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Holy Well
    Mediæval menu
1066 to 1540
Bridge   Bridge
Mediæval bridges were constructed from the local stone (granite or slate) in one or more pointed or rounded arches spanning a river, with two low parapet walls either side of the carriageway, topped off with coping stones. The bridges are often quite narrow and the parapets may be offset to provide refuges to allow pedestrians to avoid wheeled traffic. The bridge piers were often set onto triangular ‘cutwaters’ which deflected the flow of the water.
Castle   Castle
A castle is a structure that is fortified for defence against an enemy and generally serves as a military headquarters dominating the surrounding countryside. The mediæval castles of Cornwall are of motte and bailey type, and were introduced by the Normans. They consist of a large mound (or motte) topped by circular stone tower or keep, usually a replacement for an earlier wooden structure. The Motte is attached to a walled area (the bailey) where barracks blocks, workshops, stables and other domestic buildings could be securely sited.
Chapel   Chapel
The term ’chapel’ has many meanings, but is here taken to refer to a building or a room used specifically as a place of Christian worship during the mediæval period. A chapel may be a separate building, or part of a church or private residence. Chapels can have specific functions, as oratories for instance or as a places devoted to special services. In the post-mediæval period the term came to indicate a place of worship for members of various dissenting Protestant churches, as Baptists or Methodists.
Church   Church
A church is a place set aside for the public worship of the Christian god. Cornish Churches were often constructed on sites that had been in continuous use since the original establishment of Christianity in the 5th or 6th centuries. Most churches were extensively repaired or rebuilt in the 15th century, and again during the Victorian period, though many retain traces of earlier architecture.
Trethevey   Holy well
The numerous holy wells in Cornwall may be a reflection of a prehistoric, pagan, reverence towards water spirits and other natural forces. Many natural springs were provided with a well house or covering during the mediæval and later periods. The holy well is generally associated with a saint or hermit, and the water is believed to have healing properties They are still respected, protected and maintained by local people.
Manor   Manor
A landed estate or territorial unit, originally associated with a feudal lordship, consisting of the lord's demesne and the lands within which he has the right to exercise certain privileges, exact certain fees, etc. The term was loosely applied to any large estate during the later mediæval period.
Plain-an-Gwarry   Plain-an-Gwarry
A mediæval amphitheatre, usually circular in plan, used for the performance of miracle plays – religious dramas which lasted over a period of two or three days, and described biblical events or dramatised the live of the saints.
Pound   Pound
Usually associated with areas of common grazing, a pound is a place where stray animals ( ie animals owned by persons who did not enjoy rights to the common) could be penned in until reclaimed. Pounds were often circular in shape and constructed of strong stock-proof stone walls.
Mediæval period
(Middle Ages)

The Norman Conquest led to the complete replacement of the existing ruling elite. Wealth and power resides in the holding of land and by the time of the Domesday Book (1086) 80% of manors are in Norman hands.

A number of intimidating castles are built including Launceston and Kilkhampton.

The 11th to 14th centuries is a period of prosperity and population growth. Many hamlets, villages and towns develop, and the countryside is reorganised, with extensive areas of arable land divided into open strip fields. Economic growth is based on a diverse economy of farming, trade, fishing, quarrying, the cloth industry and, especially, the tin industry.

The Church is central to the way of life as the profusion of chapels, parish churches and holywells attest. During the Reformation however many religious houses are suppressed, provoking a major rebellion.

Because of its geographical situation Cornwall becomes strategically and militarily more important to the defence of the state, especially against other maritime powers.

By the mid-C16th Cornwall still has a distinctive identity with Cornish still spoken widely in the west.


supported by HLF and compiled by the Historic Environment Service of Cornwall County Council  
last updated: 05/09/2007