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Altarnun

About Altarnun  |  Weather  |  Gallery


Altarnun, which nestles in the sheltered valley of Penpont Water, a tributary of the River Inny, is named in the Domesday Book as Penpont, and can truly be described as one of the prettiest villages in Cornwall. Across the two bridges stands the Church of St. Nonna. The Normans built a church here in the 12th century, but the church as it now stands was built in the 15th century, and was partly constructed of un-quarried stone from the moors. Surprisingly the tower is 109 feet high, its height being less noticeable due to the backdrop of hill and trees. The pillars are monoliths, as are the capitals and bases. The mullions of the windows are all original except those on the west. The wagon roofs of the aisles and the porch roofs are thought to have come from the Trelawney family mansion which was dismantled when they left the area in the 15th century. The Norman font is one of the few remaining parts of the 12th century church. One of the main features of 'The Cathedral of the Moors' is the signed collection of 79 bench ends carved by Robert Daye between 1510 and 1530. By the church gate stands a fine Celtic cross, possibly dating back to the 6th century, the time of St. Nonna herself. She was the mother of St. David and left her native Wales around the year 527. The holy well of St. Nonna is a short walk from the church, and the feast of St. Nonna is celebrated on the second Sunday after Midsummer's Day.

Just up the lane from the church lies the Old Rectory, which was built in 1842. Daphne du Maurier, a visitor to the house, featured it in her book 'Jamaica Inn' as the home of the notorious Francis Davey, Vicar of Altarnun. This elegant house, built in the Georgian style and Grade 2 listed, was sold by the church in 1975, and has now been extensively and tastefully refurbished.

To the left of the church facing the village green, which is bounded by Penpont Water on one side, stands a long white cottage which is recorded in the early 19th century as being the 'Poor Houses'. This was run by the local parish overseer of the poor, but was sold in 1871, and is now a private residence. At the end of this short lane stands the Church Hall, which until 1931 was the three-roomed Village School. The Hall still plays an active part in the life of the village. 

Across the now restored 15th century packhorse bridge is the picturesque main village with its granite built cottages, Post Office, Village Shop, and Butchers. The earliest record of the Post Office is recorded in Kelly's Directory in 1873 when John Davey, as Receiver of Mail served Penpont. Since that day it has remained as a Post Office, and still serves the local community.

Adjacent is the old Methodist Chapel, built at the end of the 18th century, with its unusual granite steps leading to the floor above. One day the floor of the chapel collapsed during morning worship, and the proprietor of the Ring O' Bells, hearing the commotion, rushed out and shouted at them 'So the Devil got 'ee after all!' Over the door is a head of John Wesley, carved in 1836 by gifted local boy Nevil Northey Burnard, who came from a long line of builders and sculptors. More of his work can been seen on gravestones in the churchyard. He went on to achieve national fame by sculpting the head of the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII. Many commissions followed, but after the death of his young daughter, he returned to the West Country and became a drifter, dying a pauper's death in Redruth Workhouse in 1878. A plaque to his memory is sited on the house alongside the chapel which is the original Mill House, Penpont Mill.

The Corn Mill itself was sited opposite the Mill House, by the existing flower beds and phone box. It stood four stories high, and obtained its water from a leat some way up Penpont Water, the flow of the water to the mill being controlled by a sluice gate. It ceased working in the early 1930s, and was eventually dismantled to enable the road to be widened.

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