Sacrifice remembered

Celebrating peace through the restoration of a significant First World War memorial window.

The project is centred on St Pol de Leon church at Paul, which is a Grade I Listed church near Penzance, in Cornwall.

The church was founded by the Celtic Saint Paul Aurelian in the 5th century, with most of the current building reconstructed around 1600 after the considerable damage to the church made by the Spanish attack in 1595; in the north aisle can be found ‘scorched’ stone pillars dating from the 12th century which survived the Spanish raid. Some Norman traces have been found under the floor of the church.

The focus of this project is the very fine First World War memorial East Window erected in memory of William Torquil MacLeod Bolitho who fell in action at Chateau Hooge during the second battle of Ypres in May 1915.

The window was designed by Robert Anning Bell, a leading member of the Arts and Crafts Movement and it is unique in using the subject of Sir Galahad as its main feature and on its emphasis on the personal history of its dedicatee.

Left - William Torquil MacLeod Bolitho & right - Sir Galahad

Other features of interest in the church include a number of memorials, including the Solomon Browne memorial, remembering the crew of the Penlee lifeboat lost in December 1981, and there is a strong theme of sacrifice for the wider community.

The Solomon Browne memorial

Acoustically, the church is one of the best in West Cornwall and so is regularly used for musical concerts by organisations such as the International Musicians Seminar Prussia Cove (IMS) and renowned Mousehole Male Voice Choir.

The immediate need for the project is the preservation of the memorial window which is in a poor condition and makes the project time critical. The longer-term need is to safeguard the other heritage connected to the church through developing facilities and infrastructure, offering a sustainable future.

In addition to the capital works for access improvements, installing new WC and kitchen facilities in the church, and restoration work on the window, a programme of activities to engage targeted audiences, identified as the ‘market’ for heritage and yet are not yet engaging with that heritage to their full potential.

Final Activities include:

  • Improved, ‘light-touch’ interpretation of the heritage within the church for existing and new visitors to the church via accessible text panels, self-guided resources and touchscreen device for accessing further information and AV resources via Wi-Fi.
  • Production of new volunteer management strategies and procedures to ensure the increase in capacity required for extending activities and widening the church’s reach into the community through new volunteering opportunities that contribute to the organisation’s resilience in the long-term.
  • Creative art commissions, activities, events and performances raise awareness of the presence and significance of the heritage among a greater range of people, by using the heritage as inspiration to promote community cohesiveness.
  • Increased links between the church and its associated facilities, such as the hall and pub, to increase the number of visitors to the church and its heritage.
  • New relationships made with Penwith College and local community groups, especially regarding local young people (i.e. teenagers) who do not currently visit or use the church as a resource and hence activities promote future engagement with the heritage.
  • Training and resources are provided to enable the ongoing development of an oral history community archive based at the church and the collation of community research via the church website.
  • Overall, as a result of the investment, the heritage will be better safeguarded for the future, more people will have engaged with it, the significance of the church’s heritage will be appreciated by its community and hence its sustainability will be improved.

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