The first church on this site would have been a small simple wooden building, probably with a thatched roof, then at the time of the Normans at the end of 11th C, it would have been replaced with a stone built church with a slate roof, and with a nave and tower. Standing at the foot of the steps at the north entrance and looking East toward the altar, we can try to imagine the third church built sometime between 1200 and 1300. Finally, in the fifteenth century, the South aisle was added with its fine colonnade of pillars, and the south transept rebuilt into the south wall. The spire was added somewhat later and is not typical of Cornish churches which mostly have square towers.
At the crossing on the left there is a pointed arch leading to the Baptistry, this transept, dates from a little later than the spire.The simple, pointed arch suggests that the transept was built during the Thirteenth Century, and at that time there was just the nave. Opposite the baptistery transept there would have been another transept on the South side. This was long before the arcade of new pillars was added.
In the Chancel there is elaborately carved woodwork in the roof which would have been installed at the same time as the south aisle was built, 150 years later than the rest of the nave. Some of the wooden bosses look more pristine than the rest of the carved ribs and this is probably the result of the restoration which took place in the early 1900s in memory of Charles Henry Hosken, who had been vicar for 45 years. He was one of the Hoskens who are commemorated on the North side of the chancel wall. The Hoskens were an influential family, lords of the manor, living at Ellenglaze on the way to Holywell, which is also the remains of the old Priory once inhabited by monks from Bodmin, and in the cellars of Ellenglaze there are the vaults and remains of the Priory Chapel.
There is a coat of arms of George 1V which embraces the arms of the House of Hanover. Erection of coats of arms in churches began in the time of Henry V111, emphasising that he was the ‘supreme head’ of the Church of England. When Elizabeth I succeeded to the throne, she changed this title to the ‘supreme governor’ of the Church of England, and ordered that the royal arms should be displayed in every church, although this wasn’t followed universally until the Restoration in the 1660s by Charles 11.
The nave ceiling is enclosed, although traces of carved woodwork at the SW tower end suggest at one time there was barrel vaulting right through the church, which probably remained until the 1850s when the spire collapsed and broke through the roof of the church. Because of expense, the barrel-vaulting was not replaced and an ordinary ceiling was installed. At the same time the South aisle was also sealed over to match the nave and so it remained until the 1950s when a section of the ceiling plaster fell down and the original vaulting was seen to be still in place. This was partially restored to make it secure and the rotten woodwork at the West end was replaced with newer woodwork. Looking up at the vaulting you notice it slanting off towards the west. This is nothing to do with movement but because when it was built it was constructed through the ‘eye’ of the carpenter, which was probably not as accurate as it should be, and so each beam is slightly out of line until it comes within 12’ of the West window where it had to be straightened up and the 5th rib has been inserted correctly, while the 6th rib is so askew it is almost touching it.
The Pulpit is made up from separate panels which were originally ends to the benches which stood in the medieval church and they depict the instruments of the Passion of our Lord. There are the three nails and the hammer, the seamless robe, there is the pillar, the scourge and round the corner at the back there is the crown of thorns and the spear with which our Lord’s side was pierced. These are 15th C in origin, probably installed at the time that the South aisle was added.
The North transept is now the baptistry (the font was moved here in 1970) the font is probably the oldest piece of church furnishing, almost certainly late Norman and was part of the second church which was built soon after the Normans came westward at the end of the 11th C. Behind it stands the Paschal candle, which is carried into the church on Easter Day as a reminder of the risen Christ coming amongst us. It is placed by the font and is a symbol of the presence of Christ when someone is baptised and they are given a light from that candle as a reminder that a newly formed Christian is to become a light into the world. The other time the Paschal candle is used is when it is placed at the foot of the coffin at a funeral when it stands in front of the altar, to remind everyone that even in death there is the presence of Christ amongst us.
The Lecturn is 19thC. Lecterns first appeared in churches in the time of Henry V111 who ordered that the readings in church should be in the English language so that people could understand if they hadn’t the knowledge of Latin
The Lady Chapel altar is much smaller than the High Altar and this chapel is really a place for private prayer and devotion. We are reminded that it is so special because here we find on the North side of the altar, behind the curtain, the aumbry in which the consecrated bread which has become the body of Our Lord Jesus Christ is reserved for the sick and the light in front of it reminds us that Our Lord is ever here present. It is this presence which gives this particular chapel its special sense of holiness and sanctity - a place where one can come and pray, knowing that Our Lord is indeed very close to us.
On the other side of the altar, there is the banner dedicated to St.Cubert, our founding saint. He was a Welsh missionary who came over in the 7th C, together with his companion, St. Carantoc, and he established his church here, at the highest point of the parish and he eventually returned to Wales, where, according to the Welsh Chronicles, became Abbott of his monastery, dying in 775. The banner was embroidered by local members of the congregation and you will see a finely worked depiction of the parish church on one side and on the other the Holy Well at Trevornick, which is possibly where St Cubert would have baptised his first converts. Underneath there is the phrase: “Pray for us”, and we are quite confident that St. Cubert, like all the saints, will take a particular interest and care of those who worship and live in the community that he founded so long ago.
A little further towards the West, there is the figure of Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary, holding the infant Christ on her lap, and this is a copy of a statue which is in a 14th C church in Brittany and of course fits in perfectly with the design, the carved woodwork of the roof, of this the Lady Chapel, and it is a reminder that Our Lady is worthy of our respect and that we constantly remind ourselves of her example, her obedience and her prayers
Through the arch way into the South transept, which would have at one time been a chapel, but which is now the vestry, we see most unusually, and something of a mystery, a recess for a tomb, some 8ft wide, beneath the window. Was this the place where the relics of St. Cubert were placed? After his death we are told his relics were brought back across to Cornwall and in the 15th C the relics of St Cubert along with those of St Piran, St Lewlyna and St Carantoc were carried on certain Sundays of the year to a chapel that stood near to the cross roads where the main Newquay road and road to St Cubert and St Newlyn East come together.
The Book of Remembrance contains the names of former worshippers in the parish and the pages are turned over each day so that on the appropriate day that person is remembered.
The stained windows date to the second half of the 19th C and they are all memorials to one or other of the Hosken family. The one in the chancel by the High Altar shows us the Resurrection and the empty tomb; the one in the Baptistry shows us Jesus as the Good Shepherd and the parable of the Good Samaritan. The one just adjacent to the South transept shows the moment when Mary visits Elizabeth and Elizabeth who is preparing to give birth to John the Baptist greets her with the words “Blessed art thou among women”. The final window is by far the finest example of the glass makers’ art and this one is signed by Alfred Hemmings. It was inserted in 1902 in memory C H Hosken who was vicar here of so many years. It shows the young Christ in the centre, on the left there is Samuel as a boy and on the right the boy David, the Shepherd King. Below the West window of the South aisle there is the oldest memorial in the church. The language, the spelling and the design suggests this could be 17th C and bears a poignant expression of devotion on the part of a son to his parents. The words, difficult to discern, are:
“Notice I must go and leave this world whether I will or no
Mourn not for me my parents dear, Tho’ you have lost your
Son Still Trust in God Cheer up your heart, Tho’ I am dead
The main entrance to the church is on the South side where there is a rather elaborate porch, although this entrance is now rarely used, the North door taking precedence probably because it faces the village. Looking at the south door from inside, we notice the war memorials dating from the First World War and including names on the right hand side of those who gave their lives during the Second World War and in Northern Ireland.
Standing once again at the foot of the steps of the North door and looking Westwards, we find ourselves face to face with one of the finest treasures of the church, the organ, a splendid instrument built by the late “Father” Willis, probably the greatest of the 19th C organ builders, whose organs can be found in many cathedrals, including Truro and of course the biggest of all can be found in the Royal Albert Hall. This particular organ was commissioned by Viscount Clifton for the music room at Lanhydrock, and it was installed there at the end of the 19th C, Viscount Clifton being so impressed with the instrument that had been built by Father Willis in Truro Cathedral
In the early years of the 20th C the organ was moved out from the house at Lanhydrock and placed in the parish church which is in the grounds of the house, but there it occupied a great deal of space, so in 1970 the parish church at St Cubert was able to acquire the organ and install it in its present position. Without doubt, it is one of the finest organs in any parish church in the diocese and for its size it is an exceptional instrument.
The outside of the church is as interesting as the inside. To begin with as you come out of the church you find yourselves stepping upwards, the church being much lower than the ground which surrounds it. This indicates the age of the church, because a thousand years of burials have raised the level of the church yard. Turning West you pass under the tower and the spire. This was rebuilt to its original design by George Street in the second half of the 1850s. So well was the restoration done it is impossible to know where the old work ends and the new work begins. But what is particularly significant is that at the base of the tower beneath the window, there is a horizontal stone which has been part of the structure perhaps since the base of the tower was built in Norman times, and this bears a Celtic inscription in Latin, which tells us that this is a memorial to Conectocius the son of Tegernus, a sad loss. So it read “CONECTOCI FILI TEJERNO MALI”. This has been dated to between the Sixth and Seventh Centuries and is the oldest part of the church.
As you walk away from the church, look upwards to the spire and be reminded that its purpose is to contain the bells of the church, and there are three bells, one dating from the 17th C, 1615, and the other two, a hundred years later. There was provision made for additional bells in the hope that eventually it would be possible to ring changes.
You come into the church yard through the entrance and in the middle of the entrance is the stone coffin stand, which is so often a feature of Cornish churches. The idea being that the coffin was carried from one of the outlying hamlets along one of the church paths, which have now become public foot paths, and was placed on the coffin rest while someone went to find the vicar and he would come and sprinkle the coffin with holy water before it was carried into the church. The coffin is brought in through the North door, but is always carried out of the South door, through the porch. The North door is an unusual entrance and never popular because the North was always associated with the place of darkness and danger, so a coffin carried through there was passing through death to be carried out after the funeral service through the South door which opened out into light and the hope of the Resurrection.
Our Church is open daily please come and visit it and appreciate the history behind it.