The village of St Buryan is a beautiful place. I first moved here in 2010 and Cassandra introduced me to local residents in the St Buryan Inn which she referred to as “her office”. She conversed with some who required her services. I met other local residents who do not frequent the pub at village events and occasional church services conducted by our wonderful Reverend Canon Vanda Perret. Cassandra and I often visit the Rectory for a cup of tea and a ‘catch up’ with Vanda and Bob.
Here is video footage of one of many evenings we spend in the St Buryan Inn listening to the Cape Cornwall Singers. Many middle aged adults Cassandra remembers as small children who now have children and grandchildren of their own. It is heartwarming to see the pub full of local residents enjoying themselves.
I am in this video (wearing a white shirt) joining in with the singing and Cassandra usually does the same but on this occasion she stood on a chair with the video camera.
The published information about our village is fascinating:
“The village of St Buryan is situated approximately five miles (8 km) from Penzance along the B3283 towards Lands End. Three further minor roads also meet at St Buryan, two link the village with the B3345 towards Lamorna and the third rejoins the A30 at Crows-an-Wra.
St Buryan parish encompasses the villages of St. Buryan, Lamorna, and Crows-an-wra and shares boundaries with the parishes of Sancreed and St Just to the north, Sennen and St Levan (with which it has close ties) to the west, with Paul to the east and by the sea in the south. An electoral parish also exists stretching from Land’s End to the North Cornish Coast but avoiding St Just. The population of this ward at the 2011 census was 4,589.
Named after the Irish Saint Buriana, the parish is situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty and is a popular tourist destination. It has been a designated conservation area since 1990 and is near many sites of special scientific interest in the surrounding area.
The parish is dotted with evidence of Neolithic activity, from stone circles and Celtic crosses to burial chambers and ancient holy wells. The village of St Buryan itself is also a site of special historic interest, and contains many listed buildings including the famous grade I listed Church. The bells of St Buryan Church, which have recently undergone extensive renovation, are the heaviest full circle peal of six anywhere in the world. The parish also has a strong cultural heritage.
Many painters of the Newlyn School including Samuel John “Lamorna” Birch were based at Lamorna in the south of the parish. St Buryan Village Hall was also the former location of Pipers Folk Club, created in the late 1960s by celebrated Cornish singer Brenda Wootton. Today St Buryan is a prominent local centre housing many important amenities.
The area surrounding St Buryan was in use by humans in Neolithic times, as is evident from their surviving monuments. A mile (1.6 km) to the north of St Buryan lies Boscawen-Un, a neolithic stone circle containing 19 stones around a leaning central pillar. The circle is also associated with two nearby standing stones or menhirs. Although somewhat overgrown, the site can be reached by travelling along the A30 west of Drift and is only a few hundred metres south of the road. A more accessible stone circle, The Merry Maidens, lies 2 miles (3 km) to the south of the village in a field along the B3315 toward Land’s End. This much larger circle comprises nineteen granite megaliths some as much as 1.4 metres (4 ft 7 in) tall, is approximately 24 metres (79 ft) in diameter and is thought to be complete. Stones are regularly spaced around the circle with a gap or entrance at its eastern edge. The Merry Maidens are also called Dawn’s Men, which is likely to be a corruption of the Cornish Dans Maen, or Stone Dance. The local myth about the creation of the stones suggests that nineteen maidens were turned into stone as punishment for dancing on a Sunday. The pipers’ two megaliths some distance north-east of the circle are said to be the petrified remains of the musicians who played for the dancers. This legend was likely initiated by the early Christian Church to prevent old pagan habits continuing at the site.
Like Stonehenge and other stone monuments built during this period the original purpose of such stone circles is unknown, although there is strong evidence that they may have been ceremonial or religious sites. Many other lone standing stones from the neolithic period can be seen around the parish, at sites including Pridden, Trelew, Chyangwens and Trevorgans. In addition to menhirs there are 12 stone crosses within the parish, including two fine examples in St Buryan itself, one in the churchyard, and the other in the centre of the village. These take the form of a standing stone, sometimes carved into a Celtic cross but more often left roughly circular with a carved figure on the face. It is thought that many of these are pagan in origin, dating from the Neolithic and later periods, but were adapted by the early Christian church to remove evidence of the previous religion. These crosses are often remote and mark/protect ancient crossing points. Other examples in the parish can be found at Crows-an-Wra, Trevorgans and Vellansaga.
After a period of decline during the twentieth century, which saw a reduction in the village’s population, culminating in the loss of a blacksmiths, the local dairy, the village butchers and a café in the early nineties, St Buryan has been enjoying a renaissance, fuelled in part by an influx of new families. The local school has been expanded to include a hall and a fourth classroom and a new community centre has recently been built nearby.
In common with other settlements in the district such as Newlyn and Penzance, the post-war period saw the building of a council estate to the west of the village on land formerly part of Parcancady farm. The development was meant to provide affordable housing at a time of short supply in the post-war years. The estate subsequently expanded westward in the nineteen eighties and nineties. In the last census return, St Buryan parish was reported as containing contains 533 dwellings housing 1,215 people, 1,030 of which were living in the village itself.
A church has stood on the current site since ca. 930 AD, built by King Athelstan in thanks for his successful conquest of Cornwall on the site of the oratory of Saint Buriana (probably founded in the 6th century). The Charter from Athelstan endowed the building of collegiate buildings and the establishment of one of the earliest monasteries in Cornwall, and was subsequently enlarged and rededicated to the saint in 1238 by Bishop William Briwere. The collegiate establishment consisted of a dean and three prebendaries. Owing to the nature of the original Charter from King Athelstan, the parish of St Buryan was long regarded as a Royal Peculiar thus falling directly under the jurisdiction of the British monarch as a separate diocese, rather than the Church. This led to several hundred years of arguments between The Crown and the Bishop of Exeter over control of the parish, which came to a head in 1327 when blood was shed in the churchyard, and in 1328 St Buryan was excommunicated by the Bishop. St Buryan was not reinstated until 1336. Only two of the King’s appointed Deans appear to have actually lived in the diocese of St Buryan for more than a few months, and the combination of these factors led to the subsequent ruinous state of the church in 1473. The church was subsequently rebuilt and enlarged, the tower was added in 1501 and further expansion took place in the late 15th and 16th centuries when the bulk of the present church building were added. Further restoration of the interior took place in 1814, and the present Lady Chapel was erected in 1956. The church is currently classified as a Grade I listed building. The Deanery was annexed in 1663 to the Bishopric of Exeter after the English Civil War, however, it was again severed during the episcopacy of Bishop Harris , who thus became the first truly independent dean. The current diocese holds jurisdiction over the parishes of St Buryan, St Levan, and Sennen. St Buryan church is famous for having the heaviest peal of six bells in the world, and a recent campaign to restore the church’s bells, which had fallen into disuse, has enabled all six to be rung properly for the first time in decades. The church has four 15th century misericords, two either side of the chancel, each of which shows a plain shield.
Like much of the rest of Cornwall, St Buryan has many strong cultural traditions. The first Cornish Gorsedd (Gorseth Kernow) in over one thousand years was held in the parish in the stone circle at Boscawen-Un on 21 September 1928. The procession, guided by the bards of the Welsh Gorsedd and with speeches mostly in Cornish was aimed at promoting Cornish culture and literature. The modern Gorsedd has subsequently been held nine times in the parish including on the fiftieth anniversary, both at Boscawen-Un and at The Merry Maidens stone circle. There is also a regular Eisteddfod held in the village.
St Buryan is the home of a wise woman, Cassandra Latham. In 1996 Cassandra Latham (now Cassandra Latham -Jones) was appointed as the first-ever Pagan contact for hospital patients. Within one year she was having so many requests for her services that she became a self-employed “witch” and was no longer financially supported by the government.
The feast of St Buriana is celebrated on the Sunday nearest to 13 May (although the saint’s official day is 1 May) consisting of fancy dress and competitions for the children of the village and usually other entertainments later in the evening. In the summer there are also several other festivals, including the agricultural preservation rally in which vintage tractor, farm equipment, rare breed animals and threshing demonstrations are shown as well as some vintage cars and traction engines. This is currently being hosted at Trevorgans Farm and is traditionally held on the last Saturday of July.
St Buryan is twinned with Calan in Morbihan, Brittany.“