St Gennys church

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St Gennys tucked into its hill

St Gennys church stands alone in a tiny and pretty churchtown, high up on the cliffs above Crackington Haven. To one side are spectacular views northwards up the coast to Bude and towards Hartland Point.

It is one of those churches in Cornwall which appears to grow out of the ground, not that that description narrows it down much. Like Talland, the tower loses much of its impact by appearing to be only a single stage high because of the hill.

Unusually, the base of the tower at St Gennys is Norman – one of only about four in Cornwall – and was therefore not an afterthought as with so many others.

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St Gennys: interior

Inside, the church appears relatively conventional: two aisles and a wide open nave and approachable chancel with what appears to be a low east window. Closer inspection shows that the two arcades are very different in style: the southerly one of granite, the northerly of C15 carved and ornate catacleuse stone. This reflects their respective dates.

The chancel was raised in the 1871 restoration by the indefatigable J P St Aubyn while the tower was given its top stage and pinnacles by E H Spedding in 1910.

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St Gennys: pulpit carving of a squirrel

There is some good wood carving. Bench ends – presumably C15 – have been re-used to create a small litany desk while the idea of carving has been carried through to some lively C20 carving on the pulpit, featuring various animals.

There are a few monuments of note. The cold got to us before we could not find the Eric Gill-carved one in the churchyard although there were some fine slate headstones from earlier times. A large chest tomb contains Christopher Bligh, a relative of the Captain.

Inside there is a fine slate memorial to William Braddon who fought for Parliament and died in 1694 which has the usual low quality of uplifting verse:

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St Gennys: C12 font

In war and peace, I bore command
Both gowne and sword I wore
Yet now am here lay’d in cold clay
By those I rul’d before
Vaine is ye pomp and splendor sure
Which in this world men have
For it leaves ym when they come to dye
And to be lay’d in grave
Strive not for earthly grandeur ny
Which is so poor a thing
But seek for grace which will at last
Immortal glory bring

There was also a holy well close by suggesting that the site had been in use for a very long time.


A journey through the landscape and history of Cornwall