The most complete example of a Decorated period church in Cornwall, St Mary’s was dedicated by Bishop Bronescombe in 1259 but only the lower West Tower and the font survive from his time. The church was substantially rebuilt in the 1300s including the south side of the nave, the transept arch and the inner arches to all the south windows. The slender shafts supporting the East window of the chancel and the East window tracery are early 14th Century.
In the late 1400s the church was enlarged by a new aisle on the north side. This removed the north transept and the window was re-erected at the western end of the new aisle. The wagon roof of the north aisle is original. A fragment of the original medieval glass survives high up at the east end of the aisle. It is believed that this glass is English of the late 1400s. The church has the most complete range of early 14th century window types in Cornwall. On a lesser scale this shows the playfulness evident in geometric window design at Exeter Cathedral (Cornwall then being part of the Diocese of Exeter).
Another feature are the best 14th century tombs in Cornwall – Courtenays and Dawney. The former are on the south wall of the south transept under their original canopy. The Dawney tomb is on the north wall of the north aisle opposite where the north transept stood.
There is a piscina by the toes of the lady which shows that there was an altar on the east wall; and a piscina on the north wall in the vestry. There is also a triple sedilia (a stone seat for the priest and his acolites) in the chancel.
The spire of 13th century date is one of a dozen left in Cornwall.
Rood stair – a common feature of most Cornish churches where the rood screen, named after the crucifix that stood on it, and loft have gone. It still marks the junction of chancel and nave. The bench ends are of different type than usual and more like Devon examples with just tracery and a renaissance winged cherub or two.
Considerable work was carried out in the early Victorian era and the church was reopened on 29th June 1850 on completion. The beautiful stained glass in the east window was made by the firm of William Wailes and is believed to have been designed by Francis Wilson Oliphant RA.
With acknowledgement to “Sheviock – History of a Cornish Coastal Manor and Parish” by Neville Cusworth.