South Petherwin, St Paternus

Grid Ref SX309819
Launceston, PL15 7LP


he present church was built in the mid-15th to early 16th centuries from Polyfant stone and granite. Parts of a 12th century Norman church with aisle were incorporated into the fabric. Extensive restoration at the end of the 19th century revealed part of the foundations of the earlier church.

St Paternus is a Westcountry three hall church consisting of a nave, chancel, North and South aisles (all with roofs of equal height), North and South porches and a tower with octagonal pinnacles and crocketed finials. The North aisle is earlier than the south and like the tower can be dated to the mid 15th century. Vicar Thomas Menwinnick, founded a family chantry there at this time. John Gedde, the tower mason, came from Launceston, but fell out with the parishioners in 1456 over a belfry window design.



You enter the church through the North porch which has a Norman archway and a Holy water stoup. The 12th century Norman font has octagonal shafts. The tower screen behind was constructed in 1901 and contains remains of a medieval rood screen which still separated chancel from nave in 1661. Under the tower are two early 13th century sepulchral slabs, probably those of priests.

There are currently 6 bells, the last of which, a treble bell, was added in 1897, when the existing bells were also refurbished and tuned to the key of F. In 1960 the bells were re-hung on roller bearings.

In 1911 a clock was placed in the tower to commemorate the coronation of King George V and has an 8 day movement. In 1975 the clock was restored and re-dedicated by Canon Miles Brown, vicar of St. Winnow.

Above the South door are the royal arms of James I. They are of particular interest as they are the first royal arms to feature a unicorn in place of the Welsh dragon. The south wall bares a number of memorials to local families. The South window of the Lady Chapel contains two shields made of 15th century glass and the East window is a memorial to Proctor Ian Pulman MA (vicar of the parish 1891-1939).

The lectern is made from old Jacobean pews. The altar is of Portland stone and was discovered during the 19th century restoration of the church serving as a step in the South porch! It had probably been placed there following the dissolution of Menwinnick’s chantry in 1548 and an order of council of Edward VI requiring bishops to remove all stone altars and substitute communion tables. The surface is much worn and the consecration crosses have been worn away. The communion table was carved by Thomas May, son of Henry Thomas May MA (vicar 1850-1891). The Western ends of the choir stalls have the arms of the priory of St. Germans and of the University of Oxford, in commemoration of the association of the church with both places.

The pulpitis dated 1631 and is a good example of the Jacobean style. The parish records date from 1658 and are kept at the Cornwall Records Office in Truro.

This information was largely gathered from ‘A short history of the church of South Petherwin’ by John Cox.

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