St Erth Church
St Erth Parish is one of five encompassed within the Godrevy Team Ministry which was founded in 1996, the other four being Parishes of St Elwyn, Gwinear and Phillack with Gwithian, covering the town of Hayle and the surrounding area.
There was a church here by about 1199 when it belonged to the bishop of Exeter, and it was granted to the Dean and Chapter of Exeter in 1237 who held it till the Reformation. The chancel is noted in 1281 as needing roof and window repairs and plaster (for wall paintings). By 1421-2 wills show that this church had several statues and/or altars, implying transepts at least. Saints noted here then were St Erth, the Blessed Mary, St James, St Nicholas and St Katherine, and a great rood or crucifix had candles burning before it, too, and an associated religious guild. In 1446 in another will a chasuble was given for an additional priest and money left towards work on the nave which has some early Perpendicular work (see Nicholas Orme, Cornish Wills 1342-1540). A rood screen and loft, used as a model for the extant screen at Banwell in Somerset in 1520, divided chancel from nave. Aisles appear to be early to mid-16th century in style with identical Padstow-style East windows and two types of capitals, though this does not rule out an earlier aisle, especially on the north side. The elaborate panelled south porch is likely to be around the 1530s too and is one of a dozen Cornish examples, Lelant being closest in style. The tower, which is without buttresses, is probably early to mid-15th century work with angels like St Ives font. There were three bells in 1878 with the tenor bell being re-cast by Harvey & Co Ltd, Hayle, in January, 1901.
The difficulty of dating the Church with accuracy arises from the extensive restoration and re-building carried out. Vicar Collins, in 1742-7, showing great zeal in his removals and repairs, and even more extensive re-building was instigated by Vicar Mills in 1873. How great this was can be judged by a Press report of the re-opening of the Church in 1874 stating: “The work taken in hand was so extensive a character that of the old building all that now remained are the tower and pillars, the latter having had to be extensively restored. However, current opinion suggests that St Erth should now be celebrated as one of the best examples of John Dando Sedding’s restoration work with its delightful, angelic dormer windows.
The Parish, Church and village of St Erth receive their name from St Erc, believed by some to be an Irishman baptised by the aged St Patrick and then consecrated Bishop of Slane, in Ireland. He was also reputed to be the brother of St Ia and St Uny, who came with him across the Channel to found their respective churches at St Ives and Lelant. However, Nicholas Orme in his book The Saints’ of Cornwall thinks it much more likely that he was a local figure. His saint’s day is October 31st.
At that time ships sailed inland as far as where the medieval bridge now spans the Hayle River, giving rise to legends of Erc landing here. Another name for St Erth is Lanuthinoch recorded first in 1204. Lan tends to mean an oval graveyard, but it seems unlikely that Uthinoch was the earlier saint here and more likely that this was the name of the district.