St Petroc’s Church in the hamlet of Trevalga has been at the centre of small group of people who, between them, have notched up over 190 years of service.

Sitting as it does on the edge of the Atlantic in between Boscastle and Tintagel, its setting is pretty much picture perfect. In a hamlet of a handful of houses and a farm within an ancient landscape that hasn’t changed for hundreds of years, it’s not hard to understand why it has been so cherished and supported.

Arthur Nicholls is currently the longest standing church warden, switching his allegiance from Forrabury Church back in the 70s when his father asked for his help ‘’… As the walls were caving in.” Arthur agreed and has been there ever since but is keen to point out that it isn’t just him that has kept the place going, looking towards Bob, the other church warden and Maria, his sister-in-law who plays the organ.

Trevalga, the village that was put up for sale

As peaceful as it is, Trevalga made the news in recent years as the Cornish hamlet that was put up for sale – homes, farms and livelihoods included. It came about when the last lord of Trevalga Manor, Gerald Curgenven, a teacher from Marlborough College who had brought the hamlet back in 1934 for the princely sum of £14,000 bequeathed the estate, which was mentioned in the Doomsday Book, to the College on his death in 1959. He did so to protect it from developers and preserve the homes of the villagers. Unfortunately, a dispute arose around the College’s charitable status and it decided to try to sell up, including everything except the church, in 2010. Thankfully, legal complications and a lack-lustre market meant the sale didn’t proceed, so life in the hamlet continues, albeit a little precariously.

Not that it feels remotely so when talking to Arthur and the other members of the congregation – Mary, who is Arthur’s wife, Angela who is married to Bob Pethwick, joint church warden and dairy and potato farmer, and Maria, Arthur’s sister.

Arthur who has been church warden for 44 years

“Mary says it’s my second home!” says Arthur. “They said I should give up the post after six years to give someone else a chance, there was no one else until Bob – and now its been 44 years!”

Bob used to go to church as a child, which meant trekking across the fields, but as an adult, even with the church practically in the back yard, the farm seemed to take up all of his time. One Sunday Arthur saw him in the yard and suggested he join them. For Bob, that was, “Donkey’s years ago. I thought, may as well and I’ve been going ever since!” More than just going, Bob’s also been a church warden now for 28 years.

Bob, who has served as church warden for 28 years

Maria, Arthur’s sister-in-law, was taught to play the organ by her father-in-law. When he died, she took over playing the organ and has continued to do so for the past fifty years, regularly playing at Trevalga and Forrabury in Boscastle,  and sometimes at other churches within the benefice – St Juliot, Lesneth, Otterham, Minster and Tintagel! Maria’s outstanding commitment was recognised in 2014 when she was awarded the St Piran’s Cross.

Maria, Irene & Mary, part of the team that has collectively served for 190 years at Trevalga

Revd Heather Aston, who has only been in post for six months loves coming to Trevalga. “It’s so peaceful. The people are wonderful – there is so much history here.” And so much laughter. Interviewing them, it was easy to sense the fun they have worshipping and serving together.

It’s hard to imagine anything ever changing in Trevalga although they say a new village hall would be nice – the old one is over 80 years old and in dire need of repair or rebuilding. If they managed to escape the hamlet being sold off, re-building a village hall seems highly achievable.