Church of St Paul, Penzance (1843, altered 1886 and 1893; Grade II listed)
The Church of St Paul, Clarence Street, Penzance closed in 1999 and was left sliding into dereliction. This church is a gem, as the always-discerning Nick Cahill often pointed out. Opened in 1843, having been built to the designs of little-known architect John Matthews, St Paul’s was originally built as a cross-shaped Early English Gothic Revival church, erected for supporters of the Oxford Movement which revitalised the Church of England in the mid-C19. The original cross-shaped plan was corrupted by the addition in 1893 of a new north aisle in matching Early English style by Penzance architect John William Trounson. A porch was added by Silvanus Trevail in 1886.
The church presents a pretty appearance to Clarence Street with soaring lancet windows and a charming bell-cote mounted on top of the nave gable. The interior of the church is remarkable with a spectacular arch-braced roof mounted on false hammerbeams and fine stained glass by Thomas Willement, one of the most significant C19 stained-glass designers who was granted a Royal Patent as ‘Artist in Stained Glass’ by Queen Victoria and for whom he designed many of the windows in St George’s Chapel Windsor. The contemporary Ecclesiologist magazine remarked that ‘though it has great faults, [the building] has several points which deserve much commendation.’ The magazine went on to praise the roof ‘The best feature … is the roof. The…interior arrangement elegant. The wall-pieces, spandrils [sic] and hammer-beams are plain but well proportioned.’ However, as so often with the Ecclesiologist, there were buts – ‘The great fault is that there are no moulded arches at the intersection, which almost wholly destroys Ecclesiastical effect.’
It was reported that the church was sold by the Duchy of Cornwall in June for £112,000. It is, unsurprising after twenty years of lack of use, in poor condition with holes in the roof and evidence of considerable water ingress. That said, many of the original features, including the important stained glass, remain intact and the building could be rescued and brought back into use as a result of an imaginative restoration. We will be monitoring closely the building and future plans for it.