Truro Cathedral Pulpit, Lectern etc.
Publisher: Francis Frith & Co, Reigate
Truro was not the only candidate for the siting of a new cathedral. Lostwithiel had been the home of the Dukes of Cornwall; Launceston had once been the administrative capital of Cornwall, as had Bodmin. St. Germans, the site of the original see of Cornwall, also put forward a claim but was deemed to be too far east. The vicar of St Columb even offered his large church! Eventually, Truro was chosen, and St Mary’s parish church became the new cathedral. However, St Mary’s was never going to be large enough and planning started for a new cathedral. The leading architect John Loughborough Pearson, who had experience of cathedrals elsewhere, was commissioned to design the new Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Work began in 1880.
The project was ambitious. Truro would be the first Anglican cathedral to be built on a new site since Salisbury Cathedral in 1220. For over 650 years no one had attempted to emulate the great cathedral builders of the medieval era. As well as this, it was initially uncertain if there would be enough money to complete such a project. The construction of the cathedral actually took thirty years. Foundation stones were laid on 20th May 1880 by the Duke of Cornwall, later King Edward VII, and work started immediately. There was an eleven year pause for further fund-raising between 1887 and 1898, but when work re-commenced things went ahead well. The central tower was finished by 1905 and the building was completed with the opening of the two western towers in 1910.
Pearson’s design combines the Early English style with certain French characteristics, chiefly spires and rose windows. Its resemblance to Lincoln Cathedral is not coincidental; Pearson had been appointed as Lincoln Cathedral’s architect and the first Bishop of Truro, Edward Benson, had previously been Canon Chancellor at Lincoln. The central tower and spire stands 250 feet (76 m) tall, while the western towers reach to 200 feet (61 m). Four kinds of stone were used: Mabe granite for the exterior, and St Stephen’s granite for the interior, with dressings and shafts of Bath and Polyphant stone. The spires and turret roofs are of stone, except for a copper spire over the bell tower at west end of St Mary’s Aisle. The other roofs are of slate. The cathedral is vaulted throughout. Nathaniel Hitch was responsible for the decorative sculpture, including the reredos.
The original south aisle of St Mary’s Church survives, incorporated into the south-east corner of the cathedral and known as St Mary’s Aisle. It still functions as the city centre’s parish church. Three brasses were described by Edwin Dunkin in 1882: those of Cuthbert Sydnam (1630), Thomas Hasell (1567) and George Fitzpen, rector of the parish. As the cathedral is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, it has no Lady Chapel. A Jesus Chapel and the Chapel of Unity and Peace are reserved for quiet and prayer throughout the day.