South Petherwin, Cornwall Genealogy

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Parish History

South Petherwin (Cornish: Paderwynn Dheghow) St Paternus is an Ancient Parish in the county of Cornwall. Trewen,_Cornwall was a chapelry of South Petherwin.

The Saint, Patern (or Padarn, Paternus) has had several candidates, which have become mixed and confused over the ages. It is believed that the actual St. Patern to which the Parishes of North and South Petherwin are dedicated, was actually the father of St. Constantine, a Cornish King who gave up his throne to become a monk. St. Patern and St. Constantine have thus always been linked, with dedications always being near one another (a Celtic practice when saints are related or work together) (St. Constantine Church at Milton Abbot being the case in point for South Petherwin).

The church consists of a chancel, nave, north and south aisles, and vestry. The chancel was restored in the 19th century. The arcades each consist of six four-centred arches, supported on monolith granite pillars. There are north and south porches. The tower has three stages, and is buttressed on the square; it is wholly built of local stone apart from the battlements and pinnacles which are of granite. The belfry contains five bells and a clock. There was a Holy Well in a field at Oldwit Farm, where water was collected and brought to the church each time a baptism took place.

With the assumption that Dunheved (now known as Launceston) was the seat of the Celtic Kings of the area and that when Constantine became a monk he gave his territory to the Celtic Church, the Parish, along with North Petherwin and Lawhitton (Landwithan), would have been administered by the Celtic Bishop from St. Germans Monastery.

With the West Saxon invasion, the new King created a new diocese in the South West based at Sherborne in 909 AD. The lands which were controlled by the Celtic Bishop, were conceded to the new Bishop's control, to finance his work in Cornwall. It is with the Saxons that both Petherwins began to dominate the region, with the River Kensey being the natural divide. North Petherwin in the North with the new monastery of St. Stephens (a Saxon abbot being appointed to quell the Celts), and South Petherwin to the south of the Kensey: Dunheved was allowed to decline, as a means to crush the Celtic will. The see of the Diocese moved first to Crediton from Sherborne, then on to Exeter in 1050.

St. Stephen's was reduced as a monastery with the priory being moved across the Kensey to Newport. Then the ruined ancient fort of Dunheved was rebuilt as a Castle and walled town. At that time South Petherwin became the mother Church for Launceston, and it is the Church's importance in providing a valuable source of income to the church as a whole, that accounts for the size of the Church when it was rebuilt in the fifteenth century. Its significance is also shown by the existence of five roads which all lead to the Church. (Three still exist as normal tarmac roads; one is a footpath leading across fields from Tregadillett, with a fifth road from Trecrogo, which is now blocked off.) The estate was much larger than the present Parish and also included Trewen, hence the medieval association between St. Michael's Church, Trewen and St. Paternus's Church, South Petherwin (a link now ended with the consolidation of parochial charges).

The parish is now situated in the Hundred of East and deanery of Trigg Major.

The modern parish is part of the Egloskerry, North Petherwin, Tremaine and Tresmere, United Benefice in the Diocese of Truro.


Civil Registration

Births, marriages and deaths were kept by the government from July 1837 to the present day. The civil registration article tells more about these records. There are several Internet sites with name lists or indexes. A popular site is FreeBMD.

Church records

Overview, Include information for parish registers and Bishop's Transcripts, Contact information for the office holding the original records, Links to the Family History Library Catalog showing the film numbers in their collection.

Images of parish registers are available online in historic records (formerly Record Search) Images refer to Cornwall County Record Office reference: P 211/1/2

Loading of later years and baptism and burials have been reported to engineers for correction in future.

Census records

Overview, Include any unique information such as, the census for X year was destroyed, Collection in FHL and link to catalog, Online sites.

Probate records

Records of wills, administrations, inventories, indexes, etc. were filed by the court with jurisdiction over this parish. Go to [county] Probate Records to find the name of the court having primary jurisdiction. Scroll down in the article to the section Court Jurisdictions by Parish.

Maps and Gazetteers

There are many maps and gazetteers showing English places. Valuable web sites are:

  • 1851 Jurisdiction Maps
  • Vision of Britain

Web sites

Add here any relevant sites that aren't mentioned above.