St Mary’s Aisle is the oldest part of Truro Cathedral, and was originally known as St Mary’s Church. Its records go back to 1265.
When the cathedral was planned in 1876, St Mary’s Church was threatened with complete demolition, but the renowned architect, John Loughborough Pearson, came up with the ingenious idea of preserving one aisle and incorporating it into the new building.
Contemporary photographs show that the new cathedral entailed a huge building project, and there were many who thought that saving St Mary’s Aisle just made it much more complicated. But the project was a masterpiece of Victorian ingenuity, as the Earl of Mount Edgcumbe remarked in spring 1883: “Some have expressed regret that so much time and money have been spent in preserving and restoring the south aisle of St Mary’s Church…but the work is beautiful and exceptional… it would have been a source of regret if it had been swept away for ever.”
Pearson’s plan was an outstanding success, but 140 years on, the appearance of the Aisle is marred by water staining caused by a serious leak in the roof. St Mary’s Aisle is urgently in need of roof and guttering renewal, together with associated window and masonry repairs, to make it watertight once more and improve energy efficiency. Internally, it badly needs refurbishment and redecoration, especially of the barrel vaulted ceiling, to bring it up to expected standards for public use.
Once watertight and refurbished, the Aisle’s luminous beauty and distinctive character will make it the perfect place for worship, family celebrations and an innovative programme of events and activities suitable for the whole community, especially children. The aim is to make St Mary’s Aisle a warm and welcoming space where anyone, of any age, will find something to enjoy.
Find out more about the St Mary’s Aisle restoration project here.