Duloe, St Cuby

Grid Ref SX2345581
Duloe, Nr Liskeard, PL14 4PN

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Duloe church was originally dedicated to St Cuby, and a life of this saint survives from about 1200. Later a dedication to St Leonard was added. St Cuby (or Cybi) was a bishop who is said to have preached and founded churches at Duloe and Tregony before carrying out most of his ministry in Wales. Breton churches are also dedicated to this saint.

The church lies within a raised curvilinear churchyard, possibly a lan (Celtic-style holy enclosure). Some 250 metres to the north east lies a prehistoric stone circle, which may evidence a long continuity of spiritual or ritual association with the immediate area. About 350 metres to the south east of the church lies St Cuby’s holy well, an early 20th century granite well house covering a square, spring-fed pool which provided the water for baptism.

The church as we now find it is medieval and later.  The tower is mainly 13th century, the Coleshull chantry chapel and the overarching perpendicular-style character of the church is late 15th century, while the remainder of the fabric, with the exception of reinstated architectural details and fittings, is the result of a regrettably, if perhaps necessarily, thorough Victorian rebuilding.

 

The tower is built of local stone rubble, the nave and chancel of snecked ashlar slatestone, with slate roofs; historically most roofing slates came from quarries on the north coast in the Delabole/Tintagel area. The church’s plan form has developed over time with transepts added in the 13th or 14th century giving the church a cruciform shape. Most unusually, the tower abuts the south transept.

The massive tower was truncated by a storey in the 19th century refurbishment, and although the pyramid roof form probably echoes what was there at that time, it has been suggested that this unusually massively built tower may once have supported a spire. Other work surviving from the 13th to 14th century includes the double lancet window in the south transept, reset into a rebuilt wall in the 19th century  and the pilasters of the otherwise 19th century chancel windows.

Most of the church is 15th century or later including the north chantry chapel and aisle with moulded columns of Pentewan stone. The octagonal font was installed, perhaps displacing the Norman one with its pagan-style depictions (now in the north aisle but previously located at St Cuby’s Well). The Coleshull chantry chapel was added to the north of the chancel and is one of the glories of Cornish church architecture. A rood screen was added between nave and chancel, and the chapel was provided with a parclose screen. The chapel still contains the tomb with recumbent effigy of Sir John Coleshull, for whose soul the masses celebrated in this chantry chapel were intended to intercede.  However, worthy Sir John no longer gazes up into the eyes of an angel (an otherwise unexplained corbel below the arch between chancel and chapel where the tomb was designed to stand).  The arch is carved with vines and grapes, crowned roses, angels, family coats of arms, tiny statue niches and even an upside down green man.

The 16th century contributed the wooden rood screen and some church roofs may have been remade then to accommodate the rood loft and great crucifix or rood that stood on the top.  There are also some important slate monuments of late 16th century date carved in impossibly high relief.  The next major works to impact on the church were those carried out by architect James Piers St Aubyn in 1860-61. His restorations often amounted to wholesale or partial rebuilding, and were seen by later generations as unnecessarily brutal. In common with other Gothic Revival church restoration architects, he did not feel constrained to rebuild in the style in which he found a church, and we may consider St Cuby’s fortunate in not having had its architectural themes radically altered. There was a thorough rebuilding of walls of nave and chancel. Though windows were refurbished, they seem to have retained their pattern and as much fabric as was sound enough to replace. Most importantly, the Coleshull chapel, the principal architectural glory of St Cuby’s, seems, miraculously, to have escaped the rigours of refurbishment.

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