Lostwithiel, St Bartholomew

Grid Ref SX104598
Fore Street, Lostwithiel, PL22 0EQ

lostwithiel_5The present church at Lostwithiel was mainly built around 1300, though first mentioned in about 1220.  Before this, Lostwithiel’s inhabitants had to climb the steep hill to Lanlivery or go down river to St Winnow to worship.

Built in the Early English (or first Gothic) style when the town was a prosperous river port, Lostwithiel church stood at the top of a medieval triangular market place.  The Duchy Palace and river crossing were at the lower end of this space.

Most Cornish churches were enlarged in the late medieval and Tudor period when the tin industry started to generate wealth, but not Lostwithiel.  A new churchyard cross of lantern type was commissioned for the churchyard, but the church was left alone.  As a result the church still has clerestories (upper windows) and narrow lean-to aisles as per the original plan. Sepulchral recesses, possibly designed for the Cardinhams who were lords of the borough of Lostwithiel before the Earls and Dukes of Cornwall, remain on the outside of the building.   Inside, the church pillars are octagonal and lack capitals, as at Fowey and some French churches, and there is no chancel arch. The crowning glory however is the early 14th. century spire, now reduced in height, with a Catherine Wheel on the side facing the bridge.

St Bartholomew, patron saint of tanners, was chosen as the dedication for this town church.  In the N.E. corner there is a late medieval alabaster of the martyrdom of this saint. Even while being flayed he is wearing his bishop’s hat and raising a hand in blessing for the skinner.  Carved on the earlier (14th. century) font is a green bishop (leaves sprouting from his mouth) and a knight out hunting wearing fashionable prick spurs. Before the Reformation, an annual St George ‘riding’ or procession was held in the town with a man in armour representing St George.  Tristam Curteys who died in 1423 and is buried under a monumental brass may have been one of the earliest participants.  One of his descendants was the steward for this event in 1537.  A number of memorials commemorate the towns leading gentry family, the Kendalls who are still resident today at Pelyn which lies just above the town. During the Battle of Lostwithiel in 1644 Charles 1 stayed at Boconnoc and his Royalist troops laid siege here.  Parliamentarian soldiers retaliated by baptising a horse as ‘Charles’ in the font.

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