On a bright and breezy May afternoon, how wonderful it was to walk up through the cool shadows along Phillack Hill to the ancient churchyard. The church itself is closed, but the tranquillity of the churchyard is open for all, and un-affected by the unusual times we are living in. A sharp cry from a peregrine falcon nesting at the top of the tower pierced the air, emphasising the silence; high in the sky, the sunshine illuminated the text on all the east-facing headstones, inviting exploration.
Approaching Phillack churchyard. The building in the foreground, to the left, built in to the churchyard wall, is variably described as an old prison or disused vestry. It is now used as a groundsman's hut.
Close-up view of one of the scoria blocks - the main constituent of Phillack churchyard wall. This is the waste material from the foundries which operated in the area, and is commonly used for building in the vicinity. Riviere Farm also has some of this material in the fabric of the building.
My first stop was to check the resting place of the Hosking family - farmers at the beautiful Riviere Farm from the late 1880s until the 1940s - to check the details of Emily Hosking, wife of John. On the last visit here, I had missed Emily's details on the grave, and now I saw why: rather than being added to the headstone, her details are added along the edge of the kerbs around the plot... Wonderful to see that she lived to the age of 90, before passing away in 1954, still living in the district.
Having noted down the details, my eye was caught by a beautiful 'hogsback' style grave, surrounded by the wrought iron fencing so popular during Victorian times. This grave site commemorates a Cornish miner, Henry, who worked in Mexico at the Real del Monte mines, and his wife, Lydia, who was significantly younger - by 26 years. Perhaps Henry married late in life, after returning from overseas, and with some financial stability? Fascinating...more research needed!
The peace of the graveyard here is enhanced by its raised position above the lane that passes below, and the wonderful views to the north across the dunes, where newer grave-stones than those in the churchyard have an aspect of sails on a sea. Within this capsule, past times feel very close at hand. Amazing inscribed granite pillars - the inscriptions of which date to about 600 AD - rest casually against the scoria of the wall, just a stone's throw from the beautiful churchyard cross, reputed to date from 1000 AD, and bearing a elongate figure of Christ on the wheel-head cross.
Inscribed stone, from AD 600 Wheel-head cross- undated Churchyard cross from
Phillack church itself was largely renovated around 1856-7, though the sanctity of the site here is Celtic, and just across the road from the pretty lychgate is the site of St Piala's Well, nestled amidst vegetation, and the original source of holy water for baptisms here.
In these times of change in our society, it is reassuring to feel the continuity of our forebears, and rejoice in an opportunity to share the peace and tranquillity of this haven.