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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Mines that were important in the past have now been replaced by tourism and agriculture.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.


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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. The Cornwall Family History Society have also published on-line census detail by surname on the FamilyHistoryonLine site.

Specific census information for this parish is available as follows:

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Church History

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Church Records

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Civil Registration

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.

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Description & Travel

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Historical Geography

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:

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Land & Property

Landholders in Gwithian in 1522 are listed on-line.

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Law and Legislation

Some depositions taken on persons resident in Gwithian are available on-line.

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Poorhouses, Poor Law, etc.

Gwithian parish was part of the Redruth Union for Poor Law administration and parish relief.

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The civil parishes of Gwinear and Gwithian united to form 'Gwinear - Gwithian' in 1934. However, population figures were combined from 1901 for the joint Gwinear-Gwithian civil parish.

  • Population in 1801 - 329 persons
  • Population in 1811 - 372 persons
  • Population in 1821 - 412 persons
  • Population in 1831 - 539 persons
  • Population in 1841 - 625 persons
  • Population in 1851 - 629 persons
  • Population in 1861 - 774 persons
  • Population in 1871 - 691 persons
  • Population in 1881 - 614 persons
  • Population in 1891 - 2197 persons
  • Population in 1901 - 2123 persons
  • Population in 1911 - 2068 persons
  • Population in 1921 - 1956 persons
  • Population in 1931 - 1868 persons
  • Population in 1951 - 1869 persons (Gwinnear-Gwithian)
  • Population in 1961 - 1693 persons (Gwinnear-Gwithian)
  • Population in 1971 - 1701 persons (Gwinnear-Gwithian)
  • Population in 1981 - 2255 persons (Gwinnear-Gwithian)
  • Population in 1991 - 2815 persons (Gwinnear-Gwithian)
  • Population in 2001 - 3032 persons (Gwinnear-Gwithian)
  • Population in 2011 - 3177 persons (Gwinnear-Gwithian)

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Probate Records

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Religion & Religious Life

The Protestation Returns of 1642 for Gwithian are available on-line.

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The parish comprises 2420 acres of land.

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The Hearth Tax entries for Gwithian (1660-1664) are available on-line.

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