St Illogan Church History

Illogan Church

The earliest reliable reference to a church in Illogan, dated 1235, refers to the Ecclesia of Eglossalau. All that remains today of the church on that site is the tower, some monuments and a few stones. The building lay roughly in a North East – South West alignment and almost filled the original tiny churchyard which lay around it in a rough oval. As was common with many other Cornish churches, it would seem that the church was either extensively restored or entirely rebuilt about 1500

The walls of the church were regularly whitewashed. The oak pews all had doors to keep out the draught; some had richly carved bench ends. There was an oak Communion Table, over which were the slate tablets of the Ten Commandments – now to be seen in the Parish Church.

There were also several chapels in the parish during the Middle Ages. The Chapel of St Edmund was so important that the Parish Church is called The Rectory of Saints Illogan and Edmund in documents of 1543 and 1548.

Church Plan 1804

The plan shows the church as it was in 1804, It had two shallow transepts and was similar in appearance to Breage Church, near Helston.

Notice that the two internal walls on the left of the plan (East End) are quite thick suggesting an earlier, Norman church.

By 1844 the old church building had became too small and dilapidated to serve a vastly increasing mining population, so the decision was taken to replace it.

The new church of St Illogan was built at a cost of £2875 and came into use on 4th November 1846. However, almost two years passed before the Bishop of Exeter turned up to consecrate the building – no wonder Cornwall was soon to have its own diocese.

Interestingly, the dedication to St Edmund appears in several references to the new building but this is incorrect.

The photograph on the right shows the inside of the new building decorated for Harvest Festival, probably in 1944.Notice the blackout curtain over the East Window – a necessary precaution against air raids. In 1950 the communion table was enlarged, the curtain behind it replaced with a wooden reredos (made with wood from the former Basset family pews) and the large ’10 Commandments’ slates moved to the rear of the building. ‘In 2003 the Communion Table was moved forward, the reredos removed and the Ten Commandment tablets restored to their original positions behind the altar. It is interesting to compare this photograph with one in the Photo Album (below) taken in the early 1900’s

illogan church 1944

The Bell Tower

The Bell Tower is all that remains of the old church building. Everything else was demolished just before the new building opened in 1846. The tower would have gone the same way, but Trinity House refused to allow its removal as it provided a useful landmark for shipping. So instead, plans for the new church included provision for the tower to be reconstructed at the West end of the new building, but the work was never carried out (for the want of £300, so the story goes).

The bell ringing mechanism has recently been replaced by an automatic system that chimes the bells. The sound is very similar to conventionally rung bells, but the stresses are greatly reduced, extending the life of the bell frames and reducing maintenance costs on the old tower

1885. The east end and south side of the church.The old tower is clearly visible in the background-a view obscured now by trees.

1904. Another view of the church from the southeast. The railings around the grave in the foreground were removed during World War II to provide much-needed materials for the war effort

1885. A view from the south with a reverend gentleman – possibly Revd Harry Oxland – at the main door.

1890. Inside the church, looking towards the west window. This view is now obscured by the Parish Room,a meeting room and kitchen complex built in the 1970’s

A pre-1914 view, looking east

1888. The roof line of the old church (demolished in 1845) is clearly visible in this postcard photograph of the tower.

By the early 1900’s the tower was covered in ivy. Local boys used to delight in climbing the ivy, crawling through the slats in the bell chamber and ringing them bells!