OS Grid reference – SX2227681338
7 St. Nonna’s Close, Altarnun, Cornwall. PL15 7SJ.
Altarnon Parish Church – the Church of St. Nonna – is known as ”the Cathedral of the moors.” St. Nonna was the mother of St. David and left her native Wales around the year 527. Nonna was one of many Celtic missionaries who passed through Cornwall on their way to Europe in the 6th and 7th centuries.
Of St. Nonna’s building nothing remains. The Normans built a church here in the early 12th century but the church as it now stands dates from the early 15th century. The mullions to the windows are original except those to the west windows which were renewed after lightning caused part of the tower to fall on the west wall in 1791. The timber for the church roofs comes, according to tradition, from the Trelawney family mansion which was dismantled in the 15th century.
The font was part of the 12th century Norman church and – almost certainly – was originally painted. Some paint can still be seen on the faces on each corner of the typically square shaped font of the period. The sides of the font carry a geometric radial motif surrounded by serpents.
St. Nonna’s is justly famed for its collection of 79 carved bench ends representing not only biblical references but also earlier superstitions and local activities. All were carved in oak by Robert Daye (whose signature is to be found on the bench end adjacent to the font) between 1510 and 1530. The timber screen and altar rail stretch (unusually) the full width of the church. Both are in oak with the 16th century screen being a (part) Victorian restoration while the altar rail is signed by the maker and inscribed with the names of the vicar and churchwardens and dated 1684.
The tower boasts a ring of eight bells, the tenor being 11cwt. 3st 4lb (600kg) in weight. In 1736 the original five bells were re-cast into eight by John Pennington. These bells were again re-cast by Mears and Stainbeck of London in 1923 but in 1980 the fifth bell was found to be badly cracked. It was re-cast and re-hung by the Easter of 1981 thus enabling the full set to be heard once again. 2010 saw a complete overhaul during which the bells were tuned, the frame repaired and the fittings replaced. The peal of eight bells was re-dedicated on the 6th February 2011 by the Bishop of Truro.
Our church website can be accessed through the website ‘A Church Near you’.
See also our Facebook page under ‘St. Nonna’s Church, Altarnun’.