The parish of St Cleer lies on the southern edge of Bodmin Moor. Tin streaming and granite extraction began here in the prehistoric period and continued until the boom and bust of the mid-nineteenth century. According to C.S. Gilbert in 1820 the present church is ‘seated on (the) summit of a rocky elevation … a beautiful ornament among the bleak scenery on which it is situated.’ St Clair, the patronal saint, is likely to be the bishop of Nantes in Brittany depicted in a 1529 window at neighbouring St Neot. Clair was also revered at a natural spring, now known as St Cleer well. This lies a short distance to the north-east of the parish church and has one of Cornwall’s finest, though reconstructed, pre-Reformation well-houses.
The church may have passed into the possession of Tavistock Abbey, then after the Conquest to Robert Count of Mortain, William’s half brother (the inspiration for the Bayeux tapestry-style border of the Millennium quilt); later the patronage was vested in the Knights Templar. The list of incumbents dates from 1291. The church was rebuilt by the Normans, before being enlarged several times before the Reformation. Little of the Norman building remains apart from the doorway reset in the wall of the North aisle, while the font bowl may be thirteenth century in date, based on a Norman proto-type at St Germans. The north aisle arcade may date from c. 1400, when St Mary, Holy Cross and St James were also venerated here, as indicated by its octagonal pillars. The south aisle dates from approximately 100 years later, the pillars being more elaborately carved of Polyphant stone with complex moulding. The nave and aisles have elaborate late fifteenth to sixteenth century wagon roofs with moulded ribs and bosses from when the aisles were widened. As usual in Cornish churches no chancel arch now remains. The church was restored in 1904 by G H Fellowes Prynne, who was responsible for the reredos, altar front, rood and parclose screens. The monuments include the Robert Langford slate tomb dated 1614. The fifteenth century tower has been described as being ‘exceptionally fine’. It is built of granite blocks in three stages, with buttresses set back from the angles and decorated with pinnacles in relief. Four church bells were noted in 1551, later increased to six and there are well advanced plans to add another two, as part of a long term plan to make St Cleer a centre of ringing excellence.