Hayle: Phillack

The Parish Church of Phillack, stands high on the edge of the Towans overlooking Hayle’s Copperhouse pool. Originally dedicated to St Piala or Phillack, it was latterly changed to St Felicitas and St Piala’s Church. (Piala was the sister of Gwinear and came over from Ireland accompanied by him and 770 companions, only to be executed on arrival. Perhaps not a great idea to arrive in such a large party!) The church dates from the 12th century, but was remodelled in 1865 in typical Victorian style.

As usual my interest lies outside. A small late fourth/fifth-century Chi-Rho stone (A Christian monogram and symbol formed from the first two letters X and P of the Greek word for Christ) can be seen over the main south porch, but it is very badly worn and close by is a coped or hog-back stone which is one of only four in the county. There are several Cornish crosses. The best is the one by the main entrance which contains an elongated figure of Christ (11th century).

On the other side of the entrance, on the ground, is the head of a wheel-headed cross. I like to wander around older churchyards, and this one is particularly lovely. It is a closed churchyard (no longer used for burials) and is managed by Cornwall Council who take care of the paths and boundary walls and have a sympathetic wildlife focus which offers many ecological benefits.

The grass is cut three times a year, the first in summer after the wildflowers have seeded, the second in mid-September and the final cut in winter. As such it is an area of natural beauty with wildflowers, trees, ferns and lichens being allowed to flourish.

Phillack itself is a tiny ‘village’ or hamlet between Hayle and the dunes and is an ancient Christian and Celtic site. The pub near the church dates from the 18th century and gruesomely named the Bucket of Blood.  Legend has it that, in smuggling days, a brutally murdered customs officer was discovered at the bottom of the pub’s well when the unsuspecting landlord drew up a bucket of bloody water.
Not a long walk from the church to the pub for your Sunday lunch.


  1. Elizabeth says:

    What is a hog-back stone and why are there so few. I know that I could Google the answer, but I much prefer learning from the writer who mentioned it. Many New England graveyards from Colonial times have the same stones as in the photos you share from the same time period. Many are still readable even, as are some of yours.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Carved grave markers that are Anglo-Saxon / Scandinavian and usually found in northern Britain so unusual in Cornwall.

      1. Elizabeth says:

        Thank you. I like the name and the history.

  2. Goodness, what a gruesome history this area has, with buckets of blood and executions on arrival. I’m glad you treat your visitors more kindly these days. 🙂

  3. That’s such a lovely old church and graveyard. I love wandering old graveyards too, you might have noticed 🙄. There’s always so much of interest to find.

    1. Heyjude says:

      The church has been spoiled by Victorian additions as many were, but the old churchyard is very peaceful.

  4. BeckyB says:

    Thank goodness for all the beauty in between your executions!

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