St Torney's Church Holy Well

"The heraldry and badges on the wallplate in the north aisle are really important for Westcountry history and link directly with the manor at Landreyne and the Courtenay family's presence in the parish." Joanna Mattingly, August 2018

Following a visit by Jo Mattingly to St Torney's she determined the age of the north aisle from the wall plates, demonstrating high status patronage and a date between 1495 and 1504. Jo has suggested that the north aisle may have been raised, in part, to commemorate the illustrious marriage, arranged in 1495, of Katherine of York (pictured in the banner image above and one of youngest daughters of Edward IV) to William Courtenay. From birth to death, Katherine was daughter to Edward IV, sister to Edward V, niece to Richard III, sister-in-law to Henry VII and aunt to Henry VIII; these five Kings of England are shown in order in the banner.

The following is based upon a section of the talk given by Dr Jo Mattingly on 2nd August 2017 on the History of St Torney’s Church in North Hill, Cornwall. It is Jo that raised this fascinating interpretation of the wall plate shields on the north aisle. She is a tutor of WEA South West. Her biography has been taken from the WEA website and is repeated at the foot of this page.

Wall Plates

Wall plates are the carved wooden structural beams that run along the top of the walls, where the wall meets the ceiling. In St Torney’s they run the full length of the three aisles and have been in place from when the aisles were built. They have been restored in places.

The north aisle is interesting because of the shields on the wall plates. In this aisle there are thirteen main rafters that cross the ceiling from the wall plate on the north wall to the wall plate on the south wall of the north aisle. The north aisle rafters that cross the ceiling from one wall plate to the other are numbered in this image (seen from below):

At each end of these arched rafters the wall plate had a shield which carried a coat of arms, or a badge, of some of the illustrious families and institutions present at the time of construction. The wall plates have been in place for over half a millennium and some are no longer identifiable. Of the 26 possible shields some have been lost during restoration and some have become worn and indistinguishable or may never have been carved but the designs on 14 of them are clear enough to be identified.

For the purpose of this narrative the shields have been identified by their position at the end of the rafters. Rafter #1 is at the eastern end, closest to the altar. Rafter #13 is at the western end of the aisle above the grey slate Vincent memorial. Each shield is identified by the wall plate upon which it is located. Example: the shield at “rafter#3, south wall” is on the southern end of the 3rd main rafter from the eastern end of the aisle.

The Arms and Badges on the Shields

The badges and arms on the shields include:
(Exeter Cathedral old style, shown here with Courtenay arms when Peter Courtenay was Bishop of Exeter)

Plantaganet Warwick Courtenay Bishop of Exeter

“What put me on to the Courtenay-Plantagenet marriage possibility, and I think it remains pretty convincing, was the clear Courtenay arms which appear near the east end [rafter # 3, south wall] and the Plantagenet fetterlock or padlock badge which occurs further along [rafter#9, south wall]. On the opposite side at the west end is the Courtenay bundle of faggots badge [rafter#12, north wall], perhaps showing that the family laid claim to the whole north chapel and aisle. The shields have a mix of coats of arms and badges, which struck me as unusual. In other churches we tend to get just coats of arms, so this aisle has high status patrons.

“Other shields that can be identified are the pre-1504 bishopric of Exeter arms (I think this terminal date is correct) [rafter#10, north side], the Cheyne arms as these also appear at Duloe (Cheyne arms have a link to the Powderham branch of Courtenays) [rafter#7, south wall] and the ragged staff badge of the Neville, the Earls of Warwick [rafter#8, south wall]. The saltire also probably represents the Neville arms [rafter#3, north wall].

“The chevron, the cross and the saltire are generic without any blazons, and so cannot be identified with certainty. It is possible that the chevron represents Trelawny and the cross very likely represents St George and was frequently included with royal arms at this time. It is very unlikely that chevron represents the arms of the Spoures of Trebartha given that the south aisle is so clearly linked to Trebartha and the Spoure connection with the parish only begins in this period. It is also unclear why there should be repeated shields.

The image above shows the Courtenay arms on the left and possibly the Trelawny arms on the right.

“I believe that the shields on the wall plates refer to Landreyne manor in North Hill and its owners in the period c.1495-1504, making the commemoration of a royal marriage possible. William Courtenay, who became Earl of Devon, married Katherine Plantagenet, and held Landreyne. His arms and badge and her badge are shown on the wall plate. His Plantagenet arms of three lions passant could be one of the lost or worn shields. Also present is the ragged staff badge probably relating to Katherine’s Neville grandmother, Cecily, who had married Richard Duke of York the father of Edward IV and Richard III. It is possible that other coats of arms, if correctly identified as Cheyne and Trelawny, relate to the wider family of Courtenay and their links to other important families, but this isn't certain.

Some thoughts on the South Aisle

“It now seems likely that the north aisle predates, by a decade or two, the much fancier ‘Trebartha’ south aisle of granite ashlar, crenellations, pinnacles, and Perpendicular windows (Victorian copies). Although Peter Beacham in the recent 2012 revised and corrected Pevsner suggests, plausibly, that the south aisle was built by the same architects as St Neot and Liskeard, a closer and, later, parallel is actually St Mary Magdalene’s Launceston. Begun in 1511 and not finished until 1543, St Mary Magdalene’s church has similar buttresses and basic detailing to its south aisle exterior as North Hill, once the exuberance of Launceston’s granite carving is stripped away. Wagon roofs in North Hill’s south aisle and nave have smaller panels than the north and may well have had carved angels at the base of each main rafter rather than shields. Further dating confirmation comes from North Petherwin which has similar capitals to North Hill and aisle-building accounts of 1506-8 and 1518-24. The North Hill north-aisle capitals appear to be the earlier type and south-aisle the later. The loss of all original window tracery from the north and west of North Hill church in 1791 and Y tracery replacement, as well as the loss of medieval glass, murals, screens and statuary now makes the north aisle at North Hill seem rather plain by comparison with the south, but the pilasters marking the original position of the rood screen remain.” Jo Mattingly

The Landreyne Connection

In Magna Britannica (published 1814) by Daniel Lysons and Samuel Lysons it describes Landreyne as follows:

- ‘Attainted’ is a little used word today but meant “disgraced and tainted”. This would have resulted in the loss of the manor and privileges accorded by royal connection.
- The significance of the marriage of Christian to John Trebartha has not been established, other than lending credence to the existence of William Lord Wallis. The marriage would have been around 1325.
- An inquisition held at Launceston in 1441 refers to the Hugh Courtenay ’s lands and tenements in Cornwall: “the manors of Sheviock, Anthony, Tregantle, Trelowia, Portlooe, Trelugan, Landulph, Leigh Durant, Northill, and Landreyne, and a moiety of the manors of Treverbyn and Tregamere, the borough of ‘Portbyan’, the borough of Crafthole, advowsons [the right to choose the clergy] of the churches of Sheviock, St John, Northill, Landulph, and the chantry of the free chapel of Lammana, advowson of the chantry or free chapel of Lammana, and all messuages, lands, tenements, toll tin, rents, reversions, and services in St Austell and other places in Cornwall”.
- The Land Tax Redemption Act of 1798 was a tax on the value land held by landowners, the payment of the tax providing entitlement to vote. How this provided powers for Francis Rodd to purchase Landreyne has not been explained.

The Courtenay Family's link to Royalty

To see how the Courtenay family had royal and aristocratic connections click on this tree.

The Earldom of Devon was forfeited during the Wars of the Roses when the senior Courtenay line chose to support the losing Lancastrian side.

The Earldom was recreated in 1485 by Henry VII for Edward Courtenay. Edward’s great grandson died unmarried and childless in exile.

The Earldom passed, by Act of Parliament, to William Courtenay (c1528-1557).

We are grateful to Dr Jo Mattingly for her valuable contribution in constructing this chart.

The Identifiable Arms and Badges on the Wall Plates

rafter/wall image interpretation


Cecily Neville was married to Richard Duke of York, father of Edward IV who was, in turn, father to Katherine Courtenay.


William Courtenay was the great grandson of Philip Courtenay of Powderham.


Chevron - possibly Trelawny. William Courtenay’s aunt Florence married a Trelawny, his sisters married into Trethurfe, Mohun and Arundell.


This might be the cross of St George.


Possibly the Cheyne arms. William Courtenay’s mother’s cousin was William Courtenay of Powderham (d.1512) and he married Cecily Cheyne of Pinhoe.


Trelawny? See rafter#4, south wall - above.


Rugaly (ragged) staff badge of Neville family who were Earl’s of Warwick. Katherine Plantagenet’s grandmother was Cecily Neville (1415-95).


Fetterlock or padlock badge of the Plantagenets often shown with falcon.


Crossed sword and key (image above shows the arms of Bishop Peter Courtenay, Bishop of Exeter of Winchester, with the arms of the See of Winchester impaling the arms of Courtenay). The crossed sword and key were the old arms of the bishopric of Exeter until c.1504, but then changed because they were too similar to Winchester. William Courtenay’s great uncle on his mother’s side, Peter Courtenay, was Bishop of Exeter.


This might be the cross of St George.


Trelawny? See rafter#4, south wall - above.


Bundle of faggots (fire wood) was the badge of the Courtenays, sometimes surmounted by a falcon. The Courtenay Faggot was a mysterious naturally mis-shapen piece of wood split at the ends into four sticks, one of which again split into two, supposedly kept as a valued possession by the Courtenay Earls of Devon.


This might be the cross of St George.

Joanna Mattingly … studied medieval and early modern history at London University. From a PhD based on the Middle Thames valley, her interests have expanded to cover much Cornish local history including churches, church houses, and holy wells, Mount’s Bay and even the history of tea cosies. She has worked in museums and loves communicating visually. Living in Cornwall for over thirty years, she was recently made a bard of the Cornish Gorsedd with the name Gwythyades form eglos (researcher of church bench ends), and is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

The images at the top of the page show (L-R): Katherine of York; Edward IV; Edward V; Richard III; Henry VII; Henry VIII