St Just-in-Roseland: History and Maritime Connections
Lucy Raymond is an undergraduate student at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus studying BA History. Since September, Lucy has been working alongside the Cornwall’s Maritime Churches Project, with fellow history undergraduate, Elise Bear. As well as gathering audio footage of current local memories, both young emerging historians have researched the maritime history of two Roseland churches.
‘The Roseland was almost an island when the rivers were in full flood some two thousand years ago, and ships would travel up the estuaries and rivers as far as Tregony.’ 
The peninsula of the Roseland is home to St Just, which is known to be one of the most beautiful churches in the country.
H.V. Morton has been quoted saying ‘I would like to know if there is, in the whole of England, a church-yard more beautiful than this.’ 
Nev Meek, a local historian with a lot of knowledge surrounding churches in the Roseland suggests that
‘the origins of this as a holy place go back to 550, with the cell being around the holy well, around the time when we’ve got the Celtic church and missionary saints travelling around between Wales and Cornwall.’ 
The parish church was then served by Celtic clergy for 400 years until the Roseland was taken from the Celtic Church by the Saxon Bishops of Cornwall.  The Celtic church was well established long before St. Augustine came to England. It was believed that the original cell of worship here was accredited to the traders, soldiers and sailors bringing with them the news of Christianity.  The Bishop of Exeter then gave St Just Church to the Canons of Plympton Priory in 1140. The present church was dedicated to St Just on 14 August 1261, by Walter, Bishop of Exeter. 
The maritime connections within the church are plentiful, namely the fact it was used as a quarantine port for Falmouth and after the Battle of Trafalgar several ships of the Royal Navy were anchored for months in St Just Pool.  Continuing, throughout the Great War, St Just’s Rector Humphrey Davis acted as the chaplain to the garrison stationed at St Anthony’s head. Many of the troops throughout both the First and Second World Wars seem to have gone to services in St.Just. The fact the small church in Cornwall served within such significant global events adds to the charm of its history.
Throughout the church there are many maritime memorials and graves. Namely that of George Davey, a photo of which can be found on this website. Upon entering the church, the plaque reads
‘To the memory of commander George Davey R.N who died May 1829 he entered the Royal Navy early in life. Among other services he was present at the capture of St Lucia in 1778 his last years were spent in retirement in this parish. This tribute of respect and affection is erected by his nephew Richard Spry.’
The churchyard contains many graves of Naval officers, or connections to namely Myles Hastings Atkins, Lieutenant of the Royal Navy. A photo of his grave is accessible online.
Genealogy and census accounts have also been useful to find individuals, their job roles and marriage dates. Bill O’Reily has comprehensive work on this and is well worth a read. 
Newspapers give direct and interesting accounts of the local events which make up this church’s unique history. These can all be viewed via the British Library’s online newspaper archive which is accessible to the public.
The Royal Cornwall Gazette in 1896 stands out to be an amusing read. It notes
‘Wholesale theft of oysters near Truro: Allegations against Mylor men ‘two fishermen, Richard Vinnicombe and Frank Vinnicombe, of Mylor, were charged with stealing on or about March 29, in the parish of St. Just-in-Roseland, twenty-one bags of oysters, valued at £18 6s., the property of Thomas Blight, fisherman, of St.Just-in-Roseland. On Thursday, the 27th, he put 24,000 oysters in the twenty-one bags.’ 
The intimate, everyday maritime stories are the ones that need to be continued to be told.
Myths & legends
There is a legend throughout Cornwall, although heavily so in St Just-in-Roseland, that Jesus came to this church when he was a child with his Uncle, Joseph of Arimathea. Interestingly, Lewis’ work ‘Christ in Cornwall?’ highlights how
‘the Cornish folk are not very fond of talking about their old legends and traditions…ridicule has, alas, nearly killed the holy legend.’ 
This, however, throughout my research does not seem to be the case as it has appeared numerous times. Lewis’s work speaks to many inhabitants of St Just, quoting the Rev J Hammond who stated ‘Joseph of Arimathea and Our lord came in a boat, and anchored at St Just Creek.’ 
A video shall soon be available in our video library capturing Ralph German and Nev Meek describing the tale.
The tale goes
Jesus came here with his Uncle when his boat was hit by a storm and he ended up in St Just Pool. Apparently, there was a rock with an inscription of a cross on which remained for years as a symbol of his appearance, later turfed over by the owner.
The factual significance of this legend does not matter here. It is incredible how such a strong connection to Christ remains in local history and will continue.
The church’s maritime identity is evident in visitor guides, both old and new. They commonly state the attraction to live in the community lies within the
‘excellent facilities for sailing, boating and fishing… for the former, yachts and sailing craft of all sorts merge from numerous creeks and villages which surround Falmouth Bay and Harbour’. 
Clearly, the water and what it has to offer makes a vital contribution to the appeal of the church.
The beauty of this church is evident upon arrival. The subtropical plants and gardens alongside the water give this place an impeccable beauty I have seldom found elsewhere. I would really recommend visiting, if you ever have the opportunity.
 St. Just-in-Roseland Church : the parish church of St. Just and St. Mawes, (London Library: St James’ Square), p.2
 Quoting H.V.Mortons ‘In Search of England’, St Just-in-Roseland which comprises the villages of St Mawes and St Just. (pamphlet available at the church)
 The videos of Nev Meek will be available in the video library >
 St Just-in-Roseland which comprises the villages of St Mawes and St Just. (pamphlet available at the church)
 St. Just-in-Roseland Church : the parish church of St. Just and St. Mawes, (London Library: St James’ Square), p. 5
 ‘St Just in Roseland Church’ (Temprint Ltd: Great Britain) pamphlet available at church. p.9
 This comes up in all of the above pamphlets.
 St Just in Roseland Church’ (Temprint Ltd: Great Britain) pamphlet available at church, p.4
 See Bill O’Reileys website here >
 ’Wholesale theft of oystes near Truro’ Royal Cornwall Gazette, Truro, (April 11th 1895), 4785, p.7
 Rev.H.A.Lewis, M.A Christ in Cornwall?: legends of St.Just-in-Roseland and other parts (J.H.Lake&Co: Falmouth, 1939), p.4
 St. Just-in-Roseland Church : the parish church of St. Just and St. Mawes, (London Library: St James’ Square), pp.1-16
‘St Just in Roseland Church’ (Temprint Ltd: Great Britain) pamphlet available at church. pp.1-16.
St. Just-in-Roseland Church : the parish church of St. Just and St. Mawes, (London Library: St James’ Square), pp.1-16.
St Just-in-Roseland which comprises the villages of St Mawes and St Just. (pamphlet available at the church)
Quoting H.V.Mortons ‘In Search of England’, St Just-in-Roseland which comprises the villages of St Mawes and St Just. (pamphlet available at the church)
‘Wholesale theft of oystes near Truro’ Royal Cornwall Gazette, Truro, (April 11th 1895), 4785, p.7 here >
O’Reiley, Bill here >
Rev H.A. Lewis, M.A Christ in Cornwall?: Legends of St. Just-in-Roseland and other parts (J.H.Lake&Co: Falmouth, 1939), p.4
The Parochial History of Cornwall: Founded on the Manuscript Histories of Mr.Hals and Mr.Tonkin with addition and various appendcies by Davies Gilbert, VOL.II, London, (J.B.Nichols and Son, 1838) – this book has information about nearly every parish in Cornwall and although can only be found at the Devon and Exeter institution, is a really good read.
Pamphlets upon arrival of the church – there are many, some free, some for a small price. These have very useful little bits of information in one particular entitled The Roseland consisting of 9 pages long.
British library newspaper archives – I have numerous interesting articles which I found on this archive. A great place to start.