St Torney or North Hill church lies in the small village of the same name on the east side of Bodmin Moor, in the valley of the infant river Lynher.
Pevsner raised our expectations by describing it as ‘one of Cornwall’s most enjoyable churches’. We came away feeling that, without taking anything away from the church, he rather over-stated the case. It is not in the same league of ‘enjoyment’ as deciphering the carvings of Altarnun or the windows of St Neot; it lacks the simplicity of Launcells or Gunwalloe or the carvings of Launceston St Mary.
But these are quibbles for it is a fine solid Decorated church with a large wide interior and a number of interesting monuments.
From the outside it is an impressive and robust granite church with a three-stage tower. The masons have done their best to carve pinnacles in the unyielding stone but there remains a solidity to the whole.
Passing through the solid, two-storey porch, one emerges into the nave with its two tall and wide side aisles. Congregations must have been large around here in the C14.
The interior is certainly spacious. The nave and aisles have fine C15 restored wagon roofs. The restoration of the church seems to have been done twice during the C19: in 1832 by Rev Rodd whose monument is prominently displayed, and again in 1870 by Otho B Peter of Launceston. Perhaps it is the restorations which spared the church the usual wind-braced roof and heavy Victorianism we see occasionally elsewhere.
The most notable feature is the Trebartha chapel at the east end of the south aisle which has its own pews set east-west. This creates a neatly sealed-off area which seems to be given over to a creche.
Blocking the east window is a large memorial to Henry Spoure and his sister (1688), ‘one of the most endearing monuments in Cornwall’ (and here we agree with Pevsner). They kneel opposite each other.
Close by are other monuments to the Spoure and Darley families. One, in particular is worthy of transcription:
Infans quid loquitor ([It is] the infant who speaks)
This carved tombe, / The sad inscription beares
Of my soone death, / And of my parents teares,
For my departure, / Though that happy I
By that was freed, From future misery,
And now instead of their / Fond dandling kisses,
I now enjoy a heaven, / A heaven of blisses.
Waile not therefore for me / But heavens implore
That God with other issue / You would store,
Whose pious lives may cause / You joyfull eyes,
And tend your deaths / With sacred obsequies.
At the west end of the north aisle is a large slate altar tomb to Thomas Vincent (d1606) and his wife which portrays their 15 children, all meekly kneeling behind their mother or father.
Also worthy of note are:
- The simple circular Norman font
- The squint between the south aisle and chancel
- The Easter sepulchre and sedilia in the chancel
Enjoyable? Yes but ‘one of the most enjoyable’? Probably not.