Church Monuments Society


The Spoure Memorial in St Torney’s Church, North Hill, Cornwall

Month: February 2020
Type: Mixed  
Era: 17th Century

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St Torney's
North Hill, Launceston PL15 7PQ

More about this monument

The sad story of the Spoure family of North Hill is recorded on their monument. Alas, the church is no longer open, but the local history society is continuing its researches.

Nestled into the slopes of the north east corner of Bodmin Moor is the parish of North Hill, six miles off the A30 at Launceston. The parish church of St Torney closed in early 2019 after centuries as the centre of the community. The earliest incumbent dates from the 1260s and the church has a Norman font which may have come from an earlier wooden building. Of the manors that existed in the parish, the one that survived longest is Trebartha. The manorial seat, Trebartha Hall, was occupied by a family that took their surname from the manor around the 1200s. The Trebartha family lived in the parish from around this time until the early 1500s. The last of the line was Anne Trebartha who married a visiting army captain from Somerset about 1495. His name was Thomas Spoure and their descendants lived at Trebartha Hall until the line came to an end in 1729 with the death of the widow Mary Grylls, nee Spoure. Mary left the estate in her will to her fiancée and first cousin, Francis Rodd. His family and descendants remained at Trebartha Hall until they sold the estate in 1940.

Mary’s statue is on the Spoure Memorial in St Torney’s Church, shown here. The memorial was commissioned by her father, Edmund Spoure, in memory of his only son, Henry Spoure. Henry was baptized in St Torney’s on November 1st 1677 and buried there on 27th March 1687/8. Henry was just 10 years old when he died and unless Edmund had had another son, the name of Spoure at Trebartha Hall would die out after 200 years of occupation.

By 1694, when Edmund and his wife were both about 40, the son and heir they hoped for had not arrived and they became reconciled to the end of the Spoures at Trebartha Hall. Edmund’s daughter, Mary would be the last of the Spoure line at Trebartha. She married twice. First to Rentaus Bellott and then to Charles Grylls. Each of her husbands gave her a son but by 1727 both husbands and both sons had died. Mary died in 1729 from smallpox before she could marry Francis Rodd. She left him the estate in her will that said he would not inherit if “he married Jane Parker of Covent Garden in London”. He married Alice Sanford and inherited the estate.

Back in the mid 1690s, Edmund was prompted by the potential demise of the Spoure family at Trebartha Hall to record the heritage of the Spoure family. He did this in two ways, he commissioned the memorial to Henry to be erected in the Spoure Chapel at St Torney’s Church in North Hill and he wrote a handcrafted 330 page tome, the Book of Spoure. In its day, the book was rustic and primitive in its art, poetry and prose. Today, it is a historically important masterpiece that tells the story of a family that would otherwise be lost to us after the passage of almost 300 years.

Amongst other history, The Book of Spoure contained a drawing of the Spoure memorial. On the memorial Edmund showed his wife and himself at prayer. Standing behind him were his two children, Henry and Mary. The memorial is topped by the crested and quartered arms of the Spoure family showing their ancestry from families such as Courtenay, Kellaway, Downes, Speccott and Roose. The central panel in Latin tells us of Henry’s short life and his qualities.

In the Book of Spoure is this written by Edmund – “ … the Latin Epitaph on Henry Spoure turn’d into English Verse Verbatim”.

To the Memory of Henry Spoure

Stop Traveller, thy delay’s not worthlesse here

Under this Tombe a youth sleeps very faire

His country’s hope, his Parents short delight

The Prop of his Family too, he was Ile say’t

       Besides the Love and praise

       Yea and the credit of his Schoole allways

Snatch’d hence in the Flower and blossome of his years

Imbrac’d by th’ Muses in their Heavenly Sphears

With Wealth nor Strength nor th’ Stocke from

       Whence he sprung

Could repercuss deaths dart; the force was so strong

       By which at once in One was lost

       A thousand Beauties, without boast

Yea and a thousand Eligances too

Such rare accomplishments when living was his due

Goe Traveller now, and mindfull be

Of Death, and of Eternitie

And so a long Farwell Farwell to thee

The drawing of the monument in The Book of Spoure, also shown here, may be an initial design for the monument or an inaccurate drawing of the monument after its construction. The date of the construction is not known but it may have been after Edmund’s death and the differences may not have been at his instigation. The drawing shows at the top of the monument the arms of Henry Spoure on the left and Edmund Spoure on the right; neither of these coats of arms appeared on the monument. Henry’s arms shows the three pointed label indicating that he was the eldest son. Edmund’s arms are impaled by that of his wife, Mary Rodd. An inscription below the main coat of arms to Henry Spoure was not realized. The angels behind the statues of Henry and his sister, Mary, were not included but replaced by simply designed shells.


Ken Ripper

North Hill Local History Group

See North Hill Local History Group’s website for further information –