Pillaton's origins date back prior to the Domesday Survey of 1086 where it is recorded as the manor of Piletone or Pilatona. The church of St Odulphus was dedicated in 1259 and the Weary Friar hotel is said to date from around that time with the suggestion that it was used by the monks building the church.
For many centuries, Pillaton remained a quiet rural village in a quiet rural parish with its roots in farming. It had become part of the Newton Ferrers estate by the time of the auction in 1924 and various farms, fields and village buildings, which had been rented up to then, became available for purchase. A map of the village at this time can be viewed on the Gallery pages.
The next significant change was brought about by the opening of the Tamar Bridge in 1961. This made access between the village and Plymouth much easier and resulted in the village virtually doubling in size to accommodate the demand by commuters.
The church of St Odulphus was dedicated on 16th October 1259 and took its name from St. Odulph (Odulf) a monk and missionary from Oorschot, North Brabant (Belgium).
The church was remodelled around the 14th and 15th centuries and the granite walls, piers, arcades and wagon vaults in the porch, north aisle and south transept are typical of that date. The south transept might have been built on the foundations of an earlier building - note the aumbry in the south wall of the transept.
Pillaton church in the snow
During the 19th century a restoration was carried out (at a cost of £800) when the whole of the main roof of the chancel and nave was replaced with a new roof of pitch pine. The medieval wagon roofs still remain in the north aisle, the south transept and the south porch. The unusually wide 'squint' connecting the south transept to the church is very interesting and the rood staircase opens off this squint.
The splendid granite tower (restored in 1900) has been divided in its height and the first storey forms a vestry with a ringing gallery over. The building is listed Grade 1 of architectural and historical interest.
In 1809, three bells cast by the Pennington family who lived in the Stoke Climsland and Lezant area, were hung in the tower. Tradition says that the treble and second bells were cast in Church Park field, part of the glebe land close to the church. These would have been supported by a wooden frame and were rung from the ground floor of the tower (now the vestry).
Pillaton Church bells lined up outside the Weary Friar prior to refitting
In 1909, Mears and Stainbank recast the number three bell (tenor) at their Whitechapel Foundry in London and augmented the ring to six with the addition of three larger bells. The old wooden frame was replaced at this point with a steel one. A new floor for the ringers was added above what is now the vestry. All this work was carried out for £400.
In 2009, to commemorate the centenary and bi-centenary of the above events, two new bells were cast at the Whitechapel Foundry (formerly Mears and Stainbank) and installed above the old treble. The older bells were refurbished and all eight bells then tuned as a ring in F#. The cost for this was a hundred times that of the 1909 work - a sign of continuous inflation over the century!
As a result of this work, Pillaton now has one of the best rings in the area. You can hear what the new bells sound like by listening to this recording on YouTube made by Eric Bannister: Pillaton Church Bells Ringing Plain Bob Triples
Bell ringing practice is held on Tuesdays from 1930 to 2100. Visiting ringers are always welcome.
Extracts from the Past
Useful sources of historic information about towns and villages are the various Post Office Directories - those published by Kelly are probably the most commonly encountered. These directories contain details of the social structure and give a brief outline of the history, geography and architecture of the place. This text is then followed with a list of inhabitant names and usually an indication of where they live. Links to extracts about Pillaton from some of these directories are given below:
More of these are available in larger libraries, eg. Plymouth and Truro, as well as online. Historical Directories has a good selection of scanned images for Cornwall and further afield.
Map of the area from 1868
This map of the village dates from about 1868. See the larger image that covers the parish and surroundings for more detail.
Boundary Change in 1894
Before 1894 part of the current parish of Pillaton belonged to St. Stephens by Saltash. The boundary change page has more detail and a map showing the area affected.
Links to other sites
Links to some external sites that have information relating to Pillaton's past:
- Callington Heritage Centre
- Cornwall Online Parish Clerks (Family History resources)
- Cornwall Records Office Online Search
- GENUKI (A very useful Genealogy site)
- Historical Directories (Scanned images of Post Office Directories, etc.)
- Images of England (NB. Some images are of Pillaton in Staffordshire)
- Open Domesday (Domesday Book data for Pillaton)