History of Altarnun


HALS — Altar Nun is situate in the hundred of Lesnewth, and hath upon the north Davidstow and S. Cleather, south part of Northill and Lawanack, east Trewenn, west Temple, and was taxed in Domesday Roll either under the name Trewint, Treuint, the spring, fountain, or well town, situate upon the fens or springs, otherwise under the jurisdiction of Trewen. In the inquisition of the Bishops of Lincoln and Winchester in 1294, this church was rated to the Pope's first fruits, Ecclesia de Altar Nun, in Decanatu de Lesnewith viii. 1. the vicar xl. s. In Wolsey's inquisition, 1521, temp. Henry VIII. £1S 14s. lOd. ; the patronage in the Dean and Chapter of Exon, who endowed it ; the incumbent Hatton. This parish was rated to the 4s. per pound land-tax, 1696, £204 16s. Od.

For the modern name of this church, Mr. Carew in his survey of Cornwall, is of opinion it is derived from the Altar of S. Nun's pool in this parish, heretofore much frequented for the cure of mad people, but for my own part, I conceive the word Altar in this place is not to be construed as a derivation from altare, or altar, whereon offerings or sacrifice was made to God by fire or otherwise at this pool, but rather, as I am better informed, the chancel of the present church was a chapel pertaining to the nun& or nunnery once here, afterwards augmented and converted to a vicarage church as it now stands ; and that the ground whereon the vicarage house is now extant. Contiguous therewith was of old the nunnery house itself, wherein those virgins resided ; the stones and materials of which old house are concerted in the new vicarage brave mansion, and to prove this tradition, there yet appears in the fields the channel or watercourse wherein the waters of S. Nun's Pool was carried into this old nunnery house in former ages. So that I conclude the name Altar Nun must be interpreted as a corruption of or derivation from Alter Nun, to alter or change from one thing to another, from that of a nunnery of religious votaresses, to that of a parochial and vicarage church, from whence the same hath its present denomination, as aforesaid.

In this parish stands the barton of Tre-lawn-y, i.e. the oak grove town, or, " I am the oak grove town," a name at first given and taken from the natural circumstances of the place, situate between two hills, then notable for woods or groves of oak timber. Though now there is not left standing any house or trees to countenance this etymology, yet I have been told by some of the inhabitants of this parish, that tradition saith the greatest part of the stones that built the present church and tower of Alter Nun, were brought from the dilapidated walls of Trelawny, and much of the oak timber that roofs the same was also cut and carried from that barton.

From this place was denominated that old and famous family of gentlemen surnamed Trelawney, now baronets, as I was informed by my very kind friend Coll. John Trelawny, of Trelawny, deceased, and that one Sir William de Trelawny, lord of this place, suffered it to go in marriage with his base daughter, to , from whose heirs by descent or purchase, it came to Cloberry Hicks, and — — now in possession thereof, and is now set for about £70 per ann.

In this parish, temp. Charles II. lived Peter Jowle or Jowll under clerk or deacon of this church, who was 150 and odd years old when he died, and at the age of 100 years had new black hairs that sprung forth on his head amongst those that long before were white with age ; and then also new teeth grew up in his jaws in the places of those that many years before were fallen out of his head. This parish hath in it tin lodes and streams.

TONKIN — It is obvious to anyone, that the name of this parish can signify no other than an alter or church dedicated to S. Nunne, which S. Nunne, being in some accounts called Naunita or Naunites, and in other Novita, is said to have been the daughter of an earl of Cornwall, and mother of S. David, the famous archbishop of Menevia, from him called S. David's.



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