St Nectan's Chapel

St Nectan's or St Nighton at St Winnow stands proud in its field. Research reveals that it had a fascinating history. Dedicated to St Nectan eldest son of King Brychan, he arrived in Cornwall from Wales during the fifth century. He later became an important figure in the kingdom of Dumnonia, now Devon and Cornwall. He was beheaded for his beliefs in the 7th Century. No one know exactly when the chapel was built but what is certain is that early mention of the chapel comes in documents dated 1250 as a daughter church of St Winnow, when it had a glebe attached to it.


The Cornish Guardian of September 1905 records that in a survey carried out in Ad 1281, St Nectan's possessed a silver chalice vestments two blest towels one unblest a font a good bell. Presumably it had all been recovered as it was stated they were all stolen by three people in the autumn of 1279! In the early fourteenth century a monthly mass was said at St Nectan's as people were by all accounts unwilling to attend services at St Winnow. the building was remodelled in the fifteenth century when there were some 15 acres of glebe land attached.


 In 1613 a report recorded that the fabric of the building had fallen into decay. The vicar, too seemingly was neglectful; apparently no services were held on Sunday or any other holy day for over 6 months, and worst of all no celebration of Easter communion had been made at St Nectan's. The disagreement's within the parish seem to have rumbled on and in 1628 the Bishop of Exeter intervened and ruled that one part of St Winnow parish should attend St Nectan's in the mornings an d the other part in the afternoons. this arrangement seems to have gone some way in placating the situation as, according to Canon Miles Brown, the arrangement continued for around 100 years.


At the height of the civil war around Boconnoc and Lostwithiel in August 1644, St Nectan's was severely damaged: the tower was knocked down and the bells removed, the chapel was slighted and seemingly stood in a ruinous state of limbo until the late 1700s. Around this time the tower was capped and the building was in regular use until the later years of the eighteenth century. In 1825 St. Nectan's was enlarged by 120 sittings at a cost of £418 11s to hopefully accommodate the extra worshippers which would attend services from among the miners working at the nearby silver vein mine: sadly this upsurge in congregation never materialised. Again, in 1864 the then vicar of St Winnow , Reverend Robert Walker, was instrumental in having a nave built as well as a north isle, new roof supports, raised gallery and pews installed along with a number of new sittings being added, with monetary help from the Society for Promoting the Building of Church and Chapels.


Over the decades, support for St Nectan's waxed and waned. this was particularly noticeable during the years of the Second world War. it remained in regular use until 1947, being afterwards only used for an annual Remembrance Sunday service. in 1962 the chapel became derelict and the fabric of the building was examined and its future deemed uncertain.


After lengthy discussions within the parish it was decided that the Sunday school and old stables be demolished and the remainder of St. Nectan's saved. Eventually, in 1971 St Nectan's was again opened for worship. inside are brass memorial tablets to remember the sisters who ran St. Faith's Girl's Home, brought to St. Nectan's when the home closed in 1950. Also remembered is Sister Susan McLean, who was for many years a teacher at St. Nectan's Sunday School and also a teacher at St. Winnow day school.

Sometime ago, St. Nectan's was the subject of a wildlife survey; surprisingly perhaps there are over sixty trees, shrubs, wild flowers and ferns growing in the churchyard. One of the original church pinnacles is today doing service as part of the style leading from the roadway into the churchyard.


From Exploring the River Fowey by John Neal (Amberley Publishing)


This small, isolated and very peaceful chapel is open throughout the year to visitors. During the Summer months [May - September] there is a monthly Evensong on the 4th Sunday of the month at 6.30pm and we also hold a Dawn Eucharist on Easter morning which is extremely well attended.

The main Sunday Services are held at St Winnow Parish Church.