St Allen, St Alleyne

St Allen, Nr Truro, TR4 9QS

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All that is known of the probably unique saint, St Allen, is that he was thought to be male. The church has been known variously down the centuries as Eglossalen (1235), Sancti Alluni or Allunus (1261) Seynt Alun (1270), Sancto Aluno (1291), Sancti Aluni (1349) and St Allen by 1664. St Alleyne and Saint Alunus crept in briefly during the 19th Century.

Following the Norman conquest, a stone church was erected here in the late 1100s. It was common for a church to be built by the local landowner and it is possible that this was Robert, Earl of Mortain, lord of Cargoll Manor.

The bishop of Exeter purchased this manor in 1269 and had one of his palaces at Lanner in the parish.  The north doorway (now blocked) is 13th century and Pevsner describes it as ‘remarkable’. A coffin slab in the south aisle and a lancet window in the chancel are also 13th century and Sedding thought the west door in the tower to be of similar age. Charles Henderson considered there had been a south transept and inspection of the masonry reveals a former large stone arch just to the east of the arcade.

In the 15th and early 16th century the church was extended on the south and partially rebuilt.  The east wall may have been moved 5’ or 6’ further west. This is evidenced by the piscina (?) which has been partially concealed by the wall. The south aisle was added by the Bevilles of nearby Gwarnick Manor. The family came from near Caen, one of them being an officer who served under the Earl of Mortain. A descendant of his married a Gwarnick heiress and that place became a seat of the Bevills for about ten generations.  A further extensive restoration of the church was carried out in 1873/4 at a cost of £550 and again in the 1990s at considerably greater expense!

The church has a fine buttressed three-stage tower with circular spirelet. The tower holds three bells which are rung for weddings and special services. One bell is medieval and is inscribed “Hec Nova Campana Margareta Est Nominata“. The remaining bells are later, one is inscribed “Vocor Prudentia Voco Venite Proverb IX 1662” and the other “Richard Buckland Vicar. Thomas Hoskins & John Retallack C.W. 1777“. This bell was cast by Penningtons of Stokeclimsland .

The font is made up, probably at the Restoration. Near the altar in the south aisle there is a medieval corbel and carved head. There is also an Elizabethan Communion table. On the west wall of the church, high above the vestibule, the Royal Arms dated 1660 may be seen and in the south aisle there is a board with the Apostle’s Creed painted upon it. This would once have been matched by others bearing the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments – a requirement of the canons of 1604. An inscribed slate memorial in the floor is dated 1651 while another to John Martin Junior of Trefronick dated 1626 can be seen in a window in the north wall. An early 17th century reading desk or priest’s stall stands near the lectern and was once the bottom section of a three-decker pulpit.  The display table in the vestibule was once the altar from Zelah Mission Church and the present organ came from Zelah Methodist Chapel.

There are three medieval granite crosses in the churchyard. One, a wayside cross, was found buried in the churchyard close to the east end of the church in 1862 when the grave of Mary Morris, the incumbent’s wife, was being dug. It was re-erected in 1912 at the south east corner of the church, near where it was discovered. A tall ‘wheel head’ cross, also formerly buried,  now stands near the porch following its discovery 1930. Both these crosses are thought to have been concealed at the Reformation and have survived well. The third suffered the indignity of being used as a step at Trefronick Farm until it was presented to the church by the owner in 1911. The old graveyard contains mainly 19th century headstones with a fine chest tomb to Rev William Richards, a former incumbent, dated 1732. An inspection of the graves reveals that a number of parishioners lost their lives in the East Wheal Rose Mine disaster of 1846. Many tombstones reveal great sadness with several children within the same families dying in their early years. A more modern churchyard was dedicated in 1919. Both are a haven of peace and tranquillity.

Clergymen here have included the Royalist clergyman James Rossington, who was suspended during the Civil War but died back in harness in 1689. Richard Buckland, an 18th century incumbent kept a small notebook giving details of farming and local conditions together with church furniture and plate, which can be seen at the Cornwall Record Office. Finally, Sir Harry Trelawny, the 7th baronet,  was ordained as a minister in the Presbyterian Church at Looe in 1777, then was ordained into the Church of England. After ten years he moved to St Allen where he served for two years. Later he was received into the Roman Catholic Church where he was ordained priest in 1830.

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