Germans, St. (St. Germanus)

GERMANS, ST. (St. Germanus), a parish, the head of a union, and formerly a representative borough and a market-town, in the S. division of the hundred of East, E. division of Cornwall, 9 miles (W. N. W.) from Devonport, and 227 (W. S. W.) from London; containing 2843 inhabitants. This place derived its name from St. Germanus, Bishop of Auxerre, who is supposed to have resided on the spot during a visit which he made to Cornwall, in the fifth century. Athelstan having conquered the Cornish Britons, in the early part of the tenth century, founded a see here, which, in the reign of Canute, was united with that of Crediton, the seat of the united dioceses being subsequently transferred to Exeter. The removal of the see probably contributed to the decay of the town; the market, then held on Sundays, having become very inconsiderable when the Norman survey was made. Leland mentions it as a poor fishing-town; and adds, the glory of it stood by the priory, a convent of Augustine canons, whose revenue, at the Dissolution, amounted to £227. 4. 8.: the site is occupied by Port Elliot, a modern mansion belonging to the Earl of St. Germans.

The town is situated in a beautiful valley, on the borders of a creek called St. Germans, formed by the rivers Tidi and Lynher, which, uniting with the Tamar, fall into the sea. Fairs for cattle are held on May 28th and August 1st. The place is governed by a portreeve, chosen annually at the court leet for the manor: it returned two representatives to parliament from the year 1562 to the 2nd of William IV., when it was disfranchised. The parish comprises about 10,000 acres. Stone of a dun colour is quarried for building and roadmaking; slate-stone is also abundant, and there are two quarries of slate of strong but inferior quality, which is used for flooring and roofing. Every facility for the transport of the produce of the parish, and for the supply of coal and other necessaries, is afforded by vessels that can approach the quay at St. Germans, and discharge their cargoes. The living is a perpetual curacy; net income, £101; patrons and appropriators, the Dean and Canons of Windsor. The church consists of the nave and aisles of the conventual church, with a fine Norman doorway at the west end, between two low towers, of which one is square, and the other octagonal in the upper stage. Within are several monuments of the families of Eliot, Glanvill, and Scawen, among which is a magnificent tomb in memory of Edward Eliot, uncle of the first lord Eliot, with a recumbent figure of the deceased, and other figures, executed by Rysbrach; here is also a monument of Walter Moyle, an eminent writer, the friend and correspondent of Locke, and who died in 1721. A chapel has been erected at Hessenford, by subscription, aided by a grant of £75 from the Incorporated Society; it was consecrated in 1833, and 308 of the sittings are free. The living is in the gift of the Incumbent of St. Germans, who also presents to a chapel at Tideford. There are places of worship for the Society of Friends, and Wesleyans. The poor law union comprises 14 parishes or places, and contains 16,120 inhabitants. St. Germans gives the title of Earl to the family of Eliot.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.

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