The Choir Stalls and church interior Â© Catherine Wallace
St Hilary parish is well known to local artists and the wider art community because of its close connections with the Newlyn School. This school of painting was set up by Stanhope and Elizabeth Forbes, and George Sherwood Hunter in 1899. Its pupils formed a second generation of Newlyn Artists who were much more influenced by modernism than their predecessors or teachers.
Left: Bernard Walke by Dame Laura Knight, Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Â© The Artist's Estate
Right: Virgin and Child in Penwith by Annie Walke Â© Elizabeth Cynddylan
Commissioned in the early 1920s by Bernard Walke, then vicar of St Hilary, to paint works of art with a spiritual dimension, each artist brought their own individual style to the work. Particularly striking are the large works of art - a Virgin and Child set in a Penwith landscape (formerly at St Clareâ™s School, now Bolitho School, Penzance), and a life-size painting of St Joan, both by Annie Walke (the vicarâ™s wife), the Visitation, and the Deposition of Christ (in altar settings) by Ernest Procter, and finally the atheistic take on St Francis by Roger Fry of the Bloomsbury Group.
Ernest Procter pulpit panel and Lady Chapel reredos Photographs Â© Catherine Wallace (l) and Elizabeth Cynddylan, conservator of Fine Art & Polychromy (r)
Ernest Procter also painted the pulpit and altar cross and was one of a number of artists who worked on the choir stalls. These artists include Annie Walke, Harold Harvey, Gladys Hynes, Harold Knight, Alethea Garstin and her father Norman Garstin, and Dod Procter wife of Ernest Procter. Gladys Hynesâ™s painting of the martyrdom of St Morwenna is particularly eye catching with its theatrical poses and bright colours. Round the back of the choir stalls is a series of Biblical studies painted by child prodigy Joan Manning Saunders before she reached her teens. Her talent for art was discovered and fostered by Bernard and Annie Walke.
Choir stall panel by Harold Harvey St Fingar, Â© The Artist's Estate
photograph by Catherine Wallace
Three artists â“ Ernest and Dod Procter, and Norman Garstin â“ are buried just inside the new churchyard to the right of the entrance.
Information panels at the Heritage Centre in the Old School focus on the archaeology and history of St Hilary, Ludgvan, Marazion and Perranuthnoe. Two further panels are on Bernard Walke, the BBC radio play â˜Bethlehemâ™ produced annually there, and friendships with Newlyn artists which proved so productive for the church. Another panel deals with the troubles that followed in 1932 when some art works were vandalised. A final panel looks at the fascinating history of the Old School. The restoration and furnishing of the Old School building was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, West Cornwall Local Action Group and other funders.
There is plenty of parking near the St Hilary Heritage Centre which
is open most weekdays between April and October from 10 am to 4 pm.
Refreshments will usually be available upstairs in the meeting room.
This meeting room can be hired out for talks and events.
Contact: Lesley Michell telephone 01736 710229.
The interior of the Heritage Centre, photograph Â© Lesley Michell
Catherine Wallace offers an illustrated lecture on the art in St Hilary - 'Art in a Cornish Church: Annie Walke and the artists who made paintings for St Hilary Church' - see www.cathwallace.co.uk