Lelant, St Uny

Grid Ref. SW548377

St Uny Church, Lelant, near St Ives TR26 3DZ

Lelant Church

The earliest references to St Uny church are in 1150 and 1170. Both documents give the church and tithes to the Priory of St Andrew at Tywardreath. The 1170 document bears the signature of the archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket. The dedication to Uny and shared with Redruth and a chapel in Wendron parish. Tradition says that he was an Irish missionary who arrived in the Hayle estuary with others including Ia, Anta and Erca, all of whom have local churches dedicated to them.. The building was reconsecrated on 2nd February, the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary, 1424.



The present church, which is in the Perpendicular style, dates mostly from the late 15th and early 16th centuries but retains two Norman pillars of a former narrow north aisle and a Norman font. Lelant was more important than St Ives at the start of the medieval period. In 1296 Edward I had granted a royal charter allowing the holding of a weekly market and a three day fair in February and August, two of the feasts of the virgin. But at the beginning of the 16th century wind-blown sand blocked the nearby harbour and buried the glebe lands and half the church. The settlement around the church moved away so that the church has been on the edge of the village ever since and semi-derelict during several centuries. John Leland, writing about 1538 says “the houses in the peninsula were overpressed by sandes…..this calamitie hath continued there little above twenty years.”


During the Reformation of the parish churches which took place from 1548 to the 1570s the church interior was simplified with the removal of altars and their replacement with a single communion table. The rectorial tithes were seized by the crown and sold to Sir Thomas D’Arcy. The ecclesiastical silver was confiscated by the Council of Edward VI, but returned to the church during the reign of Mary Tudor, 1553 – 1558. As in most of Cornwall no pre-Reformation plate has survived and communion cups and covers here date from 1726 and the 19th century.

The church Terrier of 1679 records that the incumbent was forced to quit the vicarage because the sands came into his table and his bedroom, despite his best efforts to prevent them. The problem was not resolved until Marram grass was planted to stabilise the dunes in about 1824. Despite this a restoration of the church costing £300 was carried out in 1727.

A second, more extensive, restoration was carried out during the incumbency of Richard Frederick Tyacke, 1869 – 1901, particularly after severe gale damage in 1872. The cost was £1,179.8s.6d, met by donations from private persons and the congregation.

Items to see include the octagonal font, Norman pillars, carved leaf limestone capitals, porch with tracery panels, south aisle barrel roof, blocked north door, Jacobean communion table, two fine slate early 17th century memorials and the wonderful 1973 stained glass east window. This is by M.C. Farrar Bell.  It depicts a Cornish cross, local Cornish saints, and the houses of Colonel Giffard Tyringham which include Trevethoe House in the parish.  Also the tomb of Father Bernard Walke, vicar of St Hilary, in the new churchyard.


william-praed-memorial-1620-c stephen-pawley-memorial-1635-c henry-jenner-memorial-founder-of-the-cornish-language-soc-c


Comments are closed.