St Keverne


It is believed that there has been a place of worship at St. Keverne since 600 A.D. A monk named St. Piran or St. Kieran built a small wooden church on the site of the present church.

The first church would have been built of wood, but the Saxon church that followed would have been a more permanent structure; this was destroyed some time before 1085. The church at St. Keverne was known it the late Saxon period as a Collegiate Church - a centre of learning. The stones in the present day church on the window ledges are thought to have come from the ruins of this Collegiate Church.

The Normans rebuilt the parish Church, which became one of the largest parochial areas in West Cornwall. It was probably cruciform in design with a central tower. Later, in alterations, the north and south transepts were suppressed and the corresponding aisles widen. As it stands the church is mainly 15th century, but some of the piers have been reused from an earlier church probably of 13th century origin.

The Cistercian

The Cistercians originated in 1098 in Citeaux, Burgundy and were a medieval monastic order. They followed a order for greater strictness within the older Benedictine tradition of western monasticism, as a result of this they tended to build their centres away from large towns. The Cistercian community settled in many areas in England, and one of the later houses put down roots at Beaulieu in Hampshire. In 1235 the church of St Keverne was acquired by the monks of Beaulieu as a grant from Richard of Cornwall, King John's son.

In 1235 Bartholomew de Boiata was pensioned off with 20 marks a year, from that day on St Keverne has had Vicars rather than rectors. The Cistercian of Beaulieu laid claim to the tithe income of the parish. They paid a vicar to look after the parish.

At first the vicar was paid 15 marks a year by the abbey, but later in 1269 he received a house and the tithe of peas and beans growing in the gardens of the parish.

In the early 14th century on account of local opposition to the Cistercians, they were sent to St Keverne in pairs to collect the tithes and rents; a third was added in 1336. The danger of the journey was dangerous so royal protection was needed.

In 1497 the people of St Keverne lead by the blacksmith Michael Joseph raised the collection of a tax for an expedition against the Scots. An army marched to the east, reaching a point just south of London where they were defeated and Joseph was hung at Tyburn on 27 June. There is a stone in English and Cornish commemorating is on the wall of the churchyard by Lytch Gate.

Reformation and After

Just before the final dissolution of the monasteries, the historian Leland writes in 1535;

'St Keverines, 2 miles from Gilling creake and not a mile from se. S. Keverine's longgid to Bewlw Abbay in Hampshir, and had sanctuarie privilegid at S. Keverine's. Also yn the west side of the poynt of hayleford haven, and withyn the land of Mencke or Menegland, is a paroch chirch of S Keveryn otherwis Piranus; and ther is a sanctuary with x or xii dwelling hopuses, and thereby was a sel of monks, but now goone home to their hed hows. The ruines of the monastery yet remenith.'

Lake's Parochial History of the County of Cornwall states that the lands of St Keverne after the suppression of the monastic rights passed from Elizabeth I to Francis Earl of Bedford in 1560. It is stated that three days later he sold it to Justinian Talkarn, the Governor of St Mawes. It later found its way into the hands of the Bogan family and then to the Vyvans.

Great religious changes happened in the middle of the 16th. Century. The service changed from Latin to English, this was one of the causes of the 'Cornish Rebellion' of 1549.

The Bogan family who lived at Treleague in the parish were sued in 1603 for refusal to pay tithes. They claimed that the land was 'churchland' and was exempt from payment. They produced witnesses who recalled 'divers old walls of houses standing in Tregonyn and that religiowse men which tymes past dwelt in the Cell did till and manure the lands....'

The Church

On the left of the entrance door is a list of rectors, vicars and assistant clergy of this parish as far back as 1201.

The Tower and Spire were built about 1450, the spire was destroyed by lightning on 28 February 1770, as well as the roof. The spire and roof were replaced immediately as was used as a landmark for local shipping.

The bells were installed in 1907, the opening ceremony was performed by the Lord Mayor of London, Sir William Treloar, a Cornish man. As well as the eight bells a tower clock was also installed.

The pillars seem to be 13th century in origin. The stones are thought to have been imported, as there is no local stones like them.










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