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Cornish: Godhyan
Gwithian Parish Church.jpg
Gwithian Parish Church
Gwithian is located in Cornwall
 Gwithian shown within Cornwall
Population 3,032 (Civil Parish, 2001)
OS grid reference SW585412
Civil parish Gwinear-Gwithian
Unitary authority Cornwall
Ceremonial county Cornwall
Region South West
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town HAYLE
Postcode district TR27
Dialling code 01736
Police Devon and Cornwall
Fire Cornwall
Ambulance South Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament Camborne and Redruth
List of places

Coordinates: 50°13′17″N 5°23′11″W / 50.2214°N 5.3865°W / 50.2214; -5.3865

Gwithian (Cornish: Godhyan)[1] is a coastal village in west Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. It is three miles (5 km) northeast of Hayle and four miles (6.5 km) east of St Ives, Cornwall across St Ives Bay.[2] Gwithian is in the civil parish of Gwinear-Gwithian.

Gwithian has a pub, the Red River Inn, which was formerly named the Pendarves Arms. The pub takes its name from the nearby Red River which, in turn, got its name from the discolouration caused by mining effluent. The river's earlier name was Dowr Coner.


Gwithian Towans cover the site of a Bronze Age farm which has been excavated although no remains are visible. The church and relics of St Gwithian or Gocianus, built in 490, were uncovered from the beach and dunes during the early part of the 19th century, but were then allowed to be reclaimed by the shifting sands. Gwithian is the patron saint of good fortune on the sea.[citation needed] Charles Henderson wrote in 1925 that the "oratory ... is more perfect than the Oratory at Perran, having been less meddled with, though it is probably not so ancient". According to tradition there was in the sandy waste between the village and the sea a city of Connor. From Norman times there was a manor here called Connerton which was the paramount manor of the hundred of Penwith. The lords of the manor were bailiffs of the hundred and they held courts and enjoyed the rights of wreck for the coast between Porthtowan and Prussia Cove at least so late as 1580. The importance of this manor may have derived from it being the seat of a Celtic prince in early times.[3] The current church was established further inland in the 15th century but only a few fragments of this building remain incorporated in the lychgate of Edmund Sedding's church of 1866 (the tower however is the original one of the 15th century.)

The Hundred of Penwith had its ancient centre at Connerton, now buried beneath the sands of Gwithian Towans. (A hundred was a former Celtic 'keverang', an administrative unit which was sub-divided into tithings.[4]) The institutions of the hundred were moved to Penzance in 1771 (or earlier) following large successive inundations of in blown sand. In the Geld Inquest of 1083, only seven hundreds are found in Cornwall, identified by the names of the chief manors of each: Connerton, Winnianton, Pawton, Tybesta, Stratton, Fawton and Rillaton (corresponding to Penwith, Kerrier, Pydar, Powder, Trigg, West Wivel and East Wivel). Connerton was held at the time of the Domesday Survey by King William and had been held by Brictric and then by Queen Matilda before him. In 1086 there was land for 40 ploughs and 30 villagers, 20 smallholders and 30 serfs are recorded. There was a mill, 300 sheep, 40 wild mares and 21 other animals.[5]

Sketch map of St Ives Bay
Evening on Gwithian beach with Ceres Rock in the middle distance

Chesten Marchant, who died in 1676 at Gwithian, is believed to have been the last monoglot Cornish speaker (as opposed to Dolly Pentreath of Paul who could speak English as well)


A short distance to the east of the village is Gwithian Towans, which is an area of coastal duneland that forms part of The Towans. Gwithian Beach stretches three miles from the Hayle River mouth to the Red River mouth at Godrevy. The beach is popular throughout the year with surfers, windsurfers, and other beachsport enthusiasts. Gwithian beach is patrolled by RNLI lifeguards from Easter to September and surfing equipment can be purchased or hired from the nearby surf shop.


  1. ^ Place-names in the Standard Written Form (SWF) : List of place-names agreed by the MAGA Signage Panel. Cornish Language Partnership.
  2. ^ Ordnance Survey: Landranger map sheet 203 Land's End ISBN 978-0-319-23148-7
  3. ^ Cornish Church Guide (1925) Truro: Blackford; p. 107
  4. ^ Hundred; Vision of Britain
  5. ^ Thorn, Caroline & Frank, eds. (1979) Domesday Book. 10: Cornwall. Chichester: Phillimore; entry 1,13-14