Building the cathedral

The site chosen for the cathedral in Truro involved a number of buildings and properties on the northern side of the proposed development being bought and demolished.

Since at least 1259, the Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin was located on this site. This was a church in the Perpendicular gothic style with a 39m tall spire. When Truro was chosen it was assumed that the Parish Church would be completely demolished to make way for the cathedral. However, the architect John Loughborough Pearson, argued and eventually gained permission to keep at least part of it. The final services in St Mary's were held on Sunday 3 October 1880 and it was soon after demolished, leaving only the south aisle, cleverly incorporated into the design of the new cathedral by Pearson.  ‘St Mary’s Aisle’ still serves as Truro’s centre parish church.

Two foundation stones were chosen; as well as the traditional North East corner foundation stone, there was also another one laid as an act of faith. The base of a pillar made from local granite was placed in what was then the churchyard of St Mary’s. This base would eventually form one of the pillars in the Nave of the Cathedral. 

Between 1880-1887 a temporary wooden building or shed was constructed on an adjacent site and served as the cathedral during its construction.  Different stones were used in the overall cathedral construction; Mabe granite, St Stephens granite, Bath stone, and Polyphant stone. Stone has been used for the roofs of the famous threes spires.  Slate has been used for the rest of the roofs of the cathedral except at the west end of St Mary’s Aisle where a copper spire sits over the bell tower.

The similarity of Truro Cathedral to Lincoln cathedral is notable.  This was due to Pearson also being appointed architect of Lincoln Cathedral to design and restore the north transept, part of the south-west tower, the chapter-house and cloister. Truro Cathedral is only one of four cathedrals in the UK with three spires.

The cathedral is vaulted throughout, its magnificent gothic arch drawing your eye up to the roof on entering the building. British sculptor Nathaniel Hitch created the decorative sculpture, including the exceptional reredos.

Truro Cathedral was completed in 1910.  John Loughborough Pearson died in 1897 and his son, Frank Loughborough Pearson, saw the project through to completion. 

There was no chapter house until 1967 where it was built by design of the architect John Taylor at the south east end.