Some History of St Euny from a book by Frank Michell- (1986)
Redruth isa town with a Celtic foundation. From the 6th century onwards Celtic tribes came into Europe and settled on the hill-tops. They travelled from Brittany to Cornwall and between Southern Ireland and Cornwall through Wales.
The Romans, who withdrew from Britain in A.D. 410, may have left some Christian tradition and practice in parts of our land but it was the Celts, many of whom had become Christians and organised a Church, who continued to preserve the faith in the remote parts of the West and Wales, Ireland and Scotland.
Amongst the many missionaries (Holy men, or Saints, as they were called) who Christianised Cornwall was St. Euny, who came from Ireland, landed in St. Ives Bay and established Christian communities at Lelant and Redruth (amongst other spots in Cornwall associated with his name) and in Brittany. It was nearly 1,500 years ago that St. Euny founded the Christian ‘cell’ that became the parish and town of Redruth. He built a simple church on, or very near, the site of the present parish church, and near the Holy Well. This was some years before St. Augustine was sent from Rome to Canterbury, in A.D. 597, to refound the Christian Church in Britain.
St. Euny’s Christian foundation here in Redruth, has continued unbroken through the centuries and continues to-day on the spot where he established it. His Feast Day is the 1st of February (‘the eve of Candlemas’) and he is the Patron of Redruth. His Feast has been continuously observed since at least 1478 (when William of Worcester visited Cornwall and recorded its date: February 1st) and almost certainly for centuries before. The Feast Celebrations have varied in their observation over the years. There has been unavoidable decline since the days when Feast-tide in Cornish parishes was a holiday with a full programme of sport, feasting and re-unions as well as church services. St. Euny is one of six Cornish Celtic Saints with not only local but Diocesan remembrance.
Something of the story of St. Euny has come down to us. It was The Reverend Canon Dr. Gilbert H. Doble, M.A., D.D. Assistant priest, in Redruth Parish, 1919 to 1925, who researched the traditions, miracle plays and records to show us that St. Euny was a real person and not only a legend. Canon Doble was an international authority on the lives of the Celtic Saints (Hagiology).
(The following account of St. Euny was produced in words and tableaux and presented in 1945)
St. Euny was born of a royal and Christian family living in Ireland. He was baptised in a Celtic church that was part of the house of his father. Euny went to school with other Christian boys, many of whom, like him. became missionaries and came to Cornwall. The school was raided by heathens, who often outnumbered the Christians in those unsettled days. Euny and his school-mates were captured and taken to a slave-market in Wales, to be sold. The Abbot of a monastery, near St. David’s. came to the market and bought from the slave-master the freedom of Euny and others. They were taken to the monastery where they were taught more about their faith and studied the learning of those days.
Whilst walking in the countryside nearby, Euny was again captured. He and his companions were overpowered by armed tribesmen and carried off to Brittany. Here they were sold as slaves to a Christian Prince who freed them and gave them work in his mill. He noted Euny’s faith, humility and scholarship and, after questioning him, decided to provide for his return to the monastery at St. David’s, and there to complete his training.
In due course, Euny was ordained and became a missionary to a distant and pagan country. He was set aside for sacred or holy work. for God. It was the ‘Calling’ of a Saint, or Holy-man. and so he was known as St. Euny. Landing in the Hayle estuary. St. Euny founded the Church at Lelant, which bears his name and in which, it was said, his tomb could he seen in the Middle Ages.
As the Missionary Saints went inland. evangelising. they were attacked by a heathen thief and many were martyred. St. Euny was able to reach Crowan, and to preach the Gospel there. He is joint Patron of the Parish. with St. Crewenna (or Crowan). He went on to Redruth. being the first person to bring Christianity to this place, and also, to Merther l’ny (or Euny), in Wendron parish.
Dr. Doble, in his sermon at St. Eunys Parish Church, Redruth, on the 4th February, 1923, (afterwards published) said, “The word ‘Merther’ signifies a Martyrdom, but more generally. a Chapel in honour of a martyr”. St. Euny was a well-known Cornish Saint; therefore ‘Merther Uny’ would signify either the site of his martyrdom. or burial-place, or a chapel of which he was Patron.
Euny does not seem to have been a martyr, and tradition gives Lelant as his burial place. Remains of human interments have been discovered at the site, which is now a garden, but still called the ‘Churchyard’. The Chapel seems to have been used fill the 18th century, and an Annual Service was held there by Canon Doble.
After a time, the story tells us that St. Euny re-visited his followers in Brittany, where his name is honoured for his Ministry there.
if we look at his window in the Parish Church (middle. north aisle) we see him shown, as nearly as we can tell, as he was. He has the (‘chic haircut, or tonsure. His head is shaved in front from ear to ear, with his hair long at the back of the neck. He carries his hook and hell, and stall, lie was not a bishop. SO does not have a Shepherd’s Crook, hut he may have been the Head (or Abbot) of a fairly simple and small Christian Community (or Monastery). He was a Priest of the kind which our Prayer Book calls a Confessor, or Witness for Christ.
At the top of Cam Brea, there was an Early iron Age village. The surrounding countryside was thickly wooded. By the time of St. Euny, the later Settlements may have moved from the hills to the lowlands as the danger of attack by enemies or wild animals decreased.
The Saint probably had a Baptistry and Holy Well near the stream in the valley below the Cam. The Well is West of the tower between it and the village (J. Meyrick in ‘A Pilgrim’s Guide to the [-loly Wells nt Cornwall’ gives 164, Redruth Sheet O.S. 203:691413. 1877 O.S. Revised 1906 shows old (original) Well 3114 or 3115 and the ‘Spring’ or ‘Shute’ 2417).
The water was brought to the Font for baptisms in recent times. It was believed, in bygone days, that no one so baptised was ever hanged.
The villagers used the 1842 Spring (opposite the institute in preference to pumping [or their drinking water until the coining oh the recent piped supply.
Close by and near the site of the present church, would he his ‘Preaching Cross’ and a shelter (probably of wattle and daub, or like St. Piran’s, at Perranporth), the first Christian Chapelry in the district. The upper segment of a round-headed Celtic Cross is preserved. It was found in 1819 embedded in the Rectory hedge and moved into the Church in 1934.
The Parsonage (no longer ecclesiastical property—sold in 1957) was built in 1804 on a circular site (traceable from aerial photographs) which may have been a sacred spot in pagan times, christianised by the Celtic Church of St. Euny’s foundation. (Among other examples are St. Buryan. Breage and St. Dennis.
Often pagan stones, sites, feasts. customs, etc., were adapted by missionaries and put to Christian use. Earlier Rectories are recorded in the ‘Terriers of 1613, 1679 and 1727, this latter one, now a farm—house, was succeeded by that of 1804.
THE CHURCH FABRIC
In this Church, the oldest (with its tower), and most historic building in Redruth, which is still used for its original purpose, we are standing on the spot where Christianity was first preached to the heathens of this place. Its Ministry has continued in unbroken witness and history for nearly 1500 years. It is the third Church, at least, on the site. The foundations of a Norman one, about 1100 A.D., are beneath the present nave, with an apse reaching the present chance! step. The Architect of the 1878 restoration (James Hicks, M.S.A.) noted the foundations of a cruciform building. This could be the Tudor edifice contemporary with the Tower (about 1486) or of the Norman building which were often cruciform. The level of the floor of one, or both of these churches, could be that of the present bell-ringers’ space. The present Georgian structure was built in 1756 and incorporates the Tudor Tower.
The Architect was Charles Rawlinson (sometimes written Rawlison) of Lostwithiel. He was the author of a book on Roofing with Slate, which was published in London, in 1772 and re-printed by Eyre & Spottiswode, in 1856. Copies of the Plan and of the Elevation, showing the attachment to the Tower, and Altar recess at the East end of the middle aisle. are preserved locally. Mr. Charles 1-lenderson, in a letter about Redruth, writes, ‘The population of Redruth, as a mining parish, grew very much about 1750. and this, probably. inclined the Bassets to rebuild the Church in the fashionable style of the time. St. Aubyn did the same at Crowan. at this time, by an extra aisle in the more traditional style.’ Mr. Henderson says that the ‘old’ (Tudor) -Church, may not have been a large one, the size of the Tower is not a sure guide.’ The roof of the Georgian church is higher than the former one. The old roof-line and wall plates can be traced above the present ceiling. A Gothic one-light window in the First stage of the Tower now shows to this space where once it looked over the Tudor roof. The size of the roof-angle of the earlier nave (there were at the time of the demolition, two side aisles) shows that about half of the side aisles’ width was subtended by the Tower, so that the church-walls were only a few feet wider than the present Tower.
We do not know what happened to the stones of the 15th century Church. A few fragments lie by the tower arch but no others have been discovered. Some have suggested that they may have been used in St. Agnes Church which was being repaired or altered about this time. Others wondered if the building was destroyed by fire but there are no smoke or fire marks. At the time of the building of the new church. The Patron: Sir Francis Basset (horn 1757), was a minor, who probably acted through his Guardian together with the Reverend .Jolin (‘ohms, M . A., who married a Miss Basset, and was the Rector from 1734 to 1775. He raised funds for the building and made a list of subscribers and box-pew owners (and their tenants) which still exists. Subsequently, no doubt, the Patron who became the ‘Rt. Hon. Baron Dc Dunstanville and Basset’, showed keen interest and support for the parish and earlier Bishop Blackall, of Exeter, had recommended the enlarging of Redruth Church.
The exterior of the Church and Tower is built in ashlar granite of good craftsmanship. no doubt by local skill, in a hard and unyielding stone. The Cornish Perpendicular Tower is described by Davies Gilbert. as handsome and well-proportioned’. It was built soon after 1486. when Henry VII married Elizabeth of York, in January. His face and that of hm. Queen, arc carved on the eastern face of the Tower below the battlements, in the form of well-carved gargoyles. We may wonder why such a remote tower, so far from the centre of power and the court, should hear the Royal Visages. We can only conjecture a reply. It was very soon after Bosworth and all loyalty to the Crown was welcome. The marriage of Elizabeth of York made widely known would help to quell the memories of a near Civil War. The Duchy was source of income to the Crown and the Bassets were in contact with other places and had influence.
The Tower measurements are: 22 ins. x 6 ins, north to south; 17 ins, by 6 ins, east to west; 69½ ft. to top of battlements; 86 ft. to the cross-finials of the crocketted pinnacles. A Norman gargoyle, from the earlier church, has been built into the north-west corner of the Tower, about 15 ft. above the ground. The outline of a Crest in the lead roof marks the completion of this lead-work, in 1720. There are also marks of hand-prints and initials, from 1795 to 1869. Some may have been made by prisoners of the Napoleonic War who were confined to the town and who built earlier parts of the Old Rectory, part of the Churchyard Wall and, probably, the Lych-gate (of 1810, with the exceptionally long granite resting-stone for two coffins. Tradition says : ‘for the outbreak of cholera (1832) whose victims are buried together in the yard, and for mine-accidents.)’
The Tower is entered by a western doorway, which is four-centred under a square head. There are eight Bells. Three by Thomas Lester, of London, made in 1744, one by CO IP and Co. 1777; one by IP CP WP 1777; one by IP 1777; and two by Gillett and Johnston, of Croydon, 1935. (P. is Pennington & Son, of Stoke Climsland.) Details of the hells are in a frame hanging in the belfry. They were renovated in 1878 and rehung in 1893.
A Parish branch of The Society of Bell Ringers was formed on October 7th 1878, and a list of the first members is preserved. Change ringing was re-introduced in 1912. There is a tradition about the timber for the Tower having come from trees in the Cam Brea area and that some of that used in the Georgian nave is like ship’s timbers. Were they from Mylor Dock, or Falmouth?
Some account of the escutcheons (hatchments) and windows of the Tudor Church is given by Dr. Stocely, in his ‘Curios’, page 196. His visit to St. Euny’s was in June 1753, and it appears that the Reverend I)r. William Borlase, F.R.S., [1695-1772j who was Rector of Ludgvan and author of Antiquities, Historical and Monumental, of Cornwall, and Parochial Memoranda of Cornwall, visited the Church about the same time.
Was he aware of its pending replacement by the present one?
We gather from their notes, and Diocesan records at Exeter, that on the south side of the Tudor church was displayed the Arms of the Killigrews and Beauchamps, which are described in Armorial terms, the former under a ducal coronet.
Other achievements in one of the south windows included those of Bulur (Buller?). Tonkin, the historian (1648-1741) also refers to the Arms within the Church arid notes that two have an Abbot’s or Bishop’s Mitre, as Crests, and that they included one of St. Rumon. In the ‘eastern window of the middle chancel ‘were’ Basset Pedigree Arms from the time of Henry III”. Was part. or all of this window put in the siue son n the Georgian Church and replaced by the Rector Hawksley’s Memorial one?
An additional note from these records reads: “In the Eastern wall at the back of the Altar, on the outside of the Church, there is a stone 3 I ()ins long by 10 ins, wide, with the following: ‘Mavouth Vito’ (meaning’?) inscribed upon it.”
The Text comes from the book on St Euny by Frank Michell – it is available in the church or from Truran Press – ISBN 1 85022 036 0
Frank Michel was a local historian of enormous repute and a Lay Reader who was ever enthusiastic about our roots. His fascinating little book is a mine of information and well worth seeking out.