The church of St Clarus stands in the middle of the village of St Cleer, on the edge of Bodmin Moor, its tall C15 tower visible for many miles around. From the outside it looks a fairly conventional church with an Anglo-Saxon feeling. The side aisles are truncated to give prominence to the main chancel in a conventional way.
John Betjeman describes the church as having been ‘scraped’ and one can see what he meant. The restoration of 1904 by Fellowes Prynne appears to have been fairly drastic, removing the box pews, re-installing a rood screen and rood, and angels in the chancel. It has a high church feeling, especially as the chancel is barricaded off from visitors. A plain wooden table stands at the ‘crossing’.
The arcades are of different dates with richly carved polyphant stone to the south and plain granite to the north.
The greatest curiosity of the church is the presence of 18 rather over-restored boards bearing texts from the bible. There are two designs of boards.
The texts themselves are fairly random. Some we had not focused on before. One enjoined us to Seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow (Isaiah). We are not sure why we are to judge the fatherless: we would rather feel sorry for them.
The person who selected the verses may have had a particular agenda for another seems to wish to quell any sense of revolution: Meddle not with them that are given to change (Proverbs); Keep the King’s commandments. Where the word of a king is, there is power (Eccles); Render unto Ceasar the things that are Ceasar’s (Mark).
Actually, we rather like people who are interested in change and are disinclined to accept rules because the king says so.
Look out for:
- The font which is Norman and plain
- The interesting blocked up narrow North door with some nice moulding
- The small wheel-headed cross in the churchyard
- The unusual squint from the north chancel which is sited right up in the usual position of a piscina: hardly a convenient place for the congregation
- The restrained Victorian glass of various saints which allows some plain glass amongst the colour. These were moved here from another church
- The gravestone which is clearly influenced by the Celtic knotwork on King Doniert’s stone
Any visit to St Cleer must include a visit to the holy well, just down the hill, with its tall Latin cross.