Origins Of The Town
There is very little written about the evolution of the town, but there is no doubt that it is an early inhabited area of the North Cornish Coast. The town appears to have been established in a small inlet within the western boundary of the Camel Estuary. The church of St Petroc nestles in a hollow about 400 yards from the present harbour sheltered by high banks of cliffs. The cliff features extend towards the estuary and are dominant as they form a backdrop to the dwellings of this part of the town. It is conceivable that the seashore came almost to the gates of the church , a idea supported by the fact that many of the dwellings in this area sit on a foundation of a layers alluvial silt beneath which is bedrock, the silt contains sea shells and other marine objects. This theory is supported by local builders who over the years had had occasion to carry out work on the foundations of these buildings. Before the building of recent flood prevention works it was very common to have salt water flooding in Church Lane, Middle Street, Lanadwell Street and Market Strand, it was a great event for local children who paddled in it, and many acquired a small punt to navigate up to the Golden Lion and the adjacent streets.
There have been three churches over fourteen centuries on the site of the present St Petroc Church.The first was built by Petroc in the 6th century (circa 518) The church, and monastery, were pillaged by the Vikings in 981. The only items from this early period are the head of a four holed Celtic cross on a modern shaft, outside the south door and the base of a very large cross by the south-east gate. This must have originally been deeply carved and most probably stood at the monastery gate. Pre-Norman the the monastic establishment moved to Bodmin. It is not known how long a period that the church lay in ruins.
Another church was built (circa 1100), Saxon, with possible Norman additions. The lower half of the existing tower dates from this period and is 6 feet. thick. During recent repairs to the wall at the base of the arch, dated by Pevsner as 13th century, crumbling beach rock or sandstone was found. This could indicate that the church of 1100 was built of this and that is why it did not last very long. There sealed doorway was the entrance to stairs leading to the tower. The present Church was built possibly in the mid 15th century was built from stone quarried locally at Cataclews point near Harlyn Bay. The cream stone for the columns are thought to have been quarried in Caen in Normandy, and been transported from there by sea. The grey stone in the windows and font is Dolerite.