Ertach Kernow - The Roseland Peninsula historic and culturally fulfilling

St Just in Roseland Church

The Roseland Peninsula is a beautiful part of Cornwall with many villages and smaller settlements. The population of the area which comprises the five parishes of Veryan, Ruan Lanihorne, Philleigh, Gerrans and St Just in Roseland is about 4,000. This is an area where a high number of the properties are second houses and holiday rentals causing severe housing issues for locally born people through high prices and lack of really affordable housing.

For those of us who live elsewhere in Cornwall this is a really wonderful area to visit and besides its scenery is interesting with its historical and cultural heritage. Part of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and containing Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) makes it especially attractive from an environmental perspective.

Grade I historical buildings are limited to the five parish churches of each parish plus the castle at St Mawes which lies in the parish of St Just in Roseland. The church in that parish is well-known for its beautiful situation and churchyard gardens. Certainly, a day out just looking at these buildings alone would be an interesting an fulfilling experience. There are few other listed buildings apart from former rectories and farmhouses dating from the 18th century although there are clusters of these in St Mawes and Gerrans together with the interesting round houses at Veryan and a scattering of 18th and early 19th century cottages throughout parishes.

Glebe House, Ruanlanihorne, former home of Rev John Whitaker 1778-1808

As always click the images for larger view

St Mawes Castle

Conservation zones exist in three of the five parishes. The St Just in Roseland parish has much of St Mawes included especially the southern coastal area taking in the old town virtually down to the castle. The area around the castle as well as an early 20th century gun battery to the north of the castle are scheduled monuments. For those who may have already visited Pendennis on the other side of the estuary this may be of interest although a less developed site, but different views. There is also a holy well  in the centre of St Mawes, which is also  a scheduled monument. There is an active St Just & St Mawes Heritage Group which has utilised two redundant telephone boxes to share something of their local heritage.

The conservation zone in Gerrans parish covers a good area of the twin villages of Gerrans and Portscatho and includes the church with its strange little tower. Lovely to see the heritage centre was still operating having last visited it several years ago. There are some older cottages and properties in this village which are Grade II listed dating from the 18th century. There is also a non-conformist Independent Chapel built in 1822, which although not of any particular architectural interest is nice to see as a surviving part of the village history. Within the parish church grounds is a medieval wheel head wayside cross and is believed to be the only surviving cross of its type on the Roseland Peninsula. It was used for a time as a coping stone on a wall before being re-erected on a new base in the churchyard in 1850. On our visit to Portscatho we enjoyed a pint in The Plume of Feathers along with a bite to eat, the sign offering buy five pints and get one free was tempting but avoided. Lovely to find a traditional pub with a pleasant atmosphere.

Gerrans Church tower
Roundhouse and thatched cottage at Veryan Green

The parish of Veryan has three conservation zones covering the main village of Veryan and the close by Veryan Green. There is also a larger zone covering the small coastal village of Portloe. This beautiful small Cornish village has in the words of some local folk ‘slipped away’, where about eighty five percent of the properties there are second houses or Airbnb’s. I don’t call these second homes, they’re not homes just holiday houses. Such a shame when vibrant historic communities especially around the Cornish coastline are lost. Nevertheless, Portloe retains its charm, but the once busy fishing harbour is now much reduced and local people can no longer afford to buy homes here. Fortunately, the conservation zone and listings will hopefully protect the properties here from horrendous development.

Both Veryan village and the close by Veryan Green have good sized areas protected by conservation zones. Veryan has three of the five famous round houses and Veryan Green two. These are said to have been built for the five daughters of the Reverend Jeramiah Trist and were built round so having no corners for the devil to hide. Whatever the reason they add charm to villages that are almost joined both also having a good number of Grade II listed cottages including some which are thatched. Once again as with picturesque Cornish villages there are housing issues, and it would be a shame to see this attractive community ravaged by the blight of second houses.

Ruan Lanihorne parish has no conservation zone, but an ancient history and the home of the 18th century historian and rector the Rev John Whitaker, author of ‘The Ancient Cathedral of Cornwall’ covered in Ertach Kernow last month. This parish was also covered by an article in March 2022, which can be found on the website. Home to the somewhat notorious Ercedekne family during the 14th century they built what was said to be the largest and most splendid castle in Cornwall. Sadly, nothing of this now remains although it was still mentioned on the 1907 ordnance survey map and was located where a modern looking property ‘The Old Malt House’ is today. Fortunately, the 13th century church does still stand although the interior was severely restored in 1866 destroying most of the medieval interior. The parish also has a holy well which is located on private land.

The parish of Philleigh like Ruan Lanihorne is a rural parish with very few settlements. The largest of these being Philleigh, which if not for the parish church could be classed a hamlet, and the other slightly smaller community of Treworlas. The church is Grade I listed and originally built in the 14th century with later additions and was again restored in 1867. Perhaps one reason for visiting this parish is the opportunity to cross the River Fal on the King Harry Ferry and to view this stretch of the river then enjoy a drive through Philleigh’s picturesque country lanes. This can be reached from the other side of the Fal via Truro through Playing Place and down past the National Trust house and gardens at Trelissick.

St Rumons Church at Ruan Lanihorne
Ferry cross the Fal - At the King Harry crossing
Roseland Peninsula's Five Parishes -
Roseland Festival 2024

Though the Roseland is relatively sparsely populated there is a rich cultural heritage. The Cornish National Music Archive began a new project for 2024 entitled ‘Music of the Roseland’. This is a collaboration with St Gerrans and Porthscatho Old Cornwall Society and the Roseland Music Society which involves researching the history and seeking out lost or forgotten music as well as celebrating and sharing this to a wider audience. There is a huge amount of historic music and dance going back over a hundred years and the Cornish National Music Archive want to record and collect as much as possible from the distant past through to the current day.

It really is important for Cornish cultural heritage to engage with young people throughout Cornwall. So, the Cornish National Music Archive project will be working with schools during the autumn term on carol workshops. No doubt hymns and carols will form a significant part within the project and the discovery of old forgotten music, and songs will add to this area of Cornwall’s musical cultural heritage. Other regions of Cornwall have for example had their local carols collected and preserved and performed at services held at Truro Cathedral. In 2021 the service celebrated St Ives carols and this was followed in 2022 by Padstow carols. Let’s hope that in 2024 there may be a service sharing carols from the Roseland.

Click the programme image (left) to view and download

To carry out this project the organisers need the help of local people who may remember old songs or dances. Some folks may have something squirreled away almost forgotten that belonged to parents or grandparents that would prove of interest to the project and worth preserving and sharing. The Cornish National Music Archive website is growing and would welcome more stories or even fragments about musicians, songs dances that could be contained within the project.

It's not all research and recording work down on the Roseland. Next week there is a Troyl being organised to take place at St Mawes Memorial Hall. Troyls are fun events with music and dancing with people of all ages taking part. This is part of the Roseland Festival 2024 running from 19th to 28th April. There’s a huge variety of events with many and varied  illustrated talks, workshops covering pottery to seaweed pressing, river cruise and talk, food events and meals including wine tasting, theatre, garden walks and tours and of course lots of music and dance and much more.

Roseland Festival Troyl - 2024

Whatever your interest in Cornwall whether it be historic churches, pub’s, music and dance or the environment there is lots to see and do down on the Roseland Peninsula. Once the weather takes a turn for the better why not take a trip and enjoy the Roseland before the human storm hits the area, perhaps even taking the King Harry Ferry.

Roseland Peninsula historic and culturally fulfilling
Roseland Peninsula historic and culturally fulfilling
Ertach Kernow - 17th April 2024 – Roseland Troyl - East Looe lifeboat station refurbishment - New Projects
Ertach Kernow shared in VOICE, Cornish Times, Cornish & Devon Post newspapers
Ertach Kernow shared in VOICE, Cornish Times, Cornish & Devon Post newspapers