What is a Parish?

A parish consists of an area of land under the Church of England's establishment and it only ever has one parish church. In Gwennap's case this is St Wennapa’s Parish Church in Gwennap Churchtown. Each parish had a church situated in a 'Churchtown', which is sometimes no more than a farm and a pub. The whole parish is named for that church town and historically some grew into villages and market towns; in others the town grew some distance away, leaving the church in splendid isolation. Later there were also  to be “Daughter” &  “Mission” churches, or “Chapels of Ease”, created to enable congregations in large parishes to attend a regular service when the distances were great and travel difficult. Curates were usually employed by the Vicar or Rector of a parish to perform the services at these minor places of worship.

Chapel of Ease St Day 

 A grand “Chapel of Ease” was built at St Day village in 1830. It was created to accommodate the fast growing population of the once tiny villages of St Day & Carharrack during the great mining boom. Only baptisms could take place here as well as the occasional church service on "Feast Days”. In 1835 St Day was made a parish in its own rite when as well as baptisms it could also perform the services of marriage and burial.

Chacewater parish was created in 1828 from parts of Kenwyn & Kea. Gwennap parishioners now living just on the boarder of the northern sector of Gwennap Parish but closer to the new Chacewater parish then took their children there to be baptised. When St Day “Chapel of Ease” opened for baptisms many in the same area, but now living within the new St Day Parish, reverted to using its facilities. This might explain the scattered locations of baptisms of children within the same family group who had probably never moved their household at all, at least no great distance. Lanner parish was formed c1845 from the southern part of Gwennap to serve the village of Lanner.  Carharrack parish was created much later in 1985.

None of the records for these diverse fractions of Gwennap parish are on the Gwennap OPC website as, strictly speaking, they are not of our parish.  People living in these villages prior to their creation as a separate parish are included in the Gwennap records of that date. We have few church records after 1837 when civil records began. As far as I know Gwennap records after this date have never been filmed so it would mean transcribing from the original parish books lodged at Cornwall Records Office at Truro. This is beyond our capabilities at present. However, some of  St Day and Lanner records have recently been transcribed onto the OPC central data base.

Gwennap parish originally covered a very large and widespread area that was sparsely populated. It only had the one parish church in Gwennap Churchtown. As the mining villages grew larger many of its residents were drawn to the new non-conformist faiths and worshipped at the various chapels that had recently been built in the district. They did not think it strange to attend both these and a church service on Sunday. Some even had their children christened by the local preacher; a few also made the decision to have them baptised in their local parish church.

Before 1837 many residents of Gwennap although attracted to the Wesleyan movement in all its diverse sects still relied  on the local Church of England establishment to provide all alms and assistance when in financial need. This was perhaps why some less affluent  non-conformists  had their children baptised in both church & chapel to ensure they were eligible for 'parish relief’ should they fall on hard times. It was NOT permitted by law get married elsewhere and burials ALL took place within the sanctified ground of the parish churchyard walls.

The exceptions were murderers and suicides who were buried in un-consecrated ground, usually at crossroads.

When Civil Registration began in 1837 some non-conformist chapels were licensed to perform marriages and a few were licensed to perform burials. Church officials began to feel that if a family were of non-conformist calling they supported their own religious establishment and so it should take care of them when in need. Churchmen began to refuse burial rights within the parish churchyard for those not baptised into the local congregation of the Church of England.
Few chapels had a licensed a burial ground so families were forced to bury bodies in un-licensed and un-consecrated land. This caused such uproar and the inevitable  risk to public health  soon resulted in a law establishing civil cemeteries. These were to be run and administered by the new local civil authorities. St Day Road Cemetery is he nearest such cemetery to the mining villages of Gwennap and it is situated on the northern outskirts of Redruth Town. This is still in use and the Local Authority is Kerrier District Council. Gwennap Parish churchyard is now closed for burials and its regular maintenance is also the responsibility of Kerrier District Council.

After 1837 finding where ancestors were buried gets more difficult as a Death Certificate does NOT give details of burial place.

To learn more about Gwennap Parish and various links to other records see Genuki Parish pages at:

To obtain burial records for the Municipal Cemetery at St Day Road contact:


Burials at Gwennap Parish church prior to 1837 are transcribed on this site.

For more details on the above see "The Old Parish Of Gwennap"  on this site at




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    Revised: September 27, 2016 .