History of Markwell Farm

The church at St Erney was first recorded in 1269 when a vicar was appointed for the churches of Landrake and St Erney in one Parish. It is located on a much earlier site, probably originating as a chapel belonging to the Priory and upgraded to a church as the population of the area increased due to the expansion of farming and the importance of the route from the sea and the other side of the River Tamar into Cornwall.

There are a number of quay sites along the Rivers Tiddy and Lynher and at low tide it was possible to ford across the Tiddy to Markwell, allowing easy access from the Priory.  This route was of commercial importance and was used by the monks and pilgrims travelling north to the Abbey at Tavistock and to Launceston, then the County town of Cornwall, which itself was on the main east–west route between Devon and Cornwall. This east-west route provided the only crossing points of the River Tamar for several centuries using a number of arch bridges financed by the Abbot of the Abbey at Tavistock. Launceston also had a Priory dedicated to St Stephen.

The church at Landrake is of Saxon origin and would have been constructed of wood and wattle. It was rebuilt in stone in about 1100, has Norman features and was extensively rebuilt in the 15 th century. The church is shown on 19 th century maps as St Peters and was known as such until the early 20 th century, but it has since been confirmed that it is dedicated to St Michael. It is thought that it became known as St Peters because of the holding of the local main fair on St Peter’s Day, June 29 th, for many years.

There used to be three annual fairs at Landrake, which is not surprising considering the number of large farms in the Parish and the quarries at Tartendown, all of which have been active since the Priory days. These must have supported a large number of families with a requirement for trade in bread, meat, shoes and boots, milk and clothing, all provided locally or imported via the rivers from elsewhere.

There is evidence of early chapels in the Markwell area, presumably for the use of travellers having safely made the sea voyage to Cornwall or leaving for the next stage of their journey by river.

A Holy Well was recorded here in 1018, probably known as St Mark’s Well, hence the name of a settlement there named Markwell. A chapel is also recorded at Markwell in 1308 and this is near the Holy Well site.

The spring which rises at Markwell has a small pond associated with it which provided a reservoir for the water mill. This spring provides all the hamlet’s drinking water to this day. A large pond is located to the south of the existing farmhouse, fed from a spring and dug out to provide storage for water in order to irrigate potatoes in adjacent fields. This is an obvious site for another Holy Well and, although there seems to be no archaeological record of this, dowsing here indicates that this is a Holy Well site and that there was probably a chapel associated with it. This theory is strengthened by finding  a large number of ley lines passing through this site.

Prehistoric settlements in the Markwell and St Erney areas are likely as worked flint tools and Iron Age stone spindle weights or whorls have been found there.

The bulk of the Priory estate lay in the Parish of Landrake, and was entitled the Manor of Landrake. It included ”Landrake Barton (250 acres), Talvan (72 acres), Cutlinwith (110 acres), Penquite, Tartan Down with its quarries (stone from these quarries was used to build St Germans Priory), Pencaver Mill, Brighter, Poldrissick, Trewint, Trebighan , Lantullock and Trewandra”.

In 1564 the Priory and the estate in St Germans were purchased by John Ellyot and it became known as Port-Eliot; it has remained in his family ever since. The Eliot Estate now owns Markwell farm, which is still in Landrake Parish, across the river from St Germans.The other farms and property in the villages in the Parish have been owned variously by the Eliots, the Hobarts, the Edgecumbes and the Carew- Poles. In 1918 the Earl of Mount Edgecombe sold his farms and much of his other properties in the Parish to pay for death duties.

Matthew & Allison took over the tenancy at Markwell Farm in March 2000 from Paul & Elizabeth Tamblyn on their retirement after 42 years. The holiday cottages were converted in 2001 as the next chapter in the history of Markwell.


*The word Lan implies a monastic enclosure. The parish of Landrake and the farm of Lanbest, both near St Germans, were, in all probability, small independent monasteries in Celtic times, though they were afterwards absorbed by the priory at St Germans and remained its property until the Reformation.

*Barton is an old English word meaning the land of a Manor

*tun is an old English word for a farmstead

* The Cornish name for Landrake is said to come from “lannergh”, a clearing, the 1605 form “Larrack” has given rise to the local pronunciation of Larrick commonly used for Landrake

*a see is the domain of authority of a bishop


Records of the Church and Priory of St Germans in Cornwall by Charles Henderson M.A.

Cornwall County Council Historic Environment Service Truro

Acknowledgements are made to the work of local historians Brian Walton and Frank Stevens and published in Memories of Landrake and St Erney in September 2000

Dowsing for a Holy Well in Cornwall by Peter Gibson dated January 2008

Michael Gibson

June 2009


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