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Church History

CORNWALL > St Just in Roseland

St. Just-in-Roseland
 St. Just-in-Roseland Church – the Parish Church of St Just and St Mawes
The Roseland
The name Roseland has nothing to do with roses, but probably comes from the old Cornish word ros or roos, which means promontory.
The Roseland was almost an island when the rivers were in full flood some two thousand years ago, and ships would travel up the estuaries and rivers as far as Tregony, which was a well-known little harbour navigable to smallish boats until well into the Middle Ages.  Unlike much of Cornwall, there is no evidence that the Roseland was inhabited in the Stone Age, but there is plenty of evidence of Bronze Age settlements.  Apart from the axe head found at Roscassa and pottery at Trethem Mill, other Bronze Age relics include the formidable Carn Brae, 137 feet in diameter, situated between Veryan and Carne.  Recent aerial photographs show that there was a henge monument at Philleigh, which could either have been late Stone Age or early Bronze Age.  It is said that the Phoenician tin trade was the reason for the Roseland becoming populated in the Bronze Age, for although there was little tin in South Cornwall itself, the tin streamed in North Cornwall was transported to South  Cornwall and there traded to the Phoenicians.
The Latin historian Diodorus Siculus, a Sicilian, describes Britain in the fourth century BC.  In his account he tells of an island on the south coast of England which is called Iktis.  He says that it was accessible only be a causeway at low tide and that it was a centre for trading in tin.  Quite where this island was situated is a matter of some doubt.  Various authorities have identified it in places as far apart as St. Michael’s Mount and the Isle of Wight, but one belief puts Itkis in the Roseland.  Whether or not this is true is open to debate, but a tin ingot was dredged up off St Mawes point in 1812.  It is almost certainly pre-Roman and is the oldest such ingot known.  It may also be seen in Truro Museum.

In Ancient Times
There is said to have been a camp or villa near Lanzeague, which is opposite the Church of St. Just.  It was quite common for the Romans to establish camps to protect local trading.  It is interesting that, although there was no overwhelming Romans occupation west of Exeter, the Dummonian peninsular (Devon and Cornwall) was one of the last outposts of the Western Roman culture.

King Arthur (if he existed) was probably a leader of the people who considered themselves to be heirs of Rome in the west country and set themselves to defend that way of life.  The main body of the Arthurian legend comes from Somerset and Wiltshire, although it is to be found as far away as Scotland and Brittany.  The medieval fables which grew up around Arthur (who was probably a Dux Bellorum – war leader) assert a connection with the Roseland in that “Sir” Gereint, was probably Gerranius, King of Cornwall in A.D. 520.  His main stronghold was at Din Gerein, a place that has been identified tentatively as an earthwork just outside Trewithian.  Whether this earthwork is Din Gerein or not, Gerranius was probably the St. Gereint who gave his name to Gerrans and was said by legend to have been buried in Carn Beacon.  One of his sons was called Iestin and was probably the St. Just who gave his name to St. Just-in-Roseland.  Much history and legend surround this place, including one story associated with Tristram and Iseult, which centres about Malpas, not far away up the Fal.  In more recent times the Roseland has been a relatively quiet place to live, subsisting mainly on agriculture and fishing, although there have been moments of excitement, such as when St. Mawes Castle surrendered without a shot being fired in the Civil War!  In the nineteenth century St. Just-in-Roseland was used as a quarantine port for Falmouth and after the Battle of Trafalgar several ships of the Royal Navy were anchored for months in St. Just Pool.  Later, at the beginning of this century, it was highly debated whether St. Just-in-Roseland or Devonport should be the site for a big new naval base; mercifully for the Roseland, Devonport was chosen.

St. Just
Both Canon Doble and Baring-Gould consider that Iestin was the St. Just of St. Just-in-Roseland. At this time, asceticism was a fashion and had spread from the Middle East, where the monastic desert fathers had become famous.  Young men of noble houses in Britain followed suit  by becoming hermits and living in small cells in poverty, and it is possible that St. Just was one of these.
It is said that Iestin moved from Roseland to Brittany at one stage and founded the St. Just Church there.  A legend relates that when he returned from his stay, he found his cell at Lanzeague occupied by an Irish hermit – Efflam.  It was agreed between them, that they should sit in the cell by the window and the one on whose head the rays of the sun first fell at sunrise would be the one to stay.  St. Just lost and seizing his staff, departed to the West, where he founded the Church of St. Just-in-Penwith.  Despite the attractiveness of this story, it must be admitted that some authorities hold that the St. Just of St. Just-in-Roseland and that the most likely centre of the cult of St. Just is in Penwith.

St. Mawes
St. Mawes is a later Saint, but he is better chronicled especially with regard to his connections in Brittany and with the maritime people.  He was the son of an Irish King and came to Cornwall as a preacher, founding a cell close to a spring in St. Mawes.  A chapel was built on this site, but it is now destroyed.  However, a well, still to be seen half way up the hill from the Victory Inn, is close to the original site.  He travelled a great deal in Brittany and was famous for his healing powers.  Indeed, until recently, people would visit his well to rid themselves of worms!

St. Just Church
St. Just Church was clearly part of the Celtic Church, which was well established long before St. Augustine came to England.  Indeed, it is believed that the traders, soldiers and sailors coming from the Mediterranean brought with them the news of Christianity.  This quickly spread and established itself in Cornwall, Wales and Ireland.  Neither the destructive effects of the Barbarians nor the Dark Ages ever reached Cornwall, so that a gradually-disintegrating Romans Heritage was carried on. Myles Dillon and Nora Chadwick in their book The Celtic Realms consider that it is probable that Cornwall, Wales and Ireland have an unbroken record of christianity since christianity was legalised in the Roman Empire in the fourth century – this view is equally supported by the work of other historians.  There was some sort of Church on the site of St. Just-in-Roseland as far back as A.D. 550, but the present Church is later, being consecrated on the 14th August, 1261, by Bishop Bronescombe.  About half the present Church is of that date; the tower is early fifteenth century, as are the south chancel and the pillars which divide the nave from the south aisle.  One authority states that the arch between the pillars and the nave, built in un-wrought stone, is earlier than the tower and may be the remains of a previous Church.  The north transept, the northern half of the eastern wall and the north face, apart form the vestry, are thirteenth century, although there have been later repairs to them.  Just south of the altar, set in the wall, is a piscina which dates certainly from 1261.  It is a good example of the two-drain type of piscina, which was fashionable in the late thirteenth century.
The Church, unfortunately, underwent a bad restoration during the last century, when much of the original and fifteenth century material was discarded including ancient pews.  It is believed that the present pews were carded by the Rector of that time, the Reverend Thomas Carlyon.  The religious texts, which can be seen running round the base of the roof, are also of this date, but the wooden board with the Lord’s Prayer and the one with the Creed, are seventeenth century.  The Font is fifteenth century and has a restored seventeenth century cover.
When work was being carried out in the Church early in this century, a Roman coin of Constantine was found beneath the floor boards.  It had a hole bored through it and it may have come from a necklace.  Also during recent repairs, an old brass crucifix was found hidden in the roof.  It is late eighteenth-century-French and is now set in the east wall of the south aisle.

Christ in Roseland
There is a legend which claims that Christ came to St. Just.  The story goes that Joseph of Arimathea was a tin merchant and that when he came on business to the Fal, he brought the boy Jesus with him.  During his visit, Jesus came into St. Just Pool and landed at St. Just, which, it is said, was a sacred place even then and that Jesus talked to the religious leaders there.  It is a persistent legend and one which crops up in several places along the Cornish coast.  All that can be said is that it could have happened and that it warms the heart to have such a story associate with this lovely place.

Vicars, Rectors and Patrons
For some hundred years after its foundation (circa A.D. 550) the Church was served by Celtic clergy from the adjacent cell at Lanzeague until Roseland was taken from the Celtic Church by the Saxon Bishops of Cornwall, Credition and Exeter.
Since the Church was consecrated by Walter, Bishop of Exeter on 14th August 1261, there have been a succession of forty Rectors – a complete list of their names is shown at the west end of the Church.
Between 1130 and 1139 there was a squabble as to who owned the Patronage of the Church.  The owners of Tolverne, as free tenants were given the rights well-before 1085.  However, Robert, Bishop of Exeter, in 1805 gave St. Just and all its tithes to Plympton Priory.  For the fifty years prior to 1189 both Tolverne and Plympton appointed an incumbent, so that there were two Vicars at that time.  It is clear from the records that they came to a friendly arrangement whereby each owned half of the Church!  The last incumbent to be a Vicar was named Alvredus and since his death the incumbents have been Rectors.
Later the Patronage was recovered from the Priory by John le Sor, Lord of Tolverne, who successfully disputed the grant and it was arranged that a yearly sum of 13s.14d. should be paid out of the Benefice to the Priory.  The sum is still paid by the Rectors of St. Just to the successors in title of the last Prior, who is represented today by Mr. Michael Galsworthy of Trewithen, the Patron of the living.
In 1396 Sir Thomas Raulyn, Rector from 1383 to 1431, upset one of his parishioners so badly that he dared not leave the Rectory for fear of his life.  At that time it was common for the Priest to have the choice of the best garment or the second best beast of any person to be buried.  Thomas had claimed this right but the relatives of the person he had buried, refused to hand them over on the instigation of a certain Alan Bugules.  The Rector became so incensed that he ex-communicated them all on the spot.  Alan Bugules’ reaction was to threaten to kill the Rector, who then sought sanctuary in the chancel of his own Church.  Despite all this Sir Thomas Raulyn continued as Rector until he died in 1431.
During the Civil War, the Rector at St. Just was a Royalist and was therefore replaced by a Cromwellian Puritan.  When the Civil War ended and Charles II returned to the throne the Cromwellian minister was removed from his benefice.  However, as he had become so popular in the village he remained in the Parish, he and his successor becoming very close friends.  It will be noted from the list of Rectors that son has followed father to the living on several occasions, especially amongst the Carlyon family.

Church Gardens
In his book In Search of England, which was written in the 1920s Mr. H. V. Morton writes: “I have blundered into a Garden of Eden that cannot be described in pen or paint.  There is a degree of beauty that flies so high that no net of words or no snare of colour can hope to capture it, and of this order is the beauty of St. Just-in-Roseland . . . There are a few cottages lost in the trees, a Vicarage with two old cannon balls propping open the garden gate, and a Church . . .in a churchyard which is one of the little-known glories of Cornwall.  I would like to know if there is in the whole of England, a churchyard more beautiful than this.  There is hardly a level yard to it. You stand at the lychgate and look down into a green cup filled with flowers and arched by great trees. In this dip is the little Church, its tower level with you as you stand above.  The white gravestones rise up from ferns and flowers.”
The churchyard has been used for burial over many hundreds of years.  Unfortunately, however, few of the older graves survive.  Among the inscriptions of the churchyard, there is one of a naval surgeon, whose relatives were clearly unimpressed by the treatment he had received at the hands of other surgeons, his inscription reads “Afflictions sore long time he bore, Physicians acted wrong, Till God did please his pain to ease, And take his soul along”.
Most of the shrubs in the churchyard and on the roadside approaches were planted during the last fifty years, and these include the Strawberry Tree, (Benthamia), Pittosporum, Chilian Myrtle, Fan Palm (Chamaerops excelsa), varieties of Bamboos, Embothrium (Fire Bush from Chile).  Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Brooms, Camellias, Escallonias, Cestrum, Detzias, Drimys, Eupatorium, Fuchsias, Griselinia, a large number of Hydrangeas, Hypericum, Magnolia, Ribes, Skimmias, Tricuspidaria (from Chile), Berberis, Olearia and others.
The granite stones that line the path down to the Church were provided over the years by the Reverend Humfrey Davis who was Rector from 1901 to 1930.  As each stone was placed into position he conducted a short ceremony of dedication.  Most of the texts and verses are from scripture, some from hymns and poetry and one or two of them he composed himself.
The lychgates are shown on a terrier map of 1620 as Cornish stiles without super-structure.  In 1632 the old stiles were removed and new ones built with the roof and seats, for which slates and timber were purchased by the Church Wardens.  The 1620 terrier map also shows a lych stone or coffin slab in the centre of the upper stile but this has been removed.
Close to the lower lychgate is a spring with a small brisk surround and slate cover.  This spring has been used from time immemorial to draw water for baptisms and for many years was used as the main source of water for the Rectory.
A deep serenity breathes through this little Church by the water and its lovely gardens, seeming to invoke upon all who come here this ancient Celtic benediction.
Deep peace of the Running Wave to you.
 Deep peace of the Flowing Air to you.
Deep peace of the Quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the Shining Stars to you.
Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you.
 The deep peace of Christ to you
               Peter Dumford.
   May the road rise with you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
And the rains fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again
May God keep you in the hollow of his hand.
The above is copied from a booklet entitle “St. Just-in-Roseland Church”,
designed and printed in England by Beric Tempest & Co. Ltd., St. Ives, Cornwall
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