T. Wheatley, A View of Truro with St Mary’s Church

Photo courtesy of Dave Penman (All rights reserved)


Country House
A View of Truro with St Mary’s Church
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 58 cm, Overall width: 74 cm
T. Wheatley
Catalogue Number


This modest painting, acquired recently by the Galsworthy family, is by the otherwise unknown artist T. Wheatley, whose signature appears on the pendant painting of Truro, TN40. As with TN40, the dating of the picture is uncertain. It may have been made in the later eighteenth century. Alternatively, it may be a relatively modern recreation of the Georgian period. It depicts the area round High Cross, in the centre of the prosperous market town of Truro, about eight miles west of Trewithen. As the eighteenth-century travel writer Richard Pococke observed, Truro was ‘a small trading town, in which there are many good houses; and many wealthy people live here, who have got considerable fortunes by the tine trade, and also several merchants and shop keepers who supply the country, this town being pretty much in the centre of the tin and copper mines’.1

In the left foreground is a cookware shop, its bow-fronted window display acting as a conspicuous reminder of Truro’s significance in the trade and export of tin and copper ore. The stone pedimented building on the left of the square, with the twin entrances and ground-floor Palladian window, is the Assembly Rooms, which also served as the town’s theatre. Built probably in the 1780s, it features a roundel of the actor David Garrick on the left and Shakespeare on the right, to either side of a rectangular plaque featuring an urn with two griffons. Above, on the pediment, is a roundel of the Roman goddess Minerva.2

On the far side of the square, to the right, is the parish church of St Mary, which was completed in 1518. The spire, designed by Thomas Edwards, the architect of Trewithen, was added in the 1760s. As noted in 1830, St Mary’s ‘stands in an open space near the centre of the town, called the Cross; the spire of the church is of a more modern date than the main building, and is remarkably plain, by no means corresponding with the architecture of the body of the edifice. The living is a rectory in the gift of the Earl of Mount Edgcumbe’.3 The church was demolished in 1880, save for the south aisle which was incorporated into the new Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary, designed by the Gothic Revival architect John Loughborough Pearson. The south aisle still functions as a parish church.

by Martin Postle


  1. James Joel Cartwright, ed., The Travels through England of Dr Richard Pococke, successively Bishop of Meath and of Ossory, during 1750, 1751, and later years, 2 vols, London: Camden Society, 1888, vol. 1, p. 110.

  2. Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Cornwall, London: Penguin, 1951, p. 232, dated the building to 1772 but recent research indicates that it may date from the 1780s: (accessed 12 March 2018).

  3. Pigot’s Directory of Cornwall, London and Manchester: Pigot & Co., 1830, p. 169.


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