Kea old church

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Kea: the lonely C15 tower

The history of Kea parish is convoluted. It once covered an enormous area, across modern Truro to include Kenwyn parish. The church, dedicated to St Kea was in a remote spot on the edge of the Tresillian river.

A licence was issued in the time of Henry VIII for a new church in a more suitable location in the middle of the parish. Nothing happened until 1802 when ‘a new and hideous church, designed by Wyatt, was erected near Killiow’ (Henderson) … ‘a parallelogram in the most debased style of architecture’. An illustration of this in the present All Hallows shows it to have been a conventional Georgian block.

Meanwhile, in 1803, the derelict church of St Kea was pulled down – all except its tower – and its stone distributed around the district.

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Kea: the 1853 church

The Wyatt church developed structural problems and was itself pulled down in 1895 and replaced with the modern All Hallows.

The site of St Kea would not give up so easily. All that remained of the original church was a lonely tower, standing to its full height, and a pile of rubble. A poor house was built in a corner of the site and this was converted into a mission church in 1853, opening in 1858.

Four churches on two sites in one parish is not bad going for the history of the last 250 years.

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Kea: St Kea

This mission church is the building which sits here today: and what a joy it is, despite being a C19 creation.

It is tiny inside: its size making it feel friendly and homely. We noted that a wedding had been held here recently: barely ten paces to travel down the aisle.

The only notable historical feature is the C15 font which ‘may have come from St Petroc’s church’ (church guide), although which St Petroc’s is not clear. The old church’s large Norman font was moved to All Hallows in 1802.

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Kea: the C15 font

Around the font, like a collar, is a large lump of rough-hewn stone which may have been the base of the pillar that now stands outside. It makes a convenient step for a short vicar.

The pillar itself seems to have an uncertain history but it is thought that it might have started life as a menhir before being Christianised and then used as part of the old church.

Around the small green area, which must surely be the site of the old church, are a few C19 graves, sadly decayed but resisting takeover by the undergrowth. There can be few places as romantic on a clear sunny day when the jackdaws are calling.

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A journey through the landscape and history of Cornwall