Grid Ref. SX 1860567857
St Neot, Liskeard PL14 6NG
The church and village is named after St Neot. He died circa 877 and was buried in the church. Around 974 Earl Alfric stole the remains and removed most of them to Eynesbury (now called St Neots) in Huntingdonshire. The priests of St Neot, Cornwall are mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 and the registers of the bishops of Exeter – Walter Bronescombe 1257-1280, Peter Quivil 1280-1291, Walter de Stapeldon 1307-26 etc provide names of the early vicars from 1266 including a vicar who died of leprosy in 1318. Other vicars for the next 600 years are noted in Joseph Polsue’s History of Cornwall, published by Lake in 1870. St Neot was part of the diocese of Cornwall until 1877 and Montacute Priory in Somerset were rectors of the church from about 1102 until 1539.
In de Stapeldon’s register the re-dedication of the church is mentioned as taking place in 1321. The eastern end of the church is the oldest part of the present structure. The Easter sepulchre, which may have doubled up as St Neot’s tomb, can be dated to the 1330-40s. According to John Allan it is the work of William Joye, an Exeter Cathedral mason. The hanging shields on the tomb are like those on nave tombs at Ottery St Mary. Fragmentary wall paintings at the back of the tomb appear to show two kneeling figures with halos and winged heads linked to them by ropes. The three stage tower is simpler in style than the rest of the church with diagonal buttresses. It probably dates to the 14th century. The majority of what can be seen today dates from about 1450 onwards.
The south chapel and aisle was added first, in two stages, in the periods 1480s-90s and 1500s-15. It is likely that this and the later aisle replaced lean-to Norman ones with clerestory windows above as can still be seen at St Germans. Work resumed on the north side in the 1520s with the north chapel and aisle built in one go. Glazing dates of 1528 to 1530 for the last three windows in the north wall suggest that, with roofing and the glasing of the west window, the work was finished in the early 1530s. A rood screen was probably inserted in the 1520s across the full width of the church as at North Petherwin. It is likely that the final phase was to reroof the chancel and nave in the 1530s-40s as at Fowey just as the Reformation started to hit parish churches. Dated roof bosses in the nave section of the roof can be read as 1530 or 1480, though the latter date is unlikely on stylistic grounds. A boss at the tower end is dated 1593, which may be when that part of the nave roof required repair. This roof retains some original ‘barber-pole’ style decoration.
St Neot’s is best known for its exceptional pre-reformation glazing. So much survives that it is possible to reconstruct the original scheme apart from the west windows which went in the great storm of 1704. Only Fairford in Gloucestershire has a more complete set of windows, though these are in the new Renaissance style and less typical of parish churches as a whole. It is considered that St Neot’s windows were installed between about 1450 and the early 1530s in four phases. Overlaps of subject, for instance the Annunciation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, St Leonard and St Stephen, occur in more than one phase, but not usually within a phase. The windows are mainly filled with figures of saints and in four cases – the Creation, Noah, St George and St Neot windows – stories (to be read left to right like a comic book). The earliest window is now just inside the south door, though originally the figures were in the east window where the tracery lights remain. St Peter and St Paul, founders of the church and Montacute Priory’s patrons, appear with Christ and St James the Great. The latest window is the life of St Neot window which was dated 1530. An interesting feature of this church is that while international saints dominate in the south aisle which was funded by local gentry, local saints with Jesus and Mary are in the majority on the north side where parish groups of wives, sisters (young maidens?) and young men were chief sponsors. Don’t miss St Meubred of Cardinham carrying his head. The north aisle also includes a window paid for by the glaziers and roof bosses over the sisters’ window retelling the story of St Neot’s fish in wood.
The windows survived the iconoclastic devastation of 1650-1 when Parliamentarian soldiers were on the rampage. We are fortunate in having comprehensive records dating from the 1600s onwards and an entry in the churchwardens’ accounts for early 1651 reads ‘for a jornyes [day’s] riding to Mr Anthony Rous to p[re]vent the takeing downe of the church windows’. They were then whitewashed.. Over-restored and moved around in 1824-30 by John Hedgeland, we have an original 1830 illustrated “Hedgeland” showing how the windows looked immediately after their restoration. Further moves have occurred since, but these have actually enhanced the medieval feel of the glazing. There are 17 beautiful windows including three designed by Hedgeland.
Incidentally, the churchwardens’ accounts, now in the care of Cornwall’s Record Office, are some of the earliest and most detailed for Cornish parishes in the 17th century, and include references to repairs to the font, the pulpit, and new rails around the Communion table
Other features inside the church include the “St Neot Verse”, the 1643 “King Charles Letter” and the 1610 William Bere slate tomb chest, at the back of the church.
Outside the south porch there is an Anglo-Saxon cross purported to be the one King Alfred gave to St Neot when visiting the village, it dates from the 870s-80s. King Alfred (then a Prince) visited Saint Neot sometime between 865 and 893.
St Neot Well is less than half a mile from the Church. This was restored in 1852 and is decorated during the Flower Festival held about every four years. The whole of the Church is decorated for the duration of the Flower Festival. The parish also celebrates Oak Apple day each year by hoisting an oak branch up the tower on 29 May. It is possible that this event, which celebrates the preservation of the future king Charles II in Boscobel oak tree in 1651, symbolized, for St Neot, at least, the saving of their remarkable windows.
To see the “Listed Building” entry, visit the site below. Our OS grid reference is SX 1860567857: our grid coordinates are 218605, 67857. Latitude/Longitude: 50.4824, -4.5582. Our postcode is PL14 6NG.
Our Church website address is www.saintneot.church there is a multitude of information and many good quality pictures on the site. Our service times and current programme of events are kept up to date.