of St. Edward's Catholic Church, Mawnan Smith.
Like many Comish villages,
Mawnan has an old tale about the building of its first church, many centuries
ago, when all the villagers were Catholics and worshipped in one place. The
parishioners chose a site on what later became the lands of Nansidwell, towards
the Carwinion side, near where St. Edward’s now stands. They began piling
stone there for building; but by night the piskies came and threw the stones
into the Helford River. (If you know where to look, near Toll Point, you will
see them there still.) After this had happened several times, the villagers
gave up and looked for a place that would not displease the piskies -- which
is why the old parish church was built where it now is, at the bottom of Old
Church Road. Mass was celebrated there until the reign of Henry VIII.
After the Reformation,
Mass was not celebrated publicly in Mawnan until 1952, when Canon George Ford
became parish priest of Falmouth. Bishop Grimshaw gave him permission to say
Mass on Sundays in the Mawnan Memorial Hall, provided that at least twenty
people attended each week. Canon Ford came to celebrate the first Mass that
summer. The hall soon proved too small for comfort, especially when there
were many summer visitors.
After Canon Ford died,
Canon Adrian Chapple came from Bournemouth to replace him. He first celebrated
Mass at Mawnan in summer holiday season of 1962. It was one of the days when
120 worshippers overflowed the Memorial Hall. Much encouraged by this experience,
Canon remarked during the Mass that there ought to be a permanent church in
the district. He was glad he had ventured the suggestion, for immediately
after Mass Mrs. Alice Rose Pilgrim, who lived at Nansidwell, offered him,
as a memorial to her late husband, ‘Eddy’ (Edwin Albert Ezra Pilgrim),
the very site the piskies had rejected many centuries before. Canon immediately
set about obtaining the Bishop’s permission, getting local planning
permission, and collecting the necessary funds. Money came in with remarkable
speed. The parish established a planned giving scheme. Many gifts came from
people all over the country who were grateful for being able to attend Mass
in Mawnan during their summer holidays, and from former parishioners who,
like so many of the Cornish, had emigrated to distant places.
Canon Adrian Chapple knew
about the piskies. Following an Irish custom, he threw a medal of Our Lady
into the meadow, and this time the piskies gave no trouble. Building work
began on Monday 27th April 1964. The design was by Waldo Maitland, a Catholic
architect practising in Falmouth, who went on to build the Catholic churchs
at Helston and Truro, also the chapel at Tremough Convent. The contractors
were Gray Conoley and Co. Ltd. also of Falmouth. The church was finished by
8th December and the bishop came to open it on the 19th December. The total
cost of construction was £14,200.
The roof is borne on six
timber Portal Frames, which relieve the cavity-block walls of weight (although
the east wall also bears the weight of the roof, allowing the possibility
of extending the building in that direction). The narthex is divided from
the nave by a glass screen. The original warm-air heating system, fuelled
by an oil-fired boiler, was replaced in October 2000 by quieter and cleaner
water-filled radiators and a paraffin-fired boiler.
Local workmanship and
materials were used as far as possible. The Catholic Women’s League
of Falmouth presented the altar of Cornish granite in memory of Canon Ford.
The blacksmith of Mawnan Smith, Dryden James, who was still at work in the
village, shoeing the few remaining horses, made the altar rails. (He died
in 1994.) The big stained glass window of St. Edward, however, given by Mrs.
Alice Pilgrim in memory of her husband, was obtained from Harry Clarke Stained
Glass Ltd. of Dublin.
As was then required by
canon law, a handsome tester or baldacchino was suspended over the altar.
The statue of our Lady Star of the Sea was given as a memorial to merchant
seamen who were lost in the two world wars of the 20th century. The font for
the baptism of Mark Pilgrim in 1965 was provided by his family.
The imposing white statue
of the Sacred Heart that stands outside the church was rededicated by Canon
Bede Davis on the feast of the Sacred Heart, 30th June 2000. It was given
by the Daughters of the Cross when they sold their convent at Tremough, near
Penryn – which is now a University. For many years it had stood in one
of the Tremough meadows, a gift from Fr. Lynch, a chaplain in the US Navy,
who enjoyed visiting the convent while his ship was in the River Fal during
St. Edward’s congregation
has lost none of its vigour and plays a full part in the ecumenical and social
life of Mawnan Smith. It is still common to have 120 or more, worshippers
at Mass in high summer, and at least half that number in the chilly damp of
The dedication of the
church was suggested by ‘Eddy’ Pilgrim’s name (Edwin). Saint
Edward the Confessor, king of England from 1042 to 1066, was the much-loved
patron saint of England before King Richard I placed his crusading, army under
the protection of St. George at the end of the 12th century.
Before the Norman Conquest
of 1066, during a time of political strife and instability on the Atlantic
seaboard of Europe, Saint Edward kept England at peace with her neighbours
for twenty years. A tall bearded man with a ruddy complexion and fair hair,
his generosity to the Church and to the poor was legendary. The people believed
he had a gift of curing scrofula by laying on of hands -- as a result of which
the monarch of England continued to ‘touch for the King’s Evil’
for nearly eight centuries. (Queen Anne was the last to perform the rite.)
After his death pilgrims flocked to his tomb in Westminster Abbey, which he
had virtually founded. His relics still lie there intact in a great shrine
behind the high altar.
The name of the civil
parish is derived from the patron saint of the old parish church, St. Mawnan.
This name may be derived from mavuanus meaning ‘monk’, but nothing
at all is known about him. Possibly he was a local leader in the 6th or 7th
century. The village at the centre of the parish has been called Mawnan Smith
since at least the 17th century, most likely because of a smithy at the road
junction. Work is at last underway, soon to be opened as a working museum,
controlled by the “Anvil Trust”. See details on this site.
originally written by Vincent Evans. He was a very well known journalist who,
army war correspondent, was the first writer to enter Belsen after its liberation.
In 2003 Canon Richard Rutt brought the information up to date while leaving
main story as it was.