We do not usually do a write up of a C19 church as they do not, strictly, fall within our period, but we make an exception here.
The history of the churches on this site is set out on another page. Suffice it to say that there was another church here in 1802 which, following structural problems, was swept away and replaced in 1894-7 by ‘one of the most attractive late C19 churches in Cornwall (though very un-Cornish)’ (Pevsner) by GH Fellowes Prynne in a ‘strongly Arts and Crafts-influenced later Perp style’.
Very un-Cornish it is too, with lavish use of Ham and Bath stone. The Arts and Crafts feel is, to our eyes, muted, certainly in comparison to St Hilary. It is large, open and light compared with most Cornish churches, with wide arcades.
Once you have overcome the surprise that anyone was building in real stone in the C20 at the same time as the cathedral up the road – at what immense cost? – another surprise awaits you inside for this is a strongly evangelical church and it feels it.
The most notable thing is the large projection screen which, unlike churches like Tregony which retract theirs when not in use, this one had been left in place, dominating the view, and obscuring the high altar and east end.
To one side at the west end was a large and professional-looking mixing desk while the south transept was taken over by the detritus of a musical group with nothing tidied away.
There really was a feeling that one has walked into a recording studio rather than a church in the old fashioned sense of the word. Welcoming? It felt more off-putting despite the strong evidence of a lively community at work. There were advertisements for activities – one for a Barn Dance with the offer of a chance to hear about the Mercy Project standing out – management structure charts and advice about ‘safeguarding’. It is probably packed to the rafters each Sunday.
It is certainly a reminder of how each age struggles to re-use and adapt historic spaces to modern forms of liturgy and worship. The contrast with the views of the C16 Puritans who had to sweep away statues, rood screens, and iconography, was marked.
For us, the greatest joy of this church was not the C19 feel to the space which was definitely un-Cornish, but the lovely Norman font of the Bodmin type which was moved from Kea old church. It would be too large to fit into the current St Kea but it felt out of place in this determined space.
We infinitely preferred its sister church at Kea. I wonder how we would have got on with the Puritans.