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Cornwall's Maritime Churches

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The perspective from the archives

One of our researchers, Stephen Girt, explores the two churches belonging to the parishes of Penryn and Landewednack, using archival materials. Stephen discusses his research methods and findings.

For St Gluvias, I visited the Penryn museum, and for Landewednack, I went through old newspaper articles in online archives. On my visit to the Penryn museum I went through photographs showing past events and people linked to the church, and some information which tells the long history of St Gluvias. I found photos showing the surrounding area such as the Falmouth docks when the HMS St Vincent was docked there. As well as several old photos of St Gluvias.

Penryn museum: St Gluvias church in the archive, no date.

For example, the one above which unfortunately had no date. [1] However, I didn’t find a strong connection between St Gluvias and maritime activities. The museum staff, although very knowledgeable, were unaware of a maritime connection to St Gluvias. There was however a clear sense of community surrounding the church itself. [2] Such as the St Gluvias Social Group, pictured below with no date. [3]

I looked through a variety of old newspapers ranging between the early 1800s and the mid twentieth century in online archives to see what I can learn about Landewednack. Many mentions of it were reports of births/deaths/marriages within the parish. For example, I found many news reports about the drowning of Rev. Henry Tonkin Coulson in the mid nineteenth century. [4]

There were some fascinating articles about the area surrounding Landewednack. For instance, a news story about a group of criminals stealing sheep from local farms, attracted my attention. [5] One of whom was from the parish of Landewednack. Another article that caught my eye isn’t specifically about Landewednack, but it talks about a decline in Church attendees and a possible connection between the rise in juvenile delinquency. [6]

Penryn museum: The St Gluvias social group, no date yet presumably around the 1960s.

In terms of a direct maritime connection concerning Landewednack, unfortunately the newspaper archive didn’t reveal as much as I’d hoped. But there was an article about naval manoeuvres in the area. It spoke of crew members coming ashore at Landewednack cove, as well as manoeuvres in other areas of Cornwall such as the Lizard. [7] The larger article spoke of more naval manoeuvres around the country, besides Cornwall. Aside from this, the newspapers did not reveal much more concerning a maritime connection to Landewednack. However, it is worth noting that there are many articles that one could spend months solidly going through, I could not have looked through them all! [8]

Reading old newspapers did not give me masses of information on specifically the church itself. They were more focused on the events that occurred within the parish and surrounding area. Be it unique events such as the naval manoeuvres or just day-to-day happenings such as rural affairs and adverts. I found a stronger maritime connection with Landewednack than St Gluvias. However, I did use different sources for the two churches (which was an unexpected and interesting challenge in itself, but one that was enjoyable to tackle).

Yet in both cases, the churches were prominent in the lives of those who lived there, just as they still are today.


[1] St Gluvias, photo acquired from Penryn Museum.

[2] Information all acquired from the Penryn museum.

[3] St Gluvias social group, photo acquired from the Penryn Museum.

[4] Freeman’s Journal and Daily Commercial Advertiser (Dublin, Ireland), Friday, July 17, 1840; Issue N/A. British Library Newspapers, Part I: 1800-1900.

[5] The Western Flying Post; or, Sherborne and Yeovil Mercury (Sherborne, England), Monday, February 23, 1829; pg. 4; Issue 4804. British Library Newspapers, Part V: 1746-1950.

[6] The Cornishman (Penzance, England), Thursday, June 16, 1949; pg. 5; Issue 5069. British Library Newspapers, Part III: 1741-1950.

[7] Daily News (London, England), Saturday, August 11, 1888; Issue 13212. British Library Newspapers, Part I: 1800-1900.

[8] Ship figurehead inside the Penryn museum.


Stephen Girt, Researcher

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