A Guide to the Ancient Parish Church of St Tudy


Written and produced by The Reverend Raymond Wood

(Short Extract form the book)

The Anglo-Saxons only arrived in this island about 1,500 years ago, but the Celts have lived here nearly twice as long, so they are the true Britons. As a result of the Saxon invasion of Britain, at about 450AD the great migration occurred from Britain to what became Brittany. Thus began the strong link between Cornwall and northern France. King Egbert of Wessex overran Cornwall in 813 but did not annex it and (as mentioned in his will, 899) King Alfred owned property in Triconshire or Trigg. The parish of St Tudy lies in the Hundred of Trigg and the ancient Deanery of Trigg Minor

The existence of Roman Christian inscriptions in Cornwall suggests that Christianity could have existed here as early as the 4th century. There were Cornish bishops who assisted in the consecration of St Chad in 664 but their names are merely legendary. The first known Bishop of Cornwall is Kenstec in c865 and at that time Dungarth was the King of Cornwall. In 994, King Ethelred refers to the "Diocese of Cornwall under the patronage of SS. German and Petrock". Various bishops lived at St Germans and Bodmin but in 1050 Cornwall was formed into an Archdeaconry under the Bishop of Exeter. It remained so until 1877 when the first Bishop of Truro, Dr Edward Benson, was consecrated. The present diocese of Truro is almost the same as the County of Cornwall.

St Tudy parish is 3,257 acres, nearly the whole of which is farmland. A large vein of greenstone traverses the parish and is reflected in many buildings. The population was 502 (100 houses) in 1801, peaking to 661 in 1841, 579 in 1871, dropping to 390 in 1961, and rising to 570 (230 houses) in 1991.

In a 1985 lecture in the parish church, Dr A.L. Rowse the Oxford historian said that St Tudy probably has had more eminent people living in it than any other rural parish in the whole of Cornwall. This guide can mention only a few from the past but even today and for the last 25 years at least, two of Her Majesty's Deputy Lieutenants have lived here. Also much of the work to enhance our church has been done by local skilled craftsmen.


St Tudy 

There is no ancient written life of St Tudy but he is mentioned in the lives of two other famous Breton (and Cornish) saints, Maudez (Mawes) and Corentin (Cury). From these we know, that Tudy was a 6th century monk and active missionary. He was one of three monks proposed as the first Bishop of Cornouaille but the final vote went to St Corentin, and Tudy was made an Abbot in charge of a monastery.

Tudy founded monasteries and churches on the north and west coasts of Brittany and other chapels bearing his name were founded by monks taught by him. In the fine Norman church of Loc-Tudy, Brittany, there is a 15th century statue of St Tudy.  Other nearby places are Ile-Tudy and Port-Tudy; and rheumatism sufferers invoke the saint at Fontaine S. Tudy. Tudy is also patron saint of two large islands off the south coast of Brittany.

 The parish in Cornwall is near the River Camel so it is in easy reach of Brittany. It is unlikely that Tudy himself visited here so it is probable that our church was founded here 1,400 years ago by one of his monks. However, one French guidebook suggests that Tudy first went to Brittany from Cornwall; we have no evidence to prove it wrong!

St Tudy feast day is celebrated on 11th May. In the past the patronal festival has been celebrated here on 23rd May, as it is in Loc-Tudy. This may date from after 1752, when the Gregorian Calendar was introduced into England resulting in many events being moved on 11 days.

 A royal Charter dated 19th July 1705 was obtained for two fairs or market days on 9th May and 3rd September during the incumbency of Edward Trelawney (1677-1727) the brother of Jonathan - of whom the song "20,000 Cornishmen" was written. These were held in Victorian times on 20th May and 14th September the corresponding dates in the new calendar, but have since lapsed.

The Domes day Book speaks of the parish as Eglostudic (1085), and medieval registers as Ecclesia Sancti Tuddii or Sancto Tudio. Other spellings include Tedy, Tidy, Tewdy, Tudye, Tudec, Tudi, Tudius, Uda, Ude, Udy, Udye, Edye. Some of these spellings have led to the erroneous suggestion of a connection with St Udith or St Editha, "the natural daughter of King Edgar by the Lady Wolfchild" who died in 984.


A brief history of the church.

The church is 350 feet above sea level, surrounded by the Celtic circular churchyard (God's acre) in the centre of the pretty village. Originally, people met in the open air with the priest to celebrate the Mass, perhaps around a stone preaching cross. The first church built on the present site before the end of the 6th century, would have been a simple rectangular structure of wood or rough stone with very small windows. Nothing remains of this pre-Norman building except a carved head on a corbel above the first pillar seen as one enters from the porch. This was discovered in the rubble under the altar during the repaving of the sanctuary in 1932. The coped gravestone in the south aisle, and the wayside cross at the junction of St Tudy with Michaelstow, are a similar age.

The rebuilt Norman church was cruciform and stones of that period are seen in the present walls. The church was largely re-built in the 15th century when the cruciform arms were extended the whole length of the south aisle into 6 bays, though the north aisle extends only eastwards into 3 bays. The unbuttressed 3stage tower, and the porch, date from soon after this period. This was a time when masons with their improved tools were more freely able to fashion hard stone, and the walls 3 feet thick are of roughly coursed slatestone and granite ashlars, monolith granite pillars with capitals, and roofs of Delabole slate with burnt clay ridges.

The church was extensively repaired and reordered in the 1830s, 1873 & 1888. The floor was raised, stunting the pillars and dwarfing the building; the ceiling removed and the roof renewed; the oak pews were replaced with pitch pine ones; the north door was removed; and the tower repaired. The organ was installed in 1892. In 1894 the internal plaster was removed from the internal walls which were then pointed. The external walls were repointed in 1952.

In 1932/4 the chancel was reordered and soon after a Lady Chapel altar and aumbry were installed in the south aisle. This altar was removed during the restoration of 1972/5, when the windows were reglazed and stonework repaired. The organ was renovated in 1979 and the tower re-roofed in 1983. A further restoration took place in 1993/4 when the font was moved to create more space for major festivals. A bulge in the stonework on the east face of the tower was removed, drainage and path access to the tower was improved, and plastic rainwater goods were replaced with cast iron. Rainwater hoppers bearing the date 1829 can still be seen on the east wall.

The church has been listed by the Secretary of State as a Grade 1 building of special architectural or historic interest; only 4% of all listed buildings in the country are grade 1. It consists of a chancel of two bays, 21 feet by 20 feet 6 inches; nave of four bays, 56 feet 3 inches; north aisle, 33 feet by 16 feet 6 inches; south aisle, 64 feet by 14 feet 6 inches; a 68 feet western tower, and a south porch.


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St Tudy Church Records Database

The church records for Burials, Baptisms and Marriages from 1559 to 2000 have been put on to a database.  A copy of this database is available on a CD, enabling you to carry out your own search of the records in both date order and alphabetical order, and this can be purchased for 10  (which includes a 9 donation to Church funds) plus p&p.

Contact  Sue Dibble  at Cavalier Cottage.


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