St John’s Church, Higher Rd, Pensilva, Liskeard PL14 5PE
In the nineteenth century the Cornish mining boom was at its height. Mining on Caradon Hill, a part of Bodmin Moor, was frenetic with dozens of mines opening up. With all this activity came the miners. The village of Pensilva did not exist then; there was just a scattering of hamlets at the base of Caradon Hill. The miners made camp where they could, living in tents and caves, and hovels on the sides of the country lanes. The area bore a resemblance to the Klondike gold rush.
Reginal Hobhouse, rector of St Ive Parish from 1844 to 1895, and the first archdeacon of Bodmin, saw a need for a Christian presence in what became a disreputable community. So he left in his will monies and land for the building of a mission church in the community that was to become Pensilva. This structure had to be erected in somewhat of a hurry as the bequest stated a time limit for its completion.
As a response this corrugated iron building (which had been used previously as a temporary school) was purchased in London and transported on the railway system to this area. It is thought to have been carried from Liskeard station like an Ikea kit on ox carts.
It became one of many such churches fondly known as “Tin Tabernacles”. The church has served this, now large, community of 3,000 souls for the past 120 years or so. The village is considered one of the largest in Cornwall.
In 1996, with much of the corrugated sheeting rusted through and the roof leaking, it was decided that something had to be done. Thoughts of replacing the building were abandoned, the cost being prohibitive, so a few men, led by retired builder Roy Gilbert, set about a refurbishment both inside and out, to rescue and update the building to what you see now. A spire was added to give it that distinctive “church” appearance. The spire was manufactured out of glass fibre by Mr Peter Lloyd, a member of the congregation.
In 2002 the last of four Methodist churches in the village had to close, and its congregation marched up to St John’s to join us, and we have been a united Church ever since.
St John’s may not be a historic church in the medieval church sense, but it played a large part in the mining history of Cornwall and, therefore, should be considered a historic church.