Pillaton's History

We are still finding out more on the history of Pillaton and items are added to this section occasionally. You can either scroll down through the page to explore or use the links on the right to take you to a specific section.


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.

Pillaton's Church

The church of St Odulphus was dedicated on 16th October 1259 and took its name from St. Odulph (Odulf) a monk and missionary from Oirschot, North Brabant (Netherlands).

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.

View of Pillaton church in the snow

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. Unfortunately, this tower and the church suffered considerable damage from a lightning bolt on the night of 21st January 2013. You can read more about that and follow up the subsequent repair process on the 2013 News page and below in the Church Damage, 2013 item.

The building is listed Grade 1 of architectural and historical interest.

Church Bells

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

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!

More photographs of the Bell Project.

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.

Whilst the ringers usually repair to the local hostelry for refreshment after practice, they certainly do not indulge to the extent that some of their predecessors seem to have! See The Merry Bell-Ringers.

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.

1868 Map of the Area

Pillaton area as mapped in around 1868

Pillaton in about 1868

This map of the village dates from about 1868. See the larger image that covers the parish and surroundings for more detail.

1894 Boundary Change

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.

The Lost Men of Pillaton: 1914-1918

A tribute from Don King to the seven men of Pillaton who were killed in action during World War 1. It was originally given at the WW1 commemorative service ("The Lamps Are Going Out in Pillaton") held in the church on 4th August 2014. Don has very kindly provided a slightly revised version of this for our website - see "The Lost Men of Pillaton".

Pillaton Primary School Photograph, 1921

Pupils of Pillaton Primary School lined up for a photograph on the road outside the church in 1921. See Pillaton School Photo, 1921.

St Mellion School Photographs (ca 1950)

Four traditional school photographs of the pupils at St Mellion C. P. School, thought to be from between 1948 and 1953. See Four St Mellion School Photographs for images and many names.

Pillaton Coronation Cricket Match (1953)

A photograph taken at the Coronation cricket match (1953) between the women and the men of the village. Has some background and names those shown.

St Mellion School Photograph (ca 1957)

A traditional school photograph of the pupils at St Mellion C. P. School, thought to be from around 1957. St Mellion School Photo has some background and identifies most of those shown.

A Photograph of Pillaton from the Air in 1972

Pillaton from the air in 1972

Pillaton in 1972

An aerial photograph showing the village as it was in 1972. Pillaton from the Air, 1972.

Pillaton May Fair (1980)

A newspaper cutting reporting on the May Fair in 1980 kindly sent to us by Maire and Richard Warwick. There are many familiar names mentioned.

St Mellion School Photographs (1980s)

Photograph of the Infants (KS1) class at St Mellion C. P. School in ca 1980. St Mellion School Photos from the 1980s shows this plus one of a school production from the mid 80s, both with the option to enlarge them.

Church Damage, 2013

St Odolph, Pillaton, Lighting Strike Damage Article 2013

Copies of two articles that appeared in the "Church Building & Heritage Review" in 2013 and 2014 have been kindly provided for our archives by Jim Bennet. These report on damage that was caused to St. Odulph's church by lightning on the night of 21st January 2013 and the restoration project that ensued.

St Odulph Lightning Strike Damage, 2013
St Odulph Lightning Strike Repair, 2014

Other Old Photographs

There is a slowly expanding album of old local photographs that can be accessed through Days Gone By in the Gallery.

Pillaton Rainfall Records

Since the beginning of 2011, Brian Hutfield has been recording the rainfall in Pillaton and kindly provides us with an update each month. A table and graph of the readings can be found at Pillaton Rainfall Figures for 2011 . . ..

Links to some external sites that have information relating to Pillaton's past:

Edited: 26 February 2018 Contact Us