Trelowarren Retreat’s History
Trelowarren Retreat is situated in the middle of the Lizard Peninsula (lizard meaning high court) in an area of outstanding natural beauty, and is in the Parish of Mawgan-in-Meneage (land of the monks) having a rich and varied history. It is the Trellewaret of the Domesday survey when Earl Harold owned the house before the conquest.
The first recording of established worship at Trelowarren Retreat was in 1086 where a freestanding chapel stood. In 1427, Richard Ferrers and his wife Elizabeth were granted a license for divine service in their mansion. The chapel which was subsequently built was dedicated to St Mary Magdalene. Falling into disrepair during the Reformation, in 1636 Richard Vyvyan was granted a license by the Bishop of Exeter to erect the present chapel. The Civil War subsequently interfered with the building programme, which was finally finished later in the Reformation period (approximately 1660).
The stained glass windows in the chapel date from this period and come from the medieval priory church in Bodmin, which was demolished to make room for Priory House. The arms are all of Thomas Vivian, with the three fishes representing salmon swimming in the Camel estuary and river, they were a prized possession of the Priory.
In 1750, Sir Richard (fifth Baronet) extended the chapel and it is a very good example (as is the house in general) of the Gothic revival during the latter part of the eighteenth century. The Gothic style influenced both domestic and ecclesiastical architecture from the 1740s onwards, and was deemed an English reaction to the Italian-inspired Classicism, which was prevalent at the time, placing emphasis on symmetry and proportion. It is speculated that James Wyatt (a contemporary and rival of Robert Adams) was the architect responsible, though other schools of thought believe Thomas Edwards, who also designed Helston Church, was the architect.
The beautiful Strawberry Hill Gothic plasterwork in the chapel was created during the lifetime of the 6th baronet, The Reverend Sir Carew Vyvyan (1781-1814).
In the nineteenth century, Sir Richard Vyvyan 8th Baronet and an agnostic turned the chapel into a music room, by pulling down part of the dining hall which stood across the present drive and making the two rooms into one. He believed the best acoustics could be achieved by designing the room to precise measurements, which truly worked, and the results can be heard today! He also added a further nine feet to the music room, which housed the organ.
At some point the chapel was dedicated to the Patron Saint of Music, St Cecilia, and a magnificent painting of her still hangs in the Chapel with the original by Raphael in Bologna, Italy. Pictured with St Cecilia are Saints Paul, Augustine, John and Mary Magdalene.
In 1973, the 12th Baronet Sir John granted a 99-year lease to Trelowarren Christian Fellowship to use the chapel and part of the Mansion House as a Christian Retreat and Resource Centre, and for visitors to experience the creative power of God through the Arts.
Since that time a further nine years has been added to the lease.
From the very beginning, the Fellowship has sought the presence of God practically for healing both spiritual and physical. In the 1980’s the retreat became known far and wide for a healing outpouring that was recorded both in the local and national press. This anointing continues to the present day.
Clara Coltman Rodgers who married Sir Courtney, the 11th Baronet, was herself a published author and continued to write after her marriage under the name of CC Vyvyan. Clara was passionate about travel, nature and Cornwall and her books, of which there are many, reflected all three, for example:
- Random Journeys
- Letters from a Cornish Garden
- Temples and flowers: A journey to Greece
- Echoes in Cornwall
- Bird Symphony.
Daphne du Maurier was a close friend of Clara’s and a frequent visitor to Trelowarren. Some of her best-known works are Rebecca and French Mans Creek.