Gwithian, Hayle, St Gothian’s Church
Grade 2* listed
OS grid ref; SW586412
The church of St Gothian stands on an ancient site. Little is definitely known about St Gothian, first recorded as Guidian in the 10th century, and not noted as the church dedication until 1334. A nobleman with a similar name is noted in north Cornwall in the Life of St Samson in the 6th century, but the saint is just as likely to be of Breton origin. [Information from Nicholas Orme, The Saints of Cornwall (2000), pp.138-9. The Teudar story comes from the Life of St Gwinear not Guidian or Gothian].
A St Gothian’s Chapel was located on the sandy dunes but became buried over time and so the church itself was built further inland. The site of this chapel is still shown on the OS map near Gwithian Bridge.
The original Norman building of the parish church had a chancel arch and two similar arches a little later in date spanning the junctions of the transept and nave. These arches were built with sandstone or sand rock, an easily worked rock obtained from the nearby cliffs at Godrevy.
In the 15th or early 16th Century the church was enlarged with the addition of a south aisle and a fine west tower, which is battlemented and with light pinnacles with quatrefoil panels and angels at the upper angles. It is a particularly good example of the skilled use of local granite. The three bells by Abel Rudhall of Gloucester date from 1753.
Historically, Gwithian Church was a chapelry of the mother church at Phillack, with which it has always been linked. An almost complete reconstruction was carried out between 1865 – 1867, the entire south aisle being removed, and the 13th century cruciform plan reinstated. The cost of this work was mainly borne by the Rector of Phillack, Revd. Frederick Hockin. The architect was Edmund Sedding of Penzance. Only the tower and parts of the 1782 chancel walls were retained. The base and shafts of the font are 1865 additions but the square bowl of the font itself is all that is left of the Norman Church. Revd. Hockin also undertook the building of the adjacent Church Hall, originally intended as a Sunday School. Two granite arches saved from the late medieval or Tudor arcade in the Victorian restoration have been built into the lychgate.
The current organ, built by Cousans of Lincoln, was installed in the 1930’s and it was moved from the south to the north transept in the 1950’s and restored in 1983 by Lance Foy. The south transept was then turned into the vestry some years ago. Gwithian Churchyard was famous for its fig tree, originally just to the left of the lych-gate but it died in the 1930’s. The church contains a fine set of kneelers, mainly stitched in the 1980’s and has two stained glass windows.