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Monday, 21 Aug 2017

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The Churchyard Project

  

The Historic Churchyards Group was set up in 2002 to help make the churchyards of Cornwall's central mining villages more easily accessible for research and education.

 

Rural churchyards are like time capsules that preserve a record of those who have lived and died in the parish. They also provide a refuge untouched by the ravages of development and urban sprawl which is particularly valuable as a habitat for wildlife: from mice to lichens; newts to bluebells; song birds to butterflies.

 

The churchyards are managed to encourage and enhance this biodiversity whilst at the same time maintaining a respectful degree of formality and order.

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Lanner Churchyard

 

The original churchyard surrounded Christchurch but was only used between 1845 and 1854 and just a few headstones have been found there. Burials were mainly carried out in Gwennap until this second churchyard was established on the 8th August 1911 by Act of Parliament and it cannot be formally closed without Parliament's consent.

 

There are few elaborate headstones in the graveyard and many plots are unmarked, reflecting the relative lack of wealth in the area.

 

Unfortunately there are no burial records for either of the first two churchyards. There are at least 670 graves in the second churchyard and where identifiable a list of these graves and the inscriptions on the stones have been posted here. 

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Gwennap Churchyard

 

The church of St Weneppa, Gwennap is founded on a Celtic monastery thought to date from the late 5th century. The present building dates from the 17th century and is one of only four churches in Cornwall with a detached tower.

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St Day Churchyard

 

St Day was a place of pilgrimage prior to the Reformation when there was a chapel dedicated to the Holy Trinity, situated in the area occupied by Trinity House at West End and the adjacent Trevean Cottages in Buckingham Place.

 

St Day was the commercial centre of the Gwennap Mining Area and with Carharrack and Lanner was part of the Gwennap Ecclesiastical Parish until 1835 when St Day became a separate parish.

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Stithians Churchyard

 

Stithians Church and its churchyard have been a consecrated place for Christian worship and burials since Celtic times. The present sanctuary area of the Church is thought to be built on the site of a chapel of the 5th century. The church has undergone several major extensions and changes over the centuries. Evidence of its architectural history can be seen in its fabric.


When Cornwall was part of the diocese of Exeter the church was dedicated to St. Thomas a-Becket, but when authority was returned to Cornwall then the local holy person who was revered by the people was deemed the proper choice to name both the community and the church at its centre. The identity of Saint Stythians is unclear and the spelling of the name has many variations including Stephen, Stedyana and Stedian.


The St Stythian we know today is thought to have been a female Celtic hermit or anchoress and was closely associated with the local Holy Well. Traces of this Well, known as Lady Well, can still be seen on the southern boundary of the agricultural showground where it abuts the edge of Kennall Vale woods. Please note that this is on private land and permission must be sought before entry.


The ecclesiastical parish of Stithians has always included the church of St Piran at Perran-ar-Worthal and the two churches have been linked since the 12th century, being on the route of pilgrimage from Devoran up into the Kennall valley and then on towards Wendron and into the hinterland. Cornwall has a rich network of ancient pilgrimage routes and the Holy Wells sited along these held a particular importance for healing, baptism and spiritual renewal. It is widely thought that St Stythian tended Lady Well and welcomed and baptised pilgrims using the Kennall valley route.


The old churchyard which directly surrounds the church is closed for burials and is maintained by the parish council on behalf of Cornwall Council.

 

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