The following description is lifted directly from [Blight 1885] but note that the text was prepared for the Gentleman’s Magazine 1862-64 and is largely unaltered. It must be read in the context of that date. The drawings are by the author.
AMONG the many traditions of Cornwall none are more popular than those which tell of the marvellous strength of the ancient inhabitants of the county. The peculiar forms and positions of huge rocks, and the numerous rude and Cyclopean structures, are generally considered good evidence of the existence of a giant race. In like manner are marvellous tales told of the selection of sites for churches and of their erection. For instance, it is said that when a church was finished, its patron saint stood on the tower, and taking the builder’s hammer, swung it a round his head and let it take what direction it might. Wherever it fell, there was the next church to be erected.
The hammer thrown for St. MADRON fell on a pleasant place. The church stands on the brow of an eminence which slopes gradually down for about two miles to the shores of Mount’s Bay. The famed St. Michael’s Mount itself is seen distinctly, and beyond it the long cloud-like coast which terminates with the Lizard Point.
It is recorded that in the time of Richard I., Henry de Pomeraye (or Pomeroi—the word is spelt in a variety of ways) built or endowed the church of St. Madron, and gave it to the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem, for the health and salvation of his own soul, that of his lord the King, and the souls of his father, mother, brother, sisters, progeni- tors, and successors. Among the entries relating to the English houses of the Hospitallers in Dugdale’s Monasticon is the following :—“Trebigh Præceptoria. Henricus de Pomeria dedit Hospitalariis Ecclesiam S. Maderi, cum pertinentiis, in com. Cornubiæ, pertinentem eidem praeceptoriæ.” The Knights Hospitallers are said to have had a provincial establishment at Landithy, an estate immediately adjoining the church. This church is called “Ecclesia de Sancti Madderni” in the Taxation of Pope Nicho- las, A.D. 1291.
Of the church which Henry de Pomeroi built or endowed nothing remains excepting the font, which is Norman. The lead with which it is lined is brought over the upper edge and nearly half-way down the side. The forms of square panels may be seen on one side,—doubtless the other sides were similar; but the font appears to have received violent injury; portions have been plastered up, and it is also thickly coated with lime. The block of granite on which it stands is extremely rude. The dimensions of the font are as follow :—Height, 3 ft. in.; height of shafts, 11 in.; length of each side, 2 ft. 6 in.
The present church consists of a nave and chancel, with north and south aisles, and a tower at the west end of the nave. The two lower stages of the tower and the east end of the chancel (the ancient sanctuary) are much older than any other portions of the building, and form parts of the church which was rebuilt on the site of Pomeroi’s church in the beginning of the fourteenth century. The south aisle was, perhaps, built early in the fifteenth century, along the nave only, and extended along the chancel at a subsequent period. The north aisle is later.
In the south wall of the sanctuary are a sedile and piscina under a single hoodmould. There were probably three sedilia; for, though only one remains, the springing of a second arch may still be seen, extending westward to the end of the wall, which has been cut away to make room for the late arcades. The height of the sedile is 4 ft. 7 in.; the breadth 3 ft. The registers of the see state that Bishop Grandisson consecrated the high-altar on the 13th of July, 1336. Apart from this direct evidence, it would not have been unreasonable to have fixed from 1320 to 1340 for the date of the sedile and piscina. There is a niche near the east end of the south wall in the south aisle which looks very like a piscina, but there is no drain. There is a smaller niche, similarly placed, in the north aisle,—perhaps an ambrie. Both are of late character. The east window is modern, and not in good taste; it is of two lights, transomed, and filled with stained glass ; as are also the windows in the east and west ends of the aisles. There are also three coloured windows in the side of the south aisle, and one in the side of the north aisle, which was given by the ladies of the parish. The window in the east end of the south aisle contains the arms of its donors, some of the principal families of the parish,—Borlase, Peters, Tremenheere, Le Grice, and Scobell. One of the windows in the side of the south aisle is commemorative of the late Major-General Robyns. The best window of the whole, as regards the quality of the glass, is that in the west end of the north aisle it is the gift of the present vicar and patron, the Rev. M. N. Peters.
The aisles open into the nave by an arcade of six four-centred arches on either side. The piers on the south side of the nave are composed of four three-quarter round shafts, with a hollow moulding between each. The capitals are good, with simple mouldings. The piers on the north side of the nave are of a different character; their mouldings are the same as those in St. Just Church, of which engravings will be given hereafter: the capitals are ornamented with foliage.
Some fragments of the roodscreen remain, and on one of the pew-doors, evidently not their original position, are carved the arms of Henry VIII this carving is probably of the same date as the north aisle A description of these arms, with an accurate engraving, may be seen in the GENTLEMAN’S MAGAZINE for May, 1842.
The tower is probably contemporaneous with the fourteenth-century work at the east end, with the exception of the uppermost stage, which was added at a subsequent period. It is plain, without buttresses, and is very substantially built, the walls being four feet in thickness. Externally the junction between the older walls and the aisles is apparent. The tower-arch is a perfectly plain soffit-arch of masonry. The doorway has simply a chamfer. The window over it is a modern restoration, filled with stained glass. On the north side is a square turret, reaching to the second stage, and containing a newel staircase. The corbel-table below the uppermost stage is very good and effective.
Loosely placed in the piscina are some remarkable alabaster figures of archangels, very excellently sculptured. They stood in rows, one above the other, and each holds a spear in the right hand and a reversed shield in the left. They are entirely gilded excepting the inner parts of the wings, which are coloured red and blue in each alternate figure. These fragments may have belonged to some tomb, or probably to an ancient reredos The height of the fragment represented by the accompanying cut is ten inches.
There are several mural monuments in the church. One, date 1631, is inscribed with “an Epitaphe to ye memorye of ye deceased Thomas Fleming, Gent.” This family once held considerable property in the parish. There is also a monumental brass on the wall of the north aisle.
In the churchyard is the oft-quoted epitaph on George Daniel
“Belgia me Birth, Britain me Breeding gave,
Cornwall a Wife, ten children and a grave”
These lines are on a newly-cut stone, the original inscription having been almost obliterated.
The parish registers commence with the year 1577. In the baptismal register for 1594 reference is made to the “daughter of George the Miller;”—“ a curious fragment,” says Mr. Halliwell, “in the history of the origin of English surnames.”
St. Madron Church has not been allowed to fall into a state of decay for want of timely repairs.
[The book continues with Paul.]
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