St Sampson’s Church, South Hill, Callington, Cornwall PL17 7LP
OS Grid reference: SX3002 72620
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St Sampson’s is a Grade 1 medieval church on a site believed to have been Christian since about the sixth century.
Within the churchyard is an early Christian inscribed stone, containing a chi rho symbol and inscription, dating from the sixth to eighth century. This, and archaeological evidence from 2000, suggests an early Christian date for the site, possibly the site of the monastery allegedly founded by St Sampson in the sixth century.
South Hill was the first living of the young Revd. Jonathan Trelawney, of Cornish anthem fame, who was appointed as Rector in 1673.
Much of the existing building dates from the fourteenth century, dedicated in 1333, but on the site of, or incorporating, an earlier church. A south aisle was added in the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century.
The windows are in their original openings with tracery either original or restored during the nineteenth century.
One tiny and often overlooked special detail is a carved frieze below the tower parapet, thought to represent Jesus’ apostles, with carved angels at each corner.
The porch, chancel and south aisle have original wagon roofs with bosses; the nave and north transept roofs, the pews, pulpit and organ all date from restoration in the nineteenth century.
The twelfth-century font is older than the existing building, and is presumed to come from the earlier Norman church. It has a round bowl on a central shaft with four columns topped by carved heads and tree of life and animal decorations.
The chancel contains two fourteenth century tomb recesses, with beautifully detailed carved heads, one of a man and one of a woman possibly tombs of clergy or the de Ferrers family who were probably responsible for the building of the “new” church in 1333.
The north transept, known as the Manaton Chapel, takes its name from local ‘lords of the manor’ who were prominent between the sixteenth and early eighteenth centuries, one of whom, Ambrose Manaton, captained a ship which fought under Sir Francis Drake against the Spanish Armada. On the east wall is a seventeenth century monument to a Manaton grandson, Michael Hill, with a charming kneeling figure in relief.
The overall impression made on visitors to our church is of unassuming faithfulness, a testimony to the generations of local people who have built, cared for and worshipped in this building for almost seven hundred years. It is simple and largely unadorned but has a deep sense of stillness and peace.