CORNWALL ONLINE PARISH CLERKS - helping bring the past alive
The parish of
is situated in the deanery and west division of the hundred of Powder. It is four miles south-east of St Columb and about six north-west from St Austell. It is bounded on the north-west by the river Fal which divides it from St Columb, Roach, St Stephen in Brannell and St Enoder. Its situation is on the ridge which passes through the middle of Cornwall. Before St Dennis became a parish in its own right, the priest's living was vested in St Michael Penkivel along with St Stephen in Brannel. (Photograph right shows the village from Trelavour Downs)
The population in 1851 was 888. This is a mining district and is famous for china clay and granite, better known as 'St Stephen china stone', which is much used as internal dressings of many of the neighbouring parish buildings. There are also many farms, some of which are now buried under clay waste. The Manor houses were Demeliock (Domellick), Ennis Caven, (formerly Arundlels), Hendra and Menna, (Boscawen), Restowrick, Gaverigan. Until the mid 1800s, St Dennis consisted of 3 hamlets - Hendra, Trelavour and Whitepit - and in addition there was Enniscaven, Gothers and part of Whitemoor. By all accounts at one time Enniscaven was the largest part.
St Dennis, to whom the church is dedicated, is said to have been born in Athens. The church is situated on the hill almost in the centre of the parish, and is mentioned in the Doomsday Book. Very little can be ascertained about the history of the church but it is known that the stone cross in the churchyard is of great antiquity. The exact date the church was built is unknown but the tower contains two bells dated 1167 and 1176. The treble bell contains the date 1651 and the tenor bell is engraved 1738 with Church Wardens names John VARCOE and Abraham GRIGG. Both surnames are still in this parish.
When searching for an elusive family in this area it is necessary to look in both St Dennis and St Stephen in Brannel. Both parishes have china clay labourers who worked in either parish from time to time as new clay works were opening frequently. Men and women often lived for time to time in either parishes. Evidence of this can be found in the burial registers and census records. Often children were born in other neighbouring parishes showing the movement of families in search of work.
Sometimes children were not baptised shortly after birth, and it was only when they wanted to marry, that they were baptised a few weeks before the marriage, as they could not be married unless baptised.
Tin mines were less common in St Dennis than in neighbouring parishes. Among these were ‘Great Prosper’ producing tin 1888-1891. These were open works owned by the Great Prosper China Clay & Stone Company. The ‘St Dennis Consols’ produced tin in 1860 and were suspended 1865 and the ‘St Dennis Crown’ opened 1901 but was abandoned in 1907.
- From "The Parochial History of Cornwall" -
This is a brief account of a phenomenon which happened in 1664: “Upon these stones (namely the stones scattered on the hill by the church) at night, rained for about an acre of ground a shower of blood and remained on the stones for many years after and on some that were kept dry the same drops of blood of a crimson colour were visible for twenty years. After this shower of blood, the plague in London began, the Dutch and French wars broke out and the city of London burned."
To read a piece about Mining, Living in the Parish, and Tradesmen, please click here.
The volunteer as OPC (Genealogy) for St Dennis is John Evans, who can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please visit COCP (Cornwall Online Census Project), which is complete for 1841 to 1891 and validated, FreeCens at Rootsweb - both are free, searchable databases - or check GenUKI for other alternatives.
There is quite a lot of material of interest in the Directories. For instance, the Kelly’s Directory 1856 has: Rev. John Glynn CHILDS B.A. Rectory, John VARCOE of Hendra appears to be his assistant. Traders include James BENNETTO, clay agent and shop-keeper. Listed in Kelly’s are two shoemakers, one carpenter who was also a shopkeeper, one grocer, three smiths, one butcher, one tailor, twenty six farmers, three clay agents and one miller. Inn-keepers are James RODLIFF 'Miners Arms', John TABB ‘Globe Inn', Thomas VARCOE 'Commercial Inn'. Mrs Ann KEY is a farmer on Domellick which was a Manor house in the Doomsday Book and Mrs Mary VARCOE is a farmer at Trelaven. There were seven VARCOEs on farms during the 1850s. When we compare the occupation of fathers in the baptism register we find there are more farmers, another miller, a carpenter, two more shoemakers, and a blacksmith. Obviously not all notable people advertise in a directory. The majority of baptisms 1850-1860 show the father’s occupation as a labourer and this pattern continues right through the records.
Indentures, Auctions etc. These often mention people other than those in the list below.
Photographs & Maps:
Many photographs are held by the Wheal Martyn China Clay Museum (and copies by the China Clay History Society), not only those related to that industry. John Evans has offered to search them for any of specific families and locations, and electronic copies would be supplied free of charge. Two examples are given below (click thumbnails to enlarge).
A large number of old O.S. Maps of many areas of Cornwall (various scales) are also available, the index is here. For the maps, please keep to the Crown Copyright as explained on the Ordnance Survey website.
A list of available Wills and Probate Documents. Copies of those marked as CRO can be ordered from here using the appropriate reference. For those marked as NA enter the reference in the search box on this page and follow the onscreen instructions.
For more information regarding history, population, etc., visit GenUKI.
For a zoomable and printable map of Cornwall please visit Cornwall Council’s mapping website. To see the Parish boundaries, click on the Layers Tab for Government Boundaries.
For maps and satellite images use Google Maps.
To enjoy a "walk" around this parish, search for St Dennis at http://maps.google.co.uk/, then drag the person icon from above the zoom commands and place it at a specific location on the map.