Truro’s stained glass, a fragile heritage

Michael G Swift


At 11.00 a.m. on , a wedding service was held in St Mary’s parish church, Truro. At its conclusion, almost as soon as the congregation had departed, work started on demolishing the medieval church to prepare the site for the foundations of the new cathedral. Part of the work involved taking out the eight stained glass windows that had been inserted less than forty years earlier. In so many ways, this episode is typical of the story of stained glass in Truro, a continuous process of insertion, removal and renewal covering the entire range of the city’s buildings, from religious, municipal and public, educational, commercial and domestic. It is a story of the rise in popularity of stained glass as a medium for decoration, and its fall from grace. It is a story of windows that were moved to new positions in a building and, in some cases, found new homes elsewhere in Cornwall. It is a story that can be repeated in every town and city in the country, but this is Truro’s own story of its fragile heritage of stained glass. Faced with the constant threats of Cornwall’s unforgiving weather, mindless vandalism, changing public taste and unsympathetic redevelopment, what remains of this heritage of stained glass is ever more vulnerable today.

To some, stained glass is just a relic of a despised Victorian artistic style. To others, it is a form of architectural wallpaper that is hardly worth noticing. To many it is a form of decoration that often enhances the interiors of spaces large and small. To a few enlightened souls it is an art form that magically plays with colour, light and texture, and speaks to the viewer with an artistic and historic intensity. For all, it was a product of its age and should be part of Truro’s historical heritage. This article is an attempt to raise awareness of the dangers that it faces.

The Anglican heritage

The Cathedral church of St Mary the Virgin.

The full story of the glazing schemes for the new Truro Cathedral has already been told in detail in The windows of Truro Cathedral, one of the finest and certainly the largest scheme of Late Victorian glass in England (Pevsner, ).

St Mary’s Parish church

St Mary’s was one of the earliest of Cornwall’s parish churches to insert stained glass windows in the 1840s. The church boasted an extravagant five-light Chancel east window, another five-light South aisle east window in the Lady Chapel and six further two-light windows in the south aisle, all made by the prestigious London studio of William Warrington. The six two-light windows in the south aisle were donated by prominent Cornish families. All the stained glass was removed into storage in when the church, except for the south aisle, was demolished. Seven years later, the Plymouth firm of Fouracre & Watson was employed to reinsert the Lady Chapel and south aisle windows into what was to be the St Mary’s aisle of John Loughborough Pearson’s new cathedral, along with some older fragments of glass. Had the decision been made to remove the whole of the old church without retaining the south aisle, none of this glass would have survived, and a rich legacy of early Victorian glass by Warrington would have been lost forever.

Not all the St Mary’s aisle east window did survive however. This five-light east window was, like the other Warrington windows, originally inserted between and . It was described as diaper pattern with cross ribbons and inscriptions: in the upper portion of the central light the sacred monogram and in the upper portions of the other four lights the four cherubic figures of Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke and John: in the centre of the five lights are the emblems of the Crucifixion and the sufferings of our Lord. Except for the tracery and panels behind the reredos, all the rest was discarded and replaced by new panels by CE Kempe in . So, we have a window made up of sections made in the 1840s and , with a medieval fragment as well!

Figure 010. Originally inserted in Truro, St Mary, Chancel east, then moved to Chacewater, St Paul, Chancel east. The main figures are, from left to right, St Philip, St John the Evangelist, Christ, St James the Less and St Simon and, above them, the smaller figures of an angel, St Peter, St John the Baptist, St Paul and an angel.

The original chancel east window (Figure 010) of the old church remained in storage until , when, as part of EH Sedding’s restoration of Chacewater parish church, a new chancel east window was created specifically for the Truro St Mary’s Warrington glass, providing a spectacular example how of a major stained glass window moved from one parish church to another.

Kenwyn parish church

Figure 020. Originally inserted in Kenwyn, Chancel east, then moved to South Chapel east. The main figures are, from left to right, St Peter, St John the Evangelist and St James the Greater (the three disciples who witnessed the Transfiguration).

The story of the stained glass windows in the medieval Kenwyn Parish Church is a microcosm of the history of stained glass with all its difficulties and dangers. The earliest Victorian window (Figure 020) in Truro was inserted in Kenwyn’s Chancel east in by Robert Beer of Exeter. In the church underwent a major restoration and rebuilding. As the chancel was extended, the Beer window was moved to the south chapel, to be replaced by the much larger Carlyon memorial window (Figure 030). The existing south chapel window was moved to south aisle west, whilst that window was moved to the north chancel. Various new windows by the Gibbs and William Wailes of Newcastle studios were inserted.

To the glory of God and in memory of Harriet Carlyon died aged 74 years, Eliza Carlyon died aged 81 years, Clement Carlyon died aged 87 years, Mary Carlyon died aged 90 years, Anne Carlyon died aged 82 years.

Figure 030. The Carlyon memorial window in Kenwyn, Chancel east, showing scenes from the life of Christ, which replaced the earlier Beer window (Figure 020) after the chancel was extended in .

Two of Kenwyn’s windows suffered severe vandalism in . The three faces in the Beer window had to be replaced by Wailes, who also repaired the damaged south aisle west window. The organ was originally sited in the south transept in , and moved to the south chapel in . The construction of the new organ chamber in necessitated removing the north chancel Osler memorial window, which was sealed behind the organ and has remained unseen for eighty years. The Tweedy memorial window, which was also in the north chancel, was moved to the south transept at the same time.

After there was a phase when the backgrounds and borders of Victorian stained glass were removed, leaving the main scenes ‘floating’ in plain glass. Obviously, this made interiors less dark, but the artistic integrity of the original designs was fatally compromised, and this was the fate of several of Kenwyn’s windows. All the nave windows were restored in the 1970s using superior crown glass, but some Victorian glass details disappeared in the process. Finally, in , the St Luke window (with the likeness of the dedicatee Revd Charles Burgess) in the south transept was vandalised. Luckily there was a detailed photograph which Andrew Johnson of Exeter was able to copy most successfully.

This is only a summary of the major changes that have occurred to Kenwyn’s windows over the past one hundred and seventy years; windows have appeared, disappeared, been repaired, altered, and moved around the building; all the result of restoration, rebuilding, vandalism and changes in artistic taste. The story is told in more detail in Kenwyn parish church’s stained glass windows.

St John’s church, Lemon Street

To the glory of God and in memory of Mary Anne Peppin Roberts who died

Figure 040. St John’s, Lemon St, Chancel apse north. Jonah gives thanks after being delivered from the inside of the whale on to dry land (Jonah 2:10).

For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world & this is the victory that overcometh the world even our faith. I John V (Ⅰ John 5:4).

Figure 050. St John’s, Lemon St, Chancel apse east. The angel and the three women at the empty tomb.

In loving memory of Elizabeth Heard of Truro died aged 80. Erected by her children Elizabeth Andrews & Edward G Heard

Her children arise up and call her blessed. Proverbs 31 Ch 28 Verse (Proverbs 31:28).

Figure 060. St John’s, Lemon St, Chancel apse south. The Translation of Elijah. Elisha watches Elijah (represented in renewed youth) being carried up to heaven in a chariot of fire. His mantle falls to the ground, to be picked up by Elisha (Ⅱ Kings 2:11).

This was the first of Truro’s 19th-century churches, and it had no stained glass from its consecration in to , when a sequence of windows was started in the chancel and nave (above and below the gallery), manufactured by the London studio of Heaton, Butler and Bayne. The north (Figure 040), east (Figure 050) and south (Figure 060) windows of the chancel apse are interesting in that they show examples of typology, where Old Testament events are shown to prefigure Gospel events. In this case Jonah and the whale and Elijah’s fiery chariot are vividly portrayed. The roundels surrounding St John’s eagle in the rose west window (Figure 070) make a strong impression. By contrast, the decorative glazing of the nave window panels of prophets and patriarchs seems today to be heavy and intrusive, and could well be the products of a local supplier such as Thomas Solomon of King Street in Truro.

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away (Revelation 21:1).

Figure 070. St John’s, Lemon St, West. An eagle, the symbol of St John the Evangelist, surrounded by five roundels containing a quotation from the book of Revelation. At the time when the window was made, it was generally believed that the author of the book of Revelation, St John the Divine, was the same person as St John the Evangelist, but this is no longer thought to be the case.

St George’s church, St George’s Road

Figure 080. St George the Martyr, Chancel north 1. Instruments of the Passion on shields. On the upper shield are the sword used by Peter to cut off the ear of the High Priest’s servant and the lantern and staves used by the arresting soldiers at the time of the betrayal. On the lower shield are the reed placed in Jesus’ hand as a mock sceptre, the cock that crowed after Peter’s third denial of Jesus, the pillar where Jesus was whipped and the scourge used to whip him.

Figure 090. St George the Martyr, Chancel south 1. Instruments of the Passion on shields. On the upper shield are the ladder used for the Deposition, the nails by which Jesus was fixed to the Cross and the hammer used to drive in the nails. On the lower shield are Jesus’ seamless robe and the dice with which the soldiers cast lots for the robe.

From its consecration in , stained glass was installed in St George’s by the London firm of William Warrington. and they provided the most impressive of the earliest windows, Chancel north 1 (Figure 080) and Chancel south 1 (Figure 090), simple inserts of the Instruments of Christ’s Passion set in grisaille backgrounds and coloured geometric patterns—so typical of the early Victorian decades. Four of the remaining windows were by the firm of Horwood Bros of Mells in Somerset. Although they were not in the top flight of designers, the Horwoods had the advantage of being in the Southwest and somewhat cheaper than their London rivals. St George’s services were always of a high ritual status which might explain why they were prepared to spend on enhancing the worshipful atmosphere with colour and light. On the plus side, like St John’s, the windows at St George have suffered little from vandalism and damage over the decades, although three of the original Warringtons in the chancel have disappeared without trace.

St Paul’s church, Tregolls Road

To the glory of God and in memory of Philip Protheroe Smith

Figure 100. St Paul, Chancel east. The principal figures, from left to right, are St Matthew, St Mark, St Paul, Blessed Virgin Mary and Infant Jesus, St Stephen?, St Luke and St John the Evangelist. At the bottom of the left-hand light is shown the martyrdom of St Stephen, and at the bottom of the right-hand light is the martyrdom of St Paul.

The same cannot be said for St Paul’s church. Consecrated in , St Paul’s had no stained glass until the EH Sedding extension and restoration in . This inspired an ambitious scheme for a sequence of windows on the life of Christ, starting with an impressive seven-light Chancel east (Figure 100) designed by the London firm of Lavers, Barraud and Westlake. Sadly, only four of the sequence were completed before the need for potential donors to an even more ambitious scheme for the Cathedral’s windows took precedence. The church suffered structural problems and is now redundant and empty, with the stained glass still in situ. It had already suffered severe vandalism: the fate of all of St Paul’s windows is unfortunately sealed, and there can be no hope for this example of Truro’s stained glass heritage. St Paul’s now joins other Truro churches and chapels where redundancy condemned its stained glass.

All Saints, Highertown

He is risen (Matthew 28:6).

To the Glory of God and in loving memory of James Henderson of Dalvenie, Truro, who died in his 81st year.

Figure 100. All Saints, Highertown, Porch 3. The angel of the Resurrection.

Three stained glass windows by the Exeter firm of Frederick Drake were inserted at the church’s opening in . The church was rebuilt in , and two of these original three windows (Porch 1 and Porch 2) are now mounted in panels in the porch and foyer of the rebuilt church. Another window, originally inserted in (Porch 3, Figure 100) is also now mounted in a panel in the porch of the rebuilt church. Current plans for the further rebuilding of the church do not yet include the re-siting of these windows, and it is very much to be hoped that they can be accommodated to preserve a heritage link to the original All Saints building.

The Home of the Community of the Epiphany (now Alverton Manor Hotel), Tregolls Road.

Parvulus enim natus est nobis, et filius datus est nobis (For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given) (Isaiah 9:6).

In memory of Canon Body, D.D. Warden, C.E.

Figure 110. Chapel of the Community of the Epiphany, North 3, upper panel. At the top of the window, Isaiah holds a scroll foretelling the birth of Jesus, which is shown in the Nativity scene below.

One of the largest collections of stained glass in Truro was in the buildings which were originally built for the Home of the Community of the Epiphany and is now the Alverton Manor Hotel. Panels of original decorative quarries of flower motifs have survived in the main internal door of the hotel. In the Chapel corridor and in the alcove of the chapel (now called the Great Hall) are windows of the archangels by Hardman & Co of Birmingham. But it was the original chapel that contained the greatest treasures, three windows from (East) to (North 2 and North 3, Figure 110) and a later one in (North 1). This was a set of windows made by the studio of CE Kempe to a scheme drawn up by Canon AJ Mason, who was responsible for the implementation of Bishop Benson’s Master Scheme for Truro cathedral’s windows from the 1880s to the outbreak of the First World War.

Whilst most of the stained glass throughout the rest of the building remains in situ, the chapel windows have suffered three disasters. Firstly, enemy action in destroyed two of the five lights in what must have been an impressive chapel east window. Secondly, a severe fire in destroyed the first (North 1) of the single-light windows in the north wall. Lastly, because of the functions that are held in this room, all the windows are permanently covered with closed curtains. So, a unique record from the building that housed an Anglican community of nuns is now largely lost, along with a priceless piece of Truro’s historic legacy.

Copeland Court (now Epiphany House), Kenwyn.

A.M.D.G. et in P.M. Caroli Willelmi Stubbs Truronensis Episcopi quarti hanc fenestram ponendam curaverunt adiutores et amici (Helpers and friends have had this window erected in to the greater glory of God and in pious memory of Charles William Stubbs, fourth bishop of Truro.)

Figure 120. Epiphany House, East. Christ the Intercessor between earth and heaven.

No such fate has befallen the one window in the old Bishop’s palace of Lis Escop, originally the Kenwyn vicarage. The handsome Powell of Whitefriars window of Christ the Intercessor (Figure 120) remains one of the best examples of Truro’s stained glass.

The Cathedral School.

Ad majorem Dei gloriam et in piam et perpetuam memoriam Scholae Ecclesiae Truronensis alumnorum qui in bello per quattuor annos gesto gravissima pro rege et patria passi libertatem nobis sibi immortalitatem morte sua emeruerunt hanc fenestram ornandam curaverunt eiusdem scholae condiscipuli.

Avete fortes animae bene valeatis in pace.

(To the greater glory of God, and in affectionate and lasting memory of those lads of Truro Cathedral School who, in the Great War, from to , for King and Country enduring all things, by their supreme sacrifice won liberty for us, and for themselves a deathless name—this window has been given by their friends.)

(Brave souls, all hail! In peace farewell.)

Charles Frederick Barrett. Clement Francis George Molland.
Thomas Tonkin Carlyon. Alan Monk.
John Walter Cowling. Thomas William Pascoe.
Charles Cecil Ewart Deeble. Arthur Stanley Paterson.
Hedley Dunstan. John Carhart Reed.
Fred Leslie Greenaway. Redvers Baden Rowe.
Claude Vivian Grigson. Edgar Cyril John Rundle.
Kenneth Walton Grigson. James Melville Whitworth.
Harold Hockaday. Theodore Herbert Henry Wood.
Irving Howard Hoskins.

Figure 130. Cathedral School Assembly Hall, East. The archangels Gabriel and Michael illustrate two lines from Canto IV of Dante’s Paradiso And Holy Church under an aspect human / Gabriel and Michael represent to you.

The most poignant of all Truro’s stained glass is the First World War memorial window (Figure 130) inserted in the Assembly Hall of the Cathedral School in by Fouracre & Son of Plymouth, commemorating the nineteen former pupils who lost their lives in that conflict. Its sombre tones and the names of the dedicatees reflect the devastating grief felt by so many after .

The building was used for offices for years after the school was moved to Kenwyn, but has now been refurbished for a wide range of uses. This war memorial window was joined in by the Willimott stained glass panels that were rescued from the old Truro Public Buildings (see Public Buildings below), but that is a much longer story.

The non-Anglican heritage

Our Lady of the Portal and St Piran RC Church

The original St Piran’s Roman Catholic church was a delightful building designed by Silvanus Trevail in . It was in a prime position overlooking Chapel Hill. The east rose window would have been ideally suited for some form of stained glass, but apparently the glazing throughout was cathedral tinted quarries. The church was recently used as a pre-school nursery, and is now converted into a domestic home.

Figure 150. Our Lady of the Portal and St Piran, Chancel left lower, Detail, showing the texture of dalle de verre (slab glass).

The new Our Lady of the Portal and St Piran RC Church on St Austell Street was built in , designed by the architects Marshman, Warren and Taylor. The building is unique in Truro in that stained glass was conceived as an essential element in the fixtures and fittings of its 20th century design. The five windows by Fr Charles Norris of Buckfast Abbey use dalle de verre technology (Figure 150), setting large thick-cut pieces of glass into a frame of reinforced concrete. Four small windows Chancel left lower, Chancel left upper, Chancel right lower and Chancel right upper, frame the sanctuary and, although they are not immediately seen by the congregation, they provide rich projections into this liturgical space. The colours of deep ruby reds and bright yellows are symbolically appropriate for an area celebrating sacrifice and resurrection. The other window at the rear of the nave (Nave southwest, Figure 160), is larger. Its predominant blue tones again are liturgically appropriate in a Lady Chapel dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, who is traditionally always clothed in blue. These windows with their vibrant colours and texture are little known in the city, yet provide an invaluable contribution to Truro’s stained glass heritage. It is very sad that these windows, now forty-five years old, are the most recent stained glass to be inserted in the city and, compared to many other places in the country, show that Truro’s sacred and secular authorities have been extremely conservative in their attitudes to the opportunities that modern stained glass can contribute to contemporary designs.

Figure 160. Our Lady of the Portal and St Piran, Nave southwest. Middle panel, showing the

St Mary’s Methodist church, Union Place.

In Memory of Ann wife of Rev. Robert Young born died

Figure 170. St Mary’s Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, South (upper) 4.

Methodism was generally late in the 19th century in adopting stained glass as part of the interior decoration to their churches and chapels. St Mary Clement, the largest of Truro’s Methodist churches, was opened in without any coloured glass at all. An extension in saw three decorative panels inserted behind the communion table. Silvanus Trevail’s extensive restoration in resulted in 24 decorative windows being inserted, one of which, South (upper) 4, is shown in Figure 170, and the whole of this impressive interior space was transformed. It showed a meaningful change in Methodist attitudes to having stained glass in their churches and chapels that so many donors were willing to provide memorial windows on such a scale all at once.

Methodist New Connexion (Ebenezer) Chapel, Castle Street

Like St Mary’s Methodist church, this chapel, opened in , remained resolutely colour-free for sixty years. In the 1890s, three windows by Fouracre & Son were inserted. In two narrative subjects of Christ saving Peter from the sea and the Miraculous draught of fishes were placed at the east end, and a two-light window with allegorical figures of Patience and Faith was added in . This again shows another significant shift in Methodist attitudes to stained glass, in that narrative rather than figurative or decorative subjects were now acceptable, and the 1890s saw the beginning of a marked preference for allegorical depictions of the Christian virtues in all religious buildings. The chapel was made redundant after and converted to commercial use. To date the fate of the stained glass is unknown.

Bible Christian Chapel, St Clement’s Street.

Figure 180. Bible Christian Chapel, East. Window on the northeast side of the building.

Yet another of Truro’s Methodist chapel conversions, it is now in commercial use as a wine dealer. Built in , some of its original windows, for example East (Figure 180), have survived. They are plain glass with subdued colour borders, very much in accordance with Methodist principles and aesthetic tastes of this period. There is no evidence that any were replaced by figurative or narrative stained glass later in the 19th century.

Primitive Methodist chapel, Kenwyn Street

Figure 190. Primitive Methodist Chapel, East 1.

When it was opened in it is unlikely that the windows were anything other than plain or cathedral tinted glass. At some stage they were replaced throughout with restrained Art Nouveau designs, for example East 1 (Figure 190), probably after the First World War. There is also the likelihood that the (liturgical) east and north windows were lost when adjacent properties were built onto the chapel. The building is currently a restaurant and the fate of the windows is secure … for the time being.

St George’s United Free Methodist church, St George’s Road.

Figure 200. St George’s United Free Methodist church, West. The Agnus Dei in the centre of the rose is surrounded by stylised flowers and leaves.

The glazing history of this church follows the same pattern as the other Methodist buildings in Truro. It was opened in , when its prominent west window rose (Figure 200) was filled with a design of decorative patterns round a central Agnus Dei. The stairway small rose windows had simple geometric designs. The remaining lights were cathedral tinted with coloured borders and a vegetative motif in the upper roundel. Sadly, the east window’s glass did not survive, but in the conversion into the Rose Court residence its three roundels (Figure 205) were filled with excellent and appropriate designs by Alan Endacott of Angel Stained Glass, Lewannick.

Figure 205. St George’s United Free Methodist church, East window. The roundels at the top of the window.

The building has had a chequered history, from a Methodist church, a private school, to its current conversion into residential use, but its original stained glass has been excellently conserved by Alan Endacott, so retaining a link to the building’s historic past.

Congregational (Bethesda) Church, River Street

Of all the non-Conformist churches, the Congregationalists and Unitarians were always the most responsive to stained glass. Truro’s Congregational church was founded in and, in , Fouracre & Watson inserted a window, the details of which, like the window itself, have not survived. By the 1950s this church had been demolished, leaving a solitary arch on The Leats (Figure 210) as the only remnant of its previous existence.

Figure 210. Congregational (Bethesda) Church. The entrance from The Leats.

The heritage of public buildings

Although the Anglican church, followed by the non-Conformist churches and chapels, led the way in the installation of stained glass, we must not forget that during the late Victorian decades up to the outset of the First World War, stained glass became a preferred form of decoration in a wide range of public, commercial and domestic buildings in Truro. The subsequent fate of such windows is a matter of deep concern to all who treasure this heritage.

Truro City Hall, the old County Hall and the current County Hall.

Truro’s municipal buildings, however, were the exceptions to the general rule. Truro’s Town Hall (later City Hall) of , unlike so many other Town Halls in Cornwall, never had any stained glass as far as it is known, and the same was true of the Old County Hall of , and the current County Hall of . It is surprising that their Council Chambers and public stairways were not decorated with the statements of civic pride that are found in the civic windows of, for example, Wadebridge, Looe and Launceston.

Truro Public Buildings, Quay Street

Figure 220. Bishop Phillpotts’ Library, Willimott panel. Arms and emblems of Truro, the Duchy of Cornwall, Revd Preb James Ford (a major donor to the library), Viscount Portman (Lord Warden of the Stannaries), Edward Benson as bishop of Truro, Henry Phillpotts as bishop of Exeter, flowers and foliage. Most of the panels were re-inserted back-to-front during the renovation.

The Public Buildings, comprising Assembly rooms and a Masonic Hall in the east wing, were opened in , and the Bishop Phillpotts’ Library, in the west wing, was opened in . The Revd William Willimott made a screen (Figure 220) for the Library, so initiating the most amazing story of any of Truro’s stained glass. Willimott was a noted amateur stained glass designer and maker, making all the windows for his parish at St Michael Caerhays and for his later parish of Quethiock. This screen of armorial panels was one of several other Cornish commissions that he made. He was the first and only stained glass maker in Cornwall until the arrival of Leslie Pownall in .

The fate of the screen is an object lesson in how fragile is the survival of stained glass. When the Library was converted to commercial purposes, the screen was moved to Diocesan House at Kenwyn in the 1990s. Attempts to find a home for the screen failed at Cornelly and later at Week St Mary parish churches, both involving transporting the panel around Cornwall in vans or on top of vehicles, and ending with the screen being propped up against walls in a side chapel when no space could be found for its back-lit display. On the verge of being put into a skip, the screen was rescued by Arthur Bradley of Minster Glass, Boscastle and, after careful restoration, stored in Cathedral crypt in , with a promise that it would be included in the refurbishment of the Old Cathedral School. In the screen finally came to rest in the Cathedral School’s former Assembly Hall next to the Chorister memorial window. Artistically it is of minimal significance, but as an example of our Cornish Victorian stained glass heritage it is invaluable.

Public Library and Technical School, Pydar Street

Figure 230. Free Library and Central Technical Schools, Lower stairs. Arms of the nine Cornish boroughs having independent representatives in the County Council: Launceston, Bodmin, Liskeard, Penryn, Truro, Falmouth, Helston, Penzance, St Ives.

Stained glass became an invaluable expression of civic pride from the 1870s onwards, as from their new municipal buildings local political authorities assumed increasing civic powers. Excellent examples can be seen at Looe and Launceston Guildhalls. Truro was the exception in that no stained glass was inserted in its Town Hall or the old County Hall, but in the Passmore Edwards-financed Library and Technical School, designed by Silvanus Trevail yet again, two windows, Lower stairs (Figure 230) and Upper stairs, were inserted in . These windows, made by Fouracre & Son, are mounted on the main stairs, and show a selection of Cornish borough arms and personal armorials. It is to be hoped that in these times of austerity and financial cuts they are safe and secure for the future.

Royal Institute of Cornwall Museum, River Street

Figure 240. Originally in St Neot South aisle 4 (now in the RIC Museum). Mary Salome.

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Figure 250. Originally in St Neot South aisle 4 (now in the RIC Museum). Warning to Sabbath breakers.

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There are four stained glass panels on permanent display in the RIC Museum. The most significant pieces of Cornish glass are the two lights from St Neot church, showing Mary Salome and the warning to Sabbath breakers (Figures 240 and 250). St Neot church contains the largest collection of medieval glass in Cornwall, and the second largest in any English parish church. These two lights were placed in a dormer window near the pulpit in the church in , and later survived standing against the chancel wall and being stored in a cupboard in the vicarage. At least they are now safely framed by the Museum’s main stairs. The other two panels on display contain fragments of medieval glass from York Minster (a 19th-century collector’s item) and a 16th-century German panel of two soldiers. Both illustrate the development of glass technology over the centuries. There are several other panels from the 16th–18th centuries in storage.

The heritage of schools

A more specialised type of stained glass is found in some of Truro’s schools, and deserves separate treatment from the rest of the Public Buildings.

Truro High School for Girls

In affectionate memory of Fanny Polwhele

Figure 260. Truro High School for Girls, Stairs. Allegorical figures of Painting, Sculpture, Poetry and Science.

Falmouth Road contains some fine late Victorian edifices, none more imposing than the main building of Truro High School for Girls. To grace its main staircase, the London firm of Heaton, Butler & Bayne designed a window (Figure 260) in . It consists of ‘Grecian’ allegorical figures of Painting, Sculpture, Poetry and Science, an interesting selection of what the late Victorians thought were suitable rôle models for educated females.

Truro School Chapel

Figure 270. Truro School Chapel, East. In the tracery left and right are badges associated with the Principality of Wales and, in the centre, the arms of the Prince of Wales (Prince Edward, the future King Edward VIII) who laid the Foundation stone of the chapel. At the top of the central main light is the badge of the Prince of Wales, a plume of three ostrich feathers. In the central three lights are the arms of the city of Truro, Truro School and the Duchy of Cornwall.

Thirty years later the Gothic-style chapel for Truro School was enhanced by various stained glass. The main five-light window (Figure 270) has splendid Art Deco leading patterns, with some high-quality armorials in the tracery and central lights. This window is in an exposed location on top of a hill, and subject to extreme weather. It is also large and has few supporting bars. One fears that after nearly one hundred years it will soon require major restoration to survive.

Figure 280. Truro School Chapel, North door. A winking owl on an open book.

The doors into the chapel by comparison contain attractive little motifs of, amongst others, the lamp of wisdom (North door), a winking owl (Figure 280) on a book above roses (Southwest door) and a beehive (Northwest door). How pleasant it is to see wit and ingenuity in such subjects. One must be apprehensive about their security in a space so heavily used by pupils and staff. To crown this assemblage of interesting stained glass is a magnificent 1980s dalle de verre window of a cross set in vibrant colours (Figure 290) by Fr Norris of Buckfast Abbey. What a pity that in facing north of due west the window fails for most of the school day to receive the sunlight it so desperately needs to shine at its best.

Figure 290. Truro School Chapel, West. In the centre is a cross and at the upper left and upper right are the year the school was founded, , and its centenary, , when the window was inserted.

Treliske House (now Truro Preparatory School)

Treliske House was built in the early 1870s by William Teague who, having started as a working miner, amassed sufficient wealth to become a major landowner in Cornwall. It is a typical example of a large Victorian villa, built in what was beyond the outskirts of the town in its own extensive grounds. In William Teague entertained the Prince of Wales at Treliske after the latter had laid the foundation stones of Truro Cathedral. In the property was bought by George Smith, who became chairman of the governors of Truro School and was knighted in . Today, it has very high-quality fittings, virtually complete as built (Pevsner). Amongst these fittings are stained glass windows.

Figure 300. Treliske House, Class 6. The arms of Smith of Crantock and Tregonnick are azure a saltire between four martlets argent (Burke, Bernard, The General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, p 936. , London, Harrison & Sons, Visitations of Cornwall, p 430). The crest here is probably a griffin segreant, i.e., the whole bird, with wings expanded. The motto, Sursum quaero, may be derived from Quae sursum sunt, quaerite (Seek those things which are above) (Colossians 3:1).

One small armorial (Figure 300) in Classroom 6 has the arms with motto (sursum quaero) in plain glass quarries within a rather attractive border design. The large window on the main stairs (Figure 310) contains the same arms near the top of the central light. At the top of the window are four roundels, one of the armorial (the Smith arms), and the other three containing painted scenes, one of a miner (Figure 320), one of a ploughman (Figure 323) and one of a woman apparently sitting holding telegraph wires (Figure 327). The origins of these three scenes are unknown; the backgrounds of the lower two do not appear particularly Cornish, and the significance of the woman with the telegraph wires is ​unclear.

Figure 310. Treliske House, Main stairs.

Figure 320. Treliske House, Main stairs. Top of centre light. A thin, stooping miner, wearing a helmet with a candle on it, and carrying a pick and a small cask or barrel is about to cross a small stream on the way to the mine. The mine’s engine house is shown, with smoke coming out of the chimney. In the distance is another, similar engine house. Beside the stream is a building with a water wheel. There are a disused boiler and broken pieces of mining machinery on the ground.

Figure 323. Treliske House, Main stairs. Top of left-hand light. A farmer guides a plough, pulled by unseen animals. Behind him are some rabbits on the unploughed part of the field, and nearby are farm buildings, some of which are thatched. On a hill in the distance is a windmill, driving some other machinery.

Figure 327. Treliske House, Main stairs. Top of right-hand light. A simply-dressed young woman sits on cases or trunks on a paved platform or terrace bounded by a low brick wall. Behind her on the terrace is a crate and some barrels. In her right hand the woman holds a bundle of wires which run up to a telegraph pole on one side of her and lie in coils on the ground on the other side. Behind and below the terraced area are ships on the sea, and steep cliffs.

The commercial and domestic heritage

The practice of decoration in stained glass extended beyond the homes of the wealthy in the last decades of the Victorian and Edwardian period. From the early the Victorian period, quite modest houses had their own stained glass windows and doors, often textured central panes of plain glass surrounded by wide borders in vivid primary colours. They may not be to modern tastes, but together with encaustic floor tiles, do contribute to the period appearance of many domestic interiors. They are particularly effective as Georgian-style stair windows, as at 13 St George’s Road, which is now converted to a dental surgery. Sadly, this legacy is dwindling at an accelerating rate as houses are ‘modernised’ and commercial properties are continuously redeveloped.

Criddle & Smith, St Nicholas Street, (now the British Heart Foundation shop)

Figure 330. Criddle & Smith, First floor south. Centre panel.

This Italianate three-storey property was built in for Messrs Criddle & Smith, Art furnishers. There are attractive decorative panels (including coloured ‘bulls eyes’) in the first-floor windows with a finch roundel (Figure 330) in the centre. There is a more elaborate panel of a painted estuary and mountain scene in the second-floor window, but this is currently deemed ‘unsafe’ to access.

Saffron restaurant, Quay Street.

Figure 340. Saffron, Alcove.

Until recently, in the front alcove there was an Edwardian stained glass panel (Figure 340) of a shepherdess with crook. During the recent refurbishment of the restaurant in this panel disappeared and is now thought to be lost.

Dalvenie House (now the Registry Office)

Figure 350. Dalvenie House, Main doorway.

On a happier note, a set of stained glass panels (Figure 350) of the late 19th  century inserted above the main door are still in situ. Each square panel contains coloured leading around a central roundel. The two outside roundels are roses, but the larger central roundel (Figure 360) is a rather magnificent bird of prey casting an intimidatory gaze at every visitor.

Figure 360. Dalvenie House, Main doorway. Centre roundel, possibly a kestrel.

Domestic stained glass.

For obvious reasons of privacy, the locations of the following examples are not given, but they are typical of the type of stained glass that was in favour for ordinary domestic property in the years before , and the fate that has befallen some of them.

Figure 370. Private residence 4, Back stairs. A typical example of a domestic staircase window, with coloured borders, ‘bulls-eyes’ at the corners and a central panel with an etched pattern.

As already mentioned, a common feature of many 19th century houses was coloured windows in the front door inside the porch and in staircase windows, for example Figure 370. These invariably had wide borders in red and blue surrounding a central panel with etched patterns or motifs. The square corners either repeated the etched motifs or were inset with coloured ‘bulls-eyes’.

Figure 380. Private residence 6, ground floor.

Figure 390. Private residence 6, ground floor, centre panel detail. A pre-Raphaelite woman in medieval apparel holding a flower.

A listed building of in south Truro has these features, but also a full set of surviving windows in the ground and first floor rooms. In one of the ground-floor rooms the five stained glass panels (Figure 380) are in the upper sections of the windows. The outer panels contain birds, and the inner panels a plant motif. The central panel (Figure 390) portrays a pre-Raphaelite female in medieval apparel holding a flower, set against a floral background.


Figure 400. Private residence 5, ground floor, left-hand panel.

In the other ground-floor room, the four panels are roundels showing the profiles of four deities of the Ancient World (Venus [Figure 400], Bacchus (?), Minerva and Apollo). In both rooms the figure painting is of variable quality (for example, the pre-Raphaelite’s hand is non-existent), leading to the speculation that such domestic glass was made locally. The obvious candidate would have been Thomas Solomon & Co. of King Street and in Newquay. This firm appears in directories throughout the 1880s and 1890s, advertised as plumbers, glaziers and church window makers; painters, grainers and decorators; oil, colour and glass merchants. It is not surprising, given such a wide range of activities, that the firm might have been lacking in skilled glass painters, and that some of the decorative panels were bought in.

Figure 410. Private residence 4, Main stairs 1.

Figure 420. Private residence 4, Main stairs 1, lower right-hand panel. An eagle, the symbol of St John the Evangelist.

The old vicarage of St John’s, Lemon Street has a combination of religious and domestic Victorian stained glass. Both staircases have decorative panels with etched patterned glass set in wide coloured borders with coloured ‘bulls eyes’ in the corners. One of the main stairway windows has two floral roundels, whilst the larger window (Figures 410 and 420) also has roundels of the insignia of the four evangelists. These are of superior quality and may have been made by Heaton, Butler & Bayne when they were inserting stained glass at the mid 1880s restoration of St John’s, at the same time as the vicarage was built.

Figure 430. Private residence 1, Stairs.

Figure 440. Private residence 1, Stairs, upper left panel.

An elaborate stairwell example of later domestic glazing is a two-light window (Figures 430 and 440) made by Beer & Driffield of Exeter (signed maker’s mark) around . It has the usual pale coloured square quarries in matching coloured borders, but its focus is five roundels of birds. The species of the birds are not definite, but they are shown in various settings (in trees, over water, etc) and together form a charming feature in what is now a period house.

Many front doors of houses in Truro built in this period would have had stained glass windows. It was usually in the form of leaded panels with a central painted panel, often with the subject of a bird again. One of the last remaining examples in west Truro was recently vandalised beyond repair. The police advised that such original panels were ‘a security risk’, and recommended double-glazed uPVC doors with faux stained glass, as in the Anglia shop on River Street, as a better alternative! There is little hope of preserving this stained glass legacy in the face of such social behaviour and official advice.

Figure 450. Private residence 3, Front door and stairs.

Finally, two houses that are almost next-door neighbours have contrasting door panels. The first is an original Art Deco design (Figure 450) that has recently been glazed externally to protect the stained glass and to reduce the draughts: an example of admirable conservation. The second is again a door (Figure 460), originally with frosted tinted glass but, 19 years ago, Arthur Bradley of Minster Glass, Boscastle, designed five panels in the artistic style of the original period, but using some very 21st-century quality glass. The striking result preserves the period feel of the 94-year old property.

Figure 460. Private residence 2, Front door.


Perhaps if we understood these stained glass windows and panels more we would then appreciate them more. The prime aim of stained glass is to be decorative, and the example of stained glass in religious buildings is a case in point. Of course, the use of religious stained glass could have very deep motives, and Bishop Benson and Canon Mason led the late Victorian trend in using stained glass imagery to instruct and educate. In Truro cathedral this didactic aim was exploited more than anywhere else in the country. When Non-conformist sensibilities reacted against such figurative and narrative subjects, decorative panels were still perfectly acceptable, and it is instructive to see how the same glass windows that enhanced the interior of a Methodist church yesterday are now quite acceptable to furnish a modern restaurant or apartment building today. It therefore helps to understand stained glass if we acknowledge that it reflects the culture and society of its age. Benson’s didactic scheme was a reaction to what he and the Anglican establishment saw as dangers to Christian theology and teaching in the late Victorian decades. After the Second World War, by contrast, purely abstract designs were welcome in Roman Catholic interiors. Art Nouveau and Art Deco window designs were so much part of the image of their ages and, together with authentic fittings and fixtures, are valued today more than their Victorian predecessors.

The spread of stained glass into the homes of the upper and middle classes towards the end of the 19th century was also part of the changes in society and artistic tastes of the period, and the few survivals should be valued. Where they still exist, commercial stained glass is an essential element in buildings of that period, no matter how much ‘modernisation’ has been done to the interiors.

We cannot ignore the fact that sometimes stained glass reflects the pride of those who pay for this expensive form of decoration. It was always the wealthiest families who could afford elaborate memorial windows. Personal armorials have been an expression of status in churches and homes since medieval times, and both churches and chapels were not unknown to vie with each other to have the most impressive window display. Stained glass always has had the element of being a status symbol in religious and domestic surroundings but, after all, that still makes it part of Truro’s heritage.

Also, one cannot get away from the fact that stained glass, like all art forms, suffers from changes in artistic taste but, unlike other artistic media, stained glass windows are fixed in one point and cannot be taken down and stored until their artistic fortunes return to the ascendant. Whereas Victorian painting has recovered from the nadir to which it sank in the mid-20th century, Victorian stained glass has had a harder battle to fight. A simple example might show the effort today’s viewer must make to read stained glass windows correctly. To most, the Carlyon memorial window (Figure 030) at Kenwyn parish church might seem hopelessly over the top, and the discreet and restrained Carveth memorials much more to modern tastes. Yet the Carlyon window is in itself a magnificent work of art in terms of colour, light and content and, as such, perfectly appropriate to its age. What is so important is that all stained glass, great or small, must be placed in its historic and social context for its true significance to be appreciated. In all the stained glass windows of Truro discussed in this article, there are very few indeed where a case cannot be made for their artistic, social or historic significance.

Which makes the safety and security of Truro’s glass such a matter of current concern. Ten years ago, a football kicked through one of the cathedral’s windows showed that even a cathedral was not immune to mindless vandalism—and yes, it was mindless vandalism rather than ‘just an accident’. Another restaurant refurbishment, and another window has vanished before opening night. A group of people worse for drink returning home in the early hours, and one of the last original stained glass doorways damaged beyond repair. Stained glass must put up with age and weather but, like so much of our world today, the greatest threats that it faces are the actions, deliberate or unthinking, of humans themselves. Stained glass by its nature is the most fragile of the artistic forms.

This article has been an attempt to record, comment on, and explain all the existing stained glass that has survived in Truro. There must still be windows out there in Truro that we are unaware of, and we would be grateful to be informed of their existence. We will of course ensure that the addresses of all stained glass panels and windows that are in private hands are not disclosed.