The Church of St Michael, St Michael Penkivel, Truro, Cornwall, TR2 4AJ
NGR: SW 858422
The raised churchyard is possibly indicative of the site of earlier iron age structure; and, more probably, that of an earlier church. Although there is no archaeological evidence for this, it is thought unlikely that Christianity only arrived here in the thirteenth century.
The church was consecrated by Bishop Bronscombe on 13th August 1281.
It is cruciform in ground plan, without extension aisles, rare for Cornwall. The transepts postdate the nave. The massive western tower, is probably 14th century, laid out to take 8 bells but only having a ring of four. It is built of the local killas stone, with Pentewan stone facings and detail work, which largely replaced decayed 14th century Portland stone during the 1860s restoration. Much of St Michael Penkivel Church is of the Decorated Period, evidenced by the intricate detail of the window tracery.
There are four altars, including the original stone high altar which was removed during the Civil War & used by Oliver Carminowe as his father John’s tombstone . It was restored to the church in the 1930s as the altar in the north transept. The tower chapel was retained as the ringing chamber.
Come 1860, the church was generally in poor order, and the parishioners petitioned the then Lord Falmouth (as Patron). As a result, George Edmund Street, better known as a Commissioners Gothic architect, carried out a systematic restoration. Street’s instructions were that he was “entrusted with the faithful restoration of the Church with the condition that every old feature would be jealously preserved and carefully brought to light and that additions to the old work should be made where it had already been so defaced as to make the attempt to restore the existing a mistaken and useless labour.”
This restoration retained the essential imposing character of the church. There is Interesting detail in the stonework, particularly the figures at the spring of the window arches and at the window heads. Including several members of the Boscawen family, Queen Victoria and, with a particularly fine set of whiskers, the foreman mason’s self-portrait.
Monuments include the fine portrait bust of Admiral Boscawen, and the altar tomb of Hugh Boscawen under the tower. Interesting brasses include the little priest, John Trembras ; John Trenowyth in the south transept; and Edward Boscawen of Nancarrow & of Jane his wife, and of Marie Coffin (nee Boscawen), widow of Peter Coffin (1622) in the north transept.
The east window is pre-Raphaelite, in the style of Burne Jones, and if you look hard you will find the small figure of the devil in a corner, supposedly a portrait representation of William Morris, who was rather ill regarded by the artist.
The wooden lectern is a memorial to a soldier killed at Ypres in 1914 and is the work of Belgian woodcarvers who sought refuge in Cornwall. There is also a rather good Jacobean wooden reading desk.
The bronze bas relief behind the tracery in the north transept is the work of Mary Gillick, who sculpted the Queen’s head on the early coinage of Her Majesty’s reign.