St Symphorian, Our Patron Saint
Symphorian was a young man who lived in Autun in Burgundy, France, around the second century AD. He refused to worship the pagan goddes Cybele and was tortured and beheaded. He was buried in a cave where a church was built in his honour some three hundred years later.
Symphorian has been patron of our church since at least 1281. Although he is well known in mainland Europe, there are only three churches dedicated to him in the UK: here, Forrabury (the parish church of Boscastle in North Cornwall) and at Durrington in Sussex.
It is possible that he was not our original patron, there may have been an earlier Celtic dedication with Berion (St Buryan) and Sivillon both potential candidates for the original patron of our parish.
In 1110 the manor of Elerky, which comprised much of our parish, was given to the Cluniac monastery of Montacute in Somerset, whose monks were natives of Symphorian’s city, Autun. It may be that they mistook the name of the local Celtic saint and interpreted it as their own martyr, or they may simply have rededicated the church to him.
“Veryan” could be a corruption of “Symphorian” through early forms found in mediaeval documents: “Severian” through “St Verian” to “Veryan”
Parish, Glebe and Vicarage
As churches became established, parishes were created with easily identifiable boundaries. The priest was allocated property known as “glebe” from which he was expected to maintain himself.
In 1330 the vicar was given permission by the lord of the manor to dig a “deep ditch” to enclose and mark the limits of his glebe. It is likely that the remains of this ditch runs along the path leading from the lych gate to the vicarage.
The boundaries of both parish and glebe have changed little from those marked out in the early middle ages, and the tree lined lane leading from Veryan to Portloe which runs along the edge of the glebe is still known as “Sentries” or “Sentry” (Sanctuary) Lane.
It was necessary for the priest to have a house to live in and Veryan has had several successive vicarages. Most notably the vicarage built in 1834 by Samuel Trist. Now called Trist House (not open to the public) the house lies in substantial landscaped grounds with a lodge at the entrance. The building was regarded by the Bishop of Exeter as “too grand for the vicar of Veryan”. The current vicarage, a modern bungalow, was built in 1984 just outside of the entrance to Trist House.
The building which stands today is a mixture of Norman, mediaeval and nineteenth-century work. The fabric of the building has been in existance on this spot for many centuries, although some of the ornaments and embellishments may have been added to our church during the nineteenth century.
The plan of the building is unusual being one of only four Cornish churches with a south tower. The nave is longer than the average and slopes up towards the sanctuary at the east end. This feature is found in the churches of northern France and may reflect the early involvement of the monks of Montacute.
The Trist Dynasty
Veryan was fortunate in having three generations of the Trist family as successive vicars. John Trist became vicar in 1773. He was succeeded by his son Jeremiah who held the living for over fifty years and made an indelible mark on church and parish, establishing schools, building the five roundhouses for his tenants and embellishing the church with the present tower clock (1800), placing two stone tablets of texts in the porch (1803) and removing the old singing gallery from the west end (1809).
In 1830 Jeremiah was succeeded by his son, Samuel (the builder of Trist House). Samuel rescued a large quantity of mediaeval carved stonework from the derelict chapel of St Nun at Grampound. It is likely that some of the early features in the parish church came from this source and were added during the major rebuilding of the church between 1847 and 1850.