Church of St Mawes
Church of St Mawes, (and Wall with Railings), Church Hill
SW 84568 33009
St Mawes in Cornwall was named after the Celtic saint Saint Maudez, who originated in Ireland (according to legend) but is mainly venerated in Brittany. The place-name first appear in 1284 and the chapel by 1381 with the alternative Cornish place-name, Lavousa meaning the church-site of Mawes noted later. Both John Leland and Nicholas Roscarrock in the mid-16th and early 17th century noted that the saint had a stone chair in the chapel yard, a common feature of the Breton cult, too. Leland also noted in 1542 that the saint was painted as a schoolmaster in the chapel and that there was a holy well nearby. A plaque on the left of the surviving St Mawes Holy Well states that it dates from the 6th century although the arch over it is from the 15th century or later.
The chapel lay in the parish of St Just in Roseland and was abandoned in the reign of Elizabeth I when Protestant worship replaced Catholic. There was then no church in St Mawes until another was built on a different site up a steep hill, now called Church Hill, in 1807 by Richard, 2nd Marquess and later Duke of Buckingham K.G. This was licenced for divine service in in 1837 and rebuilt in 1883-4 by Edwin Hicks which is the building we see there today. It remains a chapel of ease to St. Just in Roseland Church.
The present church, a Grade II listed building, was built of local elvan stone with granite quoins in the Early English style and cost £1,500. It consists of a chancel, nave, south porch and a western turret containing a single bell. All the windows are original apart from the three more modern beautiful south windows in memory of F.H. Barnaby, of Barnaby Rudge fame, Rector 1939-1958 designed by Francis W.S. Keat, which tell the story of Saint Mawes and his journey from Brittany. The glass in the west window is more recent in memory of William Vincent 1808-1889 and of Louisa his wife.
St Mawes originated as two port towns (like Mousehole) in the 13th century but was described by Leland as ‘a poor fisher village’. Despite this, it was made a parliamentary borough from 1563 until 1832 with two members of parliament. St Mawes Castle was begun in 1540 as part of Henry VIII’s programme of defensive building to protect the country from Spanish and French ships. Together with Falmouth’s Pendennis castle this castle protected the Fal estuary and was held for King Charles I during the Civil War. Open to attack from the land, its defensive role went in the 18th century when Pendennis acquired bigger guns with a greater range.
More information about the church is available on the Historic England website here