Churches of The Isles of Scilly

The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin.

Built between 1836 and 1838 this is now the main church of the Isles of Scilly.  It was designed and built by Augustus Smith who was at this period the Lord Protector of the Islands.  One of the conditions of the lease undertaken by Augustus was that not only should he build a church but he must also pay the Chaplain of the Isles.  His design is quite unusual described in the church literature as having a 19th century Gothic Revival structure with other earlier design influences such as the inward facing collegiate style seats and a full west gallery.

The windows must be viewed:

The East window by C. E. Kempe is a memorial to the victims of the S. S. Schiller.  It was given by the peoples of Germany.

The West window commemorates the 1937 Coronation of King George Sixth as was constructed by A. L. Ward.

The North windows are memorials to life boatmen and lighthouse keepers and were completed in 1967.

The St Christopher was made by a local artist by the name of Oriel Hicks.

The St Elizabeth of Hungary window is said to be the only window with such a dedication in Great Britain.

Other notable objects are:

The Willis organ and a gilded wooden Lion above the West door which is said to have come from the Association, flag ship of Sir Cloudesley Shovell wrecked on the Outer Gilstone, Western Rocks on the 24th October, 1707. [SV 90650; 10580]

The Old Church of St Mary the Virgin @ Old Town

Prior to the construction of the Parish church above this was the principle church of St Mary's.  It started off as a Norman construction built c. 1130 and has been altered on several occasions.  Historian William Borlase describes it as being in the form of a cross.  Circa 1660 saw much building activity and may the period when it was at its best.  Porch and north aisle c. 1662, south aisle and gallery for soldiers of the garrison c. 1667.  The east end of the church is reported to have been rebuilt in 1743.  Reports indicate that the church had deteriorated so much by by the early 1800's that it was rebuilt in the 1830's.  It was restored in 1890 by the reverend W. E. Graves resulting in the building you see today.  Since in was no longer the main parish church only a much smaller church resulted from this rebuild. The north-west entrance was added at this time.  Overall it measures approximately 8 by 10 metres.  There is a round headed Norman arch and pillar in the north wall adjacent to the the vestry-porch.  The small cross on the east gable end is 13th century and the stain glass window depicts the Crucifixion.  Unfortunately Augustus Smith landscaped the churchyard, he may have been responsible for removing memorials to some of the earlier wreck victims.  It is strange that there is nothing remaining from the loss of Sir Cloudesley Shovell disaster or the "neat memorial" erected in 1785 to Ann Cargill victim of the 'Nancy' packet.  Three terraces were added to the churchyard by Augustus Smith and here there are three fine memorial obelisks, a war memorial, one to Augustus Smith and one to the a victim of the S. S. Schiller, Louise Holzmaister. Lord Harold Wilson is buried in the modern section of the graveyard towards the main road.  [SV 91110;10054]

Church Plaque.

W. E. Graves c.1902

Postcard sent to Walter Graves - St. Mary's Harbour c.1902


Left: Old Town Church c. 1883, ILN.

Old Town Church – Rev. Woodley c. 1822
“The Church is a wretched-looking fabric, built of stone, and in the form of a cross, but the walls are very low.  The length of the church, from East to West is sixty feet; breadth eighteen feet; The cross-aisle is about the same length, but not more than sixteen feet broad.  No records are extant to show the date of the erection of the Church.  The North aisle was built in 1662, and the South aisle in 1677.  He windows are small, irregular, leaded, and gloomy.  The Church has no tower – (in which respect it resembles all other Churches in Scilly, except that at St Agnes) – but two low stone walls for a belfry.  The roof, which is much decayed, is covered with slate, but this is neither plastered nor whitewashed on the inside, and the display of black and mouldering beams and rafters contributes to give the place a very dreary appearance.  There is no organ; and, until very lately, even vocal music had fallen into disuse here.  A broken font stands in an obscure corner near the West end of the building: the pavement is very irregular, and mutilated; and most of the pews and galleries are crazy, and declining every way from their perpendicularly.  The Church-yard, which bears no inscription worth copying, is over –run with weeds: and the whole appearance of the building and its appendages, external and internal, is calculated rather to chill than excite devotion.
Note:  Woodley goes on to mention that the bodies of Henry Trelawney, Esq.  second son of Sir Jonathan Trelawney, Lord Bishop of Winchester (Bristol & Exeter), of the ancient family of Trelawny in Cornwall; - of Sir John Narborough, son-in-law of Sir Cloudesley Shovel; - and of Captain Edmund Lodes; all of whom perished with the Admiral, in the wreck of the Association, were buried in the chancel of St Mary’s Church, but no monument records their disastrous fate."

Note:  The Rev. H. J. Whitfeld M.A. is still referring to it as a 'ruin' in 1852.


Some of the more significant memorials:

Blest Soul thy race is run whilst we  behind
Stirve for that crown WCH  thou prepar'd didst find
By Christ for thee, here shall thy body rest
Till with thy soul it be for ever blest

[SV 91117;10051]

"HERE lieth the Body of John
 the Son of Thomas and Mary Ekins,
 of the Island of Scilly,
 who was born on the 16th of February, 1670,
 and died the 4th November, 1675,
 Non mortuus sed dormit"


[SV 91110;10054]

HERE lies the Body of Peter Rattenburgh,
late Commissary of the Island,
who died the 4th of May, Anno Domini 1709,
and in the 67th Year of his Age

The Law of Kindness was in his Heart, and
Truth and Justice in his Lip and Life.


[SV 91110;10054]


HERE lieth the Body of Elizabeth the Daughter
of Peter and Hannah Rattenburgh,
who died March 22, Anno Dom. 1704,
in the 20th Year of her Age.
Also, the Body of Robert Rattenburgh,
who died March 24, aged Six years and five Months,
Anno Dom. 1707-8.  Likewise, the Body of Foscarinus,
Son of Peter and Jane Rattenburgh, who died April 3,
Anno Dom. 1708, in the 5th Year of his Age.
Here also, having succeeded his Father as Commissary
of the Island not full three Years,
lie the Remains of Martin,
Son of Peter and Jane Rattenburgh,
 interr'd April 2, Anno Dom. 1712,
 in the 19th Year of his Age



HERE lieth Robert and Sarah Wyeth,
late of Wood-bridge, in Suffolk:
He died on St Agnes Island,
in the 69th Year of his Age:
She died on this Island,
 in the 72d Year of her Age.
They were buried on the 11th and 17th of August,
Ann Dom. 1717.

HERE lieth the Body of Jane the Wife of Thomas Brown,
of New-Castle-upon-Tyne, Master and Mariner.
He had born, by her, five Sons and one Daughter.
She died in her Passage from Rochel,
in France, May 4, 1713,
 and was buried here May 6th the following,
 being in the 30th Year of her Age

Inscription Only

In loving memory of Susannah,
a faithful and dearly beloved little sailor wife;
who spent 30 years of her life at sea'
amid the storm and the calm.

To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die.

HERE lieth the Body of Dinah,
 the wife of George Hooper,
 who died on the 5th day of April,
 Anno Dom. 1722, in the 82d Year of her Age.

In Cornwall was she born,
Cornwall her Breeding gave,
Scilly a Husband,
six Children, and a Grave.

HERE also lies the Body of Henry the Son
of George and Dinah Hooper,
who died the 12th Day of July, Anno Dom. 1720,
 in the 49th Year of his Age



SV 91081, 10053



1 -See also Abraham Leggatt, Joseph Hunkyn & Charles Williams

2 - Schiller Memorial to Louise Holzmaister 1875. [SV 91066, 10042]

The Church of St. Martin on St Martin's Island

The church is thought to have been built on the site of a former 11th or 12th century chapel and associated graveyard.  The present building was erected c. 1683 by Thomas Ekins steward to Lord Godolphin.  It was initially much smaller, being only 20 feet in length, but was enlarged in 1821 by the Reverend George Woodley.  In 1866 it was damaged by lightning and during 1867 to 1868 had to be almost rebuilt by Augustus Smith.  The AS monogram appears on the bell turret.

The east window was created by Clayton and Bell a depicts St Martin and the Beggar.  At the west end of the nave is a small gallery constructed in wood.  There is a granite block built into the east wall  which may be medieval and a pillar said to be from a early sundial.  There are however other stones which probably came from earlier constructions.  The ruins of the 6th century chapel and the 12th century church of St Elid on the island of St Helen's are not far away and some say may have provided construction material, particularly the stone flagstones for the central aisle and nave.


The Church of St Nicholas on Tresco - 1829

St Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, children, travellers, merchants and those in distress, hence very appropriate.  The current church was designed to a very high standard by Lieutenant Thomas Algernon Dorrien-Smith in the memory of his uncle Augustus John Smith.  It was funded by Lady Sophia Tower; the builders names are recorded in the porch.  Richard and Thomas Chudleigh were the masons and William Nicholls the carpenter.  The church is based upon a cruciform plan and comprises a chancel, nave transepts.  The porch is north and unusually the tower is to the southeast.  The open arch-braced roof is supported on stone corbels, it is said that is was designed by the carpenter who based it on an upturned boat.  The three east lancet windows and the west rose windows are by C. E. Kempe, the north transept by W. E. Tower.  These were renovated in 2006 by Oriel Hicks. The work was completed in 1818 and opened by the first Bishop of Truro, Dr Edward Benson and later consecrated by the succeeding Bishop, Dr Wilkinson.

Sadly during the second world war five of Thomas Algernon Dorian-Smith children were killed, they are commemorated by a memorial plaque on the north wall which was designed by Claud Phillimore.

The Church of All Saints on Bryher

This church was built in 1742 and dedicated to 'God and All Saints' by the Reverend P. Hathaway on the 21st November 1740.  There is a plaque from the Society for the Protection of Churches saying that the church had been altered and enlarged in 1882 and 1897. The present church comprises the nave, a narrow sanctuary porch and a southwest tower with a pyramidal roof.  There is a cross on the east gable, the line of the pitch of the earlier roof can be seen on the gable end at the west of the church.  Oriel Hicks a local glass artist based on St Mary's has made a wonderful job of the new stained glass windows recently fitted.  The front of the church was rebuilt in 1861, the chancel in 1897.  Extensive repairs were made to the roof in 2003; it was noted that the work undertaken in 1930 was poor.


Bryher Church - Window by Oriel Hicks

Also by Oriel Hicks

The Church of St. Agnes on the Island of the same name.


The current church stands behind the slipway at Pergelis near the old lifeboat shed.  It was built c. 1685 with money raised by the St Agnes Pilots from a ship abandoned amongst the Western Rocks. It is thought that there were two earlier churches in the same area this one being completed in 1821. Inside there is a panelled gallery with memorial plaques commemorating the brave lifeboat men of St Agnes and various noteworthy people.  The 20th century, circular arched, east window, was designed by a local artist Marigold Hicks and made by glass artist Moira Forsyth (She constructed windows for Guildford Cathedral).  Extensive refurbishment work was carried out in 2001.  Again there are many shipwreck victims buried in the churchyard and surrounding area.  The is a distinctive headstone to a victim of the wreck of the Schiller and in 2007 a memorial bench seat to remember the victims of the Thomas W Lawson. It is thought that maybe hundreds of victims of the Sir Cloudesley Shovells Fleet (1707) may be buried in the general area.

The entrance has one of the Cornish Stiles.

For much more information, see St Agnes Churches by Geoff Clark.  Scillonian Magazine Winter 2007/8, No. 266, pages 142 - 144.


St Agnes Churchyard:

Ferd Kreuter - [BNG: SV 87750, 08323]
Died on the Schiller 1875

Placed on the centenary of the wreck


1 - See also Ecclesiastical Architecture in Scilly's Building Heritage, pages 8 & 9.
2 - St Nicholas, Tresco & All Saints, Bryher by Richard Cruikshank.  (No date)
3 - The Isles of Scilly by Robert Heath, 1967 Edition.