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Work starts uncovering St Piran's Oratory: PICTURES
5:00pm Monday 17th February 2014 in Cornwall
Today marked the start of the physical work to uncover St Piran's Oratory near Perranporth, despite the rain.
Members of St Piran Trust gathered as Eileen Carter, founder of the trust formally started the excavation.
Following a 15-year-campaign, the St Piran Trust plans to unearth and conserve St Piran’s Oratory, believed to be amongst the oldest Christian buildings on mainland Britain.
The site has been of central importance to Cornish people for over 1,400 years as a place of worship and pilgrimage, and as a focus for cultural expression. Today, many hundreds of people gather at the site annually to mark St Piran’s Day.
The scheduled ancient monument is a listed building and was buried in 1980, for “its own protection”. Since then expert opinion has shifted, amid calls for it to be uncovered and conserved in a more sympathetic way.
The Oratory is a key cultural icon for Cornwall. Its precise date has yet to be determined but it is certainly early medieval and likely replaced a yet earlier structure, which tradition suggests was built by St Piran himself.
Perranporth resident Eileen Carter formed the St Piran Trust in 2000 to campaign for its excavation and future protection.
The Trust’s project has been drawn out as the Oratory lies within a Special Area of Conservation – one of the most protected landscapes in Europe. As a result, a huge amount of preparatory work and investigation was required before permission to excavate could be granted.
Last summer, the Trust awarded a contract to Cornwall Council’s Historic Environment Service to start exploratory works which will now lead to the full excavation, preservation and interpretation of this historic site.
The trust is asking the public to get involved and become part of history – either by volunteering to help and/or by donating funds. Visit www.stpiran.org for more detail
Eileen Carter, below, founder of the trust, dug out the first spade full of earth
Sarah Newton MP and St Piran Trustee David Barrie - laughing despite the rain