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About Village

The information published here is taken from a leaflet that was produced in 2003 by some residents ( a big thank you to all) as part of a project funded by the Tarka Country Millennium Awards programme, using Lottery money through the Millennium Commission. The leaflet entitled "Virginstow Devon Past & Present" was distributed to all Parish residents. A Millennium Map of Virginstowe showing field names and land use was also produced as part of the project.

The church is first mentioned in 1521 as dedicated to 'St Bridget the Virgin'. The 1641 protestation returns (declaration of allegiance to the Church of England and to the king, prior to the Civil War) for Virginstow listed 28 men including John Bonde, rector, Richard Hocking, churchwarden and Roger Crocker, constable. In 1660 the vicarage is described but there are no details of the church itself. The vicarage, a single storey house, was constructed of mud with an earth floor and a thatch of reed. There was a kitchen, buttery and lodging chamber. Outside was a stable of similar construction. Although 54 acres of glebe land was mentioned, the incumbent 'can find no man who can tell him how far the glebe extends'.In 1729 another survey was carried out.

The vicarage remained the same and there was no description of the church but there was of its contents, being: "3 bells, one inscribed 'I call you to the church and to the grave' and another dated 1664, a Surplice, a silver communion plate with a cover of 8ozs, a tin flagon, a tin basin for alms, a bible, 2 books of common prayer, a book of homilies, a book for the overseer of the poor, a linin cloth for the communion table, a carpet of Stuff and a cushion for the pulpit

 Church 3/4

In 1742 and 1755 the church was referred to as the Church of the Virgin Mary but by 1763 was St Bridget again. In 1740 the parish Feast Day was 6 February, but in 1878 it was 1 February, St Bridget's Day. The patronal festival now is in July. People currently involved with the church understand that St Bridget View of northern part of the parish showing here is the one born in Sweden in the Roadford Reservoir and C early 14th c. but there is a stained glass window in the church, probably installed in the 20th c. which depicts the Irish St Bridget. There is scope for further research!

A new church was built in 1770, and from its description was a very splendid building, but in 1849 was said by Mrs Cresswell to be in a state of dilapidation with the roof fallen in and two bells on the ground and no monuments. It may actually have been in the process of being pulled down to make way for a new one! The only surviving artifacts are the 12th c. font and a slate altar front dated 1624 in commemoration of William Crocker of Crows Nest.

The cornerstone for the new church was laid on 25 March 1851 and the church was consecrated by the Bishop of Exeter on 1 June 1852. The cost of rebuilding was £560 which was partly financed by the Rev Ponsford Cann B.A., for whom the Rectory was built in 1845, and Mrs Morrison of Yeo Dale, who also presented the valuable service of silver communion plate. In 1857 there was a Parochial School entirely supported by the rector, attended by about 36 pupils. He was also the rector of Broadwoodwidger. Ponsford Cann died in 1876 and his wife in 1886. Their grave is marked by a pink granite cross, surrounded by iron railings in Virginstow churchyard

.Tall glass window

1877 saw the birth of Truro Diocese and Virginstow, along with St Giles, is in the unusual situation of being in Devon but in the Cornish Diocese.

The Church Room was built in 1895 and for over 100 years was used for parish meetings, harvest suppers, whist drives and other events. It is now privately owned.

What was the United Methodist Free Chapel stands on a high point on the road to Tillislow Farm. It has a plaque on the front wall bearing the inscription 'EBENEZER CHAPEL 1862' and a smaller plaque on the Sunday School addition inscribed with the date 1881. An 1866 Directory makes the comment 'The Wesleyans have a neat chapel here'. There is a trig point on the bricks of the small front stone wall of the chapel being an out of use Ordnance Survey benchmark in the triangulation network. The chapel is over 600ft above sea level and enjoys far-reaching views across open countryside.In 1851 the population of Virginstow is recorded as 173, by 1881 it had dropped to 121 and by 931 to 90. With lower population and more mechanised farming, chapel attendance declined and in the 1990s the chapel was sold and is now a private residence. Methodists in the locnlity now worship at St Giles, Grinacombe Moor or Downicary. Virginstow Chapel, however, still retains fond memories for some people who have worshipped there, one of whom left her Ticket of Membership to the Methodist Church behind, dated December 1938, with the words from Luke's Gospel 'Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men'.


The River Carey, a tributary of the Tamar, forms the western boundary of the parish. Grey wagtail, kingfisher and greyheron are sometimes seen and otters are resident. Beautiful and banded demoiselle damselflies both occur. At least eight species of fish are found, including salmon and brown trout. When Middle Bridge (also known as Virginstow Ford or Panson Ford) was constructed at the ford the small diameter pipes and concrete sill on the downstream side restricted fish migration. In 1999 a large diameter pipe was installed as a fish pass to allow more salmonids to move up river to spawn. This work was co­ordinated by The Westcountry Rivers Trust with the support of many individuals and organisations.

There are red and roe deer in the woods. Grey squirrels, foxes and badgers are widespread, although many of the latter have been culled recently by DEFRA for a study of TB in badgers and cattle. Smaller mammals include woodmouse, dormouse, bank vole, field vole, pygmy shrew, common shrew, mole, weasel and at least four species of bats. Birds of prey include barn owl, tawny owl, buzzard and sparrowhawk. In the woods there are jay, woodpigeon, treecreeper, nuthatch and great spotted woodpecker and a pair of ravens nest in a tall tree. Numerous small birds nest in the gardens and hedgerows. Swallows, but virtually no House Martins, come for the summer, whilst in winter there are large flocks of starlings, (often along with fieldfare, redwing and mistle thrush), occasional smaller flocks of golden plover and a twice daily passage of gulls overhead going to roost on Roadford Reservoir.

Frogs, toads, lizards, slow-worms and grass snakes can be found. Invertebrates include the brown hairstreak butterfly which has become scarce in recent years because it lays its eggs on young blackthorn shoots in sunny situations, which are vulnerable to annual hedge-flailing. The occasional glow-worm can be spotted on a dark evening.

The parish falls within the 'South West Forest' area. Some plantations have been developed within recent years

Early purple orchids, violets and primroses are followed by cow parsley and bluebells. In the shady valley less common plants such as wood horsetail, royal fern and moschatel can be seen, whilst in the Culm grasslands there are bogbean, ragged robin and marsh orchids.

Railway Track

The disused railway follows the river valley in the west of the parish. The London and South Western Railway was extended to Launceston in 1886 when the station at Halwill became Halwill Junction. Eventually the line went to Padstow. The last passenger train was reported to be on 3 October 1966 but at least two parishioners remember trains in 1967. Wroe (1994) mentions 'Ganger Lawry's length down through the damp Tillislow Woods at Ashwater, was a place always at risk from washouts, from the adjacent River Carey'. Some parts of the track bed have been removed but in places the ballast is still present and trees have grown up, the old railway and the River Carey forming a corridor of habitat for wildlife. The line was single track but the bridges wide enough for double track.


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