St Cohan’s Church, Merther, Tresillian, Truro, Cornwall, TR2 4AE.
NGR SW 863448
Merther Church is now owned and cared for by and as part of the Tregothnan Estate.
The parish was made a united benefice with Lamorran in1900, and Merther’s status was downgraded to a chapel of ease in 1904 when Holy Trinity, Tresillian became the parish church. It was finally and formally closed for public worship on 6th January 2021.
Merther is a salutary tale of what can happen through neglect.
Dedicated to St Cohan, who supposedly came to Cornwall from Brittany, and built his chapel and baptistery in a field still referred to as Scoan’s Field. The name “Merther” properly means “a place of martyrdom”, and we can roughly date Cohan’s death as sometime after the Saxon conquest of Cornwall by Athelstan in 938.
The church dates from around 1370, and consists of Nave, Chancel and South Aisle, and is now a roofless ruin, fenced off for safety.
After the Church was restored in 1844, the population shifted to Tresillian and once Holy Trinity became the parish church, Merther inevitably declined. It retained an intact roof up to the 1940s but, patriotically, the lead from the roof valley was removed to help the war effort which finally sealed its fate, with the last service being held on 25th July 1945.
Canon Miles Brown wrote in the Diocesan News in 1962 that “Merther, now officially declared a ruin, ivy covers the walls, brambles fill the Churchyard, whilst a determined tombstone or two struggles to keep its head above the tangle. The wooden top stage of the tower has gone, slates are off the roof of the Nave, and plaster and rafters and rubbish cover the floor. Pillars and arches are green with wet; and the sanctuary gives nourishment to mould and moss. In the spandrels of the arches retain the painted texts dear to the heart of a past age. One, facing the window opening by which entrance was gained, (the church was then presumably locked) read “How dreadful is this place”, which carried a meaning the original painters could not have envisaged”.
Two of the three bells were removed to Tresillian as part of the 1904 reconstruction of Tresillian, the third was removed to Kenwyn for safe keeping and was subsequently incorporated into the expanded ring of six at St Clement (from whence it can still be heard across the water in Merther).
The furnishings removed from Merther to Tresillian can be seen at Holy Trinity; The piscina formerly on the south side of the Chancel; the bearded 15th century Cataclews stone effigy of St Anthony; the font, of Pentewan stone, square in shape, & 12th century Norman in origin; and lastly, the Pulpit, is Jacobean work dating from the 17th century. There is also a granite bracket-type holy water stoop thought to be not later than 16th.
Merther is a place of peace.