Maryfield St Philip and St James: its stained glass and the Gothic revival

Michael G. Swift

This article is based on a presentation given at St Philip and St James, Maryfield, on .

Architect and architecture

The foundation stone for St Philip and St James, Maryfield, was laid on . The completed church was licensed on 1 and the spire was added in .2 Both the architecture of the building and its fixtures and fittings have received considerable attention in recent years,3 but this is the first time that the stained glass windows have been analysed in detail.

The architect William White was chosen by WH Pole-Carew to design his new estate church at Antony. White had started his architectural career in Truro, and had already designed the local school and parsonage for Mr Pole-Carew.4 By , White was an established London architect working in the Gothic Revival style. He was about to embark on his largest ecclesiastical commission at Lyndhurst in the New Forest which is usually regarded as his best large church design, and there are strong reasons for claiming Maryfield to be his best small church.

White adhered closely to the Gothic Revival views on the moral dimension of architectural fixtures and fittings expounded by Pugin and Ruskin.

1st, that there should be no features about a building which are not necessary for convenience, construction or propriety; 2nd, that all ornament should consist of enrichment of the essential construction of the building … the smallest detail should have a meaning or serve a purpose; and even the construction itself should vary with the material employed5

Figure 1. St Philip and St James, Maryfield, from the southeast.

Figure 2. The wall painting and polychromatic chancel arch.

The restrained exterior of Maryfield (Figure 1) is in marked contrast to the vivid pre-Reformation red and yellow polychromatic style of the interior (Figure 2), enhanced by White’s own designs for the main fixtures: the font and canopy, lectern, choir stalls and reredos. Such was his attention to detail, however, that he also designed the exquisite iron work, stone mouldings, wall stencilling and even the decoration on the organ pipes! Picturesque without and richly decorated within6 indeed!

All of these aspects have been admired by recent commentators, but the stained glass windows have received scant attention. They were all (except the window in the tower) designed and manufactured by the London studio of Clayton and Bell, and inserted in the late 1860s. No-one has drawn attention to the fact that not only do most of the windows form an integrated scheme closely linked to the architectural layout of the building and its liturgical functions, but also that the windows and wall paintings form a major theological narrative that was unique at that time in the Victorian churches in Cornwall.7

The window scheme

Such glazing schemes, usually termed integrated didactic schemes, had certain features in common. Firstly they present multi-layered theological ideas, religious narratives and personages in a coherent and logical sequence. Secondly, didactic glazing schemes utilize the features of the building’s architectural space, and relate the iconography of the windows to the functions of liturgy and worship within that space. Thirdly, the glazing schemes have an overall artistic unity and design. Lastly, the schemes have a didactic purpose, in that besides enhancing the worshipful atmosphere as a decorative art, they were intended to teach and instruct.

Maryfield was the first such scheme in Cornwall, and pre-dated the much more ambitious scheme by Bishop Benson and Canon Mason8 for the new Truro cathedral by nearly fifteen years. Coincidentally the windows for Truro’s scheme were also designed and executed by Clayton and Bell.

Such schemes were invariably associated with churches with High Church religious status, stemming from the Tractarians in the 1830s. William Pole-Carew was sympathetic to the Tractarians and identified with the Ritualists.81 Indeed, much of his later political career in Cornwall was impacted by controversies over his promotion of Ritualist clergy to his livings at the church of The Blessed Virgin Mary, Sheviock, in and St James, Antony, in .82

The scheme for Maryfield’s windows shows a high degree of theological depth and intricacy, and was obviously formulated by someone who was intimately connected with the planning of the new church. William White’s other churches show no such sophisticated glazing schemes, so he can be ruled out as the originator. Clayton and Bell would only follow the instructions of the architect, patron or donor, and would not initiate such a scheme themselves. The Revd Sudlow Garret9 was incumbent of Maryfield from to , and is quoted as encouraging Mr Pole-Carew to bring forward his plans to build the church from to , and as offering to provide some or all of the costs from his own pocket. There can be little doubt that he was instrumental in formulating the decorative plan for the windows and wall paintings, and from now on this will be referred to as Garret’s scheme.

The main part of Garret’s scheme concerned the south wall windows of the nave and the chancel windows (except for the window behind the organ). These windows can be read as a coherent didactic scheme starting from the font and ending at the chancel rail. One feature that makes Garret’s scheme unique in Cornwall is the manner in which he integrated the chancel wall paintings into the glazing scheme.

Fittingly, Garret started with the first window by the south porch where the font is situated, and the water imagery in the window’s iconography thus defines a baptistry space. So the scheme starts with the sacrament of Baptism and will end with the sacrament of the Eucharist.

The two nave windows show Garret’s mastery of typology, where events and themes from the Old Testament in the lower part of the window are chosen to illustrate their fulfilment in the New Testament in the upper part. Such typological settings were common in medieval windows from the 12th century onwards,10 and are most obvious in the first window of the sequence.

s5. Nave south 211

Figure 3. Naaman is cured of leprosy by dipping himself seven times in the River Jordan (Ⅱ Kings 5:14).

Figure 4. Noah builds the Ark (Genesis 6:14–22).

Figure 5. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are unscathed in the Burning Fiery Furnace, with King Nebuchadnezzar looking on in amazement (Daniel 3:24–25).

The scene in the tracery is Christ suffering little children to come unto Him,12 a clear reference to baptism and thus establishing this part of the nave as a Baptistry space. Reading from left to right, the window shows mostly a sequence of Old and New Testament events depicting the cleansing and purifying effect of water. Thus Christ’s baptism by John the Baptist13 is above Moses dividing the Red Sea;14 the Eunuch’s baptism by St Philip15 is above the healing of Naaman of leprosy16—two outsiders in society (Figure 3); and Paul and Silas baptising the jailor17 is above Noah building the Ark18 (Figure 4). The second lancet shows the scene of Pentecost above Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego unscathed in the Burning Fiery Furnace, with King Nebuchadnezzar looking on in amazement.19 (photo 5) This light references rebirth rather than specifically baptism.

Figure 6. Moses divides the Red Sea (Exodus 14:19–31).

Before proceeding with the next window in the typological narrative, some comments must be made about Clayton and Bell’s designs and artistry. Maryfield’s windows were designed towards the end of that studio’s early adherence to the 14th-century artistic style. This can be shown in their use of simple canopies and the elimination of borders. The leading is strong and vigorous, as in the parting of the Red Sea panel. Facial features still retain some of the medieval severity of the earliest Clayton and Bell designs, together with the use of blue backgrounds and minimalist background detail. Notice also that Moses is depicted with horns, rays of light, as in medieval iconography20 (Figure 6). Together these windows establish an artistic unity throughout the whole church, as the same studio was to show in their later windows at Truro cathedral.21

s4. Nave south 1

Figure 7. Sirs, ye are brethren (Acts 7:26).

Moses stops a conflict between two Israelites.

The next window poses a serious challenge to the modern viewer: the typology is sophisticated and the subjects are not immediately clear. The Old Testament narratives are in the central light, with Gospel events on either side. Moses is depicted stopping a conflict between two Israelites (Sirs, ye are brethren22) (Figure 7) whilst below he is shown with a couple (the man Moses was very meek23). Interpretation of this typology is clearer when one realises that the four Gospel episodes all involve recognition of Christ’s divinity. Thus, Stephen’s vision of the heavens opening at the moment of his martyrdom24 is above Christ at Jacob’s well with the woman of Samaria25; and Nathanael’s recognition of Christ26 is above the same act of recognition by Martha at the tomb of Lazarus.27 So the Moses episodes can be read as types where the leader of the Israelites was similarly recognised by his own followers.

Chancel arch wall paintings

Figure 8. Wall painting depicting the Annunciation, above the chancel arch..

The polychromatic stone of the chancel arch is surmounted by the inscription Serve the Lord with gladness and come before His Presence with a song.28 To enhance this invitation to enter the choir, wall paintings of King David playing a harp and Miriam playing a timbrel are on either side of the arch.29 Above, two censing angels direct the view to a superb Annunciation marking the commencement of the Gospel narrative after the typology of the nave windows (Figure 8). This is the first example of the true originality of Garret’s scheme and the only example in Cornwall where glass and wall paintings were so integrated.

s3. Chancel south 2

Figure 9. He rebuked the winds (Luke 8:24 and Mark 4:39).

The two lights in this window concentrate on miracle narratives from the Gospels. Christ stilling the waves30 (Figure 9) is above the feeding of the five thousand;31 and Christ rescuing Peter from the waves32 is above the first miracle, the Wedding at Cana.33 The portrayal of the first event is particularly imaginative, with the ship’s tiller in the foreground and the dramatic waves similar to those in the earlier parting of the Red Sea.

s2. Chancel south 1

Figure 10. It is the Lord (John 21:7).

These two lights concentrate on post-Resurrection narratives where Christ revealed himself to his disciples. The scene in the Garden with Mary Magdalene (Noli me tangere)34 is above the meeting on the road to Emmaus;35 in the other light the scene where Christ calls to the disciples whilst they are fishing36 (Figure 10) is above the revelation to doubting Thomas.37

e1. Chancel east

Figure 11. e1. The east window. The upper lights show the Crucifixion, together with the three Marys and St John. The predellas below show, from left to right, the Adoration of the Magi, the Flight to Egypt, the Presentation at the Temple, the Nativity and the Annunciation to the shepherds.

This window is set above White’s striking reredos, complete with his geometrical decorative motifs that were such a feature of his work in the 1860s. The reredos’ central panel of the Agnus Dei references the image of the Crucifixion in the window, whilst the inserted images of the patronal saints Philip and James the Less carry on the theme of witnesses from the preceding window and prepare the viewer for the Chancel east window and the wall paintings above. This five-light window is dominated by the Crucifixion, unusually showing all three Marys as well as St John, again emphasising their witness after the Resurrection (Figure 11). Clayton and Bell again employ a rich choice of colour and background for these images, but the use of grisaille panels above and below ensures that much natural light is admitted into the Sanctuary.

Figure 12. e1 1b. The second predella, showing the Flight to Egypt.

The five predella panels in the lower part of the window take the narrative back to the beginning of the Gospel story. They are the Adoration of Magi; the Flight to Egypt (Figure 12); the Presentation at the temple; the Nativity; and the Annunciation to the shepherds. One unexplained feature of this sequence is that the events follow no chronological order and Garret’s intention behind this arrangement is unclear.

The Chancel wall paintings

Figure 13. The Resurrection.

As with the Chancel arch paintings, these form an integral part of the didactic scheme. The scenes shown are the Transfiguration, the Resurrection (Figure 13) and the Ascension, forming a fitting climax to Garret’s sequence of windows. Almost certainly executed by Clayton and Bell but designed by White, they show his imaginative use of abstract geometric forms that has already been noted in the reredos, and have been fittingly described as a tour de force.38 They feature even on the pipes of the organ!

The remaining windows

Whether the remaining windows in the church were part of Garret’s scheme is open to debate. Certainly the later tower west window (w1) of Gabriel and Michael fits uncomfortably with the other windows in its style and iconography. With this exception, however, it is possible to read some continuity of intention in the windows of the north wall, where the iconography is mainly concerned not with biblical and theological issues, but with social and personal morality.

n5 and n6. The north Aisle windows

These two single-light windows depict Martha and Mary, sisters of Lazarus. Martha is usually viewed as the personification of the busy housekeeper, the active type, in contrast with the contemplative sister Mary.39

The Pole-Carew family had always had their pews in the north Transept, and both the wood carvings and the three light stained glass window create a socially separate space.

n4. North transept north 2

Figure 14. n4. Acts of mercy or charity.

Figure 15. n4 2b. Peter prayed (Acts 9:40).

Peter prays for the recovery of Tabitha who is ill in bed.

Figure 16. n4 2a. I was thirsty (Matthew 25:35).

Figure 17. n4 tracery trefoil, showing an image of the window's dedicatee, Caroline Anne Pole-Carew.

The dominant theme for this window is various acts of mercy or charity (Figure 14), and this was a common theme during Victorian times, especially in churches that were part of an estate. The central light is taken from the Acts of the Apostles, showing Tabitha ill in bed, Peter praying for her recovery (Figure 15), and Dorcas distributing clothing.40 This is flanked by the acts of welcoming strangers, giving drink to the thirsty (Figure 16) and feeding the hungry in the left light; and visiting the prisoner, visiting the sick and clothing the naked in the right-hand light. These themes were obviously viewed as a commentary on the relationship between the estate family and the estate workers within the wider community, and were often used in memorial windows where the dedicatee was known for their acts of charity.41 This particular window was dedicated to Caroline Anne Pole-Carew, the mother of William Pole-Carew, who had died in .411 Two images of her in profile are within the tracery (Figure 17), together with a scroll-bearing angel and the Virgin and Child.

n3. North Transept north 1

This window, hidden behind the organ, consists of an angel in the tracery with Miriam and David as the main subjects. Obviously this was intended to emphasis the two biblical characters already shown in the Chancel arch wall paintings that are most closely associated with music and praise.

n2. North Transept east

This is a simple two-light window portraying the patronal saints Philip and James the Less.

In conclusion

A recent assessment of the impact of Maryfield’s interior is that the patterning and colouring are intense, the overall effect resonant with mystery.42 The Revd Garret’s scheme for the stained glass windows is now seen to be intimately connected with the architecture and liturgy of the church, as well as imparting an artistic unity to the church’s interior. These themes of his scheme are an emphatic High Church statement of the place of this church within the Gothic Revival in mid-Victorian England. The integration of wall paintings with stained glass, defining sacramental, liturgical and indeed social spaces, remains unique in Cornish churches. Consequently, this church should now be recognised as a major example of the influence of the Gothic Revival in Cornwall, the climax of which was to be Pearson’s masterpiece of Cornwall’s cathedral at Truro over twenty years later.


  1. F Julia Pole-Carew and ACW Bevan, The Story of Maryfield, p 1. Undated booklet.
  2. Pole-Carew and Bevan, op. cit., p 2.
  3. P Beacham and N Pevsner, Buildings of England—Cornwall, pp 98–99, London .
  4. G Hunter, William White, p 150, Spire Books, .
  5. AWN Pugin, The True Principles of Pointed or Christian architecture, p 1, London, .
  6. Beacham and Pevsner, op. cit., p 75.
  7. The only two other completed integrated didactic schemes were for Truro cathedral, where the initial drafts by Bishop Benson and Canon were started in , and Fr George Metford Parson’s scheme for Crantock from onwards.
  8. MG Swift, The windows of Truro cathedral—a Victorian vision fulfilled, .
  1. Edwin Haggard, The Political Life of William Pole Carew (). Journal of the Royal Institute of Cornwall, , p 91.
  2. Haggard, ibid. Pole Carew’s cousin John Somers Cocks at Sheviock and his relative John Kitson at Antony. Op. cit. p 96. The Sheviock controversy was still a source of controversy in Pole Carew’s election campaign in .
  1. Pole-Carew and Bevan, op. cit., p 1. Garret is here spelt Garratt, but the spelling from the list of incumbents and other sources has been retained.
  2. Such as the Corona Redemption window in Canterbury cathedral of and many of the window of Chartres cathedral from onwards.
  3. The windows are numbered using CVMA nomenclature: from the east window (e1), they are numbered sequentially either north (n) or south (s), to end with the west window (w1). In this paper each window is given a descriptive title to indicate its position within the building.
  4. Matthew 19:13–15.
  5. Matthew 3:13–17.
  6. Exodus 14:19–31.
  7. Acts 8:27–39.
  8. Ⅱ Kings 5:14.
  9. Acts 16:33.
  10. Genesis 6:14–22.
  11. Daniel 3:24–25.
  12. Exodus 34:29 flashing with rays of light. The Latin Vulgate translated ‘rays’ by ‘cornuta’, giving rise to the tradition from medieval times onwards of Moses being portrayed with horns.
  13. CE Tute achieved the same effect in his windows for Fr Parson’s scheme at Crantock.
  14. Exodus 2:13 and Acts 7:26.
  15. Numbers 12:3.
  16. Acts 7:54–60.
  17. John 4:1–30.
  18. John 1:49.
  19. John 11:17–27.
  20. Psalms 100:2.
  21. Exodus 15:20–21.
  22. Mark 4:39 and Luke 8:24.
  23. John 6:1–13.
  24. Matthew 14:22–33.
  25. John 2:1–11.
  26. John 20:14–20.
  27. Luke 24:13–27.
  28. John 21:7.
  29. John 20:19–29.
  30. Beacham and Pevsner, op. cit., p 99.
  31. James Hall, Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art, p 191, London, . Luke 10:38–42.
  32. Acts 9:36–41.
  33. Paul Sparling, Stained glass in Rutland Churches, pp 17–26, Rutland Local History Society, . To the Glory of God and in (Loving) memory of … indicates the dual purpose of many such memorial windows. On the one hand the window enhanced the worshipful atmosphere of church, whilst on the other hand the windows were intended to immortalize certain aspects of the dedicatee’s memory.
  1. A portrait of Caroline Anne Pole Carew, daughter of William Henry, 1st Baron Lyttelton and wife of Reginald Pole-Carew, is on the first floor of Antony House.
  1. Beacham and Pevsner, op. cit., p 98.