The following description is quoted from [Hals 1750] and must be read in the context of about 1730 when it was written. The extract is taken from [Polsue 1868]. Other extracts are available online.
Burian is situated at the western extremity of the county, having two adjoining parishes, Sennen and S. Levan annexed; the former of which includes the Land’s End. In Domesday tax this district was rated by the name of Beriand, for Berian or Bury-an; synonymous words, signifying a cemetery or burying place for human creatures; that is to say, that place which is now called the churchyard, which was an inclosure, as in most other places, converted to that use before and since the church was erected therein. This instance of a Domesday Roll, wherein this district is named Beri-an, overthrows the story of Camben’s conjecture, that the name thereof was derived from one S. Buryana, an Irishwoman that was the tutelar guardian of this church, whereas the appellation of Saint, at that time was not given to but one church in Cornwall.
This church was founded and endowed by King Athelstan, about the year 930, after such time as he had conquered the Scilly Islands, as also the county of Devon; and made Cornwall tributary to his sceptre. To which church he gave lands and tithes of a considerable value for ever, himself becoming the first patron thereof, as his successors the kings of England have been ever since: for which reason it is still called the royal rectory, or regal rectory, and the royal or regal peculiar. Signifying thereby that this is the church or chapel pertaining to the king, or immediately under the jurisdiction of him as the supreme ordinary, from whom there is no appeal, whereas other peculiars, though exempt from the visitation or jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop within whose see they stand, yet are always subject to the provincial archbishops of Canterbury and York, or other persons.
This church or college consisted of canons Augustines, or regular priests, and three prebendaries, who enjoyed the revenues thereof in common, but might not marry; and the lord chancellors of England of old visited this peculiar, which extended only over the parishes of Burian, Sennen, and S. Levan, for the King.
One of the Popes of Rome, about the time of Edward III. obtruded upon this church, the canons and prebends thereof, a dean to be an inspector and overseer over them: whom he nominated to be the bishop cf Exon for the time being, who for some time visited this church as its governor, as the lord chancellor did before; which encroachment of the pope being observed by Edward III., as appears from the register of the writs, 8 Edward III. This usurpation of the pope was taken away.
Boscawen-ros in this parish, compounded of Bocawen-ros, is a name given and taken from the natural circumstances of the place, and signifies in Cornish-British “a valley notable for skeawe or scawen” trees. And indeed this place, being naked and exposed to the sea on the cliffs of the British Channel, anciently as it seems, produced no other trees than scawen, (i.e. elder,) proper to that part of the country; neither, I think, is there any other trees at present that grow there. From this place was transnominated an Irish gentleman that settled here either by marriage or purchase, in the latter end of the reign of Edward IV., who discontinued his paternal name and styled himself John de Boscawen, which latter name hath been the hereditary name of his posterity ever since: who from hence transplanted their dwellings to Tregameer in St. Columb Major, and Trevallock in Creed or S. Stephens; and from thence by marriage with the daughter and heir of Tregothnan by Lawrence Boscawen, gentleman, attorney-at-law, temp. Henry VII., who died 1567, and lieth buried in the north aisle of S. Michael Penkivell Church, as is testified by a brass inscription on his gravestone, there lately extant, upon which, on a lead escutcheon, was engraved his paternal coat armour, viz., in a field vert a bull passant argent, armed or; on a chief ermine, a rose gules; crest, a boar argent,—out of a supposed allusion to their present name, as if it had signified a white bull and a rose. In the reign of James I. his posterity discontinued this bearing, and gave only for their arms, ermine, a rose; which, I take it, also is the hereditary coat armour of Beverley. Since the writing hereof this place is become the hereditary honorary title of Hugh Lord Boscawen, Baron of Boscawen-rose, and Viscount of Falmouth.
Upon Boscawen downs, some of which was lately the lands of Mr. Christopher Davis, stands a monument called Dance Meyns, that is to say the dance stones; which are nineteen pyramidal stones about six foot high above ground, set in a round circle, distant from each other about twelve feet, having in the centre one pitched far bigger than the rest; a 1ittle to the north of those are two admirable great stones in perpendicular manner, much bigger than the rest, those are vulgarly called the Pipers. But since it is not probable that those stones were either dancers or pipers, I take the common appellation dance meyns, only by the dialect to be a corruption of dans meyns, i.e. men’s stones; that is to say stones set up in memory of once so many famous men that, lived in those parts, or lie interred there, before the sixth century. Mr. Davis aforesaid informed me, that contiguous with those dans meynes, he caused not long since divers barrows of earth to be carried abroad in order to manure his lands, in several of which barrows he found two or three urns or earthen pots, sound and firm, having in them pieces of bones, and ashes.
About twenty years past, the sexton of this parish sinking a grave four feet deep in the ground, he met with a 1arge flat marble or other stone, which he lifted up out of the earth, on which was cut or engraved a long plain cross, surmounted on four grieces or steps; on the border of this stone, round the said cross was an inscription in Norman-French, which soundeth thus in English:—“Clarice, the wife of Geffery de Bolleit, lies here; whosever shall pray for her soul shall have ten days pardon. Amen.” There is a place still extant in this parish called Bolait, or Bolaith, i.e. a place of slaying or killing cows, kine, or cattle; otherwise it may be interpreted cow’s milk, or a place notable for the same.
Trove, in this parish, is in Cornish and Armorick, & dent, pit, a cavern, or valley: a name doubtless taken from the natural and artificial circumstances, of the place, situate between two hills, on a cavern; also Trewoofe, that is to say the town or dwelling of ob-yarn, such as sail spinsters make, in order to be woof, or woven cross the warp in pieces of cloth, stuff, or serges, from whence was denominated a family of gentlemen named Trewoofe; who out of a mistaken etymology of their name, (as many others in Cornwall,) gave for their arms, in a field-three wolves’ heads; whereas, try-bleith, try-bleit, is three wolves in Cornish; the heiress of which family was married to Leveale, temp. Henry VIII. of the old Norman race, whose posterity flourished here in good fame for several descents, till for want of issue male, Lewis Leveale’s daughter and heir, by Cooke of Tregassa, carried this place, together with herself in marriage, to Mr. Uspar or Vospar, temp. Chas. I, who had issue Arthur Vosper: his son and heir, who married Eyans, of Eyanston in Oxfordshire, who had issue by her two daughters, married to Mr. Marke of Woodhill, and Mr. Dennis of Liskeard. This last gentleman, Mr. Vosper, bathing himself in the river Isis in Oxfordshire, with other young men, was there unfortunately drowned, about the year 1679. The name Vosper or Vospeur, in British-Cornish, signifies a pure or immaculate maid or virgin. The arms of Leveale were three calves or veals.
In the middle of this barton of Trove, on the top of n hill, is still extant the downfalls of a castle or treble intrenchment called [__________], in the midst of which is a hole leading to a vault under ground. How far it extends no man now living can tell, by reason of the damps or thick vapours that are in it; for as soon as you go an arrow flight in it on less, your candles will go out, or extinguish of themselves, for want of air. For what end or use this vault was made is uncertain, though it is probable it was an arsenal or store-house for laying up arms, amunition, corn, and provision for the soldiers of the castle wherein it stands, in the wars between Charles I. and his Parliament. Divers of the royal party, pursued in the West by the Parliament troops under Sir Thomas Fairfax, were privately conveyed into this vault as far as they could proceed with safety, where Mr. Leveale fed and secured them till they found opportunity to make their escape to the king’s friends and party.
Pentre, otherwise Pendrea, in this parish, i.e. the head town, or town at the head of some other, denominated a family of gentlemen from thence called Pendre, who gave for their arms, argent, on a bend gules and sable, three fleurs-de-lis of the field. John Pendre, the last of this tribe, temp. Henry VI. leaving only two daughters that became his heirs, who were married to Bonython of Carclew, and Noy. To Noy’s share fell this tenement of Pendrea, which was the dwelling of him and his posterity for several descents; and here was born, as I was informed, William Noy, the Attorney-general to Charles I., who designed to have built a notable house here but Was prevented by death, having before brought great quantities of materials to this place in order thereto; his grandson, William Noy, Esq., sold this place and several others to my very kind friend Christopher Davis, gent., now in possession thereof.
Burnewall, in this parish, i.e. the walled well or well-pit of waters, so called from some such place on the lands thereof, was also formerly the lands of the said William Noy, who sold it to the said Mr. Davis, who conveyed it to his nephew Henry Davis on his marriage with Hester, daughter of Humphrey Noy, gent. younger brother of the said William Noy, now in possession thereof, and hath issue. The arms of Davis are, argent, a chevron sable between three mullets gules, which also is the coat armour of Davey of Creedy, in Devon.
Leah, also Lahe, i.e. lawe, or leh, a place or dwelling, is
the seat of Oliver Ustick, gent. (i.e.[
Nightingale; otherwise, Eus-teck is fair nightingale,) that
married Rosorow of Penryn.
From Als, now Alse, and Alsce, viz. lands towards or upon the sea-coast, as this whole parish and its members are situate, was denominated John de Als, or from Bar-Als-ton in Devon, temp. Henry I. and king Stephen, ancestor of the De Alses, formerly of Lelant, now Halses; which place was heretofore the voke lands of a considerable manor, now dismembered and in the possession of Trevanion and others. This family, in Edward III.’s days, wrote their surname De Als, now Halse.
More about St. Buryan