Statement of Significance

Statement of Significance 1

Statement of Significance

St Sampson’s Church, South Hill, Callington Cornwall, PL17 7LP

The parish church of South Hill, part of the Callington Cluster of Parishes in the Diocese of Truro.

Listed: Grade 1 (Historic England list entry 11407861)

Scheduled Monuments: The South Hill Inscribed Stone, 6th – 8th century (list entry 10140162) Tombchest of George Hawkinge, 1636 (list entry 11407873)

Tombchest of John Foot, 1743 (list entry 11407884)

Part One: The significance of the church in its rural environment


St Sampson’s stands at a cross roads on a low hill in the northern part of the rural parish of South Hill in south east Cornwall. The church tower is a landmark from many directions and can be seen from Kit Hill at Callington to the east and from the edge of Bodmin moor to the west. From the churchyard, a patchwork of parish fields and woodlands can be seen, stretching to the river Lynher on the western boundary and over to Golberdon Down towards the south of the parish. It serves a community of about 470 people (2011 census figures5) and has been the only church in the parish since closure of the Methodist Chapel in the 1990s. Five per cent of the adult population of the parish (20 residents) are on the church electoral roll (2017 figures). There are 203 dwellings within the parish. There is no school, shop or pub and few employment opportunities. The only focus of activity other than the church is the parish hall at Golberdon, about a mile away. Within the community as a whole there is considerable support for the church as a valued building and for church activities which involve the wider community. In the Parish Plan survey the church came top of the list of buildings which should be preserved for the community. Our own recent survey of all parish residents, carried out in 2016-17, before embarking on our building project, demonstrated widespread support for the church, both as a heritage building and for the spiritual focus it provides, even among those who do not attend services. There is regularly high attendance at major festivals. Our congregation numbers are not large - 21 people on the electoral roll and average Sunday attendance between 9 and 22 (2017 figures) – but we have an active church family and have always had a strong presence in the community. The creation of the Callington Cluster has brought new life to the church through increased resources and enthusiasm and involvement in the wider community. The congregation has been joined by a number of new regular worshippers in the last few years and numbers continue to grow.

The significance of the Church

Every church is special to its church family, for a variety of reasons. Our little church is special to us, partly because it is so small, set apart from the main population centres of the parish and at first glance may seem insignificant. It has no tombs of famous people, no wall paintings or early stained glass, and Pevsner and Henderson have little to say beyond some

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basic facts – but look harder and you will find its hidden treasures, its peace, and its enduring witness over the centuries to the presence and power of God.

Some reasons why St Sampson’s is significant in a wider context

1. The area in which the present church stands may have been one of the earliest centres of Christian worship in Cornwall. Within the churchyard is an inscribed stone, containing a chi rho symbol and inscription, dating from the sixth to eighth century. It was discovered in a wall near the church in 1876 and re-erected in the churchyard in 1891. Archaeologists consider that such inscribed stones tended to be erected at the more important ecclesiastical centres6. Archaeological work in 2000 confirmed that the existing church stands on the site of an earlier Norman building and also confirmed that the area round the church had probably been a Christian site long before that. The archaeologists considered it “almost certain that an extensive cist cemetery exists beneath the present churchyard” and the conclusion of their report was that all the evidence was “suggestive of the early medieval origins of the site and its establishment as an early Christian settlement comprising not just a church, but an enclosure defining the extent of a sacred area which may also have included settlement”7.

2. Our church may stand on the site of the monastery allegedly founded by St Sampson(or Samson) in the sixth century. Historians seem to agree that a 6th century Christian Welshman named Sampson travelled from South Wales to Brittany via Cornwall, probably landing near Padstow, crossing Cornwall and eventually sailing to Brittany from near Fowey. In Brittany he founded an abbey or monastery near Dol de Bretagne, where he died in about 565. There also seems to be agreement that Sampson founded a monastery in Cornwall before leaving for Brittany but its whereabouts remain uncertain. Historians have often failed to consider South Hill as a candidate, probably because of a lack of awareness that the church here is dedicated to St Sampson. More recently Orme8 considered South Hill but dismissed it, along with other suggested locations, because he thought it to be of “relatively late foundation” and because it had not acquired a large parish. There is little evidence now about the size of its early parish (although it was larger than it is now because it included the parish of Callington) but current evidence is that it was of very early foundation. The earliest documentary evidence that the church at South Hill was dedicated to St Sampson relates to its rebuilding in 1333 and we have no means of knowing whether previous churches on the site had been so dedicated. However, choice of dedication in Cornwall was very locally based 9 and this suggests that for some reason St Sampson was considered a local saint, known and venerated in South Hill at the time of the rebuild in 1333. The archaeological evidence lends weight to the possibility that the reason for the dedication was that South Hill had been the site of St Sampson’s monastery.

3. St Sampson’s is also important for the Cornish. South Hill was the first living of the young Revd. Jonathan Trelawney, later Bishop of Bristol, whose imprisonment in the Tower of London in 1688 inspired the Cornish anthem ‘Trelawney’. He was appointed as rector of South Hill in 167310.

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4. One of the first holders of the Victoria Cross was baptised in St Sampson’s. Less well known than Trelawney but historically important, George Symons was baptised in the church in 182611. He served in the Crimean war and was presented with the Victoria Cross by Queen Victoria at the inaugural VC ceremony in 1857. It was awarded for ‘conspicuous gallantry under terrific fire’ at Sebastopol in October 185512.

The churchyard

The approach to the church is through the churchyard towards the church entrance at the south porch. The path leads visitors and churchgoers past the inscribed stone, an area set aside for burial of ashes, various eighteenth and nineteenth century gravestones (some leaning slightly in a fashion typical of country churchyards) and the two scheduled tombchests. The churchyard, which is still open for burials, is a peaceful haven of grass and wild flowers surrounded by Cornish hedges and walls.

The building

The existing church building dates from the fourteenth century, dedicated in 133313. It was built on the site of an earlier Norman church14 for which the earliest documentary evidence is the institution of Adam Haym as rector in 127015.

Exterior of the building:
The current church was cruciform in shape until the fifteenth century when the south aisle, porch and an additional tower section were added16. Most of the building is constructed of rubble stone apart from the porch and top section of the tower which are of granite ashlar blocks. The roofs are slated. The windows are all in their original openings with tracery either original or restored in the original style during the nineteenth century.
One tiny and often overlooked special detail is a delightful carved frieze below the tower parapet, thought to represent Jesus’ apostles.
There is a sundial over the porch entrance arch dated 184- and, on the east wall of the porch, two simple eighteenth century slate memorial tablets commemorating members of the Lucas family, one engraved with the name of the sculptor, William Lucas.

Interior of the building:
The porch, chancel and south aisle have their original wagon roofs with original bosses; the nave and north transept roofs, the pews, pulpit and organ probably all date from restoration in the late nineteenth century. The stained window glass is nineteenth century apart from the Manaton chapel window which was inserted in 1912.
The font is older than the existing building, dated between 1150-118017 and is presumed to come from the earlier Norman church. It has a round bowl on a central shaft with four columns topped by carved heads and tree of life and animal decorations.
The chancel contains two fourteenth century tomb recesses, with beautifully detailed carved heads, one of a man and one of a woman, the identities of whom are, sadly, unknown so far. There is an original piscina on the east wall and the remains of a sedilla and the original pre-south transept priest’s door in the south wall.
The north transept, known as the Manaton Chapel, takes its name from the Manaton family, local ‘lords of the manor’ who were prominent between the sixteenth and early eighteenth centuries The chapel still has a piscina on the east wall but the east window is blocked up and the altar gone. A door was added in the east wall at some time after the window and

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altar were removed but was subsequently blocked up18. There is a roughly cut squint from the Manaton chapel to the chancel, date unknown. On the east wall is a seventeenth century monument to a Manaton son-in- law, Michael Hill, with a charming kneeling figure in relief and admonitory verse.

The only other wall memorial in the church is on the north wall of the nave, a classical monument to local girl Grace Parson, born Grace Grills, of a well-known local family, who died in 1778 aged 3319.
Most of the internal furnishings are believed to date from the 19th century, apart from a seventeenth century carved table, possibly an altar table.

The chancel is paved with Victorian encaustic tiles; the floor in the body of the church is a mixture of wooden flooring under the pews and organ and modern quarry tiles elsewhere.

The overall impression made on visitors to our church is of unassuming faithfulness, a testimony to the generations of local people who have built, cared for and worshipped in this building for almost seven hundred years. It is simple and largely unadorned but has a deep sense of stillness and peace

Part Two: The significance of the area affected by the proposals:

The proposals contained in our project ‘St Sampson’s Unlocked’ involve repairs to the fabric identified in our latest quinquennial survey (September 2016) and subsequent Condition Survey (June 2017) ( ie roof; window stonework, ironwork and some glass; monitoring of structural movement; repair of the Manaton chapel monument; ceiling plaster repairs; repairs to the tower walls; replacement of the modern quarry tiles; lifting and replacing (if possible) the encaustic tiles in the chancel; the installation of a toilet in the base of the tower and a small kitchen facility at the back (west end) of the church; replacement of the existing damaged twentieth century tower screen; replacement of the twentieth century internal wooden porch; installation of a draught proofing glass screen and a lowered insulated ceiling in the Manaton chapel (north transept); upgrading of the heating system.

The church as it stands is not fit for worship or extended use in the twenty first century. It is cold and damp and the fabric, fittings and furnishings are suffering. Today’s worshippers and non-church visitors expect to be reasonably warm and expect facilities including a toilet. Providing hospitality after services and at other events is very challenging in the current state of the building. We have no water supply or washing up facilities and food preparation, storage and serving is difficult to carry out to modern standards. The cold and damp and lack of toilet facilities deters many people from attending events or services. Unless urgent repairs are carried out the building will rapidly become unsafe and too uncomfortable for regular use, and this will inevitably lead to its closure.

The main area of the church affected by the proposals will be the area at the west end of the church, where it is proposed to install the kitchen facility, create a space for gathering and hospitality and install an internal glass entrance screen. We are keen to ensure that this

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is done as sensitively and discreetly as possible so that the main body of the church and the overall impression on entering the building will not be affected.

Two or three of the short pews at the back (west) of the nave will need to be removed to provide useable congregation and community meeting space at the back of the church. The pews are not considered significant. They are constructed of plain pitch pine, installed in the late nineteenth century. They are rarely used and do not currently enhance the use or overall impression of the building.

The position of the font will be affected. It is proposed to move this from the back of the west end of the church to a new and more prominent position at the east end of the south aisle, in front of the organ. The current position of the font is not considered to be significant. It was moved there during the lifetime of current church members.

If funding is available, underfloor heating is proposed. This will involve excavation of the floor throughout the church. It is not known what lies below the current nineteenth and twentieth century wood and tile surfaces, although some excavation connected with a previous heating system was done in the nineteenth century and the channels for and remains of heating pipes are still evident. As far as possible the flooring and pews will be replaced in their current positions and the ultimate visual effect will be unchanged.

The Manaton chapel is currently little used due to draughts and damp. It is screened by velvet curtains during services. Its roof and ceiling are not considered to be architecturally significant. They will be preserved above the proposed new lowered ceiling. The insertion of draught proofing and a glass screen and the repair of the Hill monument will enable the Manaton chapel to be used and appreciated once again.

The area at the base of the tower will be affected by the installation of a toilet. The area is not currently part of the body of the church as it is blocked off by a wood and dark glass screen. It is currently unusable other than as a rough storage area.

The various repair works will be done to current conservation standards and the areas of the fabric affected will be improved by the proposals.

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SOURCES CONSULTED Searched 6/8/2016 (ONS Census data 2011) searched 7/8/2016 searched 7/8/2016
South Hill Parish Registers, Cornwall County Record Office, P210/1

Gossip, James, St Sampson’s Church, South Hill, Cornwall: Archaeological Watching Brief, CAU, 2002

Hingeston-Randolph F.C., (Ed), The Registers of John de Grandisson, 1884-9 and Walter Bronescombe 1889

Okasha, E, Corpus of Early Christian Inscribed Stones of South West Briton, Leicester University Press, 1993

Orme, N, Victoria County History of Cornwall 2010 Consulted 12/09/2016 at 6_djvu.txt

Orme Nicholas, English Church Dedications, 1996
Pevsner, N & Radcliffe, E., The Buildings of England: Cornwall, Second Edition, Clowes &

Sons Ltd., 1970
Sedding, EH, Norman Architecture in Cornwall, 1909
Thomas, Charles, And Shall These Mute Stones Speak? University of Wales Press, 1994


1 ONS Census data 2011

6 Okasha 1993, pp.265-266; Thomas 1994
7 Gossip 2002
8 Orme Nicholas, Victoria County History of Cornwall 2010, Volume II, Religious History to 1560, p.25
9 Orme Nicholas, English Church Dedications, 1996, p.15
10 Wikipedia searched 7/8/2016
11 South Hill Parish Registers 2nd April 1826 CRO P210/1
13 Register of Bishop Grandisson, p.718
14 Sedding 1909, Pevsner 1970, Gossip 2002
15 Register of Bishop Bronescombe, p.181
16 Gossip 2002,pp. 1,8
17 Sedding, 1909, p.359
18 Eric Berry, visit April 2011
19 South Hill Parish Registers: Baptism 11th May 1742, Marriage 3rd February 1767, Burial 8th February 1777

CRO, P210/1

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