Chapter 1 The visionaries responsible for the Master Scheme

Bishop Benson and the dating of the Master Scheme

Edward White Benson, Chancellor of Lincoln,

From a photograph by Messrs Harrison (late Slingsby) of Lincoln, in Benson AC, The Life of Edward White Benson, sometime Archbishop of Canterbury, London, Macmillan and Co., Limited, , Vol I, facing p 377.

The Master Scheme for the glazing of Truro Cathedral is unique in Church of England cathedrals in its ambitious scope, unity and comprehensiveness. The Scheme covered the subject-matter and position for all one hundred and four lights, including the three rose windows. The stated aim of the Master Scheme was:

The scheme of subjects [for the stained windows], which has been carefully prepared, and which it is hoped will some day be carried out in its completeness, is designed to illustrate the dealings of God with man from the beginning of creation until the consummation of all things, through His Eternal Word and Holy Spirit, manifested in the lives and characters of all His servants, both of the Old and New Covenant.21

The received wisdom in the Cathedral’s records is that the Master Scheme was formulated in : this must now be firmly discounted.22 An account of the Scheme in all its details was already published in the volume that was prepared for the Cathedral’s consecration in .23 Two of the rose windows and fourteen of the lancet windows designed in accordance with the Scheme were all inserted by , and discussions on their design were recorded as early as .24

John Loughborough Pearson. Probably based on an portrait by John Pettie, now in Aberdeen Art Gallery, a print of which is in the crypt of Truro Cathedral.

Pearson always closely involved himself with the window designs for all his major churches throughout the 1870s, usually working in partnership with his favourite manufacturers Clayton and Bell.25 A particularly fine example was their collaboration over St Augustine, Kilburn. Pearson’s drawings of show that he had already designed the traceries of the rose windows to accommodate the subject of the Holy Trinity in the Master Scheme (Chapter 4).26

Benson was closely involved with Pearson in all aspects of the building’s design and furnishing.27 Letters and notes from Bishop Benson to Canon Mason show that that the composition of the east window and the schemes that were to follow from it were being discussed by them in :

I should think it a great pity if the Acts of the Apostles, the history of the Church and the Church in Cornwall were not carried on in direct sequence from the Incarnation, Passion, and Glory. The genealogy is a decorative subject—it should be taken in symbol under the Incarnation, as drawing the clue through the Old Testament. But to give a third of the whole share to it!! [a reference to the idea of one of the three rose windows being devoted to the genealogy of Christ].

They were discussing some of the subjects for the Church History section of the Master Scheme as late as .28

The influence of Benson on Pearson during the planning phases () is alluded to by Pearson’s biographer as an explanation why Pearson’s final designs lacked the final touch of genius. There was a vociferous building committee to be satisfied, and, more formidable, there was Bishop Benson.29 So far as Benson’s scheme for the Truro stained glass was concerned, there is abundant evidence that he was drawing on the experience that he had gained when planning the new stained glass windows for the chapel at Wellington College from onwards. For this chapel, designed by no less than George Gilbert Scott, Benson not only drew up the master scheme of type and anti-type subject-matter, but also submitted his own designs to the firm of John Hardman of Birmingham.30 Even more amazingly, this correspondence was still ongoing in whilst he was Bishop of Truro, some four years after he had left Wellington College for the post of Chancellor at Lincoln Cathedral.31 Thus, within a year of Pearson starting his plans for Truro Cathedral, Benson was still involved in window schemes elsewhere.

The final piece of evidence confirming Bishop Benson’s inspirational role for the Master Scheme is contained in the following comment from an obituary to Richard Clayton of Clayton and Bell:32

The Scheme (for the windows) was prepared under Bishop Benson’s guidance [author’s emphasis] by Dr. A.J. Mason, assisted by Dr. Scott Holland33, the late Bishop Collins of Gibraltar34 and others.

This was written in by Canon Chancellor Arthur Worlledge. Worlledge was uniquely qualified to make this assertion as he was appointed Chancellor in , the year of the Cathedral’s consecration. He was a friend of Archbishop Benson’s who no doubt had much to do with his going to Truro as Chancellor35, and his friendship with Canon Mason was recorded in the early 1880s.

The main people responsible for the glazing scheme of Truro Cathedral are all represented in the westernmost window (n33) in the north aisle of the nave. The central standing figure is the first Bishop of Truro, Edward White Benson, flanked by allegorical figures representing Hope and Faith. The predella scene beneath shows the laying of the foundation stone on by the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII. Bishop Benson is central in the scene, the architect John Loughborough Pearson is second from the left and George Wilkinson (second Bishop of Truro) is to Benson’s left. The window was inserted in , and donated by the first Canon Missioner, Canon AJ Mason, who is the kneeling figure in the right-hand foreground.

One hundred years after the cathedral’s completion it is high time fully to acknowledge Benson’s vision and role in the formulation of the Master Scheme for the stained glass windows in his cathedral. The Scheme’s broad outlines were already in place by the time of the laying of the foundation stones in , and much of the detail in the Master Scheme stems from discussions between Benson and Canon Mason that started as early as . The stained glass Master Scheme is now positioned in the earliest design phase of the building as an essential part of the total vision of the cathedral as an Anglo-Catholic focus for Cornwall and the Church of England generally.

The Master Scheme

The massive multi-layered Master Scheme37 used every part of the building to expound its theological messages with almost theatrical effect. It was a wonderful example of Benson and Mason’s vision of the total integration of all aspects of Pearson’s architecture and fittings with liturgy and worship.38 This immensely ambitious didactic Master Scheme encompassed the fundamental doctrinal Christian Beliefs, the whole of the Old Testament history and the Gospel narratives. Also, the development of 1,900 years of the Christian Faith is represented by a selection of one hundred and eight historic individuals and significant events.

At Truro, the building’s symbolic cruciform shape was used to express the fundamental Christian beliefs of the Holy Trinity through the three rose windows at the ends of the west, north and south arms. The west rose depicts God ‘the Creator Word’39 with the acts of creation at the beginning of Time. The north rose depicts God the Son with the genealogy of Christ. The south rose depicts God the Holy Spirit and the Day of Pentecost. The east end is dominated by the lancets of Christ in Majesty at the end of Time, in a Te Deum setting. The absence of a Chancel screen in Truro cathedral renders this basic part of the scheme immediately intelligible when these four windows are viewed from the Crossing.40

It was intended that the clerestory windows should contain a succession of sixty Old Testament patriarchs and prophets. The lower great east window, the southeast quire transept and the baptistry vestibule contained Gospel narratives. Typological schemes were to be found in the south transept, the baptistry area and, if a donor had been found, would have been a major feature of the quire transepts and sanctuary.

Gospel narratives are also continued in the windows of St Mary’s aisle, the one remaining part of the old St Mary’s parish church. Although this aisle was never part of the Master Scheme, there is evidence that Mason and Worlledge controlled the selection of the window’s subject-matter to some degree (Chapter 14).

Finally, starting from the retro-quire, the building’s lower windows contain one hundred and eight historic figures representing the History of the Church from Christ’s commission to St Peter to Bishop Benson himself. This final sequence of saints and worthies of the Church consists mainly of European and British theological and political figures, but also includes figures from the arts in Europe (literature, music and painting), and Cornish history from the Celtic saints through the intervening centuries up to Bishop Benson and the laying of the Cathedral’s foundation stone. The building of a brand new cathedral afforded the opportunity to implement such a scheme, so long as potential donors cooperated.

All the subject matter was allocated to specific windows in the Master Scheme in minute detail. To a large degree this scheme was adhered to, although significant variations were later made to the nave sequence, and further additions to the Scheme were made by Canon Mason in the north transept and the west ends of the north and south nave aisles.

Canon Arthur James Mason (born , died )

Canon A. J. Mason,

From a photograph by Argall of Truro, in Benson AC, The Trefoil. London, John Murray, , facing p 208.

Canon Mason proved to be the pivotal figure in both the formulation and implementation of Benson’s Master Scheme. There are very strong grounds for regarding him, after Benson and Pearson (father and son), as the fourth architect of Truro Cathedral, in that for over thirty years he was instrumental in bringing Benson’s vision into fruition. As we shall see, the Executive Committee and later the Cathedral Chapter relied on Mason’s advice on a wide range of other topics, including the interior and exterior statuary.41

Although by he was no longer resident in Truro, he was still an integral part of the group prior to the cathedral’s consecration in that put the final details into the Master Scheme.42 There is also evidence that he was a regular visitor to Clayton and Bell checking on window designs in in preparation for the cathedral’s consecration.43 In the years following he was to play an ever more important role in the ongoing evolution of the Scheme and indeed many other aspects of the Cathedral (Chapter 3).

There is direct evidence that Benson was the sole influence on Mason’s career for twenty-three years.44 They started working together when Mason was an assistant master at Wellington College in the last years of Benson’s time as Headmaster (from to ). Mason then became a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, before being summoned to Truro immediately after Benson’s appointment as Bishop. He was appointed Benson’s Chaplain and Canon Missioner. Benson was anxious to reassure the Committee that the new appointment would not be a drain on their financial resources.

The Canon whom I should appoint has not, and very likely may not, have any family charges upon him for a long time.45

Indeed Mason was not to marry until , two years after Benson’s death. Benson obviously had a very high opinion of his abilities for the role of Canon Missioner, and his reputation for an ascetic life-style preceded him:

I am glad to have so brave an account of Mason, who I trust, true to his name, will aid in building up a spiritual church over, shall I say, the decaying walls of Wesley’s edifice. Don’t let him kill himself with fasting and cold water. It would be poor consolation to put up an effigy of him in the new Cathedral, armed like St Thomas with a symbolic builder’s square.46

Arthur J. Mason … served him [Bishop Benson] as a son with a father.47 The close relationship between Benson and Mason is essential to this story, and is shown in the following revealing entry in Benson’s own personal diary. On the Synod of Adelaide had offered Mason the post of their new bishop. The diary passage is quoted in its entirety as it shows clearly not only what Benson thought of Mason’s abilities as Missioner, but also how important Mason’s personal relationship was to the Bishop.

He [Mason] privately tells me that all must depend on my bidding him to go or to stay. He will take no responsibility for choosing, though his wish is to remain here. Archdeacon Hobhouse, so quiet and so cold, says it is impossible to contemplate the prospect of his leaving “without a shudder”. If he went our Mission work would collapse—not diminish in force but collapse. He was the first Missioner whom any Bishop employed as he has been employed. The preparing for and the preaching of Missions—the individualising the souls of the enquirers, the commemorating the Mission, the organizing in each place of a Church Society, the free open-air preaching, and above all the character of it—equally fervid and weighty—grave solid expositions of Church doctrine point by point, and each doctrine made to live as part of his own life in all—not a scheme but a picture—not a picture but an organic creation. Then his thin delicate figure with its wonderful strength both of muscle and of utterance—his clear bright ringing flexible voice—his crisp wavy hair, bright colour, bright eyes, the feminine delicacy of his features—the forehead so singularly by receding seems to emphasize all the force of the brow and eye in a way quite unlike any face I have ever seen—the absolute earnestness and stern love of his look—these outward things and the clear copious eloquence they love, which in his case never wastes or exaggerates a phrase, and helps to chasten them while they enjoy, have carried a new force I believe into Cornish religion already. Then there is his ascetic life, the bare handsome yet almost naked house which he has substituted for his luxurious Trinity rooms; his receiving of no income, and his maintenance of our gentle loving persuasive delicate very eloquent and even more ratiocinative, Carter,48 as a brother missionary. Of course his departure is a simple collapse if it is to take place. A Church is a system like the solar. The Cathedral in the centre must flame out light and heat. The parishes have their own self-repeating orbits very round, and crossing their paths in all directions and waking them all up, there must be comets as well as planets. And the comets are the Missioners.49

Given this revelation of Benson’s depth of feeling for Mason in his private diary, it is perhaps not surprising that Mason did in the end choose to remain in Truro until after Benson departed for Canterbury. The close personal relationship between Benson and Mason lasted until Benson’s death in , and is revealed in the way Benson addressed Mason in their correspondence over twenty years.50 The earliest form was ‘My Dear Mason’ was replaced within six months to ‘My dearest friend.’ Two months later the first use of Benson’s nickname for Mason ‘Agapit’51 was used, and this persisted for nineteen years with other variations, including ‘Agapitissimus’.52

Laying the foundation stone of Truro Cathedral; the predella of window n33.

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In Mason was appointed Rector of All Hallows, Barking, at the direct instigation of Archbishop Benson.53 In the same year he resigned as Canon Missioner at Truro.54 Mason remained as Rector of All Hallows until .55 Together with Canon H Scott Holland, he remained as one of the Bishop of Truro’s Chaplains until .56 As he was no longer resident in the Diocese of Truro, he resigned his Canon’s stall in :

Statute xii.26 Any honorary canon who is neither resident in the Diocese, nor holds any preferment therein, nor serves as chaplain to the Bishop, shall vacate his canonry.57

That was the end of Mason’s official connection with Truro Cathedral, which had started in ; but his influence on the development of the cathedral was to continue for at least another fifteen years through his close relationship and friendship with Chancellor Worlledge.

So far as the stained glass was specifically concerned, Mason’s London address was 7 Trinity Square in the centre of London, and he immediately established a close working relationship with Richard Clayton (then at 311 Regent Street). This meant that Mason was ideally placed to be the link between the London offices of Clayton and Bell and the Executive Committee (and later the Canon Chancellor) at Truro. There is no evidence of Mason having any direct experience of stained glass design, but as early as he was advising Clayton and Bell on details of their proposed designs for the cathedral’s main windows.58

A footnote to the connection between Benson and Mason involves Mason’s presence at Canterbury in the final three years of Archbishop Benson’s tenure. In , Mason was appointed both a Canon of Canterbury Cathedral and Chaplain to the Archbishop, positions that he held until Benson’s death in .59 Although no direct evidence has come to light, it is fascinating to speculate whether, as a result of their close proximity and their earlier dynamic relationship when the Master Scheme in Truro was formulated, Benson had any input into the ongoing discussions60 between Mason and Worlledge on the modifications to the Church History sequence of the nave windows during what was to be the last summer of Benson’s life.

Throughout his illustrious career, Mason produced a formidable output of theological works and biographies. His final publication three years before his death in was a monograph on the stained glass of Canterbury Cathedral, showing that he maintained his interest and involvement in stained glass to the end of his life.61


  1. Dean and Chapter of Truro, The Cornish See & Cathedral, Historical & Architectural Notes, p 44–50. Truro, Heard & Sons, .
  2. Stained glass inventory—Truro Cathedral office: The scheme was produced under Bishop Wilkinson in by H Scott Holland, AJ Mason and others.
  3. Dean and Chapter of Truro , op. cit., p 44–50.
  4. TCM/435 Minutes of the Cathedral’s Executive Committee .
  5. TCM/435 Executive Committee minutes .
  6. DCT/P/14 (West front), DCT/P/30 (South Transept), DCT/P/52 (North Transept), dated plans of and signed by JL Pearson, show that the tracery for all three rose windows was designed to accommodate the subject of the Holy Trinity. Contemporary press accounts of the foundation stones ceremony (Illustrated London News p 1, Illustrated London News p 5, Graphic p 7) reprint Pearson’s elevation drawings.
  7. Donaldson AB, The Bishopric of Cornwall, the first twenty-five years , p 125. , London, Rivingtons. Dr. Benson also very rightly pressed for certain alterations in the proposed figures on the altar screens in the sanctuary, by which are now recorded the names of the early Cornish Bishops and missionaries, as Bishops Kenstec and Conan, St. Petroc, and others.
  8. DD/716/75/251. Letter from Benson to Mason on the east window. DD/716/75/91. Letter from Benson to Mason on the incorporation of the Latin Doctors and the English Church into the Church History sequence.
  9. Quiney Anthony. John Loughborough Pearson, p 133. London
  10. Wellington College Library Collection (WCA) The Benson scrapbook: catalogue items 43, 47, 54, 55, 56, 70–74.
  11. WCA The Benson scrapbook : catalogue item 67 letter from JH Powell of John Hardman to the Bishop of Truro including rough sketches of a window design executed by Benson.
  12. Truro Diocesan Magazine (TDM) , p. 28.
  13. Truro Diocesan Kalendar (TDK) : Canon Dr H Scott Holland was one of the Bishop’s Chaplains under both Bishops Wilkinson and Gott. Donaldson , op. cit., p 214. Holland is now [] Canon Residentiary and Precentor of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
  14. William Collins. For details of his connection with Canon Mason see Chapter 3.
  15. AJ Mason (Mason 1) : Memoirs of George Edward Wilkinson, Vol 2 p 59, London, ; Donaldson , op. cit., p 69. Worlledge was formerly a Canon of Lincoln Cathedral when Benson was Chancellor, and later Principal of the Clergy School at Leeds.
  16. DD/716/69/4. Canon Mason’s diaries . Met Worlledge at Swindon and travelled the rest of the way (to Oxford) with him. DD/716/69/5. (in Leeds) drove down with Worlledge to Communion at the Parish Church—its very ugly, yet impressive.
  17. The Master Scheme identified the subjects for one hundred and four lights in the cathedral, but not all were inserted.
  18. There are many examples of didactic glazing schemes in churches by the 1870s; for example the almost contemporary schemes for William Burges’ churches at Christ the Consoler, Skelton and St Mary, Studley Royal, executed by Saunders & Co. Peter Leach and Nikolaus Pevsner The Buildings of England—Yorkshire West Riding, London , pp. 701 and 723. None however match that of Truro Cathedral for the size of the Scheme.
  19. Pearson used this phrase to describe the similar Creation west rose window at the earlier St Augustine, Kilburn.
  20. JL Pearson did insert two pillars for a possible chancel screen (DCT/P/65) and FL Pearson prepared drawings (DCT/P/104) for a chancel screen in .
  21. TCM/525 Executive Committee—minutes of statuary sub-committee .
  22. TCM/435 Executive Committee minutes .
  23. DD/716/69/5. Canon Mason’s diaries . Visits to Clayton and Bell about Truro windows on , .
  24. Benson AC, The Life of Edward White Benson, sometime Archbishop of Canterbury, London, Macmillan and Co., Limited, , Vol I, p 385. letter from Benson to Mason (The Chancery, Lincoln).
  25. TCM/115/7. Benson correspondence.
  26. TCM/9/11 Benson correspondence. Letter to Benson from W H Thompson of Trinity College. .
  27. Donaldson , op. cit., p 61.
  28. Donaldson , op. cit., p 382. Revd Francis Edward Carter, who on Mason’s resignation in became Canon Chancellor. He retained the post until .
  29. TCM/147 Bishop Benson’s diary .
  30. DD/716/75, Benson’s correspondence with Mason (263 letters and memos).
  31. Benson AC, The Life of Edward White Benson, sometime Archbishop of Canterbury, London, Macmillan and Co., Limited, , Vol I, p 438. Agapite, later Agapit, was my father’s name for Canon Mason. I never heard him use it in conversation, but he always wrote to him by it. Agapitus was one of the seven deacons of Rome under Xystus, six of whom, including Agapitus were martyred along with him. The loyalty of the deacons of Rome to their Bishop was proverbial.
  32. DD/716/75/22, ; DD/716/75/26, ; DD/716/75/74, .
  33. DD/716/69/4. Canon Mason’s diaries . : the Archbishop wrote saying that a great city living (it proves to be All Hallows, Barking) was in his hands, and that he wished to make it the seat of a college of missioners.
  34. TDK .
  35. Crockfords Clerical Directory .
  36. TDK .
  37. TCM/1133 Chapter Act Book .
  38. DD/716/69/5. Diaries of AJ Mason; references to visits to Clayton and Bell to check Truro designs on , and .
  39. Crockfords Clerical Directory .
  40. TCM/1049/3 Letter from Canon Mason (Canterbury) to Chancellor Worlledge.
  41. AJ Mason A guide to the ancient glass in Canterbury Cathedral. Canterbury, .