St Dennis church

St Dennis church

St Denys is unusual as it stands in the remains of what was probably an Iron Age fort instead of the more usual lann (although lanns may indeed have been former rounds or semi-defensive structures).

Its setting is charming, set on the top of a small hill, totally surrounded by trees, with views northwards, across Goss Moor to Castle an Dinas, Its view to the west is of the village of St Dennis, the incinerator and the pyramidal slag heaps of Clay Country.

It is a solid, low building from the outside, with a C15 two stage tower, crowned by a wonderful weather vain of a golden ship (a brig). A semi-circular staircase winds its way up the north side.

St Dennis: the nave

A sign over the S porch door warns of what is to come: ‘Restored 1847’. The church was apparently derelict and was transformed.

The south aisle arcade was removed, and the nave and S aisle combined under a single roof. Only the two east windows and the off-centre font give away this transformation. There is no sign of the alteration from the outside, demonstrating how radical the re-building must have been.

St Dennis: N aisle altar frontal

A short chancel-length N aisle is all that hints at a former glory but even this arcade has been messed around. There is a rather charming almost Arts and Crafts altar frontal in the small N aisle chapel.

To compound its problems, a young vandal set the church on fire in 1985, completely destroying the roof and the whole interior and so the view today is very much a modern re-creation.  It has charm and, when we visited, felt warm and dry.

Outside, a circular C15 font stands next to the S porch and a fine churchyard cross with an incised Latin cross stands next to the main path.

The name St Denys is said to refer to a bishop of Paris, martyred in 258AD, but this ignores the possibility that it is actually the church in the fort (Denis in Cornish). Perhaps it is a happy coincidence.

A journey through the landscape and history of Cornwall