Truro Cathedral
The Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Truro is an Anglican cathedral located in the city of Truro, Cornwall, in the United Kingdom. It was built in the Gothic Revival architectural style fashionable during much of the nineteenth century, and is one of only three cathedrals in the United Kingdom with three spires.

History and description
The See (or Diocese) of Truro was established in 1876 and the first bishop, Edward White Benson, was consecrated in 1877: this was the first cathedral to be built on a new site in England since Salisbury Cathedral in 1220. Construction began in 1880 on the site of the 16th century parish church ( St Mary the Virgin) to a design by the architect John Loughborough Pearson, a leading figure of the 19th century Gothic Revival. Apart from the south aisle which was retained to serve in future as the parish church the church was demolished in October 1880. From 1880 until 1887 a temporary cathedral constructed of wood was built on an adjacent site. This accommodated fewer than 400 people and was extremely hot in summer and cold in winter. This was where the Bishop introduced the new evening service of Nine Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve, 1880. The design combines the Early English style with certain French characteristics, chiefly spires and rose windows. Truro's resemblance to Lincoln Cathedral is not coincidental: Pearson had been appointed as Lincoln's Cathedral 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). The stone used was of four kinds, Mabe granite for the exterior, and St Stephen's granite for the interior, with dressings and shafts of Bath and Polyphant stone. By October 1887 the choir and transepts were complete and the service of consecration took place on 3 November. The delay was caused by the wish to allow Archbishop Benson, Archbishop of Canterbury, to attend. Bishop Wilkinson and twenty other bishops were present, together with civic representatives and diocesan clergy, and about 2,000 other people.

Parish church and chapels An original aisle of St Mary's Church is still contained within the south-east corner of the cathedral and 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. The cathedral is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and as such has no Lady Chapel. A Jesus Chapel and the Chapel of Unity and Peace are reserved for quiet and prayer throughout the day. Distorted plan Truro has a further unusual feature ”“ a slight bend in its plan: because the cathedral is situated in the heart of the city there was little room with houses and shops packed closely about on all sides. In order to accommodate the cathedral it was necessary to bend the building six feet northward. Chapter house There was no chapter house until 1967 when the opportunity to enlarge the building on the south-east arose.

Early years
Two foundation stones were laid in 1880 and the first section of the cathedral was consecrated in 1887. The central tower was completed by 1905 and the building was completed with the opening of the two western towers in 1910. Pearson died in 1897 and the work of his architectural practice was continued by his son, Frank. The Cathedral was the location for the first service of Nine Lessons and Carols, devised by Bishop Edward White Benson for Christmas Eve in 1880.

In 2002 the cathedral embarked on what was hoped to be a fifteen year project to restore the east end, the west front and the central tower and spire. Each of the projects would be undertaken as funds allowed. The east end restoration repaired stonework and damage to the iron work on the stained glass windows. From 2004 to 2005 a year long project saw the restoration of the massive west front and towers. In 2009 and 2010 work on the central tower and spire has begun. Restoration work is being carried out by W.R. Bedford; Stuart Aston, managing director, said that the problem is the Bath stone used on the more decorative areas of the cathedral. It has not stood up well to the salts and sand in the maritime climate of Cornwall. Erosion of the stonework has left much of the exposed stonework in such a damaged condition that it resembles honeycomb. Funding for the restoration of the tower and spire has been partly met by grants from English Heritage, Friends of Truro Cathedral, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Tanner Trust, the cathedral itself and by public subscription. The "Save Our Spire" campaign has raised nearly £50,000 towards the cost.

The cathedral is governed by a three tier structure as set out in the Cathedral Measure and Statutes. The chapter (comprising the dean, three residentiary canons ( see top right of article) and three chapter canons), the cathedral council and the college of canons.


The Father Willis Organ
The Father Willis Organ of 1887 is widely regarded as one of the finest instruments in the country. Few people speak of this organ without the use of superlatives. ‘It is not easy, even today, to think how the magnificence of the Willis organ in Truro Cathedral could be improved’ says W L Sumner in his epic tome, The Organ (1952). Sir John Dykes Bower, organist at Truro from 1926”“29, and later of St Paul’s Cathedral, called it ‘the Little Giant’, and apparently his eyes were known to water even on mention of the Truro instrument. The organ was built in 1887 in London and arrived in Cornwall by boat. It has an almost identical specification to the organ he built a year earlier for the then parish church of St Michael, Coventry (later Coventry Cathedral). In terms of specification, both instruments revealed standard Willis hallmarks ”“ tierce mixtures on Great and Swell, characterful gedackts on the Choir, and a small but telling pedal division. Why then is the Truro organ so special, over one hundred years later? There is no doubt that Willis was one of the greatest organ builders there has ever been. At Truro we see the quintessence of his art as a voicer. We are most fortunate that the instrument has survived tonally intact ”“ in fact this is unique in any cathedral. The fine position of the instrument in its own fan-vaulted chamber certainly adds to its impact and it matches the resonant cathedral acoustic perfectly. One should remember that the nave of the cathedral was not constructed until the first decade of the 20th century, so Willis voiced the organ for a building that did not actually exist in its entirety ”“ surely a mark of genius! Willis built an organ of superb reliability. Apart from the addition of the electric blower in the 1920s, no major work was done until 1963, when the grandson of the original builder carried out a conservative restoration, at a cost of some £17,000. Prior to this date, the organ console was situated high up within the main case of the instrument. This meant a walk of two or three minutes up a spiral staircase in the North Transept (perhaps this explains the longevity and fitness of F G Ormond, organist from 1929-70!) The action was a mixture of Barker lever, pneumatic and tracker. There were very few playing aids and contact between the organist and choir, some forty feet below, must have been almost impossible. In 1963, the organ committee, including Henry Willis, Guillaume Ormond, Sir John Dykes Bower and Mr Roger Yates, wisely decided to keep the original tonal scheme and voicing, and to move the console over on to the south side in a new gallery placed above the choir stalls to a design by the architect John Phillips. Here the organist can not only hear the instrument in its full glory, but also maintain close contact with the Cathedral Choir. Its Specification an be found on the National Pipe Organ Register. The other main organ in the cathedral is a two-manual instrument in the St Mary's Aisle, the sole remnant of the former parish church. It was originally built by Renatus Harris and was installed in Truro in 1750 by John Byfield "Organ of St Mary's Truro". Cambridge University . . It was re-installed in the temporary church in 1880, but was significantly rebuilt and reduced in size in 1887 for installation in its current location "Organ of St Mary's Truro". Cambridge University . . There is also a four-stop continuo organ by Kenneth Tickell "Organ of St Mary's Truro". Cambridge University . .

Organists and assistant organists

A peal of ten bells: the tenor bell weighs 33-3-10. Additionally there are six bells in the Green Tower of which five form a chiming peal (previously in St Mary's Parish Church). A planned great bourdon bell for the south-west tower was never made.

Photo gallery

  • 1881 George Robertson Sinclair (later organist of Hereford Cathedral)
  • 1890 Mark James Monk
  • 1920 Hubert Stanley Middleton(later organist of Ely Cathedral and Trinity College, Cambridge)
  • 1926 John Dykes Bower
  • 1929 Guillaume Ormond
  • 1971 John Charles Winter(Organist Emeritus)
  • 1989 David Briggs (later organist of Gloucester Cathedral and now International Concert Organist)
  • 1994 Andrew Nethsingha(now Director of Music at St John's College, Cambridge)
  • 2002 Robert Sharpe(now Director of Music at York Minster)
  • 2008 Christopher Gray
Assistant organists
  • Ivor Atkins 1885 - 1886
  • Frederick Rowland Tims 1902 - 1907
  • William Stanley Sutton 1907 - 1911
  • Mr. Hall 1911
  • Gerald Hocken Knight 1922 - 1926
  • Arthur William Baines
  • Donald Behenna
  • Henry Doughty
  • John Charles Winter ca.1950 - 1971 (later Organist)
  • Simon Morley 1991 - 2000
  • Christopher Gray 2000 - 2008
  • Luke Bond 2008”“present
Organ Scholars
  • Luke Bond (now Assistant Organist)
  • Christopher Teel 1999”“2000
  • Andrew Senn 2000 - 2001
  • Nicholas Wearne 2001”“2002 (currently Assistant Organist at St. Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh)
  • Tom Wilkinson 2003”“2004 (currently Organist, University of St Andrews)
  • Claire Cousens 2004 - 2005
  • Tom Little 2005”“2006
  • David Moore 2006”“2007 (later Assistant Director of Music, Hampstead Parish Church, London)
  • Shiloh Roby 2007”“2008 (later Organ Scholar of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin)
  • Joshua Hales 2008”“2009 (currently Organ Scholar at Exeter College, Oxford)
  • Donald Hunt 2009”“2010 (currently Organ Scholar of St Paul's Cathedral)
  • Sachin Gunga 2010 ”“ Present


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