Truro Cathedral Article

A little 'lump' of Derbyshire rock. There is a quarry near Middleton that produces Hoptonwood Stone. You will find that stone on the floors of Chatsworth, Calke Abbey and Lichfield Cathedral and further afield at the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.

Nathaniel Hitch, a famous architectural sculptor of the Victorian era, often used Hoptonwood Stone. He formed a strong and lasting relationship with John Loughborough Pearson one of the most prodigious architects of the Gothic Revival period. It is said that Pearson's best work was Truro Cathedral, a building he worked on for over thirty years with only minor modifications.

My main motivation in visiting Truro Cathedral the first time was to see Pearson's architecture. I had seen his work in the cathedrals of Peterborough, Wakefield, Bristol and knew that he had also designed the one in Brisbane. I wanted to see a building he created throughout. He accepted the commission to build in 1878 and the foundation stone was laid in 1880. Truro was the first cathedral to be built in England for 600 years. It was a very difficult site to build on and the cathedral is a testament to his remarkable skills acquired over many years of careful study. He arranged spaces, not stones.


The glass at Truro is the largest stained glass project ever made. It was designed by Pearson and Bishop Edward Benson.

These were very challenging times for theology for a number of reasons including the publication of: The Origin of the Species, the revised version of the New Testament in 1881, and the Essays and Reviews, edited by John William Parker, published in March 1860. Linked to this turbulence the cathedral was seen as a time-capsule of what Victorians envisaged a major ecclesiastical building dedicated to the glory of God should be in the late 1870s. This is particularly true of its stained glass windows, designed as a multi-layered didactic scheme. The size and ambitious scope of the project make the stained glass of Truro unique. Made by one studio, the whole scheme for the new windows was conceived as an artistic and theological unity.

Although Truro's glass may not be internationally famous, Benson not only worked with Pearson on the glass but also devised the Nine Lessons and Carols Service which was first held on Christmas Eve in Truro Cathedral in 1880 and now copied worldwide. Pearson designed the Reredos Screen which was carved by Nathaniel Hitch. He also designed the pulpit which, as far away as Truro, is made of a large 'lump' of Hoptonwood Stone.


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