Trevail's SealThe
 Silvanus Trevail Society

"To remember the man and his work"

 

NEWSLETTER 2004

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The Elusive Coad

Ronald Perry

In November 2003 the Society were invited to take part in a joint venture at Lanhydrock House with the National Trust and the Stuart House Arts and Heritage Centre of Liskeard, devoted to the Cornish architect Richard Coad. The speakers were George Vaughan Ellis RIBA, who inherited the architectural practice founded by Henry Rice in Liskeard, to which Richard Coad was articled in 1841; Mike England BA, Family Historian at Lanhydrock; and Paul Holden MA, House and Collections Manager at Lanhydrock House.

The life and work of Richard Coad offer interesting parallels and contrasts with that of Silvanus Trevail. Like Trevail, he never married, remaining wedded to his work, but one striking difference between the pair was that, whereas Trevail was never one to hide his talent, Coad carried reticence to the point of anonymity. Unlike Trevail, a prominent member of the Society of Architects and of the Royal Institute of British Architects, Coad did not join these associations and there are only a few publications of his work in the architectural press; not even an image of him appears to have survived. Only through diligent researches have Vaughan Ellis and Holden unearthed details of his career. 

Born a generation earlier than Silvanus in 1825 at Liskeard, son of a surveyor and architect, Robert Coad, he was articled to Henry Rice before studying architecture at the Royal Academy in London under Professor Cockerell, an enthusiast of the classical style. He must have been a promising student because he was taken on as an architectural assistant by Gilbert Scott, the leading Gothicist. Coad was involved in several of Scott’s celebrated works, and played an important role as Clerk of Works in the construction of the Albert Memorial. At the time this was being built in the 1860s Trevail was an articled pupil in London. Did he and Coad ever meet? As there were some 1,500 practising architects in London at the time this is by no means certain.

About this time Coad, instead of returning home like Trevail, set up in practice on his own in London, and Vaughan Ellis illustrated his talk with some of Coad’s fine coloured drawings of a magnificent steepled church in Halifax, and others in remote parts of Lincolnshire, North Wales and, nearer home, in South Devon, Liskeard, Bocconoc and Tywardreath. These were mostly in the fashionable Gothic style; in which he displayed a delicate touch, according to Vaughan Ellis and Holden, accomplishing his restorations in a virtually seamless  manner. His new church at Golmpton, South Devon, could claim to be a forerunner of the Arts and Crafts movement, while his only known foray into classicism was a bank on Whitehall. Another, more unusual commission was his restoration of a romantic castellated manor house at Bowringsleigh in Devon.

  Although working on his own, Coad maintained his connection with Scott until the latter’s death in 1878 and it was this link that led to his most eclectic and ambitious project, the restoration of Lanhydrock after the fire of 1881. Scott and Coad had worked on Lanhydrock before the fire and Coad carried this on. By this time, Coad was working closely with James Maclaren, pioneer of the Arts and Crafts style, and it is perhaps this association that led to a rupture with Lord and Lady Robartes, owners of Lanhydrock. For while Coad and Maclaren favoured elaborate, and costly, decoration, the Agar-Robartes wished for ‘an unpretentious family home’, perhaps an unduly modest description when we consider the flamboyant long gallery ceiling. Coad parted company with Lanhydrock before all the renovations were completed, but the work was completed by John Sanson of Liskeard, Coad’s Assistant. About 1890 Maclaren died and Coad fell into ill health and depression, possibly never producing any further work, an end which had something in common with that of Silvanus Trevail. 

At the end Ronald Perry thanked George Vaughan Ellis and Paul Holden for the opportunity to participate in such a stimulating and well organised programme, including an excellent lunch, in which everything ran smoothly and on time.      

 

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Trevail Publicity

Ronald Perry

The past year has been an exceptionally successful one in pursuing the aim of the Society, ‘To honour the man and his works’ in a great variety of ways: talks to local communities, articles in local and national journals, as well as radio and television programmes.

Hazel Harradence continued her series of talks to local communities with visits to St Austell and Perranporth Old Cornwall Societies. This she followed by a talk in Luxulyan village on ‘Local Boys’ who included Trevail along with William O’Brian, Joseph Polsue and Walter Hicks.

Felicity Penneycard wrote a short article about the Society in the authoritative journal ‘The Victorian’, which will soon be followed by a longer treatment on Silvanus and his work.

Ronald Perry took part in a Radio Cornwall programme on the connection between Trevail and the South American adventurers George Hicks and John Jose. Roger Brewer and Ronald Perry featured largely in a BBC Television Production on Trevail and the Newquay riots.

Matthew Saunders, Secretary of the prestigious Ancient Monument Society, spent a weekend in Cornwall in which he was shown Trevail buildings by James Whetter, Hazel Harradence, Felicity Penneycard, Ann and Ronald Perry.

As part of the centenary memorial to Trevail’s death, Pauline Howard designed a tasteful notice for the West Briton that prompted a long article in that newspaper on Trevail, based on interviews with James Whetter and Ronald Perry.                      

 

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The Heights of Truro

Ann Perry

In June 2003 the members of the Society had another look at some more Trevail buildings in Truro, ably led by Hazel Harradence, this time on the southern side of the city, which was largely developed in the later nineteenth century. Most of our tour was on the slopes above Truro, with the buildings on steep corner plots, which gave them commanding views over the city but made it difficult for us to appreciate them fully.

         We began outside St Piran’s Chapel and Presbytery, designed by Trevail on land acquired from the Enys estate at the corner of Chapel Hill and Dereham Terrace. It was a very steep site, offering a splendid view over Truro, from which Trevail would have witnessed the construction of the Cathedral. Built in 1885, the cost of the buildings was about £2,000 and this money was raised by the Rev. Father Grainger, who later gave the property to the Priory, Bodmin. The Chapel, at the end of Dereham Terrace, is quite small, seating about 120 people and is completely overshadowed by the large 3 storey presbytery next to it. The chapel has an imposing porch, with a Gothic doorway, a rose window and a small belfry. Inside there is a wooden barrelled ceiling with a small gallery. It was in use until 1973 when the increasing congregation necessitated a move to larger premises and a new ‘modern’ church was built in St Austell Street. Today the building is used by a play-group. The large presbytery, with 3 bedrooms on the first floor and 4 rooms on the second floor as well as a basement seems rather large for the parish priest. It is of a different design, with square-topped windows and doorways. The only obvious visual links with the chapel are the gothic attic windows.

         From here we walked down Chapel Hill to Bosvigo School, also built on a sloping site. The school, then the Truro British School, which had operated in Truro for 50 years, opened here in 1898, having moved from Kenwyn Street when that building became too small and no longer complied with the Department of Education’s guidelines on lighting, ventilation etc.

         This building, which Trevail designed in 1895, is quite unusual, both for Trevail and Truro, with Dutch gables outlined in red brick, which match the brick quoins and window surrounds. Today the building rises over the single storey extension and additional classrooms and remains in very good condition with no obvious external alterations. Trevail provided the plans in 1895 and emphasised that his design fulfilled all the latest standards of lighting, heating, ventilation and size of classrooms. In this he had been assisted by the Department of Education’s principal architect Mr Robson when he visited Truro to approve the site. The school, designed for 450 pupils, was built at a cost of £2,500 and formally opened in 1898. In 1899 it was praised for its ‘creditable state of efficiency despite the difficulties caused by a weak and at times inadequate staff’.

         From here we moved to Harrison Terrace where Trevail designed a terrace of 4 houses for railway workers, many of whom had moved to Truro from the Midlands. Like today, there was a shortage of ‘affordable’ housing for working people as many landowners were asking very high rents for their land. In February 1892 Trevail, a stalwart supporter of the Railway workers, always attending their annual dinner, presented the plans to Truro Council Improvements Committee but it took some time to get them built. This was partly due to the delay in completing the road and led to complaints being raised to the Council in February 1894. Feelings ran so high that Trevail felt forced to defend himself in a lengthy article in the West Briton, outlining all he had done, with no fee, and all he got was abuse! The cottages were built with random course stone with a simple decorative string course on the front, each comprising  ‘six good rooms with the necessary sanitary arrangements’. Today the four cottages stand out as a most attractive group, their delicate patterning of fawn coloured stone and brick contrasting with the rather harsh red and white brick quoins and surrounds in the other houses in Harrison Terrace.

Harrison Terrace, Truro

          We then moved up the hill to Barrack Lane to look at a more imposing gentleman’s residence designed by Alfred Cornelius, who worked with Trevail and took over the practice after his death in 1903. The Grange was the largest house Cornelius built in Truro. It was designed in 1910 for Mr George Powell, who moved there with his wife and young daughter from The Avenue, Campfield, Truro and lived there for at least 13 years. He was a herbalist and artificial teeth manufacturer who had a practice in Lemon Street for many years. The house is an attractive twin gabled, pebble-dashed residence, with an elaborate porch and large stained glass stair window at the rear. In front, two bay windows overlook a large garden with a summerhouse and sweeping views of the city and surrounding countryside. It is now the premises of the National Farmers Union. Some unsympathetic extensions have been added to the side and rear.

         We moved down towards the centre of Truro to see the last Trevail building of the tour, a Wesleyan chapel and school in William Street. Designed on another sloping site with the school on the ground floor and the chapel above, the building opened in 1887 and cost £1,000. The entrance lobby is at the side with an art deco surround to the door but much of the original appearance has been lost, with the south window partially filled in and obscured by guttering. A rose window remains in one wall but another wall has been partly replaced by concrete blocks. It ceased to be used as a chapel in 1962 and today the upper floor serves as a fitness centre and the schoolroom as offices.

         Finishing our walk in dry weather, a change from some recent ‘summer’ walks, we returned to St George’s Road for refreshments, having seen a little more of Trevail’s prodigious output, helped by Hazel’s detailed information.              

   St Piran’s Church & Presbytery 

 

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Summer in Penzance

Hazel Harradence

Last summer was composed of many fine sunny hours and the day we met to look at buildings in Penzance was no exception. We gathered at the top of Heamoor village to look at a row of houses designed by Silvanus Trevail for AC Jenkin in 1896. It had taken a lot of time and effort to find them originally, as the description on the plan described the terrace as being Poltair, Madron.  It is a row of eight houses set at a right angle to the Penzance/Madron road overlooking the village. Bigger and more impressive than those looked at in Truro, Poltair Terrace has bay windows to ground and first floor, some still original. The houses themselves are of ½ dressed granite with stone infill. A pair of impressive gate posts stand at the entrance to the front walkway which serves all the houses.

We then moved into Penzance itself and found a nearly empty car park to leave the cars for the rest of the day. Our first pause  in Clarence Street was to look at St Paul’s Church. First built in 1843, designed by the Borough Surveyor John Matthews, it was later enlarged by John W Trounson of Penzance, his architecture matching the Gothic Revival original. Inside the building had been a wooden structure, more like an entrance foyer than a porch that Trevail replaced with a porch, opening immediately on to the pavement, in 1886. It was dedicated to the memory of Miss Emily Borlase Bolitho & has her initials and the date over the doorway. The church closed in 2000 and its future is unknown.

 

Porch of St Paul’s Church, Penzance

Walking down Clarence Street we admired the long terrace of tall stuccoed houses erected 1829-40, many of which appeared to have original window frames. At the end of this terrace is the Baptist Chapel, designed by Philip Sambell in 1836. Peter Laws, writing in The History of Penzance, described it as having the fashions and vagaries of the architectural taste of the period – Neo-Greek and Neo-Norman. Pevsner commented on ‘a horrible but remarkable Norman front with plenty of zigzag’.       

The Market House of 1836 is a dominant building, although the façade mostly seen today was added by Lloyds Bank when they purchased the premises in 1923. Near to this is a magnificent building erected for the Public Benefit Boot Company (we deciphered the crest) in stone and terracotta. It could easily have been a Trevail building, but apart from looks, we have no proof to claim it.

In 1853 the first meeting of the Penzance School of Practical Art was held by Henry Geoffroi in rooms over the Princes Street Hall. The school became so popular that at the end of the year it moved to Regent House in Voundevour Lane, which we found with some difficulty. Among Mr Geoffroi’s many talented pupils were James Hicks, Henry White and Oliver Caldwell, all of whom became respected local architects. Mr Geoffroi’s dream was a purpose built school and when local man CC Ross donated the leasehold of a plot of land in Morab Road in 1879, Mr Geoffroi started fund-raising.

Five architects submitted drawings for the new building & that of Silvanus Trevail was chosen, work beginning in 1880. Unfortunately the business of the builder, John Blight, failed and James Julian of Truro was appointed to finish the work. The building opened in March 1881. In 1887 former pupil Henry White drew up plans to add an Art Museum to one side. He designed a new façade to cover both buildings, with gable ends, balustrading and terracotta motifs, the last of which led Peter Laws to erroneously assume today’s frontage to the Art School was Trevail’s.

We spent a long time looking at the building, trying to decide where the original finished and where alterations had been made. Having now seen a good copy of a photograph taken soon after the opening, I can confirm that the tall windows facing the side walkway were altered from separate small dormer windows, sometime after 1900.

A pleasant break for lunch was taken in a town pub – a sunny courtyard that unfortunately for some of us was a bit too warm. However, our genial host dealt with our various requests as quickly as he could and we enjoyed companionship and conversation as well as food.

One item worth mentioning here is the design Silvanus did in 1878 for S. Paul Board School. I have looked everywhere; the school at Madron was by Trounson as was the St. Paul Board School in Taroveor Road. The school for Paul Board at Newlyn was by James Hicks and others at Mousehole and Paul do not fit. It seems this was a design never used.                   

Chapel Street suffered at the hands of the Spanish, who in 1595, marched down here, after coming ashore at Mousehole and Newlyn, to destroy the ships in the harbour. They burnt the houses as they went and the only one thought to have survived is the Turk’s Head Inn. Most of the street dates from late 18C and contains many buildings worthy of a second look, especially above ground floor level. All shapes, sizes and designs can be seen, regrettably a few that could do with some TLC. Mind the narrow pavement if you go looking.

One notable building is the Egyptian House thought by Peter Laws to have been designed by John Foulson. Now repainted in cream and brown, discovered to be the original colouring, by the Landmark Trust who have also restored the glazing bars on the windows. The building was commissioned by John Lavin, a mineralogist who needed to house his collection.

The Union Hotel is on the site where the sad news of Nelson’s death at the Battle of Trafalgar was announced. Standing back from the narrow road is an impressive building, the Wesleyan Chapel, built in 1814 with a decorative Italianate front added in 1864. It was said to have space to seat 1350 people.

The narrow streets, gift shops and holiday makers probably combine to make Penzance a very busy place in the height of the season, but in mid-September it was very enjoyable looking at the buildings and comparing styles. Thanks to Ronald for introducing them to us. For those of us who stayed the course, the day had a delightful ending – eating ice cream whilst sitting on the Promenade!

 

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"A Celebration of Life and Work"

Hazel Harradence

November 7th 2003 marked the centenary of the death of Silvanus Trevail, but rather than too serious an acknowledgement of that event, we decided a much better way would be to celebrate his life and work instead.

Pauline Howard suggested and duly placed a memorial announcement in the local papers which also invited anyone interested to join us for a short service in Luxulyan church, followed by lunch at the local King’s Arms public house. Spurred on by this the papers each put an article in their columns, having interviewed James Whetter and Ronald Perry.

Unfortunately the vicar, Fr. Malcolm Bowers, was not available on the day, but his newly installed curate Rev. David Michael was able to take his place.

Having assembled outside the church in the sunshine, where a small board displayed some of Trevail’s work, we were invited inside to first sign the Visitors Book. Following this David gave a knowledgeable address on the work and life of Silvanus and led the congregation in a few short prayers.

Back outside into the sun again to the memorial cross which Silvanus designed in 1902, in the first instance for his mother, making provision also for his father, his sister and himself; all of whom were duly buried there. 

At the base of the cross, our Vice-Chairman, and distant cousin to Silvanus, Mrs Joan Serhus, laid a wreath.

The family, members of the Society and friends then posed for photographs before making our way down the hill to Bridges and lunch. Lunches, most of which had been pre-ordered, were quickly served thanks to plenty of forward planning by our host, Ken Saundry. That day was also a celebration for Ken as he was marking the 25th anniversary of coming to the pub at Luxulyan.

After enjoying lunch and much conversation, we left the pub; Ken having to start lunches all over again when his bosses from St Austell Brewery showed up wishing to celebrate his anniversary by getting his staff to cook for them!

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Society E-mail:  sts[at]ic24.net

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Newsletter compiled & edited by Hazel Harradence
Internet Edition by Malcolm Surl

Last updated 08/01/11