St Swithin, Launcells, Cornwall

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Feature Sets (2)


The church is of standard Cornish aisled type, a S arcade of polyphant and a slightly late N arcade of granite. Nothing remains from the Romanesque church except the font.


In the Domesday Book Launcells is written Landseu in error for Landsell, probably Lancellys - the church of Cellys - indicating the presence of a Celtic monastery on the site and perhaps the same name as Lansallos. Although secularized in the Conquest, by 1261 it was appropriated to the Abbey of Hartland in Devon, which received the great tithe of the parish at Forrabury. As it did at Launcells, this abbey possibly began to gain influence in the Norman period; and Matilda of Launcell granted all her wood in Launcell manor to Hugo, abbot of Hartland, in King John's reign (1199-1216). In 1382, a dispute between the vicar and the abbey, concerning who should pay to repair or rebuild the old chancel, was settled by the Bishop of Exeter.





In the SW corner of the S aisle this is planted, a cup-shaped monolith.
The bowl is slightly oval rather than circular.

A double band 7.5 cm wide, the two twists being in opposite directions, runs around the upper part of the bowl; the top of which is damaged on the S side by former lid-fixing irons, removing about 15 cm of the cable ornament. One old fixing pin is still in position on the N side, and operational, the font cover being late Jacobean. As with many fonts a step 4 cm wide and 1 cm deep is recessed around the edge of the basin to take an earlier flat cover. The stem is circular and tapers a little towards the top. The base is worn, uneven and lopsided, requiring cement wedging to level it up on the modern cement plinth.

Depth of basin 0.22 m
Height of bowl 0.37 m
Height of font 0.76 m
Height of stem 0.18 m
Length of top of basin (E-W) 0.51 m
Length top of bowl (E-W) 0.68
Width top of basin (N-S) 0.45 m
Width top of bowl ( N-S ) 0.63


In Sedding's day the font stood adjacent to a pier of the N arcade, and was nearly enclosed by old woodwork. Henderson considered it to be one of the earliest Norman examples, "probably fashioned by Saxon masons"; it could also be seen as very rustic version of the font at St Stephen's by Launceston. Date: last quarter 11thc.


  • P. Beacham and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Cornwall (New Haven and London 2014), pp. 283-84.

  • C. Henderson, The Cornish Church Guide (London 1925), p. 112.

  • A Complete Parochial History of the County of Cornwall, vol. III (Truro and London 1870), pp. 60-61.

  • N. Pevsner and E. Radcliffe, The Buildings of England: Cornwall, 2nd ed (Harmondsworth 1970), p. 95.

  • E. H. Sedding, Norman Architecture in Cornwall: A Handbook to old Cornish ecclesiastical architecture with notes on ancient manor houses (London and Truro 1909), pp. 210-11.

Exterior, from NE.
Exterior, from NE.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SS 243 057 
now: Cornwall
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Cornwall
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Cornwall
now: Truro
medieval: Exeter
now: St Swithin
medieval: St Andrew
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Richard Jewell 
Visit Date
16 May 1992