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St Carantoc Church, Crantock

The church of St Carantoc is located in the village of Crantock. The village is located just inshore from an unspoilt cove on the north coast, presumably for its sheltered position and water supply.

The church of St Carantoc is one of very few Cornish churches to retain significant Norman fabric, and sufficient to show that it was a church of considerable importance. It was the mother church of the area and from at least before 1236 had a college of priests. Partly as a consequence of an evolved plan, it is built with its west tower on lower ground and its chancel and chancel aisles on the higher ground and with a roof that is taller than the nave.

The walls are constructed from local slate-stone with some courses of roughly squared volcanic stone, plus volcanic stone, limestone and granite dressings. The roofs are small-size dry-laid Delabole slate.

This church was originally a cruciform plan with north and south transepts plus chancel aisles and a central crossing tower. As a consequence of the collapse of the crossing tower in 1412 the church was remodelled: a new tower was added at the west end, the arcades were rebuilt and the aisles were widened. There was probably a Norman porch but this was replaced by a new porch, possibly in the 17th century, slightly west of its original location.

The exterior is quaintly vernacular in appearance (hiding unexpected architectural treasures within). The walls are exposed rubble stonework except for the tower and the east end of the chancel aisles, and the visible part of the chancel, that are rendered.

The south wall of the nave is an almost symmetrical composition with identical 2-light traceried windows with square hood-moulds flanking the porch. The masonry surrounding the window heads defines the earlier openings, possibly original.

The interior displays a strong emphasis to the east end of the building where the earliest architectural features survive. The lower masonry of massive Norman crossing piers survives adjacent to the chancel and chancel aisles.

There are diagonally-set piers support 2-bay pointed-arched arcades between the chancel and the north and south arcades. These are a 15th century replacements of the Norman arcades which incorporate what is probably much of the original Norman stonework.

The wagon roofs over the nave and chancel are presumed to be 15th century, dating from when the church was repaired and remodelled after the collapse of its crossing tower in the 15th century. The chancel roof was much restored by Sedding and is richly decorated with moulded cross-bracing and gilded bosses, a short section east of the rood also with painted panels with gilded borders.

Fittings include a fine volcanic stone Norman font with a round bowl supported on a turned central shaft and with four carved heads over corner shafts. The bowl has been re-tooled to be carved with the date 1474 in relief. It has been suggested that this is the date of the restoration of the church after the crossing tower collapsed.

The communion rail and turned balusters are 18th century. There is also a 1902 rood screen from the Sedding restoration, as well as a carved stone figure of St Carantoc.

Content generated during research for the paperback book 'Cornwall and the Cross: Christianity 500-1560' (ISBN 978-1-86077-468-3) for the England's Past for Everyone series