The Church of St. Keyne is located on high ground at the southern extremity of the village of St. Keyne within the parish of the same name, the second smallest in Cornwall. The parish lies on the edge of the Looe valley between the parishes of Liskeard (to the north and east) and Duloe (to the south and west).
St Kayne seems to be the most ancient spelling, but Kaine, Keane, Kean and Keyne, have also been used. St. Keyne is noted in 12th century Welsh sources as being one of the children of King Brychan of Brecon in Wales. Her brother Berwin is noted as being in Cornwall and may be St Barry of Fowey. Such legends were used to explain the repetition of saints’ names in the Celtic areas of Britain: Devon, Cornwall and Wales and there is a more Cornish version of the Children of Brychan which does not include St Keyne.
According to another legend, St. Keyne is said to have lived like a hermit and visited St. Michael’s Mount, which coincidentally is the only parish smaller than St. Keyne in the county of Cornwall. She is also said to be responsible for the construction of St. Keyne’s well, situated just outside the village, which was the old baptismal well. It is famed for its ability to ensure that the first of a newly-wed couple to drink the water will become the dominant partner.
The hood moulding over the door in the porch of the present church building indicates that a Norman church stood at St. Keyne. The building appears to be mainly constructed in the 15th or early 16th century as indicated by the Cornish standard granite piers, the font and one of the bells, although the north aisle west window may date from a little earlier. The tower windows look early 16th century and the tower is built in the typical Cornish pattern of three stages, but the stages are uneven; the first stage being half the height of the tower, less pinnacles.
In the 16th Century the whole parish was one manor, Lametton, which at times has also been the name of the parish. In the 16th Century the manor was owned by the Coplestone family, but in 1561 John Coplestone was forced to sell 13 of his manors to buy a royal pardon for murdering a son and godson. This was sold to the Harrises of Mount Radford in Devon (One Harris was MP for Liskeard in 1661), who married a daughter of the Rashleighs of Menabilly. In 1911 the estate was sold in lots at Webb’s Hotel in Liskeard.
Throughout the first 20 years of the 19th century the church was consistently recorded by successive Rural Deans as being ‘out of repair’. Minor improvements were attempted but, by the 1860s, it was noted that the church was neglected and out of repair, and a substantial restoration was undertaken by J P St Aubyn between 1872-1878.
Today the church consists of the chancel, the nave, short north aisle, south transept or vestry, porch and west tower. St. Keyne parish is linked to the market town of Liskeard and the fishing and tourism centre of Looe by the B3254. The church serves the population of St Keyne parish (505 in the year 2,000) & the Trewidland area of Liskeard parish (345 in 2,000).
Grid Reference: SX 242608