Warbstow is located about ten miles north-west of Launceston. The parish is one of the few in England to have an exclave, that is, a detached part of the parish. The main part of the parish includes the settlements of Warbstow, Warbstow Cross and Trelash and a number of hamlets, and the exclave (which is separated from the main part of the parish by about 150m) includes the hamlet of Canworthy Water.
The settlement of Downinney was first recorded in 981. The manor was also recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086 as Donecheniv when the manor was held after the Norman Conquest for the Count of Mortain by Richard, son of Turolf. The manor house stood on the green at Downinney but little remains of the original building. Downinney also has a well preserved animal pound, surrounded by a Cornish hedge. It is said to have been in continuous use until the beginning of the 20th century.
The settlement of Fentrigan is first recorded in 1306. Fentrigan or Ventrigan was the chief manor of the parish of Warbstow and belonged to the Priory of Tywardreath, and was given to the Duchy of Cornwall in exchange for the honour of Wallingford.
The parish of Warbstow is in the Launceston Registration District and has been since 1st July 1837.
The church is dedicated to St Werburgha, an abbess who was buried in Chester, and the name of the village is derived from St Warbury-stow (Lannwarburgh in Cornish).
Charles Henderson, the noted historian, described the church thus in 1925:
Warbstow (or Werburga’s Stow) was a chapelry to Treneglos in the 12th Century and they now form a united vicarage. They belonged to the Priory of Tywardreath by gift of the Lords of Cardinham in the 12th Century. Warbstow Church was originally cruciform, the aisle and tower were added in the 15th Century and the south transept was removed at the restoration, 1861. The presence in Cornwall of St Werburga, the Saxon Abbess of Chester, is not easily accounted for (though the parish is famous for geese, which figure in her legend).
Just above the village is the Iron Age defensive earthworks known as Warbstow Bury or Barrow, which lies 820 feet above sea-level. This is a well preserved, multivallate hill fort of approximately 7.5 hectares. The two concentric ramparts are widely spaced with a smaller rampart between the other two in the south side. It is said that the mound in the centre of the hill fort, known locally as the Giant’s grave, is where the Warbstow Giant was buried after being killed by the Giant of Beacon. Despite the name, which suggests a burial mound, it is probable that it is a pillow mound (a domestic rabbit warren).
For further information on Warbstow see:
Genuki.org.uk for background information on Warbstow and links to family history records including online census records for Warbstow from 1841 to 1891 transcribed by the Cornwall Online Census project.
The Cornwall Record Office holds a number of documents relating to Warbstow including the 1841 tithe map and apportionment book, which is also available on CD. The tithe map is 7 feet 2 inches by 6 feet 5 inches (218cm x 196 cm) and was drawn at a scale of 4 chains to one inch.
Launceston Library has a local history reference section which includes information on Warbstow, and also has census records and local newspapers on microfilm.
The Heritage Centre at Bude holds a number of records including the parish records for Warbstow on microfiche. The Heritage archives are open by appointment only.
Cornwall online parish clerks which contains a wealth of information including parish records and non conformist baptism records.
The Historic Cornwall website links to the Cornwall & Scilly Historic Environment Record, which contains details of archaeological and historical sites, monuments, buildings, artefacts and landscapes including a number in and around Warbstow.GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, History of Warbstow in North Cornwall | Map and description, A Vision of Britain through Time. URL: http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/place/2906