St Stythians Church and its churchyard have been a consecrated place for Christian worship and burials since Celtic times. The present sanctuary area of the Church is thought to be built on the site of a chapel of the 5th century. The church has undergone several major extensions and changes over the centuries. Evidence of its architectural history can be seen in its fabric.
When Cornwall was part of the diocese of Exeter the church was dedicated to St. Thomas a-Becket, but when authority was returned to Cornwall then the local holy person who was revered by the people was deemed the proper choice to name both the community and the church at its centre. The identity of Saint Stythians is unclear and the spelling of the name has many variations including Stephen, Stedyana and Stedian.
The St Stythian we know today is thought to have been a female Celtic hermit or anchoress and was closely associated with the local Holy Well. Traces of this Well, known as Lady Well, can still be seen on the southern boundary of the agricultural showground where it abuts the edge of Kennall Vale woods. Please note that this is on private land and permission must be sought before entry.
The ecclesiastical parish of St Stythians has always included the church of St Piran at Perran-ar-Worthal and the two churches have been linked since the 12th century, being on the route of pilgrimage from Devoran up into the Kennall valley and then on towards Wendron and into the hinterland. Cornwall has a rich network of ancient pilgrimage routes and the Holy Wells sited along these held a particular importance for healing, baptism and spiritual renewal. It is widely thought that St Stythian tended Lady Well and welcomed and baptised pilgrims using the Kennall valley route.
The old churchyard which directly surrounds the church is closed for burials and is maintained by the parish council on behalf of Cornwall Council.