Standing on the site of St. Enoder Church over 4000 years ago early man would have looked down on wooded slopes and shallow lakes. Millions of fresh water shells have recently been dredged up at Penhale showing that these lakes may have existed for thousands of years before the first human beings even came to the area.
Attracted by the water, small groups of people did eventually come to hunt and fish and make crude dwellings. Stone Age flints have been discovered near Barton Lane and no doubt there are many others still to be found.
During the Bronze Age and Iron Age periods small settlements became established around the lakes which were transversed by a causeway known in more recent times as Penhale. The roadway from the east known locally as “Deep Lane” crossed the causeway, climbed the hill and continued to wind its way westward. Deep Lane, with its cobbled floor and trees meeting overhead can still be seen between the roadworks south of Penhale. On the west side of Penhale it is known as “Narrow Lane” and continues today up to the church and onwards as far as Mitchell. This little road dates back to the Bronze Age and has been variously known as the Harrow Way, the Stanna Way, the Old Tin Road and the Great Western Highway. Along this road tin was carried from Marazion to Dover and on to Gaul.
The Penhale Round was partly excavated in 1993 before the work began on the Indian Queens Bypass and showed evidence of both Bronze and Iron Age occupation and it is more than likely that there was an iron age settlement at St. Enoder. It is still possible to trace the circular boundary of the Round in the shape of the Rectory garden. Strategically placed alongside such an important road the village of St. Enoder soon grew to be a very busy village.
When the first Christian missionaries came to the area they established a Christian sanctuary on the rectangular area adjoining the north side of the Round. A natural spring nearby made it particularly attractive to the holy man and his followers who established the first church on the site.
Although originally immediately adjacent to the NE corner of the churchyard the water table has lowered and this spring can be found approximately 200 yards due north of the east end of the church. It is situated in a small grove of bushes and used to be marked with a stone cross. Sunday school picnics were held annually near the spring but the area is well and truly trampled by cows today and there is nothing much to see. The only evidence of the spring being the very marshy ground below it.
The first Christian Chapel may have been built on the site as early as the 5th Century AD. The dedication is uncertain as Enoder is not a name well known as a Celtic saint. It is possible that he was St. Cyndr whose feast day is on the 27th April as St. Enoder feast has been traditionally kept on the Sunday nearest to the last Thursday in April, and the name sounds very similar. St. Cyndr came from Breckonshire where he founded two churches and travelled on to Brittany in about 547-550 AD. It is however more likely that ‘Enoder’ was Tinidor or Tenenen who travelled with St. Crantock.
Many holy men from Wales crossed Cornwall on their way to Brittany. Some of them chose to stay. The Celtic holy men were identified by their strange tonsures, with the front of their head shaved and the back half cut unevenly. They wore a long sheepskin cloak over a linen shift and when travelling carried a staff and bell. Some would carry a stone altar and whenever they made their home they would set up a small chapel.
The foundations of the original Celtic Chapel lie under the chancel with the doorway almost immediately under the archway in the carved wooden screen. The holy man would celebrate the Eucharist inside while the people gathered at the open doorway and watched. He would come to the doorway to distribute the bread and wine.
As time went on the people built an extension to the Chapel so that they were no longer exposed to the vagaries of the Cornish climate. This extension, known as the nave, belonged to the people and the people were responsible for its upkeep. Both the chapel and the nave were small and were probably built of uncut stone and had either a thatched or, more likely, turfed roof . The Celtic nave at St. Enoder extends westward to the third pew from the front. It is possible that a small Christian community was established to the South of the church where the earliest monks lived in crude stone cells and grew their own vegetables.