The stained glass windows of St Moren, Lamorran

Michael G Swift

This article is based on a presentation given at the church in .

Introduction

This small, cruciform church with a detached bell-tower is picturesquely situated in a lonely position on a tidal creek of the river Fal. It was enthusiastically restored for the 6th Viscount Falmouth by the Cornish architect William White in .1 Four of its five stained glass windows were inserted within the following decade.

South transept east

Figure 010. South transept east tracery fragments. The arms of Hallep of Cornwall are or two bendlets sable (Burke, Bernard, The General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, p 443. , London, Harrison & Sons), suggesting that this fragment may have been inserted reversed, like the text fragment lower down.

This consists of a medley of fragments (Figure 010) and was probably inserted at the restoration. The glass is a mixture of various ages, some of which is medieval.2 Besides inscriptions, recognizable pieces include a heraldic shield (Polsue4 in cites the de Halap arms), a hand clasping a Psalter or Book of Hours, and some fragments that could be from a depiction of Golgotha. Sadly, many of the fragments suffer from severe degradation.

South transept south

Till Angels wake thee with a Note like thine (Samuel Johnson, quoted in James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, p  40, London, 1830, John Sharpe).

Figure 020. South transept south. In the scrolls in the tracery is written Thou, O Lord, remainest for ever; thy throne from generation to generation. (Lamentations 5:19). In the centre light, Christ holds an open book in which is written Ego sum resurrectio et vita (I am the resurrection and the life) (John 11:25). In the left-hand light is St Peter, and in the scroll wrapped around the trumpets below him is written [qui reddent rationem ei qui] paratus est iudicare [vivos et] mortuos ([Who shall give account to] him that is ready to judge [the quick and] the dead) (Ⅰ Peter 4:5). In the right-hand light is St Paul, and in the scroll wrapped around the trumpets below him is written Canet enim tuba et mortui re[surgent incorruptibiles] (For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised [incorruptible]) (Ⅰ Corinthians 15:52).

This very impressive three-light window (Figure 020) depicts Christ flanked by SS Peter and Paul. It was given by Anne Frances, Countess Falmouth, the widow of the 1st Earl of Falmouth, in immediately following the church’s restoration. The window was made by the Stained Glass Artist to Queen Victoria, Thomas Willement, and another work from this artist of the same date is at the neighbouring church of St Michael Penkivel (North transept east) given by the same donor. Willement’s usual rebus or maker’s mark of ‘T above W’ is in the bottom right-hand corner.

Artistically and historically this window is of great interest. By the 1850s, the most commonly accepted style (by the Tractarians and Ecclesiologists) was for a mosaic window of small pieces of glass held together by lead calmes modelled on early medieval windows such as those found  in the Gothic cathedrals such as Canterbury and York. Here, however, we have very large pieces of glass and a profuse use of enamel paint. Also, the addition of winged putti playing musical instruments gives the window a distinct 18th century air. Presumably this is what the donor wanted and, given that Willement’s windows were amongst the most expensive, this is what was provided.

North transept east

Figure 030. North transept east. The four Evangelists: SS Matthew (upper), Mark (right), Luke (left), John (lower).

Many people are deceived into thinking that this window (Figure 030) is much earlier than the mid-19th century. It was, in fact, inserted in the early 1860s and is partly the work of Mary Frances Elizabeth, Viscountess Falmouth, the wife of the 6th Viscount Falmouth, herself. There are other windows by Viscountess Falmouth in St Michael Penkevil (such as Chancel south 1, Chancel south 2 and Chancel north 1) and most of these are signed with her initials. This window is not signed, but is obviously by the same hand.

Viscountess Falmouth’s contribution was the painted roundels of the four evangelists. These have been set in a commercial background of grisaille (grey quarries) and coloured circles and borders. Victorian stained glass made by amateurs is quite rare, and by coincidence in the same decade not many miles away the rector of St Michael Caerhays, Revd William Willimott, was embarking on a remarkable set of windows (continued later at Quethiock) which makes him one of the great Victorian amateur stained glass artists.

Chancel east

Figure 040. Chancel east. Scenes from the life of Christ: Nativity (lower right), Adoration of the Magi (lower left), Presentation in the Temple (upper left), Baptism (upper right), Crucifixion (lower centre), Resurrection (middle centre) and Ascension (upper centre).

In , four years after the church’s restoration, this three-light window (Figure 040) was inserted, the gift of ‘Friends’ of the second Earl of Falmouth. The window was made by the London studio of Lavers and Barraud. Panels of the early events of Jesus’ life, namely the Nativity, Adoration of the Magi and the Presentation, are combined with His baptism by John the Baptist. The central light shows the Crucifixion at the bottom, nearest to the altar, with the Resurrection above and the Ascension at the top.

Although only four years separate them, this window could not be more different from the earlier Willement window. Here, the approved mosaic style and medieval models are duly observed. The lead-lines are strong and contribute positively to the vitality of each picture. The narrative scenes are small in size. The colouring is typically early-Victorian in the use of primary colours. The face-painting in particular is typical of the simple early medieval Gothic style that was such a feature of the windows of the 1850s. was a significant year for the firm in that whilst they were still executing designs for the new firm of Clayton and Bell it was the year Nathaniel Westlake joined to eventually form Lavers, Barraud and Westlake.

There are two unusual features in this design. Firstly, the Resurrection depicts Christ in a mandorla shape (produced by two overlapping circles) which is surrounded by angels on each side. Secondly, the depiction of a fully clothed Christ on the Cross is very rare. One might suppose that it was in response to (female?) sensibilities that could not cope with the sight of a Christ in the normal semi-nude portrayal just above the altar.

Tower west

I am the true vine (John 15:1).

I am the good shepherd (John 10:11).

I am the light of the world (John 8:12).

To the Glory of God and in memory of the Reverend William Curgenven formerly Rector of Lamorran who died This window was erected by his Daughter Mary Anne Curgenven

Figure 050. Tower west.

This (Figure 050) is a much later window () designed by Clayton and Bell, very much in the style of their windows for Truro Cathedral. The colours and painting of the window are typical of this firm’s high standard. The window was donated through a bequest in the will of Miss Mary Anne Curgenven of Falmouth,5 in memory of her father, Revd William Curgenven, a former rector of Lamorran. The subjects are unusual in that they are three allegorical representations of Christ. The most unusual subject is ‘The True Vine’, quite a rarity in Victorian glass. By contrast, ‘The Good Shepherd’ and ‘The Light of the World’ (based on the painting by Holman Hunt) were very popular subjects in the late Victorian period. Miss Curgenven gave two other windows: Gwennap North aisle west and All Saints’, Falmouth, West. In all three cases, the window was made by Clayton & Bell and was the only window by this studio in the church.

Summary

Although there are only five stained glass windows in the church, they provide a fascinating cross-section of the evolution of Victorian stained glass. The four 19th century windows each have a great deal of interest and, whilst they may not appeal to 21st century tastes, they are a salutary reminder of the impact of the stained glass revival on churches in the Victorian age. Many Cornish churches suffer from mediocre and inferior Victorian stained glass: Lamorran is indeed fortunate in the quality of its windows. The approach to this isolated church is caught well by Betjeman: Public lanes through the tall beech and elm and ash woods of Tregothnan crossing private drives descend to low oak woods, a decoy and a tidal creek of the Fal. No bungalows wreck the scene. An old manor house, and well in a slate hedge, and farm and its buildings are on the estuary and company for the lonely church.3 Little has changed since this was written sixty-five years ago. The church is locked, but it is well worth while making the effort to attend the monthly evensong on a Sunday afternoon.

References

  1. The Ecclesiologist No ⅭⅣ, October 1854, p 359, Beacham, Peter, Pevsner, Nikolaus, Buildings of England—Cornwall, 3rd edition, p 264. London, Yale University Press, .
  2. Mattingly, J, Swift, MG, St Moren, Lamorran, in Pre-Dissolution stained glass in Cornwall.
  3. Betjeman, John. Cornwall: A Shell Guide, p 58. .
  4. J Polsue, A Complete Parochial History of the County of Cornwall, vol Ⅱ p 389. William Lake, Truro, .
  5. Lake’s Falmouth Packet and Cornwall Advertiser p 5.