Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Penzance
The artistic heart of West Cornwall's history

St Hilary Church and Heritage Centre

Newlyn Artists at St Hilary

The Choir Stalls and church interior © 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, © The Artist's Estate

Right:Virgin & Child in Penwith by Annie Walke

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 Clare's School, now Bolitho School, Penzance), and a life-size painting of St Joan, both by Annie Walke (the vicar's wife), the Visitation, and the Deposition of Christ (in altar settings) by Ernest Procter, and finally, St Francis by Roger Fry of the Bloomsbury Group. 


Ernest Procter pulpit panel and Lady Chapel reredos 

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 Hynes'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, © The Artist's Estate 

Three artists, Ernest and Dod Procter, and Norman Garstin 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 'Bethlehem' 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.