St Keverne


The parish of St Keverne, (Cornish: Lannaghevran), is situated in the Deanery and Hundred of Kerrier; it is bounded on the north by Manaccan and St Anthony, on the east and south by the sea, and on the west by a detached part of Grade and by the parishes of Ruan Major and St Martins. The wild and spectacular coast of the parish of St Keverne is on the extreme southern coast of Cornwall. It is located on the Lizard Peninsular, and is on the south side of the Helford River. Geographically, it is the largest parish in Cornwall.

The parish is a coastal one, mainly agricultural but with quarrying activity which is still active in 2001. There are three inhabited fishing coves in the parish: Porthallow, Porthousetock and Coverack.

The church spire was (and still is) a landmark for shipping for much of its existence. The parish includes the notorious Manacle Rocks (deriving its name from the old Cornish "Maen Eglos" - or Church Rocks) which has claimed many a ship because the rocks are submerged at high tide. The most famous ship lost was the SS Mohegan which was wrecked on the Manacles in 1898 with the loss of 106 lives.

The parish is mentioned in the Domesday Survey of 1086, as follows: The Canons of St Achebran's hold ST KEVERNE, and held it before 1066. 11 acres of land. Land for 7 ploughs; 1 plough there. Pasture, 20 acres. 8 cattle; 30 sheep. When the Count received it, value 40s;value now 5s.. In 1497, the Cornish rebellion, led by Michael Joseph An-Gof and Thomas Flamank, started their march on London from St Keverne. The event is marked by an inscription on the Church wall and a statue of the pair in the village.

The Parish of St Keverne consists of the villages of St Keverne, Coverack, Porthallow, Porthoustock, and several hamlets including Traboe, Rosenithon, Ladden Vean, Tregowris and Ponsongath.

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)



  • Monumental Inscriptions.
  • War Memorials.
    • Inscriptions from the War memorial located in St Keverne Square are available on-line, courtesy of the St Keverne Local History Society. The Parish War memorial was opened on Wednesday 22 September 1920 by Col. Sir Courtnay Vyvyan and was followed by an open air service conducted by Bishop of Truro and Rev Ephraim Mortimer (Methodist minister at St Keverne) and Rev. W. Trembath.
    • War Memorial inscriptions for St Keverne parish (1914-1918 and 1939-1945 Wars) are also separately available on the Kerrier War Memorials website.


Census information for this parish (1841 - 1901) is held in the Cornwall Records Office. The Cornwall FHS offers a census search service for its members.
Specific census information for this parish is available as follows:


Church History

  • Anglican. The Anglican Church is the established church in England. There are two Anglican churches in St Keverne parish:
    • St Keverne Parish Church. The parish church is located in OS Grid Square SW7921 and was dedicated to St Keverne. The Church of St Keverne is extremely old. A Celtic monk by the name of St Kieran built a small wooden church on the site of the present church by about AD 600. Nothing is known about this saint who gave his name to this parish. The more permanent building which followed the original church survived the Saxon invasion, but was destroyed by the Normans some time before 1085. The church was dedicated to St Keveran (sic) in 1266.
      St Keverne was originally known as a Collegiate Church; it was a centre of learning, study and education. At this time, there would have been a small Celtic Monastic Community. The stones on the window ledges in the North Aisle are thought to have come from the ruins of the monastery. When the Celtic church was destroyed and the Normans put up their church in its place, the collegiate character of the church was lost, never to be regained. The new building became the Parish Church of what is now the largest parochial area in West Cornwall.
      The church comprises a chancel, nave, north and south aisles and a vestry. Traces of the original church can still be found in the present church building in the west end of the north wall. There, the north doorway and the small window beside it have rounded heads, which are typical of Norman architecture. The pillars of the Font appear to be workmanship of this same period and may have been used from some earlier building . The grey, green and rose coloured stone cannot be found locally; it may have been brought from Brittany.
      The Tower and Spire were built around 1450, but the Spire was destroyed by lightening 0n 28th February 1770, but was immediately rebuilt. The tower is of two stages is about 60 feet high, and is surmounted by an octagonal ribbed spire of about 38 feet. It originally had three bells. Eight bells were introduced in 1907, when the opening ceremony was performed by the then Lord Mayor of London - Sir William Treloar - a Cornishman. The clock tower was installed at the same time, and a further two bells were added in 2001 to commemorate the millennium.
      On the wall of the north aisle, there is a medieval mural painting which was uncovered during the Victorian restoration when whitewash was removed from the walls. This mural depicts St Christopher the patron Saint of Travellers. To the left of the Mural is a small lancet window (of Norman origin) depicting Christ as the Good Shepherd, while below it is a rounded head of the North doorway which also indicates Norman handiwork. To the right of the Mural painting is what is felt to be the most intriguing part of the present building. The three sets of what appears to be Rood Screen Stairs. The first set of stairs is lit by small lancet windows and may not be a rood stair at all. Quite likely it originally gave access to the aisle roof that may have constituted the first stage in the ascent of a central tower. The second doorway with stairs would mark where the Rood Screen originally was. The third set could mark where the rood screen was moved to in circa 1500, when a major re-design of the church took place.
      Behind the Altar is the Mohegan Memorial (stained-glass) Window, which was erected by the owners of the SS Mohegan after the ship was wrecked on the Manacles in 1898.
      The church was re-roofed in 1988.
    • St Peter's, Coverack. St Peter's church was built in the 19th century. It is set in a wonderful setting overlooking the sea. The building is of red brick and granite in the early English style. There are stained-glass windows on the east and west, the latter depicting St Peter with the crossed keys and St Keverne holding his staff. There was a partial rebuild and a major development of this church in 2009.
  • Non-Conformist. There were several non-conformist chapels in the parish:
    • A Wesleyan Methodist Chapel was built in St Keverne in 1839; it was rebuilt in 1908 and is still in use at the beginning of the 21st century.
    • Both Tregowris and Tregarne chapels were Wesleyan and had relatively short histories, especially Tregowris. It was opened in 1870, had a membership of 12 at the time of the Wesleyan Census in 1876 and by 1924 services had been discontinued as there was no congregation. In February of that year the building was in a bad state and no renewal of services was contemplated as the chapel was unfit for public worship. In February 1927 the building was sold. Tregarne chapel was opened in 1846 and had a membership of 13 at the time of the Wesleyan Census thirty years later. In 1912 repairs to the building were carried out and again in 1923 to the exterior. Mr Richards of Tregarne, a stalwart of the chapel, held some money from an effort to raise funds, with the rest coming from the St Keverne account. However, by 1926 the chapel was again in a bad state and had been closed for worship with no renewal of services planned. It was agreed to let the property revert to Mr.Lobb who took over the building a year later. There is also a Methodist Chapel at Ponsongath, which is still active.
    • The chapel at Porthoustock was the last one in the locality to be built by the Wesleyans. It opened in 1876 and had a membership of twenty according to the Wesleyan Census taken at the end of that year. From the outset, baptisms at Porthoustock were recorded in the register at St Keverne chapel and no marriages took place there. The last baptisms were in June 1961 when two children of William and Avice Etchells of Manchester were christened; the family had formerly lived at Porthoustock for a number of years. In 1909 Porthoustock chapel started to be used as a Mission Hall and Reading Room on weekday evenings and this continued until March 1915 but then ceased owing to the (First) War when many members had left the area and finances were in a sorry state. In the same year it was decided to have occasional Sunday evening services instead of the afternoons. The building underwent major repairs in 1914 and in 1927 notices were placed on the chapel protecting the ancient lights because building operations were anticipated by the occupiers of the adjoining property. Also in 1927 Mrs Cogar was asked to pay two shillings and sixpence per year in acknowledgment of her having use of the chapel. Stalwarts at Porthoustock for much of this period were Mr. and Mrs. Norman Tonkin and family. Mr Tonkin was the quarry manager at Porthoustock from about 1920; he became a local preacher in the same year and served as chapel steward for many years. In 1948 a wedding gift of five guineas, two from the St Keverne chapel account and three from the Porthoustock funds, was given to Miss Lilian Tonkin, the organist at Porthoustock, who had married at St Keverne chapel. As the congregation declined, it was decided to seek permission to close and sell the chapel in 1964 and the document was signed by Messrs Norman Tonkin, John Pearce and Edward Leggo. The trust accounts for the year ending 31 August 1966 closed with an income of £23 and 16 shillings which was paid into the St Keverne new Methodist Hall fund as was the £500 received in September 1966 for the sale of the chapel. The handful of members transferred to St Keverne.
    • Other chapels were at Porthallow (1899) and Zoar; neither now exist as such. The chapel at Porthallow is now a private house and the one at Zoar has been demolished.
    • There were once also a number of Non-conformist chapels in Coverack.

There is a website for the churches of the parish.


Church Records

Many of the parish records of St Keverne can be downloaded.

  • LDS Church Records.
    • The LDS Church batch numbers for St Keverne are: C053191/2, C022221/2. These are searchable by surname.
    • The IGI coverage of this parish is 1580 - 1875; it is NOT believed to be fully included in the LDS Church's International Genealogical Index (IGI).
  • The Cornwall Record Office holdings for this parish are: Baptisms 1581 - 1906, Burials 1605 - 1855, Marriages 1608 - 1887, Boyd's Marriage Index 1597 - 1812, Pallot's Marriage Index 1800 - 1812, BTs 1597 - 1673.
  • The Cornwall Family History Society have published on-line transcripts of:
    • Pre 1813 Marriages
    • 1813-37 Marriages
    • 1813-1837 Burials
  • Baptisms.
  • Banns. Banns 1887 to 1910 for this parish are available on-line through the OPC search Facility - (C-PROP).
  • Marriages.
  • Deaths. In addition to Mrs. Hunter, three other people died in the air raid on Coverack on 17 August 1942 and were buried there on 20 August. Details are on the Coverack War Memorial.
  • Burials.
    • St Keverne Parish Church.
    • St Peter's Church, Coverack. Burials 1885 to 1901 for this church are available on-line through the OPC search Facility - (C-PROP).
  • Other Non-Conformist Records. OPC Coverage of Non-Conformist records of this parish is available.

Civil Registration

The parish of St Keverne was originally in the Helston Registration District; there were sub-districts at Breage, Crowan, Helston, St Keverne and Wendron. It is now in the Kerrier Registration District. Parishes in this registration district are: Breage, Crowan, Cury, Germoe, Gunwalloe, Grade, Helston, Landewednack, Manaccan, Mawgan in Meneage, Mullion, Ruan Major, Ruan Minor, St. Anthony in Meneage, St. Keverne, St. Martin in Meneage, Sithney, Wendron.

The address of the Registration Office is: The Willows, Church Street, Helston, TR13 8NJ.
Tel: 01326 562848.


Court Records


Description & Travel

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




Emigration & Immigration



The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868

"ST. KEVERNE, a parish in the hundred of Kerrier, county Cornwall, 10 miles S.E. of Helston. This parish, which is of large extent, is situated on the shore of the English Channel, by which it is bounded on the E. and S., and opposite the Manacle rocks. It contains three small fishing coves or harbours, called Coverack, Porthonstock, and Porthalloe, or Pralla. At the first of these is a good pier, affording shelter to the small vessels engaged in the coasting trade and in the pilchard fishery. It was here that the Despatch was lost in 1809. The villagers are chiefly engaged in fishing and agriculture. A yellow clay is found here, much esteemed for castings in silver, brass, and lead. The prevailing rocks are serpentine, soapstone, shale, and magnesian limestone. The tithes have been commuted for a rent-charge of £512. The living is a vicarage* in the diocese of Exeter, value £383. The church belonged to Beaulieu Abbey, and was struck by lightning in 1770. It has a tower surmounted by a spire, and contains several interesting monuments, among which is one to the memory of Major-General Cavendish, Captain Dunkenfield, and 61 men of a regiment who perished in a storm off the coast in 1809. There are places of worship for Baptists, Bryanites, and Wesleyans, also a school with a small endowment. Charles Incledon, the celebrated singer, was a native. Fairs are held on the 5th March, 19th June, and 2nd October.

"THE MANACLES, a reef of granite rocks in the parish of St. Keverne, off the coast of Cornwall, They lie about 5½ miles to the S. of Falmouth Harbour, and have near them the sunken rocks of Penwin and Vaze.



  • 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 OPCs can be contacted by email.
    • The OPCs offer a look-up service of additional records.
  • There is a genealogical website for the parish.
  • The St Keverne Local History Society has a page of file downloads of genealogical information relating to the parish.
  • Family genealogies of three St Keverne families are available on-line as follows, courtesy of the St Keverne Local History Society:
    • GUY.
    • NOYE.

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 St Keverne ecclesiastical parish:


Land & Property

  • Information on Old Records, Deeds and Leases, etc., with reference to St Keverne, is available on-line, courtesy of the St Keverne Local History Society.




You can see maps centred on OS grid reference SW775206 (Lat/Lon: 50.043715, -5.109442), St Keverne which are provided by:


Military Records

The Muster Roll of 1569 for St Keverne, including Manaccan and St Martin-in-Meneage, is available on-line. The Cornwall Subsidies Lists in the reign of King Henry VIII in 1524 and 1543 lists all able-bodied men capable of bearing arms; this is also available on-line.


Names, Personal

  • One of the two OPCs has documented a biography of those who are remembered on the War Memorials at St Keverne and at Coverack. Where no details are available, the name is simply listed ,but for others there is considerable information much of which comes from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.


  • Some information on occupations followed in St Keverne parish is available on-line.
  • Apprenticeship Indentures for St Keverne 1770 - 1843 can be found in the Cornwall Record Office.

Poor Houses, Poor Law

  • St Keverne parish was part of the Helston Union for Poor Law administration and parish relief.
  • Overseers' Accounts (1761 to 1844), Settlement papers (1761 to 1858) and Bastardy Bonds (1748 - 1835), are available in the Cornwall Record Office.


  • Population in 1801 - 2104 persons
  • Population in 1811 - 2242 persons
  • Population in 1821 - 2505 persons
  • Population in 1831 - 2437 persons
  • Population in 1841 - 2469 persons
  • Population in 1851 - 2237 persons
  • Population in 1861 - 1892 persons
  • Population in 1871 - 1841 persons
  • Population in 1881 - 1812 persons
  • Population in 1891 - 1630 persons
  • Population in 1901 - 1675 persons
  • Population in 1911 - 1913 persons
  • Population in 1921 - 1745 persons
  • Population in 1931 - 1631 persons
  • Population in 1951 - 1709 persons
  • Population in 1961 - 1718 persons
  • Population in 1971 - 1802 persons
  • Population in 1981 - 1840 persons
  • Population in 1991 - 1855 persons
  • Population in 2001 - 2107 persons
  • Population in 2011 - 2147 persons

Postal & Shipping Guides

A descriptive account of the Postal Service 1832-1836, illustrating the isolation of St. Keverne before proper postal arrangements were established, is available on-line.


Religion & Religious Life

In the May of 1641 it was agreed and ordered that every Member of the House of Commons and House of Lords should make a protestation (declaration of loyalty) to the crown. The Protestation was printed and then distributed by the Members to their counties. The Protestation was to be made by everyone and the Rectors, Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor, had to appear before the Justices of the Peace in their Hundred to make their protestation and, on returning to their parishes, any two of them were to witness the taking of the Protestation Oath by all males over the age of 18 years. All names were listed and anyone who refused was to be noted.



The St Keverne Local History Society was founded in 1976 to enable people to meet others who share an interest in local history of St Keverne parish. The Society aims to increase knowledge of earlier times in the parish and the surrounding locality by research and the exchange of information. Activities include a programme of talks and visits
The Society is hoping to place on its website as many of the numerous documents, photographs and illustrations relating to the history of the parish as it possibly can. It hopes to cater for everyone interested in the parish history and the site will be useful to those tracing their family history as well as those with a more general interest in St Keverne.
The Society meets on the first Monday of alternate months during the Winter periods starting in October. Meetings are held in the Church Hall, St Keverne, at 7.30 pm. Contact the Secretary - Mr Don Houghton, Tel. (within the UK) 01326-280516. Email: history (at) st-keverne.com



The parish consists of 10299 acres of land and 201 acres of foreshore.



  • Hearth Tax. The Hearth Tax entries are available on-line from the St Keverne Local History Society.
  • Lay Subsidies. Lay Subsidies were the main tax laid on people prior to the English Civil War. Their records cover the period from, roughly, 1524 to the 1640's; they list, with varying degrees of fullness, the inhabitants of the area, with some gauge as to their wealth. The subsidies lists of 1524 and 1543 for St Keverne are available on-line, courtesy of the St Keverne Local History Society.

Town Records

An Index of 18th and 19th Century Documents relating to people and events in St Keverne, is available on-line. These relate to warrants, bastardy bonds, Apprentice Indenture bonds, Churwarden Expense books and Church repair accounts, leases, appointments of parish officials and more. Some of these records are increasingly available on-line, courtesy of the St Keverne Local History Society.