Padstow church

Padstow 02St Petroc snuggles into a valley in the heart of the town and, as one might expect of a church in the middle of a successful port town, is larger than others in more rural locations.

It is well looked-after and appears both wealthy and well-supported for a brand new ‘utility area’ had been created in the tower lobby.

Outside, there a covered lych gate leads into the churchyard and marks the beginning of the Saints’ Way to Fowey.

At the west end of the tower is a curious walled feature whose purpose is unclear. This bears a ‘medieval cross’ found in the grounds of Prideaux Place and presented to the church by the Prideaux-Brune family in the late C19.

Padstow 06 The link between this family and the church is very evident in the church for many of the monuments refer to them, and their ancestors, the most striking being that to Nicholas Prideaux d1627 which greets you inside the south west door.

He and his family kneel dutifully at prayer as befits a devout family of the C17.

The church consists of two generously-sized side aisles and a wide nave. It was restored twice in the C19: in 1847-55 and then again by EH Sedding in 1888-9. Somehow the essence of the medieval church survived these two attempts. There are, for example, some fine wagon roofs.

Padstow 14

The fox preaching to the geese

There is a lovely C14 window with unusual palm tree tracery in the south aisle and a number of small brasses which have been polished to state to rival the crown jewels.

The C15 Bodmin-style font in Catacleuse stone is almost identical to that at St Merryn and bears figures of saints, bishops and angels.

A number of bench ends survive, of which the best is the famous one of the a fox preaching to some geese. This is rather tucked away in the chancel. Quite why a fox and geese one can only speculate.

The pulpit is C16 and is adorned with symbols of the Passion.

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Padstow: the lanternhead. Is it St Christopher with a staff on this side or is it St Petroc himself?

Amongst all these, we made one discovery which is not mentioned in any of our reference books: the head of a lantern cross. This is presently in use as a stand for a flower arrangement but close inspection shows it to contain images of the Mother and Child and what looks like a bishop.

It is not of the quality of those at St Mawgan in Pydar or Lanteglos by Fowey because the stone is not pierced right through, but its original use is unmistakable.

We can only hope that it will be recognised and acknowledged in due course.

Outside, in the churchyard is a cross-shaft  and base in Hiberno-Saxon style which is easily missed as it is so worn and a small four-holed stone.

In summary, it is hard to see why this church, perhaps with Fowey, does not deserve a Jenkins star. While it has not outstanding single feature, nor the position of Gunwalloe or St Levan, it certainly has enough in aggregate and is a fine ensemble.

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