
"Cornish Volunteers In the Eighteenth Century (1745-1783)"; in Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries, Vols. 27-28, 1956-61 Note: also includes Cornish Volunteers In the Early Nineteenth Century (1803-1808).
'The Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry Museum Project (preliminary report)'; Cornish Studies 8, 1980, pp63-64. ISBN0-903686-32-5.
The early Christian archaeology of North Britain : the Hunter Marshall lectures delivered at the University of Glasgow in January and February 1968; London : Oxford University Press for the University of Glasgow, 1971 ISBN0-19-214102-3
"Grass-marked Pottery In Cornwall" in Studies In Ancient Europe; 1968.
Grave news from Tintagel : an account of a second season of archaeological excavation at Tintagel Churchyard, Cornwall, 1991 / Jacqueline A. Nowakowski and Charles Thomas with a contribution from Chris Crowe; Truro : Cornwall Archaeological Unit, Cornwall County Council and Institute of Cornish Studies, University of Exeter, 1992
Greg McGrath, Badlands Ranger: A Gripping Tale of the Utah Panhandle; Lambessow : Summaries and Plain Digits, 2011 [Fiction]
Gwithian : notes on the Church, parish and St. Gothian's Chapel; Redruth : Earles Press, 1964
Gwithian : Ten Years' Work (1949-1958); Gwithian : West Cornwall Field Club Excavation Staff, 1958
The henge monuments at Castilly, Lanivet (Series: Cornwall Archaeological Society. Field guides No.8); P.A.S. Pool, 1962
'Hermits on Islands or Priests in a Landscape'; Cornish Studies 6, 1978, pp28-44. ISBN0-903686-28-7.
The history of Christianity in Cornwall : AD 500-2000 / Charles Thomas and Joanna Mattingly ; Truro : Royal Institution of Cornwall, 2000 ISBN1-898166-14-5 (Published to accompany Millennium Exhibition commencing 11 December 1999)
The importance of being Cornish : an inaugural lecture delivered in the University of Exeter on 8 March 1973 / Exeter : University of Exeter, 1973 ISBN0-900771-80-1
The Institute's Cornish dialect project : progress report on the first nine months' work, July 1978 to March 1979 / Adam Sharpe and Charles Thomas; Redruth : Institute of Cornish Studies, 1979. (Special reports / Institute of Cornish Studies ; no.4) ISBN0-903686-20-1
The island of St. Patrick : Church and ruling dynasties in Fingal and Meath, 400-1148 / Ailbhe MacShamhráin, editor ; [Charles Thomas ... et al.]; Dublin : Four Courts Press, c2004. ISBN1-85182-867-2
Irish colonists in south-west Britain; Redruth : Institute of Cornish Studies, 1973
"The Irish Settlements In Post-roman Western Britain : A Survey of the Evidence" in Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall New Series, Vol.6, Pt.4, 1972, pp251-274.
Is Archaeology Necessary? : Presidential Address, Section H, British Association For the Advancement of Science, Bath, September, 1978; Pool : Institute of Cornish Studies, 1978
John Harris of Bolenowe, poet and preacher, 1820-1884 : a tribute : a lecture delivered at the Royal Institution of Cornwall, Truro, Monday 19 March 1984 by Charles Thomas for the Cornish Methodist Historical Association, 1984.
"Lyonesse Revisited : The Early Walls of Scilly"/ Peter Fowler and Charles Thomas in Antiquity, Vol.53, No.209, November 1979. pp. 188-189.
The medieval Cornish drama / editor Charles Thomas (Series Special bibliography ; No. 3); Bosgea : Cornwall Archaeological Society, 1969
Merther Uny, Wendron / Charles Thomas director (Series Field guide ; 11); St Ives (Cornwall) : Cornwall Archaeological Society, 1968 ISBN0-9500308-0-5
Methodism and self-improvement in nineteenth century Cornwall, (Series: Cornish Methodist Historical Association. Occasional publications; no.9 ); Cornish Methodist Historical Association, 1965
Military insignia of Cornwall/ D. Endean Ivall and Charles Thomas; Publication Date: 1974; Pool, Redruth: Penwith Books (for the) Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry Regimental Museum, ISBN0-903686-07-4 and Supplement: 1976 ISBN0-903686-14-7
"The "Monster" Episode in Adomnan's Life of St. Columba" in Cryptozoology 7, 1988, pp38-45.
Mr Holmes in Cornwall : a critical explanation of the late Dr. Watson's narrative entitled "the Devil's foot" / by Percy Trevelyan; Redruth : Penwith, 1980 ISBN0-903686-31-7 Written by Charles Thomas as the fictitious Percy Trevelyan, M.D. "Originally published, Inverness , Printed by Carruthers, 1927"
Mrs Percival's endowed school at Penponds and Treslothan Camborne : 1761 to 1876; Redruth (Institute of Cornish Studies), 1982. ISBN0-903686-38-4
"Ninth-century Sculpture In Cornwall : A Note" in British Archaeological Reports: Anglo-Saxon and Viking Age Sculpture and Its Context...edited by James Lang" , 1978.
"Notes on the Late Bronze Age Site at Gwithian Cornwall : Gwithian 1957" / Issued by the Excavation Staff ; Series: Field Guide ; No.4; West Cornwall Field Club, 1957
Penzance market cross : a Cornish wonder re-wondered ; Penzance : Penlee House Gallery & Museum, 1999
People and Pottery In Dark Age Cornwall: Series Field Guide ; No.6 ; West Cornwall Field Club, 1960 (Reprinted From Old Cornwall, Vol.v, No.11, 1960 )
Phillack Church : an illustrated history of the Celtic, Norman and medieval foundations; Publisher British Publishing Co, 1961 New editions 1969 and 1977
A preliminary hand-list of the guide books to the Isles of Scilly (from 1816) / (compiled by Charles Thomas) Special bibliographies series, no.4 ; Redruth : Institute of Cornish Studies, 1978
The principal antiquities of the Land's End district (with Peter Pool): 1954 ; also: 2nd Edition 1956; 3rd Edition 1957; 4th Ed. 1959 , 5th Ed. 1960; 6th Ed. 1961; 7th Ed. 1962, 8th Ed. 1963, 9th Ed. 1964; 10th ed. 1965, 11th Ed. 1966; 12th Ed 1967;13th Ed. Revised 1968; 14th Ed 1969; 15th Ed. Revised, 1970; 16th Ed. 1980.
A provisional list of imported pottery in post-Roman Western Britain & Ireland / Charles Thomas ; (with an appendix on Tintagel by O.J. Padel); Redruth : Institute of Cornish Studies, 1981. Special report of the Institute of Cornish Studies series ; no.7. ISBN0-903686-33-3
Real Cornish Humour; Lambessow : Summaries and Plain Digits, 2008 [compiled and edited under the nom de plume 'Cornubiensis'].
Research objectives in British archaeology, edited by Charles Thomas; London : Council for British Archaeology, c1983. ISBN0-906780-32-2
Rural Settlement in Roman Britain: Papers Given at a C.B.A. Conference Held at St. Hugh's College, Oxford, January 1 to 3, 1965, edited by Charles Thomas; Series CBA research reports, no.7 ; London :Council for British Archaeology, 1966
The Sacrifice In Cornwall, Series: Studies In the Folk-lore of Cornwall, no.2; 1952
"Scilly's statue-menhir rediscovered" / Paul Ashbee & Charles Thomas in Antiquity, vol.64, no.244, September 1990
The story of Gwithian Chapel : (Gwithian Methodist Church) ; [Truro : Charles Thomas, 1999]
The Taboo in Cornwall, (Series: Studies in the Folk-lore of Cornwall, No.1 ); 1951
Three early accounts of the Isles of Scilly : James Beeverell, 1707, Graeme Spence, 1792, Henry Spry, 1800 / edited by Charles Thomas; Redruth : Penwith Books, 1979. ISBN0-903686-22-8
Tintagel Castle / [text by Charles Thomas] ; English Heritage Publication Date: 1986 ISBN1-85074-118-2
To the lighthouse': the story of Godrevy light, Cornwall ; Truro : Summaries and Plain Digits, 1985. ISBN0-903686-45-7
"Topographical Notes. - 3 : Rosnat, Rostat, and the Early Irish Church" From Ériu, Vol.xxii, 1971
Trencrom Hill : A Property of the National Trust ; Camborne : Camborne Printing and Stationery Co., 1957
"Types and Distribution of Pre-Norman Fields In Cornwall and Scilly", (Series: British Archaeological Reports ; 48: Early Land Allotment In the British Isles. a Survey of Recent Work. Edited by H.C. Bowen and P.J. Fowler), 1978
Views and likenesses : early photographers and their work in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly 1839-1870 ; Truro : Royal Institution of Cornwall, 1988. ISBN1-871294-00-2
"Vita Sancti Paterni: The Life of Saint Padarn and the Original Miniu", Trivium 33 (2003)(with David Howlett).
What do we want from regional broadcasting? : a report of a seminar held at Truro, 28 June 1978 by the BBC South-West Regional Advisory Council / edited by Charles Thomas; Redruth : Institute of Cornish Studies, 1978. Special reports of Institute of Cornish Studies series; no.3; ISBN0-903686-16-3
Whispering reeds : or, the Anglesey Catamanus inscription stript bare : a detective story ; Oxford : Oxbow, 2002. ISBN1-84217-085-6
^Antony Charles, son of Donald Woodroffe & Viva Warrington Thomas. Born 26 April 1928 and baptized (presumably at Camborne Wesley Chapel) 10 June 1928 (Cornwall Record Office: MR/CB/902, No 41, page 15).
^ abThomas, Charles; edited by Chris Bond (2012). Gathering the fragments : the selected essays of a groundbreaking historian. Sheffield: Cornovia. ISBN9781908878038.
^"Hume awarded honorary degree by the NUI". The Irish Times. 25 June 1996. Archived from the original on 8 February 2019. THE SDLP leader, Mr John Hume, "one of the most remarkable people in public life in the world", yesterday received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from the National University of Ireland in a ceremony at University College, Galway... Others who received honorary degrees included Dr Patricia Donlon, director of the National Library of Ireland; Prof Charles Thomas of Exeter University, archaeologist and author; and Mr Stiofain O hAnnrachain, honorary editor of An Clochomhar, the Irish language publishing co operative, which has published more than 200 books and was a source of encouragement for writers such as Mairtin O Direain and Pearse Hutchinson.
^"The Frend Medal, named after its donor, our Fellow William Frend. It is awarded for contributions to knowledge of the archaeological and material remains of the early Christian Church." SAL websiteArchived 28 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
^First awarded in 1936, the Jenner Medal is presented to individuals in recognition of a serious body of work with Cornish history. It was named after Henry Jenner (1848-1934), first Grand Bard of the Cornish Gorseth.