St Buryan Church, Cornwall

St Buryan Church, Cornwall

Legend has it that the Saxon King Athelstan stayed for a night in the small Oratory of St. Buryan, (of which nothing now remains) the night before he sailed to conquer the Isles of Scilly. He vowed that if he were successful in this expedition, then he would endow a church here on his return. He did so (charter date October 6th 932), and expert opinion is that the only remaining piece of this church is on the north side of the Chancel.

A larger 13th century church was consecrated by Bishop Briwire in August 26th 1238

In 1301 the Bishops contested the claim the St Buryan was a Royal Peculiar in the courts. But the Crown won. A Royal Peculiar is a place of worship that falls directly under the jurisdiction of the British monarch, rather than a diocese. It would appear that this Royal Peculiar would date to King Athelstan and his original endowment. It was only in 1850 that an act of Parliament restored jurisdiction over the Parish to the Bishop, the Crown resigning all the peculiar rights: it abolished the the Prebends of St Buryan.

In 1328 there was a fight in the church between the Dean, John de Maunte, and one of the prebends, Richard Beaupre. The dean was withholding the tithes due to the preband, so the preband broke down the church door to recover them. Both were arrested by the Sheriff. Bishop Grandisson duly excommunicated all who had laid hands on Richard Beaupre. The Bishop was apparently too frightened to visit the parish until after the death of Beaupre in 1336

By 1473 the church building was in a dilapidated state and so run down that the only thing was to pull it down and re-build. The Tower was built before the old church was pulled down and is 14th century, and the present church was built up to the Tower in the late 15th and 16th century. The tower and nave are not in a straight line.

Jonathan Trelawny became Dean in 1668, and was afterwards Bishop of Rochester and one of the seven Bishops imprisoned in the Tower of London and subject of the great Cornish song "And shall Trelawny die"

There was a major restoration of the church in 1814, when much of the original church was obliterated. All the old benches, with their carved ends were cut down. Only two bench ends were saved, and are now made up.into a Litany desk. At the same time most of the screen was cut down.

The last Dean was Fitzeroy Henry Richard Stanhope, an army officer who lost his leg in the battle of Waterloo and was pensioned off by the Duke of York with the Deanery of St Buryan. He took the income from the Deanery till his death in 1864.

The only relic of the Deanery days are four prebendal stalls inside the screen and the patronage of the three parishes, which remains in the hands of the Duke of Cornwall, to whom it was granted by charter, dated March 17th 11 Edward III, "to remain to the same Duchy for ever so that from the same Duchy they may at no time be separated" .

The Lady Chapel was built in 1956 by John Franklin Tonkin, in memory of his uncle, Robert Edmund Tonkin, of Treverven. The oak panelling was formally in the manor at Boshan near Helford, and was erected in the church by local craftsmen.

The tower is 92 feet high and is constructed of wrought granite with a simple bold arch. In the middle of the 18th century the whole of the north wall of the church had to be pulled down and re-built, and at the same time the small lean-to chapel on the north wall of the chancel was pulled down and the arch built up.

The Font is the work of the 15th century and has on the bowl three angels supporting shields; on the fourth shield is a plain Latin cross on two steps. On the opposite side there is a small Maltese Cross between two angels.

St Buryan Community site

Cornwall Churches