St John


The parish of St John, (Cornish: Sen Jowann), is situated in the Deanery and Hundred of East. It is bounded on the north and west by the parish of Antony, on the east by Maker and Rame, on the south by the sea. Named after St John the Baptist, this parish is in the far south-east of Cornwall separated from Plymouth by a narrow stretch of water. Antony parish is on its northern boundary and Rame parish is to the south. There has been a settlement in this vicinity since pre-historic times. The high ground called Vanderbands, at the junction of St. John's and Penhale Lakes, was the site of an Iron Age castle.

Nordens Description of Cornwall 1728 makes reference to an Iron Age Castle at Vanderbands and gives some more interesting details of this area. The earliest that is known of people living in the vicinity of St. John is the Iron Age which dates from the 5th century BC to the arrival of the Romans in 43 AD. There was an Iron Age Castle on the high ground on the coast between St. John and Penhale lakes. Another more obvious one, was on Rame Head. In fact the Romans were slow to advance Westwards from their landings and probably never disturbed the inhabitants of the Castle and its immediate surroundings. The Iron Age people, Celts, cultivated land below their Castles and it is interesting to note that the larger scale Ordnance Survey maps name the ground to the East of Gooseford, 'Vanderbands', possibly indicating a memory of its earlier ancient inhabitants. The pattern of the fields thereabouts also suggests Iron Age inhabitants. Its long, narrow hedged fields are typical of the farms of that time.

The Saxons eventually succeeded the Romans and in the early 800's invaded Devon and Cornwall. They divided the land into Estates and Manors. The Saxon line of Kings ended in 978 and the Danes invaded and seized most of England. One of their raids was up the Tamar to Lydford and Tavistock and as a defence against further raids the Saxons held the Cornish side of the Tamar and Hamoaze as far as the St. John Parish Boundary. As part of Devon, travellers arriving at Cremyl to journey into Cornwall did not reach Cornwall until they arrived in St. John, hence the name 'St. John-in-Cornwall'.

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)



The Cornwall Family History Society have published on-line Monumental Inscriptions for the Parish Church - 444 entries. Some photographs of gravestones are on-line.



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:

  • 1841.
    • The 1841 Census of St John (HO107/135), Enumeration District 10, is available on-line from the Cornwall Online Census project.
    • The 1841 Census has also been filmed by the LDS church - film No. 241259.
  • 1851.
    • The 1851 Census of St John (HO107/1900), Enumeration District 4a, is available on-line from the Cornwall Online Census project.
    • The New Zealand Society of Genealogists have compiled separate surname indexes of the 1851 Census for each Cornish registration district; St John is listed in Volume 8. 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.
  • 1861. The 1861 Census of St John (RG9/1522), Enumeration District 6a, is available on-line from the Cornwall Online Census project.
  • 1871. The 1871 Census of St John (RG10/2228), Enumeration District 6 [including Barracks], is available on-line from the Cornwall Online Census project.
  • 1881. The 1881 Census of St John (RG11/2280), Enumeration District 6 [including Schools], is available on-line from the Cornwall Online Census project.
  • 1891. The 1891 Census of St John (RG12/1806), Enumeration District 6, is available on-line from the Cornwall Online Census project.

Church History

  • Anglican. The parish church is located in OS Grid Square SX4053 and was dedicated to St John. The Church was at various times dedicated to St. John the Evangelist and St. John the Baptist but at some time after 1912 the dedication was changed to St. John the Baptist, to whose dedication the church remains.
    The Parish of St. John-in-Cornwall is so called since when the County of Devon included much of the Rame Peninsula, St. John was on the Cornish border.
    A Church certainly existed here in 1080, if not earlier, for it is recorded that Abbot Geoffrey of Tavistock (1082-88) gave up his Cornish Manors to the Knight of Erbenald, he reserved the ownership of the Churches of Antony, Sheviock and St. John-in-Cornwall. In 931 a Diocese of Cornwall was created with the Bishop's See at St. Germans. The parish system was reorganised and the boundaries firmly defined at this time. Probably those of St. John were also fixed then. About 1040 Cornwall lost its Bishop and St. Germans, its Cathedral status. The Diocese was combined with that of Devon under the Bishop of Crediton. Ten years later the See was moved to Exeter. It was to be another 800 years before Cornwall had its own Diocese again, that of Truro. The original Church appears to have been rebuilt about 1150. In 1155-60, the Abbot handed over the endowments of the three Churches he retained 'in farm' (long lease) to the Dean of Petherwin and possibly St. John's Church was rebuilt at this time.
    The present Church has a Norman Tower dating back to c. 12 century. Until 1866 it had a west door, now blocked off, and arch of the early English shape. There is a fairly complete list of Rectors, from 1270, on the West wall of the Tower. There are three bells hung in the tower: the oldest, the Treble, being pre-reformation; one of about only 50 in Cornwall. The Treble, having a wooden frame, is from the Exeter foundry, dating from c. 1450-1500 and is inscribed sante ora pro nobis. The second, cast in 1682, is by Christopher Pennington. The Tenor is by two other Penningtons named, Christopher and was cast in 1743. The ancient bellframe is probably 16th century, perhaps dating from just before the reformation, and is massively built of oak. The Nave and Chancel, with perhaps the exception of the north wall, appear to have been rebuilt in about the early part of 14th century. There is a brief reference to this in the Churchwardens' accounts in 1749. The simple nave and chancel with West Bell tower occurs in a number of churches erected under the influence of the Norman manorial Lords and the Church at St. John may owe its shape to this. The nave and chancel appear to have been rebuilt a number of times possibly starting about 1150 when the Abbot leased the three churches to the Dean of Petherwin. The Churchwardens' Accounts of 1749/50 indicate the taking down and rebuilding of the nave and chancel and there was further restoration of the pews, roof and other internal fittings were carried out in 1868. The church is now united with Millbrook and is known as the 'United Benefice of St. John with Millbrook'.
  • Non-Conformist. In the village of St Johns was a Wesleyan Methodist chapel.

Church Records

  • LDS Church Records.
    • The LDS Church batch numbers for St John are: P021941. These are searchable by surname.
    • The IGI coverage of the parish is 1675 - 1772.
  • The Cornwall Record Office holdings: Baptisms 1582 - 1970, Burials 1621 - 1980, Marriages 1621 - 1978, Boyd's Marriage Index 1611 - 1673, BTs 1611 - 1673.
  • The Cornwall Family History Society have published on-line transcripts of:
    • 1813-37 Marriages
    • 1813-37 Burials in the parish
  • Baptisms:
    • Baptisms 1652 to 1796, 1677 to 1805 (Bishop's transcripts), and 1799 to 1911 for this parish are available on-line through the OPC search Facility - (C-PROP).
    • The Cornish Forefathers' Society have published on CD, baptisms 1699 to 1860 for this parish which can be purchased on Parish Chest.
  • Banns. Banns 1757 to 1861 for this parish are available on-line through the OPC search Facility - (C-PROP).
  • Marriages:
    • Marriage transcripts 1655 to 1811, 1837 to 1907, and 1677 to 1772 (Bishop's transcripts), for this parish are available on-line through the OPC search Facility - (C-PROP).
    • The Cornwall Family History Society have published transcripts of: Parish Marriages 1612 to 1837, which is available in Book, CD or downloadable .pdf file formats.
  • Burials:
    • Burial transcripts 1652 to 1796, 1800 to 1911, and 1677 to 1805 (Bishop's transcripts, for this parish are available on-line through the OPC search Facility - (C-PROP).
    • The Cornwall Family History Society have published transcripts of: Parish Burials 1813 to 1837, which is available in Book format.

Civil Registration

The parish of St John is in the St Germans Registration District, and has been since 1st July 1837; there were sub-districts at Antony, St Germans and Saltash but they have now been abolished. Parishes within the district were: Antony, Botusfleming, Landrake, Landulph, Maker, Millbrook, Pillaton, Quethiock, Rame, St. Erney, St. Germans, St. John's, St. Mellion, St. Stephen's, Saltash, Sheviock, Torpoint.

The Superintendant Registrar of St Germans can be contacted at: Ploughastel Drive, Saltash, Cornwall, PL12 6DL. Tel: 01752 842624.


Description and Travel

    You can see pictures of St John which are provided by:





    • OPC Assistance. The On-line Parish Clerk (OPC) scheme operates a service to help family historians; the OPC page for this parish is available on-line, from where the OPC can be contacted by email.

    Historical Geography

    You can see the administrative areas in which St John has been placed at times in the past. Select one to see a link to a map of that particular area.



    You can see maps centred on OS grid reference SX408524 (Lat/Lon: 50.350183, -4.239489), St John which are provided by:



    Apprenticeship Indentures for St John (1816) can be found in the Cornwall Record Office.


    Poor Houses, Poor Law, etc.

    St John parish was part of the St Germans Union for Poor Law administration and parish relief.



    • Population in 1801 - 110 persons
    • Population in 1811 - 143 persons
    • Population in 1821 - 178 persons
    • Population in 1831 - 150 persons
    • Population in 1841 - 149 persons
    • Population in 1851 - 155 persons
    • Population in 1861 - 213 persons
    • Population in 1871 - 202 persons
    • Population in 1881 - 185 persons
    • Population in 1891 - 194 persons
    • Population in 1901 - 201 persons
    • Population in 1911 - 175 persons
    • Population in 1921 - 175 persons
    • Population in 1931 - 168 persons
    • Population in 1951 - 298 persons
    • Population in 1961 - 207 persons
    • Population in 1971 - 0 persons
    • Population in 1981 - 235 persons
    • Population in 1991 - 322 persons
    • Population in 2001 - 375 persons
    • Population in 2011 - 391 persons


    The Rame Peninsula History Group was formed at its inaugural meeting on 30 January 2003. Its aim is to research, record and promote interest in the heritage of the Rame Peninsula.



    The parish comprises 733 acres of land.