LISKEARD, Cornwall – St Martin. 

Tower 1890s

The Building News and Engineering Journal of 11 December 1896 carried a letter from George Fellowes Prynne concerning the tower here:

Sir – as I see that plans are invited for a new tower to the above-named church, may I, for the benefit of any who might think of competing, be allowed to state a few facts as to the existing tower?

Early in the present year I was asked to inspect and report upon the old tower.  I was astonished to learn that, owing to a certain sum of money being left for rebuilding the tower, which money, if not used in this way within a certain period, was to go to Truro Cathedral, some of the members of the committee – the majority, it now proves to be – were desirous of destroying the existing tower, and replacing it by a brand-new structure.  Needless to say that my report was entirely adverse to the unnecessary demolition.  Many of your readers will probably know the old tower, and remember its Norman details and carving which still remain in such good state of preservation.

They will also remember its shamefully neglected state; but, dilapidated as its walls, roof, and floors now are, they are perfectly restorable, and it will be a shame if this interesting and ancient architectural monument is sacrificed simply to satisfy the craving of a few local townsmen for something new.

I am, etc.,

Geo. H. Fellowes Prynne

6 Queen Anne’s-gate, Westminster, S.W.

And in The Builder, 17 July 1897, was a letter from Mr. J. D. Crace:

Sir – a competition drawing for a new tower, recently published in The Builder, serves to remind me to call your readers’ attention to the fact that, in spite of the architect called in having reported that the old tower can be substantially repaired, and ought not to be destroyed, the rector and vestry seem determined to pull it down in order to secure a legacy which was left conditionally on a new tower being built.

The existing tower is considerably older than the body of the church, and is, in fact, the oldest monument in Liskeard, and it has suffered a good deal by carelessness in cutting away for alterations and for the bell-stage; but any competent architect will agree with Mr. Fellowes Prynne, who was consulted, that it can be so repaired as to last for centuries.

The Chancellor of the Diocese has (on the above grounds) refused a faculty for pulling down the tower, but the vestry, intent on the legacy of £1,000, and blind to “monumental interests”, threaten to disregard this because no sufficient formal opposition was entered.  But they denounce every opponent, not even sparing the Chancellor, as “actuated by interested motives.”  To such lengths will the fanatic Vandal go.

I have examined the tower myself, and I hope that architects will give the Chancellor’s decision their moral support.

 London, July 14, 1897

J. D. Crace

The eventual outcome was that the tower was demolished and rebuilt to a new design, won after a competition by John Sansom of Liskeard. However, as much of the old stone as could be was re-used, in particular all the distinctive Norman pieces.