Writer: Andrew Fentham
Janina Fleckhaus


widows of seamen
keep watch from windows
of homeyard homes

over st symphorian’s
unorthodox plan
the trist tombvault

and swan millpond
gifted by the landed
vicar himself

the rounded twin
almshouse towers
modelled on trist

veryan versions
of a round house
at st winnow

rowse says witches
cannot inhabit
a cornerless house

on the townwall
symphorian’s mother
calls to the martyr


A saying goes, there are more saints in Cornwall than in heaven. Craig Weatherhill says “Veryan” is a shortened form of “Saint Symphorian” mistakenly recorded as “Seyntveryan” in the 16th century, leading later to “Verien”.  

Symphorian is atypical in this land of saints: he didn’t visit. Most attributions of saints to Cornish places are built around individuals identified with the rough Saints’ Way path from Ireland, Wales and Cornwall to Brittany. Symphorian’s legend, though, in this case moves itself west from Autun, France (Roman Gaul). 

In the 2nd or 3rd century AD, Symphorian refused to honour a statue of Cybele being exalted in Roman Autun, declared himself Christian and was martyred. Greeks had held Cybele as an icon of mountains and also associated her with townwalls and debauchery. The Romans held her to have been Trojan. It is from the Autun townwall that Symphorian’s mother is said to have called, reassuring her son of God’s blessing as he was escorted to his death. 

The chief architectural highlights in the Cornish dell of Veryan are a church planned in an unusual arrangement and a scattered set of roundhouses built by patron-vicar Jeremiah Trist (whose family mausoleum stands in the churchyard). I interviewed one former resident of two decades who also guided my attention to the “other” Veryan at the opposite end from Veryan Green, up the hill from the pond, describing the social housing there and some anti-social behaviour. 

Part folly, part perhaps-genuine effort to imagine better conditions for workers, the roundhouse style is also referenced in the towers of a later almshouse above the church. Homeyard Homes was originally built for widows of men lost at sea. In Veryan’s shelter, it is possible to forget that one is on the Roseland. A climb to the top of village can serve to remind how close it is to Nare Head and the ruins of Mallet’s Cottage. 

This is the Roseland whose name, Weatherhill reminds us, means “promontory land”. In this sense it is like Cornwall itself: a raised peninsula. These squat thatched roundhouses in their peaceful inland hollow may even resemble lighthouses.

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