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Pearson’s Cloister 1887

By Ellie Jones, Cathedral Archivist

This photograph was taken during the demolition of the seventeenth century houses built on the site of the Medieval Cloisters. The houses – which has been used as accommodation for the virgers – were removed in 1887 to make way for a new library building designed by the renowned Gothic Revival architect John Loughborough Pearson (1817-1897). At the time, Pearson was 70 years old, with more than 40 years of experience, and working on one of his largest and best-known projects: Truro Catehdral, which he had begun in 1880.

The new library was supposed to be the first part of a bold scheme to faithfully reconstruct the medieval Gothic Cloisters whihc had been destroyed in the 1650s. Pearson’s work is a skillful recreation of its medieval predecessor, but in the end only this south-western corner was completed – until now. The Cloister Gallery, which is currently taking shape, will finally link Pearson’s building to the Cathedral.

The upper floor of Pearson’s building remained in use as part of the Cathedral Library and as the Cathedral Archives until 2011, when both were reunited in the West Wing of the Bishop’s Palace. The ground floor Cloister Room was primarily used as a meeting room until 1990, when it became the Cathedral’s refectory cafe.