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NORTH HILL - CHURCHTOWN

The location of North Hill village or Churchtown owes much to the local geography. As will be seen below, the site may have been a northern outpost of the Manor of Rillaton where people controlled by the manor worked and lived.

The site is just beyond the north eastern fringe of Bodmin Moor which provides a degree of protection from the wind and rain which comes primarily from the south west. The moor also provides an abundance of building materials in the native granite and woodland. It is close to the River Lynher which provides an inexhaustible supply of fresh clean water from as well as the motive power to drive millwheels. The land on the west side of the Lynher is steep and more difficult to farm which explains why a location on the eastern side of the river was chosen.

A gently sloping platform of land on the eastern side and immediately to the north and east of the village was better suited to farming both animals and crops. Being located over 100 feet above the Lynher the site is dry, well drained and affords excellent views around the nearby countryside, particularly from the top of the church tower; it was always worth having advance notice of ‘visitors’, particularly when the country was in turmoil. Being only six miles from Launceston, which was the county town of Cornwall and the location of the Priory of St Stephen, this gave the local people a proximity to news, administration, markets and protection.

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The economy of the village has depended largely upon the long history of agriculture in the surrounding fields but for a period of time the extraction of minerals from local mines also provided employment. Until recently the majority of the properties in the village were stone built and had been there for hundreds of years. More modern houses have been built using more modern techniques and materials.

There was a blacksmith’s, a school which closed in the 1950s, a pub “The Ring o’ Bells’, which closed in 1918 and a shop opposite the church. Today there are two commercial enterprises in the village. One is “The Racehorse Inn” opened in 1965 in the building which was previously the school and the other is Ruby’s Garage for car sales and vehicle maintenance.

The parish church of St Torney is in the centre of North Hill village and this area of the parish has been known as Churchtown. Nearby is the holy well of St Torney which is situated by the River Lynher. The village has a near namesake downstream on the River Lynher where the village of St Erney lies. This also has a holy well and the dedication of the church is thought to be of the same saint, about whom little is known. The village once had a Wesleyan Chapel but this is now a private residence.

The origins of the name “North Hill”

Here is a theory. Do you have another explanation?

According to the noted Victorian historian Francis Hingeston-Randolph the earliest recorded extant mention of North Hill as a place was in 1291 when it was written as “Northulle” and was in the hundred of Estwyvelschyre (East Cornwall). From his reading of ancient documents he further mentions the parish in this form in 1333 and 1345. In 1349 he records an instance of “Northhulle”. The earliest known recording of “North Hille” was in the early 1600s. Since then there have been various corruptions but all are variants of the modern version “North Hill”. The incidence of names for South Hill, on the other side of Linkinhorne parish is almost parallel in dates and word structure moving from “Southulle” to “South Hill”.

The two names North Hill and South Hill represent areas which were northern and southern parts of the Manor of Rillaton, close to the village of Rilla Mill in Linkinhorne parish, which was once the administrative centre of the area. It is acknowledged as one of the most important medieval settlements in the region. The first record of Rillaton Manor is in the 881AD will of Alfred the Great, who left the property to his youngest son. Pieces of the stone of the manor house have been located and identified and confirm the belief locally that the house may have been of a style and size comparable to Cotehele on the banks of the River Tamar. It is possible that the two areas of North Hill and South Hill were both wooded areas and the names derive from “North Holt” and “South Holt”, the Saxon for ‘wood’ being ‘holt’. This is how Northolt and Southall in West London got their names.

 

The image at the top of the page shows North Hill in 2009.

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