Lansallos, Looe, PL13 2PX
Grid ref SX217221 051587
Dedicated to St Ildierna on 16th October 1321, the present church may have replaced a Norman one built on the site of a Celtic “lan”, perhaps the hermitage of St Salwys after whom the village of Lansallos (Lan Salwys) is named. A Celtic Cross, dug up in a field near the church, is in the churchyard about 25 metres west of the tower. William of Worcester recorded that, when passing through Fowey in 1478, he heard that “Saint Hyldren, a bishop, lies buried in the parish of Lansalux”. This may be the origin of the dedication, though another school of thought believed St Ildierna to be a virgin.
The exceptionally fine wagon roofs have all been dendro- or tree ring dated. This new dating suggests that the church was extended from the very late 15th and early 16th century with a south aisle and porch, and then a two phase north chapel which was still being built in the 1540s as the Reformation unfolded. The nave and chancel were probably reroofed in the 1530s-40s due to the introduction of a rood screen and loft. Some Norman worked stones were reused when the south aisle was constructed. Equally remarkable are the oak pews, probably dating from no earlier than the 1520s and continuing through to the 1560s; one of the best surviving sets of carved Renaissance designs. The font, dating from about 1100, is from the previous Norman church. One half of a Celtic font found in a field nearby, and which may have been used by St Salwys over eleven hundred years ago, is now displayed at the east end of the south aisle.
Similarly displayed are relics dug up from the nave during restoration work in 1883 and 1908, which include the mutilated stone effigies of a knight in armour and his lady, possibly members of the Hywys family who were lords of the manor in the 14th century and earlier. A slate coffin slab, now mounted on the south wall, depicts in full Elizabethan costume a Margery Smith, who died in 1579. It is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship, signed by the maker Peter Crocker. Set in the floor by the main door is a wedge-shaped foliated cross grave slab, probably used to cover the grave of an important person now unknown. Also on display is a cracked bell, the only one left of three medieval bells that once hung in the church and which were broken by drunken villagers at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The church now possesses a fine peal of eight bells installed by the Revd N Rivers-Tippett, rector in 1937.
After a lightning strike in 1923, a fallen tower pinnacle was used as a base for a new pulpit. A serious arson attack on 23rd February 2005 caused great damage, destroying the organ and burning out all the Lady Chapel roof and much of the chancel roof. Fortunately, all the medieval pews survived unscathed and the church has since been fully restored. After the fire restoration, oak and glass screens were installed in 2011 across the three arches of the Lady Chapel. Don’t miss the splendid green man carving on one capital of the tower arch.