By David H. Thomas, BA, DAA, president of Camborne Old Cornwall Society.
This page describes a walk around the Church. Click on a link to see an enlarged photograph of the object described. Printed copies are available for a donation of £1.
The South Porch
The porch dates from 1879, but incorporates much 15th century stonework. Notice the 1793 sundial over the outer door and the timber roof which incorporates 15th century carved timbers from the roof of the old south aisle. Over the inner doorway is positioned a medieval image bracket.
The Outer South Aisle
This aisle was added by J.P. St. Aubyn in 1878–9 with a matching arcade of arches to the main nave. To the left of the door is a polyphant stone holy water stoup, found under the tower in 1862. Below this lies a small Cornish cross discovered at Crane Well in 1896. Walking eastwards up the aisle note the beautiful kneelers, worked in the 1980s by parishioners and friends. Near the vestry door may be seen several memorials from the old south aisle in memory of John Stackhouse (1819), Grace Percival (1763), Tryphena Wynne Pendarves (1873) and William Pendarves (1683). The Pendarves family, along with the Bassets of Tehidy were important local squires and landowners in past days.
The Inner South Aisle
We pass through the screen from the 1879 south aisle into the original south aisle of the church and into the Lady Chapel. This was also at one time the Pendarves aisle and their family vault lies beneath this floor.
The present Lady Chapel dates from the early 1920s and was renovated and restored in 1989. As part of the 1914–18 war memorial scheme it was chosen as the site for the Leuiut altar slab, which was placed on a slate pillar, modelled on an altar at Venasque, in Provence, France. This celebrated ecclesiastical relic is the church’s greatest treasure being a tenth century altar slab which came from the chapel of St. Ia, near Troon. It is inscribed “Leuiut iusit hec altare pro anima sua” (meaning “Leuiut ordered this altar for the sake of his soul”). Underneath are five consecration crosses, suggestive of a reconsecration in Norman times. On the altar slab stands a wooden cross made from portions of oak taken from the 15th century south aisle roof. Left of the Leuiut stone is the memorial to Sir William Pendarves (1726), M.P. for St. Ives. Tradition tells how Sir William had a copper coffin made from the first copper raised from the South Roskear mine and on some special occasions this was used as a drinking vessel for punch at Pendarves House. When Anne Acton, widow of Sir William, died in 1780, the vault and copper coffin were both opened and Sir William’s beard and nails were found to have grown after death.
To the right of the Leuiut stone is a red banner in a wall case. This was originally a frontal given to the church by Mrs. Grace Pendarves in 1734. By the 1860s it had found its way to Kea Church but it was restored to Camborne in 1904.
Walking back down the aisle we notice on the west wall the brass plaques listing the men of Camborne, and the Camborne School of Mines who gave their lives in the Great War and the Second World War.
Nave and Chancel
To the left of the tower arch a brass tablet records the restoration of 1862. The granite and serpentine font also dates from 1862. The original 15th century font may be seen in the daughter church of St. John the Evangelist at Treslothan. On the two pillars furthest to the west of the nave, on each side, may be seen the marks of repaired cement indicating the position of the 1725 gallery for the choir and organ, which was removed in 1862.
The brass eagle Lectern, modelled on the one at Balliol College, Oxford, was given in memory of Squire G.L. Basset of Tehidy in 1888, while the magnificent brass Candelabra were the gift of the Rev. George Hooper in 1912. In the nave can be seen another of the church’s great treasures, the ornately carved Pulpit.
Generally believed to be of the late 15th century, the pulpit may not have been constructed in fact until the reign of Edward VI in 1550, since the church accounts refer to the making of a pulpit in that year for £3. The panels are carved with the symbols of the Passion, while on the base are executed a quaint face and the date 1711 when the structure was again rebuilt. The canopy or sounding board has vanished. The pillars on either side of the chancel entrance bear marks which indicate the position of the former rood screen which once crossed the church at this point.
In the chancel itself, the oak choir and clergy stalls and screens were erected in 1938 to the memory of the wife and children of Canon W.P. Chappel, Rector 1858-1900. The fine brass processional cross was the gift of the parishioners in 1901, while the beautiful patronal banner of St. Martin, designed by one of the Kempe School of Artists, was given in 1904. Below the chancel floor lies the vault of the Arundell family of Menadarva. Their funeral hatchments once adorned the church but vanished in the 19th century. Other memorial tablets relate to the Harris family of Rosewarne and Roseteague in Gerrans parish.
In the main sanctuary the massive marble reredos, containing the Ten Commandments, the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, as well as the Hebrew characters for the Divine Name, was erected in 1761 by Samuel Percivall of Pendarves, at a cost of £300. Another member of this family, Spencer Percivall, was assassinated as Prime Minister in the lobby of the House of Commons in 1812. The brass altar cross is a memorial to the 34 years ministry of the Rev. George Hooper, 1900-34, while in the south wall of the sanctuary can be seen two piscina or drains for washing the sacred vessels. The sedilia or bench, along with the dado to the sanctuary walls are all constructed of bench ends from the church’s late 15th century pews. Many people have heard of the Mermaid of Zennor, but a Camborne mermaid can be seen here in these bench ends along with many other mythical beasts such as the unicorn. To the left may be seen the huge tablet to Edward William Wynne Pendarves (1853) and to the right Anne Acton (1780). The latter epitaph is worthy of special note.
The North Aisle
The fine three manual organ, containing 33 speaking stops, was originally built by Nicholsons of Worcester in 1868. It was enlarged and augmented in 1900 and 1929, then rebuilt by Heles of Plymouth in 1956 and again renovated by Lance Foy of Truro in 1976. In the vestry hangs a photograph of the old church organ which stood upon the western gallery until 1862, which was at one time a barrel organ. Obscured by the platform for the present organ is the slate memorial to Alexander Pendarves (1655). In the north wall by the organ can be seen the entrance to the roodloft, or roodstairs, unblocked in 1910. The stairway once led to the top of the roodscreen, upon which were the figures of Our Lord, St. Mary and St. John. The screen survived until the 18th century and may have been destroyed in 1725.
Further down the north wall is the memorial to Parson Hugh Rogers, Rector 1816-58, carved by the Cornish sculptor Neville Northey Burnard (1818-78). A genius with slate and marble, Burnard was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave but a memorial stone was erected by the Camborne Old Cornwall Society in 1954. Parson Rogers was an early advocate of Sunday Schools and was at Cambridge under the great Divine Charles Simeon.
The North Door is still known as the Devil’s Door by some people and in former times was left open at Baptism for Satan to take flight. To the left of the North Door hangs a framed rubbing of the brass to Edward Sheffelde (1522) from St. Mary’s, Luton, Bedfordshire, and also Rector of Camborne, 1508-22.
Tower and Bells
The 60 ft. high granite tower dates from the 15th century and now contains eight bells, the tenor weighing 17 1/2 cwt. The church accounts mention only three bells in 1542 and these were recast into a new ring of six by Rudhalls of Gloucester in 1767. Two further bells were added by John Taylor & Co. in 1882 and the fifth bell re-cast. New ball bearings were installed in 1934 while the bells were again re-hung in 1977-78 to commemorate the centenary of the Diocese of Truro. Fuller details are available in the book “Camborne Bells” (1977).
On the tower walls hang a 1736 painted copy of the King Charles 1′s letter of thanks to the Cornish for their loyalty in the Civil War (1643), as well as the memorial to Parson John Richards (Curate, 1778-1816). He was a noted layer of ghosts in his day. A further board of 1852 lists benefactions for charitable purposes.
The Church possesses 15 stained glass windows. Working clockwise round the church, from the window in the North Aisle directly opposite the South Door, these are:
1. The Holy Family with the Arms of the Diocese of Truro and St. Martin: In memory of Winifred Lillie Dyne (1965).
2. The Marriage at Cana: In memory of Lily Rowling (1963).
3. Christ and the Children: In memory of Canon George Frederick Sandfield, 1945-65.
4. The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem: In memory of Caroline Rodda, 1881-1952 and Frederick Rodda, 1885-1962.
5. East window of the Chancel; Christ in Majesty: Erected in 1960, in memory of George Rawling Odgers and his wife Louisa.
6. East window of the Lady Chapel: A fine heraldic window of 29 shields illustrating the genealogy of the Pendarves family: In memory of E.W.W. Pendarves (1864).
7. East window of outer South Aisle: The Works of Mercy: Given by the congregation and friends to commemorate the 40 years of Canon Chappel’s incumbency in 1898.
Outer South Aisle
8. St Peter, St. Andrew and St. James Major: In memory of Canon W.P. Chappel (1900).
9. The Last Supper and Institution of the Holy Communion: In memory of Vincent, Sarah and Mabel Anne Gundry (1969).
10. The Washing of the Disciples’ Feet: In memory of Catherine Pellew, 1883-1966, and Alexander Pellew, 1884-1978.
11. The Commissioning of the Apostles: In memory of Canon D.E.Morton, Rector 1934-44, and his wife Enid.
12. West window of Outer South Aisle: The parable of the Vine and the Branches: Christ and the Twelve Apostles: In memory of Louisa and George Rawling Odgers (1961).
13. West window of Inner South Aisle: Christ and the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda: A brilliantly coloured window erected in 1864, in memory of Edward Lanyon (died 1861).
14. Belfry window: St. Martin dividing his cloak with the beggar, and St. Martin’s Baptism: Given in 1862 by the young men of the parish, at a cost of £25.
15. West window of the North Aisle: The Oddfellows’ window: Given to celebrate the marriage of the Prince of Wales in 1863, by the Loyal Basset Lodge; n.b. the cost of this window was 9s. 6d. per foot of glass in those days.