St Ewe church

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St Ewe on a grey day

All Saints sits in the middle of the small village of St Ewe, hidden away in the Roseland (depending on your definition of that area). Visiting it a few minutes before closing time on a wet November evening is not the best time but the church gave us a warm welcome once we found the light switches.

Like so many others, it was restored by JP St Aubyn in 1881 and consists of a chancel, nave, south aisle, north transept and tower with broached spire. The entrance porch is to the north, facing the centre of the village.

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St Ewe

The most notable features inside are the rood screen, the south aisle roof, the column capitals and the Norman font. Three trapeze-like structures hanging from the C19 nave ceiling appear to be heaters.

The font is Norman in the Bodmin style with charming heads at each corner. This was poorly repaired in the C19 and shows some dark mortar on the supporting pillars where white would blend in better. For once, it was not surrounded with children’s toys, pamphlets, appeals for help etc but was guarded by four characteristic Mediterranean-looking water flagons.

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St Ewe: the frieze above the rood screen

The rood screen apparently came from the south aisle but was re-positioned by St Aubyn with two bays added. Along the top is a lovely carved frieze with animals and humans crawling through foliage (see St Buryan with its monkeys).

The most intriguing element of the screen is the four little figures carved into the uprights of the bays either side of the entrance. The church guide book description describes them as ‘A king and queen on the on the right of the door and a knight and his lady on the left, both apparently in purgatory’.

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St Ewe: the ‘king’ on the right of the rood screen door

This is hard to equate with what we saw which was, reading from left to right:

  • A near-naked man chained to a post with his hands over his head
  • A lady with what could be a halo or circular hairdo which is the best carved of the figures and (on the right)
  • A mournful looking squire or king
  • A man on his knees holding, or chained to, a vine

These figures need more research. There could well be a queen (on the left) and a king (on the right) with a figure in purgatory on either side but neither of the latter looked female. Or, the ‘lady’ could be the BVM and one of the figures could be the ‘scourging’ …

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St Ewe: the south aisle

As so often, the ceiling of the south aisle has retained its wagon roof while the nave has been given a C19 wind-braced roof. The bosses and carving, which have been added are a joy.

The column capitals have been carved in a soft stone and are castellated except for that at the extreme west end which is an altogether simpler construction and there is a suggestion that it may have been a an apprentice piece. If so, then it is strange that it was used.

There are several monuments and funeral hatchments, including one that shows the punning arms of the Tremayne family from nearby Heligan with its three arms (tres maines). At first sight they looked like mermaids’ purses which really would be a first for a coat of arms, even in Cornwall.

St Ewe: the rood frieze
St Ewe: an important mythical beast in the rood frieze

Outside, we noted the cattle grid entrance to the churchyard, searched in vain for the stocks but admired the market cross in the middle of the village.

There is much that does not fit together in the interpretation of this church, not least the change of dedication from St Ewe (Henderson) to All Saints. A return visit on a sunny day when the light is better for photographs is definitely on the cards.

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