St Columb Major

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

St Columb Major
Arms of St Columb Major.svg
The crest of St. Columb with town motto
St Columb Major is located in Cornwall
St Columb Major
St Columb Major
Location within Cornwall
Population4,681 (2011 Census)[1]
OS grid referenceSW912633
Civil parish
  • St Columb Major
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townST. COLUMB
Postcode districtTR9
Dialling code01637
PoliceDevon and Cornwall
AmbulanceSouth Western
UK Parliament
List of places
50°25′55″N 4°56′24″W / 50.432°N 4.940°W / 50.432; -4.940Coordinates: 50°25′55″N 4°56′24″W / 50.432°N 4.940°W / 50.432; -4.940

St Columb Major is a town and civil parish in Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. Often referred to locally as St Columb, it is approximately seven miles (11 km) southwest of Wadebridge and six miles (10 km) east of Newquay [2] The designation Major distinguishes it from the nearby settlement and parish of St Columb Minor on the coast. An electoral ward simply named St Columb exists with a population at the 2011 census of 5,050.[3] The town is named after the 6th-century AD Saint Columba of Cornwall, also known as Columb.

Twice a year the town plays host to "hurling", a medieval game once common throughout Cornwall but now only played in St Columb and St Ives.[note 1] It is played on Shrove Tuesday and again on the Saturday eleven days later. The game involves two teams of unlimited numbers (the 'townsmen' and the 'countrymen' of St Columb parish) who endeavour to carry a silver ball to goals set two miles (3 km) apart or across the parish boundary, making the parish, around 17.2 square miles (45 km2) in area,[4] the de facto largest sports ground in the world.[5]

History and antiquities[edit]

Bronze and Iron Ages[edit]

Monuments that date from these periods include Castle an Dinas, an Iron Age hillfort,[6] the Nine Maidens stone row, the largest row of standing stones in Cornwall,[7] and the Devil's Quoit (sometimes recorded as King Arthur's Quoit) in the hamlet of Quoit,[8]

King Arthur's Stone, said to be not far from the Devil's Quoit near St. Columb, on the edge of the Goss Moor, was a large stone with four deeply impressed horseshoe marks. Legend has it that the marks were made by the horse upon which Arthur rode when he resided at Castle An Dinas and hunted on the moors.[citation needed]

Middle Ages and early modern period[edit]

There are four Cornish crosses in the parish: two are in the churchyard, one is at the hamlet of Black Cross and another (defaced) at Black Rock.[9][10] (one of the crosses is illustrated below, under Church.)

In 1333 Edward III granted a market in St Columb Major to Sir John Arundell. This was as a reward for supplying troops to fight the Scottish at the Battle of Halidon Hill near Berwick-on-Tweed.

Following the Prayer Book Rebellion of 1549, William Mayow the Mayor of St. Columb was hanged by Provost Marshal, Anthony Kingston outside a tavern in St Columb as a punishment leading an uprising in Cornwall.[11][12] The link between the Cornish language and Catholicism was also exhibited in the activities of John Kennall, at St Columb, where he was still holding Mass as late as 1590.[13]

In 1645 during the English Civil War, Sir Thomas Fairfax's troops were advancing from Bodmin towards Truro; on 7 March the army held a rendezvous, and halted one night, four miles (6 km) beyond Bodmin. The King's forces were quartered at this time near St. Columb, where a smart skirmish took place between the Prince's regiment and a detachment of the Parliamentary army under Colonel Rich, in which the latter was victorious.[14]

In the year 1676, the greatest part of the church of St Columb was blown up with gunpowder by three youths of the town.[15]

Twentieth century[edit]

Royal visits were made to St Columb in 1909, 1977 and 1983. On 9 June 1909 the town was visited by the Prince of Wales (George V) and his wife, the Princess of Wales (Mary of Teck). The visit was to open the Royal Cornwall Agricultural Show. The Prince gave 2 silver cups: one for the best bull and another for the best horse.[16] In August 1977 The Queen and Prince Philip visited the town during their Silver Jubilee tour of Cornwall. On 27 May 1983: The town was visited by the Prince and Princess of Wales (Charles and Diana). The visit was to commemorate the 650th anniversary of the signing of the town charter by Edward III.[17] A plaque commemorates this visit outside the former Conservative club in Union Square.

In 1992 Australian stuntman Matt Coulter aka The Kangaroo Kid set the record for the longest jump with a crash on a quad bike at Retallack Adventure Park, St Columb Major.[18]


Map of St Columb Major and surrounding area, by Robert K. Dawson, 1810

St Columb is in mid-Cornwall, about 8 miles (12 km) inland from the north coast of Padstow Harbour.

The parish covers an area of 12,884 acres (5,214 ha; 20 sq mi; 52 km2).[19] Its highest point, at 709 feet (216 m), is Castle an Dinas, the site of an Iron Age hill fort about 2 miles (3 km) east of St Columb. Much of the land in the parish is used for farming (both arable and pastoral), with small areas of woodland.

There is some moorland in the generally slightly higher northern and eastern parts of the parish, notably part of the Goss Moor in the southeast, Castle Downs below Castle an Dinas (east) and an area of moorland adjoining Rosenannon Downs (northeast). The Vale of Lanherne, the valley of the River Menalhyl (see below) is famed for its beauty and occupies the area to the west of the town, connecting St Columb and St Mawgan churchtown.


St Columb occupies a plateau at about 300 feet (91 m) elevation. The north part of the town (known as 'Bridge') descends into the Vale of Lanherne, having a minimum elevation of approximately 165 feet (50 m). It was originally a linear settlement built on the main road running north-east to south-west, but modern estates have since been built, extending the town to the south and east. In the older part of the settlement there is much high-density housing with relatively narrow streets, and a number of retail outlets and public houses; the more modern estates have housing which is generally lower in density. To the south there is an industrial estate.


Besides the town, there are numerous villages and hamlets in the parish, including Talskiddy and Gluvian in the north, Ruthvoes (southeast), Trebudannon (south), Tregaswith (southwest), Tregatillian (east) and a large number of smaller farming settlements and isolated dwellings. There are also Halloon, Lanhizey, Rosedinnick, Tregamere, Trekenning, Tresaddern, Trevarron, Trevolgas and Trugo.[20]


A number of small rivers and streams flow through St Columb parish, most rising in the eastern part and flowing west. One of the sources of the River Fal lies just within the boundary on the Goss Moor; this flows southwest to the South Coast. The River Menalhyl, which flows through the north part of St Columb (Bridge), has three branches with a confluence at Gilbert’s Water, just to the east of the town. The longest of these rises next to the Nine Maidens standing stones in the north part of the parish. The Menalhyl was historically important in the area, powering a number of mills along its course. A smaller river rises near Winnard's Perch (north of Talskiddy), later joining the Menalhyl near its mouth at Mawgan Porth. The other main river of the parish is the unnamed one (often called the River Porth) that rises to the east of Ruthvoes, and that in its latter course fills the Porth Reservoir and enters the sea at St Columb Porth. This is the river that, according to legend, was begun by the blood of the murdered Saint Columba running down the valley.

Protected areas[edit]

Borlasevath and Retallack Moor (SSSI), noted for its biological characteristics, series of thin lakes and streams is directly north of spa/lodges resort Retallack; which occupies some of the thinner end, the north of the parish.[21][22]


The A39 main road runs north to south through the parish. Until the late 1970s it went through the town but a bypass now carries traffic east of St Columb. The A30 dual carriageway also runs through the southeastern part of the parish north of Goss Moor. The Par-Newquay railway line does not enter St Columb parish but forms part of its southern boundary. A small part of the parish is occupied by a corner of Newquay Airport, which is Cornwall’s principal civil airport.


Union Square

The older part of the town follows a linear layout along Fair Street and Fore Street. Many houses on the narrow main street are slate hung. Cornish architect Silvanus Trevail designed Lloyds Bank and the school. Private houses by Trevail include Ashleigh House (1896) and Treventon House (1897). There are some good examples of architect William White's work including Bank House (circa 1857),[23] Rosemellyn House (1871)[24] Penmellyn House[25] Old Rectory and alterations to Trewan Hall.[26] The Retreat[27] was formerly St Columb Workhouse and was designed by George Gilbert Scott.[19] In recent years there has been a surge of high quality new buildings on the edges of the town, including Jenner Parc and Arundell Parc. Other buildings of note include Barclays Bank,[28] the Red Lion public house, Bond House, Hawkes shop[29] and the town hall.[30] The oldest house in St Columb is the Glebe house[31]


St Columb Major Church

The church is dedicated to St Columba, a local saint: her well is at Ruthvoes. For most of the Middle Ages the church belonged to the Arundells of Lanherne and was lavishly endowed. Within the church were two chantry chapels served by six priests altogether (five for the Arundell chantry).[32] The tower is a fine example of a fifteenth-century building, consisting of four stages with battlements and pinnacles. It is 80 feet (24 m) high and contains eight bells re-hung in 1950. In 1920 the chiming clock was added as a memorial to the men of St Columb who died in the Great War. In 1860 plans were drawn up by William Butterfield, in hope of St Columb church becoming the cathedral of the future diocese of Cornwall, but the cathedral was built at Truro.[33]

The church is the venue for the "Classic Cornwall" music festival.[34]

St Columba's Holy Well[edit]

50°24′22″N 4°54′29″W / 50.406°N 4.908°W / 50.406; -4.908 The holy well dedicated to Saint Columba adjoins the hamlet of Ruthvoes, about two miles (3.2 km) from the town.[2][35] According to legend, she was beheaded here. The hamlet is near to the A30 dual carriageway and the Par to Newquay railway line.[36]

Literary associations[edit]

  • St Columb features several times in the 1961 novel Castle Dor, by Daphne du Maurier (with Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch.) In particular it mentions the parish church, Castle An Dinas, The Red Lion Inn and Tresaddern Farm.[37]
  • The fictional character named Alfred John Trewhella (from St Columb) features in Kangaroo a novel by D. H. Lawrence, first published in 1923. It is set in Australia and is an account of a visit to New South Wales by an English writer named Richard Lovat Somers, and his German wife Harriet, in the early 1920s. This appears to be semi-autobiographical, based on a three-month visit to Australia by Lawrence and his wife Frieda, in 1922. The novel includes a chapter describing the couple's experiences in wartime Cornwall, vivid descriptions of the Australian landscape, and Richard Somers's sceptical reflections on fringe politics in Sydney.

Notable residents[edit]

St Columb Town crest[edit]

The crest of St. Columb with town motto

The town crest consists of a hand holding a silver hurling ball with the motto "Town and Country do your best". The design originally appeared on medals awarded to winners of the hurling game and were first awarded in the 1930s. Later the design was adopted by the town council as a symbol of civic pride. The emblem appears on the mayoral chains and it is used on the uniform of St Columb School. Roadsigns at each end of the town also bear the design.


St Columb Major is served, at primary level, by St Columb Major ACE Academy - part of the Atlantic Centre of Excellence Multi Academy Trust.

Amenities, large employers and tourist attractions[edit]

Main employers[edit]

Nearby tourist attractions[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ It is also played irregularly and less frequently at Bodmin, but nowhere else.


  1. ^ UK Census (2011). "Local Area Report – St. Columb Major Parish (E04011538)". Nomis. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 4 January 2021.
  2. ^ a b Ordnance Survey: Landranger map sheet 200 Newquay & Bodmin ISBN 978-0-319-22938-5
  3. ^ UK Census (2011). "Local Area Report – St Columb Ward (E05008288)". Nomis. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 4 January 2021.
  4. ^ "Church of England parish map". ArcGIS.
  5. ^ Hornby, Hugh (2008). Uppies and Downies: The extraordinary football games of Britain. English Heritage. p. 142. ISBN 978-1-9056246-4-5.
  6. ^ "A Gazetteer of Arthurian Topographic Folklore". Retrieved 7 March 2006.
  7. ^ "The Modern Antiquarian site#627". Retrieved 24 September 2006.
  8. ^ "The Modern Antiquarian site#644". Retrieved 24 September 2006.
  9. ^ Langdon, A. G. (1896) Old Cornish Crosses. Truro: Joseph Pollard; pp. 206, 219 & 395-96
  10. ^ Beacham, Peter & Pevsner, Nikolaus (2014). Cornwall. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-12668-6; p. 519
  11. ^ Redding, Cyrus (1842). An illustrated itinerary of the county of Cornwall. How & Parsons. p. 47. Retrieved 4 September 2007.
  12. ^ Payton, Philip (1996) Cornwall. Fowey: Alexander Associates
  13. ^ Payton, Philip, Cornwall: a history. ISBN 1-904880-05-3; p. 126
  14. ^ "From: 'General history: Historical events', Magna Britannia: volume 3: Cornwall (1814), pp. X-XXIV". 22 June 2003. Retrieved 31 January 2013.
  15. ^ Gilbert, Davies The Parochial History of Cornwall
  16. ^ . The Times, Thursday, 10 June 1909; pg. 9; Issue 38982
  17. ^ . The Times, Saturday, 28 May 1983; pg. 10; Issue 61544
  18. ^ "Crashing Records". Retrieved 31 January 2013.
  19. ^ a b "St Columb Major". GENUKI. 28 March 2012. Archived from the original on 10 October 2012. Retrieved 31 January 2013.
  20. ^ "St Columb Major". GENUKI. Archived from the original on 13 August 2010. Retrieved 7 September 2010.
  21. ^ "Borlasevath and Retallack Moor" (PDF). Natural England. 1994. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 October 2012. Retrieved 29 October 2011.
  22. ^ "A Church Near You".
  23. ^ Historic England. "Bank House (1144073)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  24. ^ Historic England. "Rosemellyn House (1144095)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  25. ^ Historic England. "Penmellyn House (1327399)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  26. ^ Historic England. "Old Rectory (1144096)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  27. ^ Historic England. "The Retreat (1144064)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  28. ^ Historic England. "Barclays Bank (1327406)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  29. ^ Historic England. "Hawkes shop (1311986)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  30. ^ Historic England. "Town Hall (1144107)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  31. ^ Historic England. "Glebe house (1144067)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  32. ^ The Cornish Church Guide (1925) Truro: Blackford; pp. 50, 74–76
  33. ^ The Gentleman's Magazine 1860, p. 147. A. Dodd and A. Smith. 1860. Retrieved 31 January 2013.
  34. ^ "Classic Cornwall". 2013. Retrieved 7 August 2013.
  35. ^ [*St Columba Way website[permanent dead link] Retrieved May 2010
  36. ^ "St Columba Holy Well, Ruthvoes". Retrieved 25 September 2006.[permanent dead link]
  37. ^ "Castle Dor". Archived from the original on 9 May 2008. Retrieved 31 January 2013.
  38. ^ "Art 4 2-day item on Smith". Retrieved 31 January 2013.
  39. ^ "Huge £50 million revamp plans for Retallack Resort near Newquay". CornwallLive. 20 June 2014. Retrieved 20 March 2019.

External links[edit]