The parish of Gwithian (Cornish: Sen Goedhyan) is situated in the Deanery and Hundred of Penwith. It is bounded on the north by the sea and the parish of Camborne, on the east by the parishes of Camborne and Gwinear, on the south by Phillack, and on the west by St Ives Bay. Named after a little known saint, possibly Breton, the picturesque little village of Gwithian is near Hayle on the north Cornish coast. Gwithian Churchtown is a little village lying almost at sea-level on the coast between Hayle and Portreath; it has a a church and an inn. The surrounding area of dunes and beach are very popular for camping-caravaning and there are several sites in the locality as well as a chalet park.
In mediaeval times this was an important settlement area, but was always subject to shifting sand, which eventually claimed the once prominent village in the parish, that of Conerton, now buried. The sand dunes (towans) of Gwithian are found all along the shores of St. Ives Bay on the north coast of Cornwall. These here make up the second largest sand dune system in Cornwall and are one of the largest systems to be found on the west coast of the United Kingdom. They are also comparable in size to their counterparts in Europe. The system is approximately 5 kilometres long by 2 kilometres wide and is aligned from north-east to south-west. The sand has, in recent times, attracted the surfers.
Mines that were important in the past have now been replaced by tourism and agriculture. Because of its exposed position to the Atlantic, the rocks at Godrevy have seen many wrecks in the past. In January 1858, the foundations of the lighthouse was laid, and it was first lighted on 1st March 1859. This area of sea is now guarded by an automated lighthouse. An ancient oratory is believed to be buried under the shifting sands near the Red River.
The civil parishes of Gwinear and Gwithian were combined to form Gwinear-Gwithian in 1934.
Most parish and church description(s) on these pages are from Lake's Parochial History of the County of Cornwall by J Polsue (Truro, 1867 - 1873)
Census information for this parish (1841 - 1901) is held in the Cornwall Record Office. The Cornwall Family History Society offers a census search service for its members.
Specific census information for this parish is available as follows:
The New Zealand Society of Genealogists have compiled separate surname indexes of the 1851 Census for each Cornish registration district; Gwithian is listed in Volume 38. The booklets are available in Cornwall at the Cornwall Centre, (formerly known as the Cornish Studies Library), and is also available in the Cornwall FHS Library.
Anglican. The parish church is located in OS Grid Square SW5841 and was dedicated to Saints Felix and Gocianus (Gothian). The church was rebuilt in 1864, previous to which it comprised a chancel, nave, north transept, south aisle, with porch and tower. The building was originally cruciform, and it is said that the removal of the wall in the south transept caused the downfall of the chancel arch, of which traces remain. The aisle was added in the 15th century. The column of the arcade were of simple character; the carches were four-centred and moulded. The opportunity was taken to reduce the size of the church because of a falling population in the parish. In the rebuilding work, the aisle was taken down but the arcade was carefully preserved.
Non-Conformist. In Connor Downs in this parish, the United Methodist Free Church built a chapel.
The parish of Gwithian is in the Penzance Registration District, and has been since 1st July 1837. There were originally sub-districts at Marazion, Penzance, St Buryan, St Just, St Ives and Uny-Lelant but these have now been abolished. The enhanced parish of Gwithian-Gwinear is now part of the Penzance Registration District. Parishes in this registration district were: Camborne, East Phillack, Gwennap, Gwinear, Gwithian, Illogan, Phillack, Redruth, St. Sithian's, West Phillack.
The Superintendant Registrar of Penzance can be contacted at: Alphington House, Alverton Place, Penzance, TR18 4JJ. Tel: 01736 330093.
The Domesday Settlements of Cornwall, a study undertaken by the Cornwall Branch of the Historical Association, has identified and located settlements listed in the Exeter and Exchequer Domesday Survey of AD 1086. The following places have been identified in Gwithian ecclesiastical parish: