It requires a conscious effort to find St.Ervan, which is
not on the road to anywhere. The effort is well
worthwhile, for the church has a wonderful timeless
atmosphere, completely unspoiled by the modern world.
It is tucked away almost at the end of a lane
which leads only to a 13th Century mill, surrounded by
its Churchtown, with Victorian Rectory and School house,
older Kiddly Wink (which means selling ale and spirits)
and Glebe Farm. An early baptismal well lies to the right
of the lane below the church and a possible Holy Well on
the left. The Church was never altered in the 15th
Century, and remains a fine example of an early cruciform
The church now
has a short western tower, (1) the history of which makes
sad reading. Originally built around 1422, (to house the
bell of that date) and going up 6ft per year, it has
massive six foot walls. Roughly built, time took its
toll, and by 1840 it was considered unsafe. In 1868 the
parishioners decided to pull it down with a team of
horses before it got any worse, but that failed, so they
used dynamite which brought it down to the first stage
and damaged the nave. It was left exposed to the elements
from 1888 to 1916 when it was covered with galvanized
iron, seeming, as Henderson the Cornish Church historian
put it, 'a picturesque ruin.' It was finally rebuilt in
1954 to a height of 24ft with a pyramidal roof.
The angel (2) at
the door of the 15th Century south porch came from St.Petroc
Minor Rectory - many similar carvings can be seen in
roofs all over Cornwall.
St.Ervan did not escape the enthusiasm
of the Victorian restorers, but Sedding managed his work
more sympathetically than most. Out went the box pews,
the Georgian pulpit, the minstrels gallery at the tower
and the chancel screen, and in came the pine pews and the
red floor tiles; walls were rebuilt and nave and transept
roofs renewed in deal - but somehow nothing spoiled the
atmosphere of a place hallowed for worship for over 500
years; there is a strange sense of 'otherness' to be
found here which speaks of prayer and the simple things
The font (3) is
Norman, with a very simple unadorned cup shaped bowl.
There are ten interesting slate memorials on the walls of
the church with well ornamented inscriptions and good
bold lettering - they were moved to the walls to be
In the tower are lines from 'Summoned by Bells'
by the former Poet Laureate, Sir John Betjeman, who lived
not far away, and for whom this place presented a life-changing
experience. It is worth taking time to read the verses,
for little has changed since he came here in the 1920s to
be met by the bearded Rector, Prebendary Johnson, who
suggested that Betjeman supposed 'Religion to be mostly
singing hymns and feeling warm and comfortable inside'.
On an oak stand in the tower arch is the mediaeval bell (4)
for which the tower was built.
Moving east towards the altar, notice the slate memorial
(5) before the north door, which is Norman. At the
crossing, we move into the North transept where there is an
ornate marble memorial (6) to Richard Vivian who was
Rector here and died in 1708. This was restored and
placed here in 1952, having lain for years on the floor.
On the north wall of the
transept is another fine slate memorial (7), perhaps the
best of them to William Arthur, (12) who died in 1627 -
the figures are cut in low relief. It is worth spending
time to read these monuments, which speak of exceptional
men - many of them Rectors of this parish.
On the east wall, close to the chancel, is an
Aumbry (8): this is where the Sacrament (consecrated Bread
and Wine) is reserved for the communion of the sick. The
altar table dates from the 18th century.
The Pulpit (9) is
Georgian. It was thrown out at the Victorian restoration,
but recovered from the Rectory, where it had been left
standing outside, and restored.
The Chancel (10) was
rebuilt in 1665, and reroofed in 1846 at the Rector's
expense - it is a few degrees askew from the nave.
On the south side of the
Chancel is the memorial (11) to Richard Russell, Rector
in the Commonwealth period, who died in 1654: an
exceptional clergyman. There is a further good memorial on the east
wall of the south transept to William Pomeroy (12) who
died in 1622. The other marble memorial dates from 1672.
The last of the
slate memorials (13), to Jane Brewer, is near the south
door and dates from 1642. Near it is the holy water stoup
The church sells an excellent guidebook
- when you visit please support this very small community
who maintain this church with such reverence and enthusiam.
The text and pictures on this
page have been extracted from
Church Trails in Cornwall - Set 8: The Padstow Area, with
(my thanks to Mike O'Connor for scanning the pictures)
The 19 Church Trail packs are being produced by the North
Cornwall Heritage Coast & Countryside Service, in
conjunction with the Diocese of Truro, and may be
purchased from all good bookshops.