On this page

Panorama Advowson Church Building Rural Dean's Reports Resources
Images of St Torney's Church:
From a Distance Exterior Plan Windows Memorials
Interior Graves

On other pages

North Aisle Holy Well Rodd Vault


North Hill Church is a large building in the centre of North Hill village or ‘churchtown’ as it used to be known. The Church is dedicated to St. Torney, who (according to "Butler's Lives of the Saints") was a "Holy Irish Priest and Monk, who laboured with unwearied zeal in bringing souls to the perfect practice of Christian virtue. The territory about Antwerp reaped the chief fruit of his Apostolic Mission and he died there about the close of the Eighth Century."

The age of the church is believed to be over 600 years. St Torney’s Holy Well is situated on the nearby River Lynher. The first incumbent is recorded in 1260. In 1292 the parish was assessed for tax in the sum of nine marks (£6). The patron at that time was John de Moels or Mules.

The final service in St Torney's took place on Sunday 17th March 2019, bringing Christian worship on this site for, perhaps, over 900 years to an end; you can read the report on the final service as published in the North Hill Parish Newsletter for April 2019. The long term planned future of the building has not yet been made public. In the interim, visitors wishing to access the church may do so by appointment. Please contact us at the Local History Group for the latest details on how to gain access.

On 3rd October 2019 the church was visited by historian Maxine Symons who sent us this report of her visit (click on the image to read more).

360° panorama of the inside of St Torney's

(click on the image toolbar for large screen access)
With thanks to Roy Reed.
He has more images on his Cornwall page.

The bells of St Torney's rang out on 17th April 2021 upon the occasion of the funeral of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (click for video, courtesy of Carol Billinge of North Hill).

The Advowson of St Torney's

The incumbents of St Torney's have been appointed by the family in possession of the advowson. This power to appoint was vested with the Courtenay family for many years but changed hands because of affiliations during The War of the Roses and subsequent events. Following the death of Edward IV (pictured left) in 1483 the throne of England was claimed by Richard III (pictured right). He was challenged by the Earl of Richmond, who had fled to France but was later to become King Henry VII.

In his book on the History of the Courtenay Family, Ezra Cleaveland wrote in 1735:

"The Earl [of Richmond] received ... advice that some gentlemen in Wales, of great power, had made preparations to assist him and ... large sums of money had [been] collected to pay his troops. The Earl ... ordered all his forces to embark. After seven days sail the Earl arrived in Milford; with him came ... Peter Courtenay, Bishop of Exeter, Sir Edward Courtenay, with several other western gentlemen. The Earl marched against Richard ... and he met him at a village called Bosworth near Leicester, where there was a sharp battle. In the end King Richard with a great many of his men were slain, and the Earl of Richmond obtained a great victory; and immediately the Lord Stanley crowned him [King Henry VII] in the field with the crown that was taken off King Richard's head.

"After King Henry [pictured left] came to London he ... created Sir Edward Courtenay [as] Earl of Devon [and] ... very many castles, manours, and hundreds ... were given him [including] .. the manors of ... Landulph, North-hill .. with the advowsons of Landulph and North-hill, and free chapel of Lamana [(Lemarne)] all which were part of the possessions of Thomas Courtenay, son of Thomas Courtenay, Earl of Devon."

Thomas Courtenay senior died in 1458 and the earldom passed to his eldest son, Thomas Courtenay junior who died, childless, in 1461. Thomas' successor was his brother Henry who died, also without children in 1467. Thomas and Henry had a younger brother, Sir John Courtenay but he was killed at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471 and he too had no children. The most senior member of the family at that time was Sir Hugh Courtenay of Boconnoc (1427-1471) but he was also killed at Tewkesbury. He was succeeded by his twelve year old son, Edward (c1459-1509) who was later to become the first Earl of Devon when the title was reinstated by Henry VII after the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. Returning to Cleaveland's narrative:

"This Edward Earl of Devonshire married Elizabeth daughter of Peter Courtenay [1432-1489] of Molland ... and had by her William Courtenay, his son and heir, who succeeded him in his honour and his estate. ... William Courtenay married Catherine [Plantagenet] the seventh and youngest daughter of King Edward IV. His marrying into the royal family was very unfortunate for him ... for he was kept in prison several years by King Henry VII. His son was beheaded by King Henry VIII and his grandson was kept in prison almost all days of his life.

"In the year 1509 Edward Earl of Devonshire dying, the Lord William Courtenay became Earl of Devonshire and was set at liberty by Henry VIII as soon as he came to the throne. ... In the year 1511 ... William ... was seized with a pleaurisy fever and died. ... William had one son named Henry, who was after his father Earl of Devonshire and afterwards Marquess of Exeter [1525]. [In 1532 Henry VIII] nominated the Marquess of Exeter his heir apparent to the throne.

"In the year 1538 ... Henry [and others] were sent to the Tower accused ... of high treason. The 9th January [1538/9] The Lord Marquess [Henry] and the Lord Montacute with Sir Edward Nevill, lost their heads on Tower-hill. ... Upon the attainder of the Marquess, King Henry did annex to the Duchy of Cornwall the Manors of ... North-hill and Landrene ..."

It must be remembered that Cleaveland's narrative was written in the 1730s and modern thinking regards the executions of Henry Courtenay and the others was part of the Tudor purge of any remaining Plantagenet heirs and adherents, once there was a legitimate Tudor heir. The motivation for the executions was probably more about ensuring dynastic legitimacy and greed, and charges of treason, true or otherwise, once 'proven' provided the means by which Tudor supremacy was reinforced. It was in this fashion that the advowson of North Hill was taken from the Courtenays and passed to the Duchy of Cornwall. The Spoure family's connections to the Courtenays and Royalty can be seen by clicking on this family tree.

The north aisle of the church also dates from this period, as shown by the arms on the shields on the roof plates and commemorates the marriage of William Courtenay to Catherine, daughter of King Edward IV.


The Church Building

Parts of the sanctuary and chancel are 14th century, or even perhaps earlier than this, and the rest was built in the late 15th to 16th century. It has been suggested that St Torney’s and St Anietus in St Neot were built by the same masons using similar plans. The church was restored in 1868.

The chancel is built of stone rubble. There are two 14th century ogee niches on either side of the east window, a piscina and credence, a sedilia in the south wall, which, though much restored has pillars of polished serpentine and a tomb or Easter Sepulchre in the north wall with an elaborate 14th century ogee arch.

Ashlar granite has been used in the north aisle and fine regular granite ashlar blocks can be found in the south aisle, south porch (with chamber above) and the west tower. The nave comprises four bay arcades with slim monolith granite pillars of standard Cornish design carrying wide arches and original wagon roofs.

The north aisle was built in the period 1495-1504. Its building was sponsored by the Courtenay family who held the Manor of Landreyne at that time. The evidence and reasoning for this is fascinating and can be seen by clicking on the link above. The south aisle was built a decade or so later and is so dominated by the Spoure monument that they were almost certainly the sponsors of the building of this part of the church.

There is an undecorated Norman font made of freestone standing on a granite base. The west tower and south aisle are of regular granite blocks and probably worked by the same masons that worked at St Neot Church. The tower has three stages, is buttressed on the square, and is finished with battlements and crocketted pinnacles. The tower’s 3-light west window has intersecting tracery which is probably late 18th century but with an unusual band of carved roundels near the sill. The belfry contains six bells. There is a sundial on the wall of the south porch dated 1753.

There are four significant 17th century monuments in the church. Three are dedicated to members of the Spoure family and one to Thomas Vincent. On the south wall is a slate tombcover with a skull to Henry Spoure who died in 1603. Nearby is the 1683 memorial to his descendant Henry Spoure who died in 1688, aged 10, and next to this is a coloured slate commemorating Richard Spoure who died as an infant in 1623. In the north west corner is an elaborately carved slate tomb, dated 1606, in memory of Thomas Vincent (of Battens) and his wife, Jane. Jane died in 1601 and hers is the earliest death commemorated in the church.

(Sourced in part from

From a Distance


St Torney’s Church tower showing the now demolished cottages St Torney’s Church tower showing the now demolished cottages
St Torney’s in 1965
By Nicholas Condy 1793 to 1857 - this image reproduced with the kind permission of James Ashford of Lewannick

Plan of St Torney's Church

Images numbered above are shown below (click on small image for a larger picture)
#01 to #06 - stained glass windows
#07 to #14 – clear glass windows with stained upper section
#15 to #46 – features, memorials, pews, font, interior, columns, royal arms


#01 – Scenes from the life of Christ #02 – Scenes from the crucifixion #03 – Window dedicated to Charles Edward Rodd

#03 – Arches below the window dedicated to C E Rodd. #04 – Dedicated to Francis Rashleigh Rodd (1839-1924) by his widow, Julia. #05 – In memory of James Rennell Rodd, born 1858, who died in 1892 in Rome.

#05 - The coat of arms of the Diocese of Truro. Above is St Elizabeth and her son, John the Baptist. #05 - Victorian-era fanciful reconstruction of Stigand's coat of arms. Above is St James the Great holding the long staff of a pilgrim from which a gourd of water is suspended. #05 – The coat of arms of the Rodd family and window dedication. Above is St Mary Magdalene.

#06 – Window dedicated to Rodd family members who served in WW1 and those from the parish who gave their lives. #06 – Window dedication. #09 – A clear glass window with a stained canopy.

#10 – A clear glass window with a stained canopy. #11 – A clear glass window with a stained canopy. #12 – A clear glass window with a stained canopy.

#13 – A clear glass window with a stained canopy. #14 – A clear glass window with a stained canopy.


#15 - Charles Rodd; 1807-1885; Rector of North Hill for 51 years #16 - Francis Rodd; 1683-1786 .. and other members of the family #17 - Richard Spoure; 1653-1653

#18 - Incised slates showing Spoure family genealogy dated about 1670 #19 - Henry Spoure; 1677-1688 #19 - Henry Spoure; 1677-1688

#20 - Edward Rodd; 1768-1842 #21 - Renatus Bellot; 1704-1712 #23 - Henry Spoure; c1541-1603

#23 - Henry Spoure; c1541-1603 #23 - Henry Spoure; c1541-1603 #37 - Thomas Vincent; died 1606

#37 - Thomas Vincent; died 1606 #38 - Vincent Darley; 1700-1774 #41 - Thomas Issacke; 1738-1775

#43 - Nicholas Foott; 1743-1799 #44 - Reverend James Trevillian; died 1766 #46 - Reverend John Wollcock; 1736-1797


Decorated ceiling. The Chancel roof was restored in 1868 when it was decorated and painted. Decorated ceiling Charles I royal coat of arms above the south door #30 - read more

Pew bench end. The pews were replaced in 1896 but the bench ends are well carved and detailed using a 16th century pattern Rodd family crest on a pew bench end. Norman font #31

Central aisle 1724 entrance to Spoure Chapel in the South Ailse. The arms are Grylls quartered with Spoure. The two crests are Grylls (a porcupine) and Spoure.


Richard Budge Caunter 1796 - 1819 Honor Foott 1774 - 1850 William Foott 1769 - 1844

William Somer Foott 1806 - 1836 George Eggins Knight 1820 - 1883 John Luskey 1737 - 1816

John Luskey 1780 - 1867 William Luskey 1699 - 1776 Philip Sandercock 1803-1883

Charlie Sargent 1871 - 1899 John Strike 1751 - 1823 Walter Sleep 1723 - 1812

Walter Sleep 1780 – 1783
Elizabeth Sleep 1783 - 1783
Walter Sleep 1793 - 1845


Rural Dean's Reports

1674 - The Presentments of Delapidations in ye Churche, Parsonage and Vicariage houses of ye Deanery of East in Cornwall observed by ye Deane Rural thereof in his Visitation in this yeare 1674

"In Northhill Church, The windowes have need to bee better glazed."

Devon Heritage Centre: Diocesan Records, Chanter PR 362-364/25/1 (1674)

Mid-18th century - I John Wolrige Vicar of Maker as Dean Rural of the Deanry of East in the County of Cornwall - not dated but Wolridge was Vicar from 1736 to 1776

"I do present the parishioners of Northill for the seats in their Church being out of repair the floor bad & a leek in the Tower."

Devon Heritage Centre: Diocesan Records, Chanter PR 362-364/25/14

1784 - March ye 30th 1784
A return of the state of the Parish Churches, Parsonage and Vicarage Houses, not certified to have been repaired according to the directions of the Dean Rural of the Deanry of the East in the County of Cornwall, made by me
Coplestone Radcliffe, Dean Rural

"North Hill Church, certified to be under repair according to the Directions of the Dean Rural, by Thomas Rodd Esq. and therefore no return made of the particular defects."

Devon Heritage Centre: Diocesan Records, Chanter PR 362-364/25/13

19th century - the original document, from which the following has been transcribed, is held by Kresen Kernow, custodians of Cornish records:

before 1808

Glass to be cleaned and the walls white washed - No residence for the Rector.

July 1808

The Church under repair - A new Barn and Stable lately built; A New Parsonage House building

25 April 1811

The Church in good repair. A new Parsonage House nearly finished


The Church in good repair - but neither Commandments, Creed, Lord's Prayer, King's Arms, or Degrees of Marriage!!
An excellent Parsonage House almost completed.

"xiid" [twelve pence = one shilling] is shown in the margin


The Glebe House New [script has been partially deleted but may be a financial sum]
Ordered in and about the Church. A Cover for the Altar Table, and the Creed to be put up in the Church, as well as His Majesty's Arms. A Book of Homilies and a new Book for the Altar Table. A Table of Degrees of Marriage. An Alms Box. The Kneeling Boards for the font to be made new, A new Book of Offices, Hassocks for the Altar Rails to be made good. The interior of the building to be white washed and kept more clean. The Vault at the East end to be closed.
The Gates of the Churchyard, and particularly the stile leading into the Cottage House to be made good.

J Dawson Dean Rural

"xiid" is shown in the margin

20 April 1820

Church etc in good order. Ordered the Fence of Church yard to be repaired immediately. Parsonage House in ood repair.

J R Fletcher

June 1821

The Parsonage House and other Buildings are almost new, and are in good repair, The Church is about to be white washed and the fence on the North of the Church yard to be made good. A new Covering for the Altar wanted.

G J Plummer Dean Rural

29 May 1822

The Glebe House and out buildings with the Church are in excellent condition. New Gates are ordered for the Church yard, A new Cloth is to be provided for the Altar

G J Plummer

14 May 1823

Church, Glebe House and out Houses in excellent order.

J H Cole, for Mr Carr of Menheniot


The Church and House in excellent repair.
No Parochial Library

T H South offg. Dean Rural



St Torney’s Church Guide - The published church guide written around 2000 AD (3.2mb pdf)

Monumental Inscriptions - A list of monumental inscriptions in the church and the graveyard. (2.4mb pdf)

St Torney’s parish registers date back into the 1500s. You can view them as follows:

  • Family Search website - for access to film of the original registers; (you will need to create an online registration, at nil cost, if you are accessing this site for the first time
  • Cornwall OPC Database - to view a transcribed and searchable database
  • The NHLHG group has these transcripts: Baptisms 1630–1900; Banns 1860-1900; Marriages 1555-1900; Burials 1608-1900. If you’d like us to look something up for you, please contact the webmaster
The images at the top of the page show (L-R): Tower of St Torney’s Church; the Norman font in the church; figures on the Spoure monument; gravestone of John Luskey.