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The History of Ruan Lanihorne

Ruan Lanihorne was one of the ancient Lann’s.  These were early Christian settlements dating back to the 5th or 6th centuries.  However Lanihorne was not important enough for it to be recorded under its own name in the Doomsday Book.

The Church of St. Rumon

The church is dedicated to St.Rumon.  Like many Cornish Saints, St. Rumon’s origins are not documented with clarity, but indications are that he was a monk with connections to Glastonbury Abbey about the 800’s or some believe that he was an Irish Bishop.  He founded a church here as well as having connections with the Lizard area.  William of Malmesbury (1090-1143) tells us that Ordulphus Duke of Cornwall moved St.Rumon’s bones from Ruan to Tavistock Abbey (possibly in 961).  

The earliest recorded rector of the church was Sir William de Bodrygan in 1282, although there was probably some form of church prior to this and F Hitchens in his ‘History of Cornwall’ (1824) thought that an early church was built on the site in 936.  There is a small shield in the church that tells us that the church was built in 1321, however this was probably a consecration following a rebuild.  The east wall of the chancel can be observed to be of a different and heavier construction when compared to the surrounding structures, this may well date to the earlier church of 936.  The rest of the south aisle and part of the south transept date to the early 14th century.  By the middle of the 14th century with Lanihorne Castle in its full glory a larger church was needed.  The north aisle was added and at this time the north transept if one existed was removed.  Claims are recorded that the Tower once stood half as high again as its present height.  About 1658 the tower fell down during a terrible storm and caused major damage to the nave and south transept.  Richard Trestain, a local Gentleman Farmer paid for the rebuilding of this transept.  When he died a few years later in 1664 he was buried in the corner of this transept in a tomb covered with a carved stone showing a medieval monk.  This tomb probably once contained the remains of an early Lord of the Manor and it is thought that the carved stone monk was brought to the church from Glasney College at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536.

In 1866 the church was ‘renovated’.  The beam that had once supported the Rood Screen was removed and the spiral staircase that had led to the Rood Loft blocked and plastered over.  The roof was replaced and some of the carved roof timbers made into the present day Altar, Pulpit supports and a cover for the late Norman Font.

Methodist Chapel

Methodists met at one stage in the village of Ruan in a building close to the Coal Yard, this was followed by a meeting house close to Gonitor Farm Entrance.  Then in 1870 a new Chapel was opened at the cross roads close to Tregisswyn.  This chapel had the advantage that it was placed equidistant between Ruan Lanihorne, Ruan Highlanes and Treworga.  It has remained in use until recent years but has now closed and has been sold off to private ownership.

Lanihorne Castle

The Castle that once stood in the village was the home of the Lercedekne family.  The earliest connection between this family and Lanihorne is in the Inquisition taken at the death in 1303 of Thomas Lercedekne and lists the Manor of Lanihorne as one of his holdings.  The family held the Castle for a number of generations and gave service to the King in the wars against the Scots.  During these wars Thomas Lercedekne, the son of the above Thomas was killed at the Battle of Bannock Burn.  As the family rose through the ranks of society they also served in other capacities, such as, Sheriff of Cornwall, Knight of the Shire and Conservators of the Peace.  The last of the male line, Sir Warin Lercedekne died in 1400 and when his wife died in 1406 the lands were split and passed to the daughters.  The castle was now unoccupied and in the control of absentee landlords.  The original settlement / village of this manor was called Sheepstall and appears to have been situated about half way between the castle and Tregony.  At some stage Sheepstall became a Lepper Colony and possibly about the same time the centre of population moved to the vicinity of  Lanihorne Castle.  By 1540 it was recorded that the Castle was decaying for lack of care.  It had once been a magnificent structure with seven towers and about 50 feet in height.  As late as 1700 six of these towers were still standing.  However Whitaker the rector of the church from 1777 till 1808, tells us that the last of the towers was pulled down by Mr. Grant (a previous rector), in 1718  and the stone used to build houses.

 Agriculture and other Industry

The majority of the land in the parish was used for farming, both arable and mixed.  Many of the farmers leased a group of fields in two or more locations over the parish.  There were a number of areas of woodland, the largest being between Ruan and Tregony.  One of these, The Glebe Woods contained a quarry that provided stone for the Castle and later on stone for building Hydes Quay, the causeway road along the foreshore to Sett Bridge and Sett Bridge, itself.  At one stage in the early 1900’s a villager made bricks on a small plot of land near Sett Bridge.  Prior to this from 1891 there had been a Brick Works at Trelonk of a much larger size with cargoes of bricks and items of similar nature being shipped away by sea and river barge.  These bricks are still sometimes seen in the area with the name Trelonk embossed in the frog recess on the top.

Port and River

Ruan Creek was originally a deep water creek but Tin Streaming and later on China Clay workings further up river, slowly silted up the River Fal and at some time, when Tregony ceased to be workable as a port, the vessels started to land their cargo at Ruan Lanihorne.  A small ‘town’, sometimes referred to as Ruan Churchtown, was built and ships of 80 or 100 tons together with barges used to come up and supply the area with coal, timber and other goods.  In 1796 Francis Gregor of Trewarthenick, the then Lord of the Manor granted a lease to a group of businessmen for an area of waste land that had formed part of the castle.  This was to become the Coal Yard and by this same lease he also granted a licence to build quays in front of the Coal Yard.  Examination of early photographs of the village, show a variety of goods in the Coal Yard, it certainly was not restricted to just coal.  One building bordering the yard was the Malt house and a short distance east along the foreshore was a Carpenters Workshop and at another short distance, was a Lime Kiln.  Other buildings were the Poorhouse, School, Smithy, Mill, Public House, Stables and Shops together with the Church, Glebe and obviously domestic housing. 

Above the Carpenter’s workshop was a room where the newspapers were placed and could be read.  As years passed and this room, together with other parts of this building was purchased, and given to the parish, the name Reading Room continued in use.  It has been used for film shows, other forms of entertainment, meetings and any other purpose that the parish requires of it.

A local Boatman, Solly Blamey operated a twice weekly ferry to Truro and back.  In his latter years he used ‘Amy’, a steam launch for this service, but previously he is reputed to have rowed.  If you could not spare the time to go to Truro then for a fee, he would do what ever errands that you required there. 

Another quay was constructed in the late 1800’s close to the main channel of the River Fal and is known as Hyde’s Quay.  This quay was in use until the Second World War and now in recent years has been resurfaced with stone as a Millennium Project.

Silting continued over the years and the village is now only accessible at high tides by small boats and canoes.  The resulting salt marsh and mud flats has however created a beautiful wildlife reserve. 

By Carol Hughes


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