Pre-Dissolution stained glass in Cornwall A gazetteer

Dr Joanna Mattingly and Michael G. Swift

A version of this gazetteer was published in the CVMA magazine Vidimus, vol 31, July/August 2009.

This month we are delighted to publish a pioneering gazetteer of pre-Dissolution glass in England’s most south westerly county: Cornwall. In the early sixteenth century the Cornish church included six monasteries, two friaries, three collegiate churches, some hospitals and 209 parishes or parish–like areas, together with numerous chapels, some linked to private houses. There are over 215 ecclesiastical medieval buildings or sites

We are extremely grateful to Dr Joanna Mattingly, a specialist on Cornish churches and a member of the Truro Diocesan Advisory Committee, and to Michael G. Swift, the stained glass advisor to the Truro Diocesan Advisory Committee, for kindly allowing us to publish a copy of their important gazetteer which lists forty-nine public sites in the county with early glass, far more than previously thought. In all cases, the location of the windows and some indication of their subject-matter, where known, are given. Illustrations of some of the glass can be found in the Picture Archive of the main CVMA site.


Although our survey for the Truro Diocesan Advisory Committee found traces of medieval glazing in nearly fifty Cornish churches (or just under a quarter of the total), only three now contain complete pre-Dissolution windows: St Neot, St Kew and St Winnow. In view of the importance of these windows, some brief introductory words might be helpful.

The earliest window (remains of the east window) is part of a major glazing scheme at St Neot and appears to date from the early to mid-15th century. Further windows were glazed there as funds were raised including the Old Testament windows which date from the 1480s or very early 1490s. The rest of the south aisle windows at St Neot are from the 1500s–10s, while the north aisle was glazed during the 1520s and early 1530s (on the basis of three of the last windows there being dated 1528–30).

The St Kew Passion of Christ windows probably date from the 1480s or very early 1490s. A Jesse window in the south chapel may also date from the fifteenth century. The St Winnow’s window can be assigned to the 1460s.

All these glazing schemes were part of a major rebuilding/refurbishment campaign which transformed the appearance of Cornish churches during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. St Kew’s scheme seems to have been finished around 1500 while St Neot’s was still being completed as the Reformation unfolded. Surprisingly in view of the comparatively early date (in a Cornish context) of its south chapel, St Winnow was left unfinished (it still retains its north transept of 13th or 14th century date). Of these churches, the glazing schemes at St Neot most closely reflect the pattern of enlargement of many Cornish churches. Documents show that short gaps between projects allowed for recovery before a fresh surge of fund-raising. Documentary evidence suggests that most of Cornwall’s medieval windows probably survived the Reformation with just a few faces and controversial images being removed. Major iconoclasm was delayed until the third Civil War period (1650–1) when Parliamentary soldiers went on a well documented glass-breaking spree. Eighteenth-century neglect and Victorian restorations led to further losses, while choice fragments were also given to visiting antiquarians. Information about lost glass has been largely ignored here.


  1. Altarnun: St Nonna
  2. Blisland: St Protus and St Hyacinth
  3. Boyton: Holy Name
  4. Breage: St Breaca
  5. Cotehele: Cotehele House Chapel
  6. Creed: St Crida
  7. Davidstow: St David
  8. Egloskerry: St Petroc and St Keri
  9. Fowey: St Fimbarrus
  10. Golant: St Sampson
  11. Gorran: St Goranus
  12. Helland: St Helena
  13. Lamorran: St Moren
  14. Landulph: St Leonard and St Dilpe
  15. Laneast: St Sidwell
  16. Lanivet: St Benet’s Chapel
  17. Lanivet: St Nevet
  18. Lanlivery: St Bryvyth (Brevita)
  19. Lanteglos-by-Camelford: St Julitta
  20. Lanteglos-by-Fowey: St Willow (Wyllow)
  21. Launceston: St Thomas the Apostle
  22. Linkinhorne: St Melor
  23. Luxulyan: St Ciricius and St Julitta
  24. Michaelstow: St Michael
  25. Minster: St Materiana
  26. Morwenstow: St Morwenna and St John the Baptist
  27. Mullion: St Melina
  28. Poundstock: St Winwalloe or St Neot
  29. Quethiock: St Hugh (Hugo)
  30. Rialton Manor
  31. St Blazey: St Blaise
  32. St Breocke: St Breock
  33. St Enoder: St Enoder
  34. St Kew: St James the Great
  35. St Mabyn: St Mabena
  36. St Martin-by-Looe: St Keyne and St Martin
  37. St Mellion: St Mellanus
  38. St Neot: St Anietus
  39. St Teath: St Teath Virgin
  40. St Tudy: St Tudius
  41. St Winnow: St Winnow
  42. Sheviock: Blessed Virgin Mary
  43. Sithney: St Sidinius
  44. South Petherwin: St Paternus
  45. Trelowarren: Chapel
  46. Truro: Cathedral Church of St Mary
  47. Truro: Royal Cornwall Museum
  48. Withiel: St Clement

Further reading

  1. G.E. Doble, ‘Medieval Stained Glass in Cornwall and Brittany,’ Journal of the British Society of Master Glass Painters 4, no 4 (Oct 1932): 183–86.
  2. J. Pike Hedgeland. A description accompanied by sixteen coloured plates, of the splendid decorations recently made to the church of St. Neot, in Cornwall, at the sole expense of the Reverend Richard Gerveys Grylls, published in 1830. Printed for J.P. Hedgeland (London).
  3. R. Marks. Stained Glass in England during the Middle Ages. London and Toronto, 1993.
  4. J. Mattingly. ‘Stories in the Glass—Reconstructing the St Neot Pre-Reformation Glazing Scheme,’ Royal Institution of Cornwall Journal New Series, volume 3, 2000: 9–55
  5. J. Mattingly, A. Buckley, J. Hall. ‘A Tin Miner and a Bal Maiden—further research on the St Neot windows,’ Royal Institution of Cornwall Journal 2001: 96–100
  6. J. Mattingly. Looking at Cornish Churches, Redruth, 2005.
  7. J. Mattingly. ‘Pre-Reformation saints’ cults in Cornwall—with particular reference to the St Neot windows,’ in Cartwright, Jane (ed.), Celtic Hagiography and Saints’ Cults, Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 2003: 249–70.
  8. N. Orme. Cornwall and the Cross: Christianity 500–1560, Victoria County History publication, Chichester, 2007.