Until 1934 Gwithian was a separate civil parish within Redruth Rural District. In 1934 Gwithian and its neighbouring civil parish of Gwinear were transferred to West Penwith Rural District where they were merged into the single civil parish of Gwinear-Gwithian.
Gwithian Towans cover the site of a Bronze Age farm which has been excavated although no remains are visible. The church and relics of St Gwithian or Gocianus, built in 490, were uncovered from the beach and dunes during the early part of the 19th century, but were then allowed to be reclaimed by the shifting sands. Gwithian is the patron saint of good fortune on the sea. Charles Henderson wrote in 1925 that the "oratory ... is more perfect than the Oratory at Perran, having been less meddled with, though it is probably not so ancient". According to tradition there was in the sandy waste between the village and the sea a city of Connor. From Norman times there was a manor here called Connerton which was the paramount manor of the hundred of Penwith. The lords of the manor were bailiffs of the hundred and they held courts and enjoyed the rights of wreck for the coast between Porthtowan and Prussia Cove at least so late as 1580. The importance of this manor may have derived from it being the seat of a Celtic prince in early times. The current church was established further inland in the 15th century but only a few fragments of this building remain incorporated in the lychgate of Edmund Sedding's church of 1866 (the tower however is the original one of the 15th century.)
The Hundred of Penwith had its ancient centre at Connerton, now buried beneath the sands of Gwithian Towans. (A hundred was a former Celtic 'keverang', an administrative unit which was sub-divided into tithings.) The institutions of the hundred were moved to Penzance in 1771 (or earlier) following large successive inundations of in blown sand. In the Geld Inquest of 1083, only seven hundreds are found in Cornwall, identified by the names of the chief manors of each: Connerton, Winnianton, Pawton, Tybesta, Stratton, Fawton and Rillaton (corresponding to Penwith, Kerrier, Pydar, Powder, Trigg, West Wivel and East Wivel). Connerton was held at the time of the Domesday Survey by King William and had been held by Brictric and then by Queen Matilda before him. In 1086 there was land for 40 ploughs and 30 villagers, 20 smallholders and 30 serfs are recorded. There was a mill, 300 sheep, 40 wild mares and 21 other animals.
One of the many maps available on A Vision of Britain through Time is one from the Ordnance Survey Series of 1900 illustrating the parish boundaries of Cornwall at the turn of the 20th century. This map blows up to show all the parishes and many of the small villages and hamlets.
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