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St Piran's Churches
 
 
  St Piran's Churches
Perranzabuloe

Carrick
NGR: SW 7717 5645
 
Aerial photo of St Piran's Church
 
Now lying buried under the wind blown sands of Perran Bay, St Piran’s Oratory is considered as one of the most important early Christian sites in Britain. It was allegedly built in about the eighth century by St Piran and consists of a compact rectangular building with a small nave and chancel, possibly separated by a wooden rood screen. A stone bench runs round the whole interior and there are doorways to the south and east, the southern doorway having an archway containing three carved heads, probably a 17th century addition. A 5th-6th century stone inscribed with Roman capitals is built upside down into one wall, suggesting possible earlier activity on the site. Following partial clearance of the site in 1835, the carved stones around the doorway were stolen and as protection against the encroaching sand, an ugly concrete bunker was constructed over the site in 1910. The site remained popular during the 20th century and the altar was kept supplied with fresh flowers daily. Unfortunately increasing vandalism and environmental problems led to the decision to rebury the site and it now lies beneath the dunes with an inscribed stone marking it's place.

The churchyard associated with the oratory is subject to the shifting sands and human bones are regularly exposed. A woman with a child in her arms was uncovered near the oratory doorway and other skeletons discovered in the early 20th century were all found to be laid out east-west with legs crossed. Twelve cists were discovered during the burial of the site in 1980 and were found to have slate tops and contain human bone. The cemetery, along with the foundations of another building identified near the oratory in the early 20th century and thought to possibly have been a baptistery are buried without trace under the dunes.

The later church of St Piran on Perran Sands was built in about 1150 as the nearby oratory became progressively inundated. It was enlarged in the fifteenth century and abandoned in 1804, itself succumbing to the encroaching sands. Much of the stone and interior fittings were removed to a new site further inland at Perranzabuloe, although the foundations remain, albeit in poor condition. Close to the church stands St Piran’s Cross which is possibly the cross referred to in a charter of AD 960 as “cristelmael”. The whole site is enclosed by a curvilinear earthwork and possibly represents an early monastic enclosure or “lann”. A settlement of Lanpiran is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086; it's precise location is unknown although it was originally believed to centre on the oratory. A series of earthworks outside the enclosure to the south may represent the remains of a church house or lych gate, as suggested by an 18th century illustration, and further farm buildings or a hamlet would be expected here as well. Traces of an early mediæval field system in the vicinity may also be associated with the church. It is also possible that the enclosure is a re-used Iron Age or Romano-British Round, suggested by the place name “Gear” meaning fortified settlement.

Recent excavations and management work have been undertaken to improve understanding and access to the site which can be easily reached by footpath across the dunes from the coastal path and inland from Gear Farm.

Sources
Cole, R, 1997. Gear Sands, Perranzabuloe. An Archaeological Assessment. Historic Environment Service, Cornwall County Council.
 
 
 
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Recent excavations and management work have been undertaken to improve understanding and access to the site which can be easily reached by footpath across the dunes from the coastal path and inland from Gear Farm.

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supported by HLF and compiled by the Historic Environment Service of Cornwall County Council  
last updated: 14/09/2007