No one knows when the very first holy building was placed in this spot. Archaeologists working during the 1990s restoration found the remains of a Norman tower but the near circular enclosure of the ancient churchyard (as indicated by the prefix “lan” in Lanlivery) suggests that it was an important site even in pre- Christian times. Although today the patron saint is St. Brevita, there is no mention of him or perhaps her, in earlier histories, which instead define the parish as named after the almost unknown St. Vorck, hence the derivation of Lanlivery as Lan-le-Vorck – St. Vorck’s holy place, softened by usage into the modern name.
As far back as 1162, Lanlivery Church was mentioned in a document and again in 1281, but it seems that the present church, built in the 15th century, stands on the site of this earlier Christian church, the mother church of Luxulyan and Lostwithiel Chapels. In 1291, when it was under the auspices of St Andrews Priory of Tywardreath, it was valued at just under £10! According to the Priory’s calendar, the earliest vicar of Lanlivery was John Tyly, in 1486.
The present church has one of the finest granite towers in Cornwall. Built in the mid 17th century, it houses an excellent peal of eight bells; the largest, the tenor, weighs 17 hundredweights. It is also one of the highest, at almost 100 feet, making it visible for some distance along the Ridgeway route south towards Fowey and it is reputed that in earlier times its southern face was whitened with lime-wash to act as a landmark for sailing ships entering Fowey harbour.
A huge, painted wooden plaque in the bell tower bears a message of thanks from Charles the First to the parishioners of Lanlivery for their support during the Civil War and a recent visitors’ book bears the signature of the present Prince Charles. The large number of memorials to the Kendalls shows the close connection between Lanlivery Church and this once important local family. The most recent plaques commemorate the 1993 restoration. One of these was placed over an ancient aperture discovered during restoration work and which now houses a time capsule filled by the children of the village.
RESTORED TO FORMER GLORY
Our beautiful church survived but time and the elements did their worst over the ages, so that by the late eighties wind and rain blew in; green algae stained the walls and the roof was falling down. Drastic, immediate and impossibly expensive action had to be taken, but how? So it was, that the whole community banded together in 1989 to raise the £350,000 needed to save the crumbling building – a seemingly daunting task. However, thanks to English Heritage, the largest grant ever awarded to restore a church in England was awarded to ours. Fired by this, everyone worked to raise the £174,220 still needed – £400 for every person in the parish! In 1993 restoration was finished, without one service being lost. In the words of Bishop Michael at the time, “The easy part is over. Now the hard work begins”.
Since the major restoration we have been able to install a heating system and have recently completed a project to level the floor and remove some of the pews so that the village school and other community organisations will be able to make better use of our lovely building. Take a look at the photographs on our gallery page to get an idea of how versatile the building now is.
The Lanlivery pages from Lakes Parochial History can be found here