St Sampson receives a single star from Simon Jenkins for its charm and hillside setting. We have no argument with this for it is a lovely light, open church with a squat two-stage tower and does indeed look out over the valley of the Fowey river.
It was extensively re-built in the C16 and so has a coherence but only has two aisles of equal length, never quite being sufficiently grown up to have a northern one.
It is difficult to tell which is the nave since they both have stature and are probably the same width. It seems the parish swapped between the two in an effort to escape the problems of damp but finally settled on the northern one.
The Victorian restoration was unusually gentle and left two excellent wagon roofs with bosses and wooden wall plates (apparently replaced in the wrong order).
The most outstanding feature inside the church is the re-used bench ends which have been artfully re-purposed to create a pulpit, desks and a rather interesting preaching table or lectern which has been turned sideways to act as a parclose screen.
The carvings are lively and interesting, with rather more than the traditional symbols of the Passion. St Sampson and St James the Great appear – we are on the Saint’s Way and this might well have been a pilgrims’ church
There is also a comical head of a jester. It is unclear why a jester is such a popular addition to such carvings. but they appear in most collections.
There is also a lovely slate memorial to Edmund Constable (d1716):
Short blaze of life, meteor of human pride
Essay’d to live but liked it not and died
Here lies its dross, the spritely part is gone,
To bless abodes where sin and death are none.
Also look out for:
- The original granite bowl which was presumably once the font
- The Italianate carving of a head of Christ
- Some fragments of original stained glass and a very bearable window dedicated to St Sampson
- A well-written guidebook (sadly not something we say very often)
- The Tristan and Iseult gate to the churchyard: we are only a short distance form King Mark’s (putative) home at Castle Dore
And then there is the holy well. Right by the porch is the well of St Sampson, accessible from the porch and encased in a small granite well house.
Because we liked the church so much, we will not comment on the rubbish around the font, including, it seems, a case of Virgin wine.