J. T. (John Thomas) Blight.

Churches of West Cornwall ; with notes of antiquities of the district online

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^atts d ^Intiquitii^s 0f tljt Bistrkt.

By the late J. T. BLIGHT,



5parbr antr €a,





IN issuing a Second Edition, which has been called
for, the Publishers have only to state that with
scarcely any exception the previous Edition, as
finally corrected by Mr. Blight from the papers which
he contributed to the " Gentleman's Magazine," has
been scrupulously followed.

By Mr. Blight's death Archaeology has lost not
only an enthusiastic student, but a hard worker, and
it is much to be feared that his too eager devotion
to his favourite pursuit amidst his daily toil brought
on the illness which had so sad a termination.

October, 1884.





IN presenting these papers in a collected form, little
more need be said than that they were originally
published in successive numbers of the " Gentleman's
Magazine," during the years 1862 — 1864. They are
reprinted without alteration, with the exception of
the concluding remarks of the ninth chapter, which
have been re-written ; and several notes and wood-
cuts have been added.

There is still a wide field for investigation among
the pre-historic antiquities of the county ; but hi-
therto attention has been directed almost entirely to
these, to the exclusion of the ecclesiastical buildings
of the Middle Ages. When the county histories
were written nothing was known of Church archi-
tecture, and it is needless to say that the occasional
descriptions of churches which they contain are
wholly untrustworthy, and, indeed, quite valueless.
Late Norman work is called " Saxon ;" late Perpen-
dicular figures as " Early English ;" and one writer
of eminence assumes the present church at St. Ger-
man's to be the ancient " cathedral of Cornwall "
itself, before Leofric, dilating on the great antiquity



of certain windows with geometrical tracery in par-

Of the thirty-five churches noticed in the following
pages, nearly all are of early date, as a careful in-
vestigation will prove ; but in most of them the early
character of the work has been greatly obscured by
extensive alterations and additions during the Per-
pendicular period. And yet, as the illustrations will
shew, the Cornish churches are by no means so devoid
of interest as is commonly supposed.

The last chapter is occupied by an illustrated nar-
rative of two days' pleasant wandering among the old
stones of West Cornwall, in company with the mem-
bers of the Cambrian Archseoloe^ical Association.

J. T. B.

March, 1865.

From the Rood-screen, St. Burian.



Deanery of St. Burian . . . . i

The Church of St. Burian . • • • 5

Engravings. The Font. — Two arcades from the Rood-
screen. — Carving from the Roodscreen, {see p. vi.). —
The Misereres.— Capital and Base of Pier. — The Tomb of
Clarice de BoUeit.

The Church of St. Lev AN . . . • ^5

Engravings. The Stoup. — Carvings on Bench-ends. —
West View of Transept. — Plan of Transept.— Interior of
Transept. — Capitals of Piers. — The Font.

The Church of St. Sennen . . . .21

Engravings. A Capital. — Mutilated Image of the Virgin.

The Church of St. Madron . . . -24

Engravings. The Font. — The Sedile and Piscina. — A
Tower Window. — The Tower Cornice. — Alabaster figures
of Angels.

The Church of St. Paul, near Penzance . -31

Engravings. Arch between Nave and North Aisle. — The
Tower. — The Belfry Windows.

The Church of Sancreed . . . • 3^

Engraving. Panels of the Roodscreen.

The Church of St. Just in Penwith . . -40

Engravings. Two Capitals. — Hoodmould. — Tooth-mould-
ing. — Inscribed Stone.

The Church of St. Cury . . . -45

Engravings. South Doorway. — Hagioscope. — Plan of
ditto. — Exterior of Low-side Window.



The Church of Gunwalloe . , . -5°

Engravings. General View of Church. — Fragment of Font.

The Church of Mullion . . . -54

Engravings. The Carving of the Crucifix in the Tower. —
Corbel-head. — Stoup. — A Series of eleven Carvings from
the Bench-ends. — Carving on the Altar.

The Church of St. Keverne . . .62

Engravings. A Capital and Base. — Plan of the Church. —
Twenty-four Subjects from the Carvings of the Bench-ends.

The Church of St. Manaccan . . -67

Engravings. Plan of the Church. — Piscina. — Interior of
Chancel. — South-east View of Chancel and Transept. —
South Doorway.

The Church of St. Mawgan IN Terrier . . 72

Engravings. The Hagioscope.— Two Sepulchral Effigies.
— Carving on Key-stone of Tower Window. — Shields
carved on the Tower. — Jamb of Tower Door. — Key-stone
of Tower Arch.

The Church of St. Antony in Kirrier . . 78

Engravings. General View of the Church. — Window of
Chancel. — East Window of Aisle. — The Font.

The Church of Landewednack ' . . .82

Engravings. Plan of the Church.— Exterior of Low-side
Window. — Boss on the Porch. — South Doorway. — The
Font. — Inscription on ditto. — Devices on Bells.

Church of St. Ruan Major . . . .89

Engravings. Window in South Aisle. — Device on Rood-
screen. — Triangular notching. — Plan of Church. — Open-
ings at Junction of Chancel and Nave. — View of Tower.

Church of St. Ruan Minor . , , -95

Engravings. The Piscina. — The Font.
Church of St. Grade . . . -97



Church of St, Wendron . . . -99

Engravings. Plan of the Church. — Moulding of Arch. —
North-east View of Chancel and Transept. — East Window
of Chancel. — East Window of Transept. — Capital of
Transept Pier. — Capital and Base- mouldings of Pier.
— Hood-moulding. — Piscina in Aisle. — The Font. — Cap-
ping of Tower Buttress. — Brass. — Incised Stone.

Church of St. Breage .... 109

Engravings. An old Helmet in the Church. — Three
Capitals. — Cross.

Church of St. Germoe . . . .114

Engravings. General View of Church. — Gable-cross of
Porch. — Gable-corbels of Porch. — The Font. — ' St. Ger-
moe's Chair.'

Church of St, Perran-uthnoe . . .121

Engravings. Corbel of Tower-arch. — Key-stone of South

Church of St. GuLvAL , . . . .124

Engravings. The Credence. — Pinnacle of Tower. — Pier
of Tower-arch. — Shields on the Font,

Church of St. LuDGVAN . . . .127

Church of St, Erth . . . . .128

Eitgravings. Window of North Aisle. — String-course of

Church of Lelant . . . . ,129

Engraving. Capital and Base of Norman Pier.

Church of St. Gwinear .... 130
Engravings . Plan of the Church. — Window of Chancel.
— The Piscina. — Beak-head from Porch. — Corbel-heads
from Tower. — The Font. — Carving on Bench-end,

Church of St. Gwithian , . . . 136

Engravings. View of Transept, — Plan of Oratory. —
Doorway of same. — Remains of Porth Curnow Chapel,


Church of St. Ives . . . . .142

Engravmgs. Shields from the Panels. — Section of Pier
and Pier-arch moulding. — Chancel roof. — The Font. —
Bench Standard.

Church of TOWEDNACK . . . . .148

Engravings. General View. — Sections of Mouldings. —
Plan of Tower Stairs. — Incised Stone.

Church of Zennor . . . . -151

Engravings. Plan of Church. — Norman Window in Nave.
— Window in Chancel. — Section and Hood-mould ter-
mination of same.

Church of St. Hilary .... 156

Engravings. Blocked Spire -light. — General View of
Tower, &c.

Church of St. SiTHNEY .... 158

Church of St. Crowan .... ib.

Church of Cramborne .... ib.
Engraving. Pulpit Panel.

General Notes upon the Western Cornish Churches.
Material . . . . . .161

Ground-plans . . . . .162

Engravings. General Plan of a Church. — View of Church
of St. Gwinear.

Roodscreens . . . . .169

Towers . . . . . . ib.

Ejigravings. Pinnacle, Sancreed. — Pinnacle, St. Just. —
Tower and Church of St. Mawgan in Meneage. — Turret,
St. Burian. — Pinnacle, St. Mawgan.
Windows . . . . . -173

Engravings. General View of Church of S. Ruan Minor.
— Various designs of Windows. — Window in Church of
Gunwalloe. — From St. Mawgan. — From St. Erth. — From
St. Just. — From St. Antony.



Roofs . . . . . . 177

Porches . . . . . . ib.

Engravings. Porch of St. Burian. — Pinnacle, St. Mullion.

Mouldings and Sculpture . . -179

Engravings. Section of Pier, Sancreed. — Flower Orna-
ment. — Impost, St Levan. — Impost, St. Sennen. — Im-
post, Sancreed. — Capital, Gunwalloe. — Cross, St. Ruan
Major. — Stoup, Sancreed.

Names of the Patron Saints of Churches de-
scribed in the Volume . . . .183

Two Days in Cornwall with the Cambrian Archae-
ological Association . . . .187
Efioravin^s. Trembath Cross. — Boscawen-un Circle. —
Plan of Barrow, near the same. — Stone found in the
Barrow. — Urn found in the Barrow. — View of St. Sennen
Church. — Section of Pier, St. Sennen Church. — Plan of
Castle Treryn. — View of St. Levan's Church. — View of
St. Burian's Church. — -Carving from Roodscreen, St.
Burian's Church. — Holed Stones, Bolleit. — The Pipers.
— Plan of the Fogou. — Entrance to the Fogou. — Door-
way, Trewoofe. — Plan of Hut, Chysauster. — Plan of
Cave, Chapel-Uny. — Stone Amulet from same. — Plan of
Beehive-hut, Bosphrennis. — Section of Masonry of same.
— Exterior of Rectangular Chamber of same. — Entrance
to Circular Chamber of the same. — Interior of Circular
Chamber of the same. — Fallen Cromlech, Bosphrennis.
— Plan of Hut, Bosullow. — Plan of Chun Castle. — Ma-
sonry of Outer Wall of the same. — Chiin Cromlech. —
Men-an-tol, Madron. —Plan of St. Madron's Well. —
Kistvaen, Samson, Scilly.

Index ...... 237

By J. T. Blight.

Illustrations by the Author.


IN the latter part of the fifth and beginning of the
sixth century, a numerous company of Irish saints
— bishops, abbots, and sons and daughters of kings
and noblemen — " came into Cornewaul and landed
at Pendinas, a peninsula and stony rok, wher now
the toun of St. les (St. Ives) standeth ^" Hence
they diffused themselves over the western part of the
county, and at their several stations erected chapels
and hermitages. Their object was to advance the
Christian faith. In this they were successful, and
so greatly were they reverenced, that whilst the
memory of their holy lives still lingered in the
minds of the people, churches were built on or near
the sites of their chapels and oratories, and dedicated
to Almighty God in their honour. Thus have their
names been handed down to us. Few of them are
mentioned in the calendars, or in the collections of
the lives of saints, and what little is known of them
has been chiefly derived from tradition. Dr. Whit-

* Leland.

2 Cornish Churches,

aker believed that St. Burian, a king's daughter, was
among those who landed at St. Ives, and that she
took up her abode at the spot which now bears her
name. Leland says, —

"St. Buriana, an holy woman of Ireland, sumtyme dwellid in this
place, and there made an oratory. King Ethelstan, founder of St.
Burian 's College, and giver of the privileges and sanctuarie to it. King
Ethelstan goyng hens, as it is said, on to Sylley, and returning, made,
ex voto, a college where the oratorie was."

Whitaker gives full credit to the truth of this
tradition : —

•' Athelstan advanced towards the Land's End, in order to embark
his army for the Sylley Isles. About four miles from it, but directly
in the present road to it, as he was equally pious and brave, he went
into an oratory, which had been erected there by an holy woman of
the name of Burien, that came from Ireland, and was buried in her
own chapel. Here he knelt down in prayer to God, full of his coming
expedition against the Sylley Isles, and supplicating for success to it ;
then in a strain of devoutness that is little thought of now, but was
very natural to a mind like his, at once munificent and religious, he
vowed, if God blessed his expedition with success, to erect a college of
clergy where the oratory stood, and to endow it with a large income.
So, at least, says the tradition of St. Burien's itself no less than two
centuries and a-half ago."

Having subdued the Scilly Isles, Athelstan on his
return founded and endowed a collegiate church in
honour of St. Buriana, on the spot called after her,
Eglos-Berrie, about five miles eastward of the Land's
End. " He gave lands and tithe of a considerable
value for ever, himself becoming the first patron
thereof, as his successors the Kings of England have
been ever since." Athelstan also gave to the church
the privileges of a sanctuary. The date of founda-

Cornish Churches. 3

tion is supposed to have been about the year 930.
In Domesday Book reference is made to a college
of canons here. The establishment consisted of
a dean and three prebendaries, who are said to have
held it from the king by the service of saying a hun-
dred masses and a hundred psalters for the souls of
the king and his ancestors. Dr. Whitaker alludes
to a rector for the ruling church. Dr, Oliver says
the clergy who first served the church were probably
seven in number. Hals states that —

" The church or college consisted of Canons Augustines, or regular
priests, and three prebendaries, who enjoyed the revenues thereof in
common." He says that "about the time of Edward III., one of the
popes obtruded upon this church, the canons and prebendaries thereof,
a dean to be an inspector over them. This encroachment of the pope
being observed by Edward, this usurpation was taken away."

From this statement it would be understood that
the dean to whom reference is here made was the
first who presided over the establishment, whereas
we find it elsewhere recorded that this was the third
dean, one John de Maunte, that he was objected to
by the king on account of his being a foreigner, and
that on this pretence Edward seized the establish-
ment and kept it entirely in his own hands. It is
also stated that, according to the foundation of Athel-
stan, the establishment was exempt from all inferior
jurisdiction, there was no appeal from the local au-
thorities but to the king himself. But Dr. Oliver,
the highest authority on the subject, says " the foun-
dation did not purport to confer any exemption from
the jurisdiction of the ordinary, and, as far as docu-

4 Cornish CJiiirches.

mentary evidence can be traced, it is manifest that
the diocesan exercised here the right of visitation as
fully as in any other portion of the diocese." In his
Monasticon will be found a Vidimus of the original
endowment of this collegiate church by King Athel-
stan, on the 6th of October, 943, — "a date/' says the
Doctor, " evidently incorrect."

It appears that the establishment was well main-
tained for some time after the Conquest, but was
subsequently much neglected from the non-residence
of the deans. Leland wrote, " Their longeth to St.
Buryens a deane and a few prebendarys, that almost
be nether ther."

Much unpleasant feeling seems to have existed
between the bishops of the diocese and the Crown
respecting the control of this peculiar. Dr. Oliver
tells us, that —

" On the death of Edmund, Earl of Cornwall, King Edward I.
claiming St. Burian as a royal free chapel, gave Sir William de Hamel-
don, his chancellor, dean of York, and a great pluralist, this deanery
of St. Burian. But the neglect of residence was properly objected to
by Bishop Thomas Bitton, and a suit in the king's court was the con-
sequence, which was not decided at the death of that prelate in 1307.
His successor. Bishop Stapeldon, offered equal opposition when Queen
Isabella appointed her chaplain, John Maunte, a foreigner, to this

Bishop Grandisson afterwards excommunicated
this dean for "neglect of duty" and "disregard of
his monitions." The dean's supporters within the
parish of St. Burian were excommunicated with
liim : —

Cornish ChurcJies. 5

" On the 4th of November (1328), being at St. Michael's Mount, he
(Bishop Grandisson) excommunicated with all form the principal de-
linquents, especially Richard Vivian, the most obnoxious of all. At
his public visitation, on July 12, 1336, the bishop found the parishion-
ers returned to a sense of duty, and truly repentant for their contumacy ;
and at their earnest supplication he absolved them from their censures,
and preached to them from the text, i Peter ii. 25, ' Ye were as sheep
going astray, but are now returned unto the shepherd and bishop of
your souls.' To add to the Bishop's satisfaction, the dean, John de
Maunte, on Aug. 16, 1336, waited upon him at Bishop's Court, Clyst,
promised amendment in future, and took the oath of obedience to him
and his successors in tlie see of Exeter.

"But the contest did not end here; within fifteen years King Ed-
ward III. revived the claim of exemption. But eventually the contest
was terminated in favour of the stronger party, and to this day the
dean receives institution from the Prince of Wales and Duke of Corn-
wall as his ordinary, though the patronage has often been exercised
by the sovereign, vacanic diicatii ^ "

The "church-town " of St. Burian stands on a high
position, and the lofty tower is a very conspicuous
object from the surrounding district. The spot com-
mands extensive views, terminated on the south and
west by the distant horizon of the Atlantic.

The church is a large building, consisting of a nave
and north and south aisles, with a tower ninety feet
in height at the west end. The dimensions of the
building are about ninety feet by forty-seven. Not
a vestige of the original church or college remains,
for the present edifice was erected on the site of the
older church in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
It is curious to observe that, though Polwhele in his
History of Cornwall correctly refers this building to

'' Oliver's Monasticon.

Cornish Churches.

the fifteenth century, Dr. Whitaker in the supplement
to the same work should be so mistaken as to de-
scribe it as the veritable church of Athelstan, erected
more than eight centuries previously : —

"The inside," he says, "is
still disposed nearly as Athel-
stan left it." And "its fresh
appearance results merely from
the frequent washings to which
its high position on a hill and
its pointed exposure to the rains
from the Atlantic continually
subject it."

Dr. Oliver gives in

his Mo7iasticon the act

of the dedication of St.

Burian's Church on the

26th of August, 1238,

by Bishop Brewer of

Exeter. But few relics — ^""^'^^:-'4J:l:^^:^ZS^^ _
even of the church of FontrstrB^i^

that period remain : the font may have stood there
at that time, it is of Ludgvan granite", and has on
the bowl three angels (not four as Dr. Oliver says)
supporting shields; on a fourth shield is carved a plain
Latin cross on two steps. On the opposite side there
is a small Maltese cross between two of the aneels.


The height of the font is 2 ft. 1 1 in. It has been cleaned
of the lime-wash which at one time covered it.

"= The granite from Ludgvan parish is a better material for fine sculp-
tured work than other granite found in the district.

Cornish Churches.

In the early part of the present century this church
was particularly rich in carved oak benches, and pos-
sessed a magnificent roodscreen and loft. In the
year 1 8 14 the building underwent repairs, when the
benches and screen were barbarously destroyed.
The plea for taking down the latter was, that it
deadened the preacher's voice ; a portion yet remains.
About two-thirds of the curiously carved cornice has
been placed in its original position, extending across
south aisle and nave, and some of the beautiful ar-
cade-work is pre-

served in a
chest within the
church. The work-
manship, as the ac-
companying cuts
will shew, was ex-
ceedingly rich ; the
whole was gilded
and painted, chiefly
in red and blue, and
each compartment
was of a different

design in the tra-
cery. The screen
extended the whole
breadth of the
church, and must
have had a very
fine effect. It was

Arcaaes of Roodscreen, St. Burian.

8 Cornish Churches.

put together with wooden pins, no nails being used.
The vandals who took it down do not appear to have
had the least regard for it, for if they had no rever-
ence for the holy things of the sanctuary, it would
be thought that they would have taken some care to
preserve the several portions merely for the sake of
the beauty of the designs. Such, however, was not
the case, for their saws were ruthlessly passed through
the most elaborate tracery. It is said that some
figures of saints belonging to this work were to be
seen as chimney ornaments in the houses of the pa-
rishioners, and some of the bench-ends and panels
were used as ordinary wood about farm out-houses.

On the upper part of the cornice is carved a vine
pattern, beneath which are very curious scenes of
hunting, warfare between animals and birds, and
grinning heads: the workmanship is somewhat rude,
but the effect is good. Some of the lower panels
remain in situ, but no part of the connecting frame-
work is to be found. The outer part of the screen
was gilded and painted with different colours, red
and blue predominating, but the inside, facing the
altar, was entirely red. The spiral staircase, in the
wall of the south aisle, which led to the rood-loft,
has not been destroyed.

Adjoining the screen, within the chancel, are four
oak miserere stalls, placed two on either side of the
entrance from the nave to the chancel. Dr. Oliver
says they were " destined for the dean, for the pre-
bendary of Respernell, for the prebendary of Trith-

Cornish CJmrches.

ing, and for the holder of the ' Prebenda Parva.'
Fortunately they have escaped destruction from the
hands of the Puritans, and the no less mischievous
pew-builders of more recent date." It has been
suggested that when there was a choir at St, Burian's
one of the stalls might have been for the precentor.
Each stall has a moveable seat; when turned up,
a rounded ledge is brought forward which served
as a sort of occasional rest for the monks. The en-
graving shews one seat raised and the other down.


Misereres, St. Burian.

The chancel end of the church appears to have
undergone alteration in modern times. The large
east window, which has a pointed arch, does not
retain its original tracery. A smaller square-headed
window on the south side has been recently re-opened.


Cornish Churches.

On the north side there was an unusual arrangement,
which can now only be seen from the outside.
Here we find that a large archway has been built
up, and in connection with it immediately under
the window of the north aisle there were three stone
steps, evidently constructed with the original wall.
These steps were to be seen about twenty or thirty
years ago, and though now removed, their position
may be traced.

There are no remains of a piscina either in the
chancel or in the east end of the north or south aisle,
for the church probably had three altars.

The aisles areconnected with the naveby six pointed
arches. The piers have a
simple ogee moulding ; the
capitals, though of a plain
character, have a bold effect.
The aisles are each lighted
by five square-headed win-
dows, with hood-mouldings,
divided into three lights,
which are rounded at the
top, and were inserted late
in the sixteenth century.

The tower-arch is lofty,
and its mouldings are bold
and effective. Over the

«.^,,r^.- A „ i.1- j_ Capital and Base of Pier, St. Burian.

tower doorway, on the out-

side, is a shield bearing the sacred monogram I.H.S.

The Perpendicular window above this is much supe-

Cor7iish Churches. ii

rior to those at the east end of the church, and evi-
dently of earlier date.

Within the tower, on the pavement, is an ancient
tomb which, when Whitaker visited the church about
sixty years ago, was " lying near the altar-rails, but
on the floor in the northern access to it." According
to Hals it was discovered about the year 1665, buried
four feet in the ground, by the sexton while digging

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