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Churches of the Scilly Isles

Tour intro

Each tour aims to be city or island-wide in scope.

It usually starts at the county town or city centre and radiates outwards, covering the region on a district-by-district basis in the order shown on the map.

Your photos will help to plug any gaps so please get in touch.


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Churches of the British Isles

Gallery: Churches of the Scilly Isles

by Jo Lewis & Peter Kessler, 24 April 2020

Scilly Isles Part 1: Churches of Hugh Town, St Mary's

St Mary the Virgin, Hugh Town, St Mary's Isle, Isles of Scilly

St Mary the Virgin, Hugh Town, stands on the eastern side of Church Road on St Mary's Island, overlooking Church Street at the junction. The lease of Scilly which was taken up in 1834 by Augustus Smith, new 'Lord Proprietor of the Islands', required the building of a new church. The original island church near Old Town had become ruinous. This was achieved between 1836 and 1838, heralding the beginning of the town's 'Cornish Architecture' phase of building.

St Mary the Virgin, Hugh Town, St Mary's Isle, Isles of Scilly

The new church was located in a prominent position, facing the settlement along the existing road from Old Town but then well outside its built-up area. It was built in coursed granite ashlar with a stone-coped gabled slate roof, and consists of a single-vessel chancel and seven-bay nave with a north tower in the Early Pointed Gothic Revival style - an unusual style for the islands for which Augustus Smith was responsible in his dual role as 'Chaplain of the Isles'.

Church Street (Wesleyan) Methodist Church, Hugh Town, St Mary's Isle, Isles of Scilly

Church Street (Wesleyan) Methodist Church is at the north-east corner of Church Street and Well Cross. Around the time that St Mary's was being built in Hugh Town (above), Church Street Bible Christian Chapel was built within sight of it. Augustus Smith added an infant school to it in 1854. It became Methodist following the union of 1932, subsuming Holy Vale, Old Town, and Tresco. St Martin's Methodist Church is now the only other to remain in use on the islands.

Hugh Town Baptist Chapel, Hugh Town, St Mary's Isle, Isles of Scilly

The former Hugh Town Baptist Chapel building stands on the southern side of Lower Strand, four doors to the east of the Catholic church (see below). Records of baptisms exist at least for 1821-1837, while the chapel seems to have ceased before 1900 according to Victorian OS maps, although Bryher Nonconformist (Baptist) Chapel continued in use through much of the twentieth century. Since 2011 the building has been occupied by a hairdresser's called 'Cut Loose'.

Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church, Hugh Town, St Mary's Isle, Isles of Scilly

Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church is on the south side of Lower Strand, opposite the western edge of Holgates Green. The building now housing this chapel was erected in 1860 as the island's primary school for girls, remaining as such until 1906. In 1931 the duchy of Cornwall was approached by the island's Catholic community regarding the use of a building as a chapel and it was offered the lease of this premises. The building was purchased outright in 1949.

St Maudut's Old Chapel, Hugh Town, St Mary's Isle, Isles of Scilly

St Maudut's Old Chapel stood at the foot of Garrison Hill, location uncertain. One survey identified the probable site on the south side of 'the Bank' shore area. Two references to it exist from the 1300s, with a burial ground on its south side, while one of 1712 which mentions a 'Papist house' could refer to the same site. The man who was responsible for pulling down its remnants was interviewed in 1852. Its proximity to the new quay suggests an established landing place here.

Four photos on this page kindly contributed by Douglas Law (two), 'Lofty1965', and Antony Whitehead, all via the 'History Files: Churches of the British Isles' Flickr group, and two photos copyright © Andrew Abbott and Ian S, and reused under a cc licence. Additional information from Isles of Scilly Historic Environment, Research Framework, Updated Resource Assessment and Research Agenda 2019, Cornwall Archaeological Unit.



Images and text copyright © all contributors mentioned on this page. An original feature for the History Files.