History of the Plen

Plen-an-Gwa'rry: (plain-an-gwah-ree), n. [Cornish] 1. playing place 2. place of the play, amphitheatre constructed in the Middle Ages.

Plen an Gwarry, St Just

Cornish for ‘playing place’ or ‘place of the play’, hundreds were constructed in the late Middle Ages across the whole county and were used to perform community Miracle plays. Today only two survive, one of these is in the centre of our town of St Just in the far west of Cornwall. The Plen-an-Gwary’s are probably the oldest working theatres in the country making an important contribution to British theatre history. The Ordinalia Cycle of miracle plays were written in Cornish by the Canons at Glasney College, Penryn around 1370 to be performed in Cornish rounds across the county, and the Plen in St Just was deemed to be a particularly fine example of one as the historian William Borlase stated in 1758:

‘we have one whose benches are of stone, and the  most remarkable Monument of this kind I have yet seen……… it seems to have been a work of more than usual labour and correctness.’ 


From the early 1800s the Plen continued to be used by local people for the Sunday School Tea-Treats that accompanied the Methodist revival, in fact John Wesley himself preached there; the Plen was also used by local miners for rock drilling competitions on high days and holidays.

 More recently it has hosted the Cornish Gorseth Ceremony as well as summer fairs, barn dances, theatre and music performance.  The fantastic annual Lafrowda Festival was started in 1997 particularly to use this space.