St Veep

St Veep Church, Lostwithiel  PL22 0RW Grade 1

Grid ref’ SX139550

The parish church of St Veep is first mentioned in 1236-7 at the same time as St Cadocs, a small priory founded by Monacute Priory.  The church was dedicated to an obscure local saint, St Veep, unique to the parish, while the latter was dedicated to the Roman Saints Cyricus and Julitta.  Bishop Grandisson visited in 1336 and rededicated the parish church to the Roman saints.  In 1478 William of Worcester was told that St Sirus the priest was buried at the priory by the river Fowey.

Once of chancel and nave plan, the parish church was remodeled with transepts to form a cruciform plan, and re-dedicated in 1336.  Dates for the wagon roofs here come from a recent dendrochronological (tree-ring dating) investigation of the roof timbers, the first done for a Cornish church, but interpretation is tricky as roofs and architectural features do not match.  What is suggested below is a three phase development for the south aisle and two phases for the north aisle by 1548.  The abolition of processions, guilds and chantries then as part of the Reformation made such aisles redundant.

Unusually, St Veep has a 14th century south aisle arcade, rather like that at Stratton, but with granite piers of square profile, with attached shafts and moulded capitals.  This south aisle was widened and heightened c.1460 when the nave and chancel were also re-roofed as a continuous wagon roof.  The original chancel arch may have been replaced then with a painted wooden screen which carried a crucifix or rood (like the stone fragment in the north aisle).  The tower is of two stages and unusual type with buttresses clasping the corners, but its windows and doors look 15th century rather than 14th century.  The north aisle roof dates from the late 1530s to 1540s, but the granite pillars, with attached shafts with convex mouldings between and Devon-style carved capitals, look earlier.  They can be compared with St Just in Penwith or Madron where a 1430s-50s date seems possible.  This could suggest that the north aisle was built just before the widening of the south aisle (phase II) and remodelling of chancel and nave, but that the north aisle did not achieve its full width till almost a hundred years later.  A north chapel may have been planned at this later date, but was never built because of the Reformation so the transept squint survives.  Squints gave a view of the high altar where the elevation of the host (body of Christ) took place during the catholic mass.  Both aisles have early to mid-16th century style windows (phase III for the south aisle), with those on the north side being Victorian replacements of the originals probably.

Restoration of the church was carried out in the 19th century and there is little medieval woodwork aside from a few surviving benches which retain their original back rails.  Their worn condition suggests that they may have been used as foundations for the Georgian box pews, all of which have now gone.  The plastered ceilings date from c.1800, the time of the lost box pews and lost three decker pulpit.

Interestingly, the church being in an upland part of Britain, most people lived at some distance from it in farms, with only a small church town round the church.  The main centre of population after the medieval period was at Lerryn, a riverside trading village on the northern boundary with St Winnow.

The church has probably the only ringable set of six Virgin bells in the country. They were cast by Penningtons in 1770 in the meadow adjoining the church. Once cast it is said that Pennington tapped them with his hammer, leapt for joy, and pronounced them a perfect virgin set. He was more than satisfied with himself and said this splendid set of bells could never be excelled.

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