The History of our Parish Church

Our parish church in North Petherwin has been a site of Christian worship for a very long time. The churchyard is still visibly circular when seen from the air – this is typical of Celtic churches. It is a very large church for a parish which is large in terms of area, but which has always had a small population. It was originally the ecclesiastic centre for a much larger area than just North Petherwin. The church served the Saxon estate of Werrington which included Boyton, St Giles and Werrington. At the time of the Norman invasion the Werrington estate belonged to Countess Gytha, the mother of King Harold, when she fled to the Continent after the fall of Exeter in 1067, she gave the Estate to Tavistock Abbey. This left the parish on the west side of the Tamar river but part of Devon for the next 900 years.

The church in Norman times must have been substantial. The only portion still visible are the huge Norman pillars in the North aisle (please refer to the downloadable image). The Reformation put an end to the reconstruction of the church thankfully leaving us this evidence of the past. North Petherwin is one of the best documented churches in the South-West with not only building accounts surviving for the period of 1505-07 covering the construction of the South Aisle, and 1518-24 covering the construction of the North Chapel and start of the North Aisle, but also Churchwardens’ Accounts dating from 1493.

As part of Henry VIII’s move to dissolve the monasteries Tavistock Abbey and its land was given to the Russell family in 1539. The Russells became the Dukes of Bedford and continued to own huge tracts of land in the area and held the living of North Petherwin in their gift until 1911. The living was given in 1911 to the Diocese of Truro (itself a new construct having been separated from the Diocese of Exeter in 1876).

Researched and written by Caroline Stone

A booklet containing more detail is available for purchase in the church or by contacting the churchwardens.

Please refer to separate tabs detailing The Dedication, The Interior of The Church and The Holy Well.

Norman_Pillars_2, JPG