Calstock Parish is located in the north of Devon and is a part of the Church of England Diocese of Exeter. Its history dates back to at least 1110 when records show that a chapel existed in Calstock, which was later rebuilt in 1480. The parish includes the three small villages of Calstock, Gunnison, and Blacker as well as smaller hamlets such as Higher Redhill and Lower Redhill.
The people who live here are mainly employed in agriculture or the mining industry. Many have roots tracing back generations but some new residents are moving into an area which has a wide variety of properties such as old farmhouses and new-build houses.
The parish of Calstock is located south of the River Tamar which is the border between Cornwall and Devon. It lies in the valley of the River Gannel, an outflow of the river Tamar. The name Calstock is thought to be derived from the Celtic word "cal", meaning lime. There has been a church in Calstock since the 12th century. The present Parish Church of St Michael and All Angels was consecrated in 1874 and is located in Gunnison. The Parish Church of St Andrew is located in Blacker, and dates back to the 13th century.
There is believed to have been a church at Calstock since around 1110, but there are no remains of that building. The current church, St. Michael’s, was built in the 1480s. It is of a type known as a ‘leper-church’– all leper hospitals were required to have a church. The church was built by the monks of Tavistock Abbey, and is dedicated to St Michael. The nave is mainly 14th century, and the chancel is 15th century. There is a font of Norman type, probably 12th century. The pulpit is Jacobean and dates from 1626.
The church is situated on a hill above the town of Calstock, and has views over the Tamar Valley and towards Dartmoor and it is the most easterly church in Cornwall.
St Michael’s was built as a result of a dispute between the Abbots of Tavistock and Plympton who each wanted the church in Calstock to be dedicated to their respective saints. The dispute was resolved in 1240 when Bishop of Exeter Henry of Cornhill decreed that the church should be dedicated to St Michael and All Angels.
The Church of St Andrew at Gunnison is a Grade II* listed building which is situated approximately two miles north of Calstock. It was built in what is now the tiny hamlet of Gunnison .
The church was built in the 15th century and has a three-stage tower dating from the 1480s. The stone building has a slate roof. The church contains a very unusual rood screen which was removed from St Mary’s Church in Bodmin and reconstructed in Gunnison.
St Andrew’s was built in the Perpendicular architectural style. The three-stage tower is built of granite and has an unusual stair turret on the south-east corner. The tower was built in two stages: the lower stage in 1480 and the upper stage in 1530.
The church contains a very unusual rood screen which was removed from St Mary’s Church in Bodmin and reconstructed in Gunnison.
The Church of St Andrew at Blacker is a Grade II listed building which was built in Calstock in the 13th century, adjacent to Blacker Manor. It was rebuilt in the 15th century, and restored in 1882. The font is Norman, and there is a 14th century St Andrew’s cross carved in oak.The building has a slate roof.
The church has a 16th-century altar table, and a brass to John Trevithick, who died in 1556.
Great Coates Manor is a manor house in Calstock Parish, which is a Grade II* listed building. The manor house has a long history but the present building was built in the 15th or 16th century. It has been greatly modified over the years and has a large Tudor extension built onto it. It was the home of the Harvey family and the birthplace of William Harvey who discovered the circulatory system.
The house is now a private residence and is not open to the public.
Tote Mill, Calstock is a water mill operated by the National Trust. It is a Grade II listed building which was built in the 1770s, possibly by William Lugg, who also constructed the nearby New Mills.
The Tote Mill was originally a fulling mill which was used to clean and thicken wool by passing it through water containing a mixture of clay and fuller's earth. It was eventually converted to a corn mill and powered by a water wheel.
Until the Second World War, the mill was used to grind corn for local farmers, although it had ceased to produce fulling clay by the 1850s. The mill building is two storeys high and has a hipped roof. Inside are two iron water wheels, one large and one small.
The mineral veins in this area were first mined in the Bronze Age. During the Roman occupation of Britain the industry became more significant, with a number of mines in north Devon, to the east and west of Calstock, being worked for copper and lead. By the Middle Ages, when Calstock was a manor within the royal demesne, it was the most important mining area in Devon.
In the 18th century, Calstock became the centre of a huge industry, when rich copper deposits were discovered. The veins around Gunnislake and Calstock were among the deepest in the world at that time. Although many of the mines have now been closed, it is still possible to find traces of the industry and buildings associated with it can be seen throughout the area.
The Parish of Calstock is surrounded by fertile land, a fact that has been recognised since the Iron Age. Archaeologists have discovered traces of Bronze Age settlements in the area, and it is likely that they grew crops and kept livestock. By the medieval period, the area was an important agricultural centre, and much of the land surrounding Calstock was owned by the Bishop of Exeter. The parish was recorded as having more sheep than any other in Cornwall, and it was also a good source of timber.
For many centuries, the parish of Calstock was an important agricultural area, growing crops, fruits and vegetables. One crop that was particularly significant was hemp, a variety of the hemp plant used to make rope. Hemp growing was widespread in the area, and it was lucrative. Calstock was also an important centre for cider making. Apple trees were grown in large orchards, and the apples were pressed to extract the cider. The cider was then transported to Exeter, where it was sold in the city. Traditionally, the local people had their own cider presses, and it is said that there were over 200 cider mills in the parish.
Today, apples are grown commercially in the orchards, but cider making is no longer such an important industry.
The Parish of Calstock is a snapshot of life in a rural, south-west British parish. For centuries its people have lived, worked and worshipped here, enduring the hardships of life and giving rise to great communal spirit
The parish has seen many historical events, from the Romans to the present day. It has been a centre for farming and mining, and has been home to many people who have contributed to the history of Devon and Cornwall.
It is a beautiful place which has been lovingly cultivated over the centuries and is worth exploring if you find yourself in the area.
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