Ancient Stone Coffin, Crantock Churchyard

There is an ancient stone coffin in Crantock churchyard. This curio is a little hidden secret as most people miss it completely as they’re heading for the church or Crantock village stocks, which are also in Crantock churchyard.

The ancient stone coffin was only discovered 150 years ago, or so. Many traditional travel writers mentioned it in their descriptions of Crantock, but it’s been something that more modern writers have been omitting. I felt this old stone coffin needed its own resurrection, so have included its details.

In 1824 Joseph Polsue remarked: “Fragments of stone coffins may still be found scattered about”

45 years later, in 1869, Henry Thomas De La Beche in his Report on the Geology of Cornwall spoke of more than one stone coffin, leaving the question of where did any others disappear to, or was he guessing more than one had just been discovered?

“Ancient stone coffins constructed with this material have been found in Crantock churchyard and one or two may now be seen there.”

Photo of Crantock, Stone coffin in the churchyard 1894, ref. 33533 Image: Reproduced courtesy of Francis Frith.

Frith, the renowned roving photographer, visited Crantock churchyard and took a photo of the stone coffin in 1894.

In 1897 John Llloyd Warden Page, William Augustus and Edmond Usher included it in their volume of “The North Coast of Cornwall”, describing the stone coffin as:

“Near the vestry door is the stone coffin of some person who must have been of great stature, for it is nearly eight feet long. It is open, the covering slab lying at one end, and, of course, empty. Who was buried in this rude sarcophagus is unknown. It is said It is said that Saint Carantocus was a very tall man and that this may have been his sepulchre. But the coffin is of later date than the fifth century, so, picturesque as the idea is, I fear it must be abandoned.”

In 1899, Cornish Magazine Volume 1 gave a column inch to this ancient curiosity, describing it as:

“In the churchyard are the remains of an ancient stone coffin, discovered a few years ago just beneath the spot where they now lie ; but it is not known whose body the coffin contained. The idea that it may have been the ‘ casket ‘ of St. Carantoc himself, though poetically attractive, does not seem to be tenable ; for it almost certainly belongs to a later date than the century in which the Saint lived and died.”

And finally, in 1910, Arthur L Salmon said of the coffin:

“… a large sandstone coffin, of at least a thousand years in antiquity, was discovered in the churchyard some years since, and now lies there to be marvelled at by the casual visitor and to delight the antiquary”

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