The little village of Veryan is situated on the Roseland Peninsula, one of Cornwall’s hidden treasures. This narrow peninsula of farmland is surrounded by quiet beaches and dotted with ancient churches and picturesque hamlets. Veryan is famous for being home to a particularly unusual group of buildings, five perfectly round thatched houses.
These houses were built by the vicar of Veryan, Jeremiah Trist, during his time in the village between around 1777 and 1829. Trist was a very generous man, who left a lasting impression on the area. His good works included establishing a parish school and then later building another specifically for the girls of the village. He also installed new bells in the church and built the clock tower, landscaped a large amount of land around Veryan and planted many of the trees in the village.
It is said that Jeremiah and his wife Elizabeth Charlotte built the five round houses for their five daughters – Charlotte, Harriet, Caroline, Maria and Louisa, who had all been born in Veryan. Trist employed a builder from Lostwithiel, Hugh Rowe, to construct them. Two were built at the green, two on the hill on the way out of the village and one more near the school. Constructed of circular cob walls, four with conical thatched roofs and one with slate, the little buildings have become something of a landmark today and a few legends have sprung up regarding the reason for their unusual shape.
Round so there are no corners for the devil to hide in
The Reverend Trist was said to have been a “worthy man”, pious and somewhat eccentric and one story goes that the houses are round so that there would be no corners in which the devil could hide and therefore corrupt any of his daughters.
Another idea is that the houses were somehow built to keep the devil from getting into the village at all. This legend suggests that Jeremiah despaired of how wicked his parishioners were and so decided to try and bar the devil from the village by building houses with crosses on their roofs to keep him out. The round houses still retain those crucifixes to this day.
Jeremiah Trist remained vicar at Veryan for 52 years until his death in 1829 aged 74 and was laid to rest at Veryan Church. He was succeeded in his position in the church by his son Samuel, who remained the vicar of Veryan for a further 40 years.