AGNES (ST.), a market-town and parish, in the union of Truro, W. division of the hundred of Pyder, and of Cornwall, 8½ miles (N. W. by W.) from Truro, and 263 (W.) from London; containing 7757 inhabitants. This place, formerly called Breanic, or Bryanic, is situated in an extensive mining district, on the northern coast of the county, and is hilly and barren, the town consisting principally of cottages inhabited by miners. The rocks on this part of the coast are precipitous, and the character of the scenery for the greater part boldly picturesque. On a pyramidical rocky eminence, 664 feet above the level of the sea, is St. Agnes' beacon, formed out of an ancient cairn or tumulus, and which, during the late war with France, was kept constantly in readiness to communicate intelligence in the event of any invasion: it has since that time been greatly diminished by the removal of the stone for repairing the fences in the neighbourhood. At the base of the hill are vestiges of a strong vallum, supposed to have been constructed by the Romans, and which anciently extended for nearly two miles in a circular direction. The district was formerly worked only for tin, of which the principal mine, called "Seale Hole," after having produced an immense quantity of ore, was discontinued some years since. Coppermines were subsequently opened, and have been worked with very great success. The port, which is a member of that of St. Ives, carries on a trade principally with Ireland and Wales, in the exportation of copper-ore and fire-clay, and the importation of coal, iron, machinery, limestone, and grain. After many fruitless attempts, a pier of moorstone, here called "Trevannance," was constructed by a company in 1794; and the harbour has been improved within the last few years: it affords safe anchorage to about eight or ten vessels of one hundred tons' burthen, but can only be entered at high water. A pilchard fishery was established in 1802, which gives employment to about forty men. The market is on Thursday; a fair takes place on the 30th of April, and courts for the duchy are held here in October, at which constables and other officers are appointed.
The parish comprises 8294 acres, of which 3633 are common or waste. The living is a vicarage not in charge, united to that of Perranzabuloe: the vicarial tithes have been commuted for £265, and the appropriate, belonging to the Dean and Chapter of Exeter, for £250. The church is an ancient structure, built chiefly of granite, with a small spire of the same material. A church district named Mount Hawke was formed in 1846, by the Ecclesiastical Commission, out of the parishes of St. Agnes and Illogan; and another, named Mithian, was formed out of St. Agnes' and three other parishes: the living of each is in the gift of the Crown and the Bishop alternately. There are places of worship for Bryanites, Independents, and Wesleyans. The free school, founded by the Rev. St. John Elliott in 1760, has a small endowment, arising from funds bequeathed by him for charitable uses; and another school is endowed with £5 per annum. Near the site of an ancient chapel, in a dingle called Chapelcomb, was the famous well of St. Agnes, of which many miraculous stories are recorded. Opie, the celebrated painter, was born in the parish in 1761; he died in the year 1807.