ST MARTIN’S CHURCH, CHURCH LANE, ST. MARTIN’S, LOOE, CORNWALL, PL13 1NX.
Grid Ref: SX2606 5511
There may have been a religious establishment on this site as early as 5th or 6th Century, but the earliest documentary reference is as Martistow c.1220. In 1086 St Martin’s was probably part of the manor of Pendrim with the main North doorway being Norman like the top two parts of the font (previously thought to be a 15th century copy).
Features have been added over the centuries. The tower has diagonal buttresses and was begun in the early 14th century, transepts were added to the chancel and nave by this time, with the southern transept removed when the south aisle was built. Tree ring (dendro) dating of the wagon roofs shows the complex chronology of rebuilding and enlargement thereafter. When a south chapel, and then south aisle were added in or about the 1480s, part of the chancel was also reroofed. Around 1500 the north transept got a new roof, with more work done on the chancel resulting in roof work in the 1520s. The nave was reroofed as late as the 1540s when the Reformation was well underway and the south transept roof dates to the 1600s suggesting that this part was added then as a family pew.
In the Vestry is a monument of 1678 to a local dignitary, Walter Langdon (died 1667), whose family took over the south-east side chapel – a Jacobean screen they used now re-sited by the choir stalls. A fine slate tomb of Philip Mayow, an Alderman and wealthy merchant of Looe, sited in the Sanctuary is by Peter Crocker of Looe and of c.1590 date. In the 19th century a porch and doorway in the South wall were removed, and a porch added to the North doorway.
The Organ, first built in 1878, is sited on what once was a musician’s West gallery and there is a 6-rope bell tower still in use. In the early 20th C the floor was replaced with the present slate flagstones, some of which are memorials, owing to the original floor giving way due to earlier interments beneath it. There are two layers of graves in the land immediately south of the church building and the current churchyard, which is almost full, contains some 1500 graves with the earliest recorded headstone being 1785.
The 12 stained glass windows were added in 1879-1920, and monuments to be seen on the walls, many of them to members of the same families.
The interior of the church contains one of the largest collections of early 20th century carvings by well-known woodcarver Violet Pinwill. There are end-of-nave panels, pew ends, the rood screen, sanctuary rail, and St. Martin of Tours to whom the church is dedicated.
Deirdre Croker, Churchwarden, 2019.