About Tywardreath Priory

Tywardreath Priory was set up as an alien priory of the Abbey of St Serge and St Bacche of Angers, probably in the first half of the 11th century. It was dissolved in 1536 as a result of a statute passed by Parliament in the reign of Henry VIII which ordered the closure of monasteries with an annual income of less than £200.

Although it was a small priory it had an enormous influence on the surrounding area, with landholdings as far away as St Ives. A.L. Rowse, the doyen of Cornish historians, conjures up a tantalising, if romantic, image of the priory in Tudor Cornwall: ‘A pleasant picture it is of the life of that house, of which hardly a scrap remains, standing as it did in the valley below the church, looking down the creek to the sea, the coast along the Gribbin covered in early summer with drifts of blue- bells and red campion, the bay itself, according to the story, sometimes echoing with the sound of bells which were never hung in the priory tower, for the ship which was bringing them from abroad went down in sight of it.’

Investigations of other religious houses, such as Launceston and Bodmin priories, have been carried out but Tywardreath offers special opportunities since the site at Newhouse Farm has not been built upon and is as yet unscheduled. An additional opportunity, or challenge, is that the landscape near it, particularly the former estuary of the Par or Luxulyan River, has become transformed as a result of huge silting since the 18th century. Place-name evidence indicates that the landscape was once very different: Tywardreath ‘house on the strand’); Landreath (‘church site on the strand’ – now referred to as St Blazey); Par (arguably ‘porth’ or harbour), Treesmill (formerly Melyntraith or ‘mill on the strand’).

Very little archaeological work has been done. An amateur investigation of about 1822 was carried out which appeared to show the dimensions of the monastic chapel. No detailed plans or notes of this have been found so far. A seal matrix was unearthed by John Andrews, a metal detectorist, in the area in 2009. In 2014 a resistivity survey was carried out on land to the south of the wall of the present parish churchyard, which suggested the existence of linear features that might represent foundations of walls. Various worked stones exist at Newhouse Farm, in the parish church and churchyard, incorporated into local buildings, and scattered around the area. It is possible too that other artefacts remain in private hands as well as in museums.