Constantine Cornwall

St Allen Church

Members of Constantine History Group learning about the history of St Allen Church near Truro (Photo: Don Garman)

Constantine History Group
May 2016 Report

Members of Constantine History Group braved the wet evening and ventured to St Allen Church north of Truro for their first visit of the summer season. Andrew and Pat Harvey provided a talk about the parish and church and a guided tour.

Within this very rural parish with its dispersed farms of medieval origin and the hamlet of Zelah there are several Iron Age enclosures and an Iron Age Fort in Bishops Wood, once the deer park of the Bishops of Exeter who had a palace on the site of Lanner Barton. One of the enclosures was also used as a Plen An Gwari, a playing place for miracle plays.

The parish was established in pre Norman times and all but three of the medieval farms are still in existence. There is doubt about the origin of the name did it relate to a male or female or is it simply the corruption of a Celtic word meaning a beloved place. A local carver has produced a splendid representation of St Allen from local timber.

Three Celtic Crosses are to be seen in the churchyard, two were found buried, probably the result of the dissolution of the monasteries or the Civil War. These suggest that there was a pre Norman church on site. Certainly there was one on site by 1261 when the first incumbent is recorded. However, it is possible the north aisle was built before the Norman Robert Count of Mortain died in 1190. The north wall contains a blocked up Norman doorway. The south aisle was added in the 15th century. The perpendicular style tower contains three bells one of medieval origin.

During the 14th century, whilst the Bishops of Exeter used Lanner Barton, the parish must have been of some importance.

The church unusually does not have, apart from the vicarage, any surrounding housing. However there is evidence of a churchtown in the large field to the south, this may have been vacated due to the Black Death or the attractions of a growing Truro. Cottages close to the church fell into disrepair some years ago and were removed.

The parish saw an increase in the population when lead and silver began to be worked in the 1830s One of the mines, East Wheal Rose, proved very productive, but a storm around noon in 1846 saw 39 die as water flooded the mine via the main shaft. Seven are buried in the churchyard at St Allen. Two headstones can still be seen, one for Thomas Bishop a 21 year old. The mine also featured in a survey of children working in mines and reports on the unhealthy conditions experienced underground.

Today the Parish of St Allen has been joined with that of Kenwyn and this delightful church in its attractive rural setting continues to serve its population which is dispersed around the parish.

Dog Garman Secretary, thanked Andrew and Pat for providing a very informative visit to this remote but well supported parish church. The next meeting will be a visit to Enys House and Garden, Penryn on Friday 17th June. Members to meet at 17.45 in the Constantine Church Car Park. Non members welcome. Contact: 01326 250604