St Levan Church
History of St Levan
|From Thomas Tonkin's Natural History of Cornwall, 1739
S. Levan is situated in the hundred of Penwith, and is bounded to the west by the ocean; to the north by Sennen; to the east by S. Burian; to the south by the mouth of the Channel.
This parish taketh its name from the saint to whom the church is dedicated, S. Levine.
It is a daughter church of S. Burian, farming part of the deanery of S. Burian.
From Daniel and Samuel Lysons Magna Brittania Volume III Cornwall, 1814
St. Levan, in the deanery and in the west division of the hundred of Penwith, lies about eight miles south-west of Penzance, and about three miles south-east from the Land’s-end. The principal villages in this parish are, Bosistow, Raughton, commonly called Rafton, Trebean, Trengothal, and Treryn or Treen. Raugton and Bosistow, both some time seats of the Davies family, and the latter, at an earlier period, of the Bosistows, are now farm-houses. Treryn or Treen castle is in this parish. In this parish is St. Levan’s well, with an oratory; and at the distance of about a quarter of a mile, the site of an old chapel, called Port-chapel; and a mile to the eastward, that of another, called Chapel-Curnow.
Additions and Corrections
The barton of Raughtra or Raftra (the name of which, as well as that of the village, is erroneously printed Raughton or Rafton) and that of Bosistow, belong to farmers by whom they are occupied.
From a Complete Parochial History of the County of Cornwall, J Polsue 1870
The parish of S. Levan is situated in the deanery and hundred of Penwith; it is bounded on the north by S. Burian; on the east and south by the sea; and on the west by Sennen.
The estimated tithable lands amount to 2100 acres, namely, arable 467A.; meadow and pasture 933A.; marsh, heath, and furze 700A.
The Living is a rectory in the patronage of the Duke of Cornwall; and the tithes are commuted at £250.
The parish comprises by actual measurement 2328A. 0R. 29P.; of which the church and churchyard measure 1R. 8P.; and public roads and wastes 44A. 2R. 38P.
This parish, S. Burian, and Sennen formerly constituted the deanery of S. Burian; at the death of the Hon. and Rev. F. H. R. Stanhope, the last dean, in 1864, they became separate rectories, and the Rev. Joseph-Sydney Tyacke, now vicar of Helston, was instituted rector that same year; the Rev. Frank Bedel succeeded him in April, 1868; and the present rector, the Rev. Charles-Christopher Anstey, was instituted July 14, 1868.
S. Livin, the patron saint of this church, is supposed to have been an Irish bishop who preached the Christian faith in Belgium, and said to have been martyred November 12, A.D. 656. His feast day is kept in the parish on October 15.
The church consists of a chancel, nave, south aisle, and a north transept. There are some remains of the rood screen on which are carved shields representing a winged bullock, a winged cat or lion, and other monstrosities, and human heads. These are suppose to be the mystical figures of Ezekiel. On panel work, near the door, are carved two jesters. On one of the bench ends is a representation of a pilgrim with a breviary and a discipline in his hands. Another represents a female with her hair enclosed in a net as in modern times. The sacred monogram is repeated; and another monogram is evidently composed of the letters A.T.V. The rood stairs are in the south wall.
The arcade has six low pointed arches, supported on octagonal monolith pillars of granite. The transept is divided from the church by two arches supported on octagonal pillars with curious capitals. The capital of the eastern pillar is ornamented with the zigzag Norman moulding; the capital of the second pillar is decorated with ogee billet mouldings; the third is of plain pattern. The roofs are handsomely carved, and the bosses appear to have been painted and gilded.
The bowl of the font, which is circular, is ornamented with star and cable mouldings and geometric designs; it stands on a plain round shaft, without either basement or step. The whole height of the font is 2ft. 6in.; and the material porcelain stone.
The tower arch is circular, springing from pentagonal imposts.
There is a south porch; and a blocked doorway in the angle between the nave and the transept. In the porch is a perfect square stoup, the front side of which is arcaded.
The tower is of two stages, and is finished with battlements and pinnacles; it contains two bells; one bears the date 1641, the other has the founders mark, a bell, and the initials and date A. R, 1754, with the name of the churchwardens. Fragments of Charles I’s “Letter of thanks” are preserved here.
Marble tablets are thus inscribed:—
Thomasin Dennis de Trembath, nata xxix die Septembris, 1771; ingenio, suavitate, virtute insignis doctrina insignissima. Vie! lenta sed præmatura morte erepta obiit xxx die Augusti, 1809; anno ætatis xxxviii.
In memory of Thomas Roberts, of Penzance, Gentleman, who died 7th June, 1804; aged 76 years.
Also of Mary his wife who died 13th July, 1816; aged 75 years.
Likewise of Thomas Roberts, of Penzance, Surgeon, their son, who died 21st Jany., 1820; aged 40 years.
They are interred in the Churchyard; stones are set up to the head of their respective graves. This monument is placed by Joseph Roberts, of the borough of Helston, gentleman, as a token of duty and affection for his parents and brother.
To the memory of the Revd. James Bevan, of Glamorganshire. He died 12th Octr. 1812; aged 78. And in 1831 this tablet was erected by subscription, in commemoration of his faithful service.
Slate tablets, dated 1780, 1806, and 1807, commemorate members of the Hodge family.
In the churchyard are two ancient granite crosses; one, nearly seven feet in height, stands near the porch, and the other by the stile at the eastern entrance. Near the former cross is a large rock of coarse granite broken in two, the rent being from 14 to 21 inches wide; there is a local tradition that when this interstice is wide enough for a donkey with panniers on its back to pass through, then will be the consummation of all things. There is another ancient cross near Rosepletha.
A little below the church, on Porthchapel Point, stand the ruins of S. Levan’s well. Here also was S. Levan’s chapel or hermitage, which stood on the edge of the cliff; but its site can only be guessed at. There are the ruins of another ancient chapel at Porthcurnow, about half a mile distant from this place.
“In the parish of S. Levan” writes Borlase, “there, is a promontory called Castle Treryn. This cape consists of three distinct groups of rocks. On the western side of the middle group near the top, lies a very large stone, so evenly, poised that any hand may move it to and fro; but the extremeties of its base are at such a distance from each other, and so well secured by their nearness to the stone which it stretches itself upon, that it is morally impossible that any lever, or indeed force, however applied in a mechanical way, can remove it from its present situation.”
This somewhat over-strong expression of the Doctor’s piqued Lieutenant Goldsmith, nephew of the poet, a gallant officer in the command of a cutter on this coast in 1824, who averred that nothing could be impossible to the courage and skill of British seamen, and with the united exertions of ten or twelve of his men threw the rock from its pivot, and it would have fallen into the sea had it not been caught in a narrow chasm in its descent.
This exploit highly displeased the inhabitants of the locality, and Lieut. Goldsmith was called upon to replace the great natural curiosity. In order to do this Davies Gilbert, P.R.S. applied to the Admiralty for the loan of machinery from Plymouth, which was granted, at the same time, contributing £25 towards the expense. Thirteen capstans with the necessary blocks and chains were sent from the dock-yard, and the Lieutenant had the satisfaction, in the presence of thousands of spectators, of restoring this stupendous rock to its natural position, wholly uninjured in its discriminating properties:—
It moves obsequious to the gentlest touch
Of him whose breast is pure; but to a traitor,
Tho’ ev’n a giant’s prowess nerv’d his arm,
It stands as fixt as Snowdon.
For sometime afterwards the rock was kept chained and padlocked, but the restriction was removed, and the rock set at liberty, although it does not so readily vibrate, or log as it did before.
Lanyon Cromlech, which had been thrown down during a thunderstorm in 1815, was replaced through the same instrumentality, and by the same machinery.
The height of the pile of rocks on which rests the Logan or Logging Stone, said to weigh about 90 tons, is 30 feet; towards the sea the rocks rise much higher, Castle Peak towering far above the others. The view from the greatest elevation is strikingly magnificent.
At the basement of the promontory on which the Logan Rock stands, is Treryn Dinas, i.e. the Castle of the fighting place. “Castle Treryn,” writes Borlase, “encloses a promontory. This cape shoots forth into the sea, bearing directly south; its farthermost ridge consists of three lofty groupes of rock, to the north of which is a low and narrow neck of land, across which there runs from the east to the western cliff, a stone wall; the ground then rises pretty quick, and on the brow of the hill there is a vallum of earth, and a ditch without it towards the land, but none within next the sea. This vallum runs also near east and west, reaching from sea to sea, and without it towards the land there is another vallum of earth, of like direction, but lower in point of situation, inclosing in like manner a greater portion of this promontory.”
At the head of Pendower Cove stands the Bosistow Logan Rock. Its oscillating quality was discovered by a person who was employed in watching the coast for the lord of the manor. A vessel had been wrecked in the cove, and whilst engaged in his duty he leaned against this mass of rock, which, to his great suprise a gust of wind caused to “log.” The length of the longest side of this mass of stone is about 15 feet, and the circumference of its larger end about 20 feet; its weight is calculated to be about 20 tons.
On the high ground above a headland called Tol-pedn-Penwith, i.e. the holed headland of Penwith, standing north and south, are, two land-marks or beacons; one is painted red, the other black and white. They are about 12 feet in height, and are placed in a line with the Rundle or Runnel Stone, a dangerous rock which lies about a mile from shore, and has been fatal to many vessels being sometimes covered by the sea. On the headland of Tol-pedn is a chasm called the Funnel. It is but about seven feet from the verge of the cliff, and descends almost perpendicularly about 100feet. At the bottom a cavern from the base of the cliff meets it at right angles; the opening to the surface was formed by the falling in of the roof of the cavern. A large metalliferous vein crosses the opening from east to west. A cliff castle also extended across this headland but little of it is now to be seen. A pile of granite, not far from this place, called the Chair Ladder, is considered to be the finest mass of stone in the county; it appears as if built up of large cubical blocks. Numerous caverns and isolated rocks will be found along the shores of this parish, many of them bearing distinctive and characteristic names.
At Porthgwarra, i.e. the higher part, a little fishing cove, tunnels are cut through the rock to give access to the sand and ore-weed on the beach. Penbarth Cove is also a fishing place.
Bosistow, formerly the property and residence of the ancient family of that name, latterly belonged to the Davises; it is now an ordinary farm house. The Bosistow family bore for their arms,—Azure, three escallops vaire.
The estate is now the property of Mr. Henry Hodge and Mr. Semmens, late Trembath.
Treryn, or as it is locally designated Treen, the property of Sir R. R. Vivian, Bart., is the chief village of the parish; The Wesleyan Methodists have a chapel here and another at Sawah. The latter chapel will be be abandoned when the new one at Poggiga Cross is completed.
In the village of Treryn is a public house called the Logan Rock Inn.
The farms of the parish have been generally occupied by their owners, either as freeholders or leaseholders; consequently they have taken great care against making pauper parishioners, and in managing their poor rate.
Rosekestell has been for a considerable time the property of the Roberts family; the ancient house, built in 1677, was rebuilt in 1730. It is now the the property of Messrs. Joseph and Thomas Roberts.
The farm and hamlet of Rosepletha is the property of Mr. Hodge Saundry.
The estate and hamlet of Raughtra, pronounced Rafton, belongs to Messrs. Joseph Roberts, H. Saundry, and Botterell; Trendrenen, to Mr. Charles Ellis; Trewy, to Mr. Nicholas Tremewan; and Trengothal to Mr. T. Roberts.
The estate and village of Trebear are the property of Mr. Bolitho.
Miss Thomasin Dennis was born at Sawah in 1771; her father, Mr. Alexander Dennis, was a respectable yeoman of this parish, afterwards of Trembath in Madron. Her talent displayed itself in her infancy, in reciting pieces from the best English authors, and in producing imitations of their poetry. She acquired the French Language with considerable facility; and observing that her eldest brother made but little progress in the study of the Latin language, she, though under eighteen years of age, studied that branch of learning merely for the purpose of assisting him.
Through her literary acquirements Miss Dennis became acquainted with the Rev. Malachi Hitchens, of S. Hilary, Davies Gilbert, P.R.S., and other scholars of her day, who both assisted her by the loan of books, and by indicating the best methods of study. With this assistance her progress was so great that not only were all the Roman authors soon read, but the Greek also, till Æschyles and Pindar became familiar to her.
About this time Miss Dennis accompanied Mr. Josiah Wedgewood and his lady from Penzance, chiefly as a friend but partly to superintend the education of their son; but her health began to fail, and returning to her home to assist in nursing her only sister who had fallen ill of a consumption, she became ill of the same disease and died.
Miss Dennis printed none of her poetry; but in 1806 she published Sophia St. Clare, a novel of a superior style of composition and correctness of sentiment. But from want of sensational incident the work failed to become popular.
S. Levan, the hermit, tradition says, spent some of his time at Bodillan, and the path thence, which he took to go to the seaside at Pedn-mên-an-mere, to fish, is said to be still visible, being marked by stronger vegetation.
It is also said of him as of S. Neot, that he caught only one fish a day, which served for his sustenance. While thus dwelling in seclusion he was visited by his sister and her child. To provide food for them he went to his fishing place and caught a chad; this fish was not considered dainty enough for his visitors, and was thrown into the sea again. A second time it was caught, and was again rejected. The saintly fisherman changed his position, and cast his hook still farther out, when to his surprise the same fish was again drawn out. The saint then began to think the hand of Providence was in the matter, and took the fish to his home. It was cooked and placed before his guests; but the first mouthful given to the child choked it. Then was S. Levan grieved that he had not been content with the fish the first time it came to his hand, believing that the accident happened as a punishment for not gratefully accepting what Providence had sent him.
From this incident the fishermen of the locality call chad chuck-cheeld.
The cliff scenery of S. Levan, especially at the Logan rock, and the coast towards and including Land’s End, is considered the finest in the county. The granite generally assumes a prismatic form, but is frequently divided, both perpendicularly and horizontally, into quadrangular and even cubical blocks.
Castle Treryn, and several of the lesser headlands afford specimens of quadrangular masses; other piles of granite bear a great resemblance to basaltic columns, not only in their prismatic form, but in the regularity of their sides and their division into joints. The granite at Tol-pedn-Penwith is very porphyritic, and most of it contains pinite. This is intersected by veins of a different kind of granite; in most of these veins the felspar is red.
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