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Prior of St Stephen’s in Launceston

Originally, the church in Liskeard was owned by the Prior of St Stephen’s in Launceston. In 1428 the Prior granted the mayor and parishioners of Liskeard (Leskyrd) the right to build a chapel or aisle adjoining the chancel of the existing church on the southern side. This created the south aisle and Lady Chapel of today. In 1430 another deed allowed the chapel to be built anew and in a better manner, creating the south chancel aisle. A third deed in 1477 empowered the mayor and parishioners to construct arches and necessary works, and to erect a chapel or addition to the north side, creating the north aisle.

The building of the current tower started in 1901, replacing an earlier one. The new tower, containing a full peel of eight bells, was opened and dedicated by the Bishop of Truro on 3rd January 1903. The west door, originally built in 1627, was preserved in the reconstruction. These dates can still be seen on the outside of the west end of the church. A plaque on the south wall of the tower, near the choir vestry, shows the costs of the reconstruction.

Today the St Martin’s church comprises chancel, nave, north aisle, south aisle, Lady Chapel, two vestries and a tower. At 136 feet from east to west and 58 feet at its widest, St Martin's Church is one of the largest in Cornwall.


The baptistry contains an old ornate font. Sadly, this is no longer used in baptisms today due to the complexity of raising the carved cover. However, it remains as a stunning feature in the church.

St Martin of Tours


On the north wall of the tower a single-paned stained glass window depicts St Martin, after whom the church is named.

St Martin of Tours was born in 316, the son of a senior officer in the Roman army.


As the son of a soldier, Martin in turn joined the army and was stationed at Amiens in France. Here he had a vision that he was at the gates of the city of Amiens with his soldiers when he met a beggar with hardly any clothing. He impulsively cut his own military cloak in half and shared it with the beggar. That night he dreamed of Jesus wearing the half-cloak he had given away and heard Jesus say to the angels: "Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptised; he has clad me."

Martin became the Bishop of Tours. He died in 397 and his shrine became a stopping place for pilgrims on route to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain.

The window shows St Martin cutting his cloak in half. Underneath, the inscription reads “I have kept the faith”.

West window

The window above the west door shows the four gospel writers, with their symbols underneath: Matthew (Man), Mark (Lion), Luke (Ox) and John (Eagle).  Each is also depicted holding his gospel.

The Lady Chapel

Most large medieval churches have a Lady Chapel. These are separate chapels dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

In St Martin’s Church the Lady Chapel is used for the 8:00 a.m. Sunday Service, which is a 40-minute service without singing.

The window in the Lady Chapel depicts Christ showing Himself to his disciples after his resurrection.

The Lady Chapel is separated from the south aisle by a carved wooden screen with spaces carved out of it, shaped like arched windows, mirroring the real windows in the church. At the top of the ‘windows’ in the screen are decorations, including carved crosses.

At one stage there was a balcony built above the Lady Chapel, and you can just make out the shape of a doorway into the parvise chamber above the south porch.

In the left of the wall behind the altar there is another stairway that leads to a door high up in the middle of the south wall. This used to lead to a walk-way along the Rood Screen. When the screen was removed the door remained as a reminder of times past.

The Lady Chapel altar window

Behind the altar the stained glass window shows Jesus surrounded by his disciples.

The stained glass windows: Dorcas raised from the dead

The second stained glass window depicts the story from Act chapter 9, verses 36 to 40. The bible tells the story: “In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, ‘Please come at once!’ Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.  Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, ‘Tabitha, get up.’ She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up.”

The window was dedicated to Bessie Cardell in 1916. The inscription reads “To the glory of God and in loving memory of Bessie Cardell, wife of George Martyn of Tremadden, this window is erected by her husband and children dedicated on ascension day June 1st 1916.”

The stained glass windows: The great commission

The stained glass window at the back of the Lady Chapel shows Christ addressing his disciples following the resurrection. This depicts the great commission from Matthew chapter 28. The text along the bottom reads “Go ye, and make disciples of all nations, and lo I am with you always”

Stairs to the parvise room

A parvise is a room over the porch of a church. They are quite often found in Norman churches in England. In St Martin’s, the parvise chamber is above the south porch and is said to have been used as a home for one of the priests. Access to the parvise chamber is via a small door built in the internal south wall besides the south door. The door leads to a spiral staircase up to the chamber.

Today, the parvise chamber is used as a storage area. In the past it has been used to store the lime for the lime wash on the walls. A trip to the parvise needs dust sheets to be put down in the book corner by the door to prevent the lime dust getting on the carpet. The room is only used by St Martin’s working party, a group of volunteers who meet every Tuesday night and help to keep the church in good repair. They have learned not to wear good clothes if they are visiting the parvise room!

The war memorial

The war memorial is situated at the east end of the south aisle, between the main alter on the north and the clergy vestry on the south.

The window depicts the disciples Peter (in the left pane) and John (in the right pane). The middle panes show the women at Jesus’ tomb with the angel saying “He is not here for He is risen as He said”

The war memorial frieze

The war memorial includes a highly decorated freeze depicting Christ in the centre. The left-hand panel shows six individuals (three men; three women) in differing military uniforms, representing the army, navy and air force. The panel to the right depicts the different roles that civilians played, including a nurse, and a fireman. More unusually, on the far right of the panel, a land-girl is depicted, recognising the contribution they made to the war effort. With so many men away in the armed forces, the civilian pane shows five women and just the one man. In total then the two panes show eight women and four men – again, very unusual for war memorials which often focus on the sacrifices made by the men.

The words underneath read “To the fallen   1939 – 1945   Lest we forget”

In front of the freeze a case houses a book of remembrance, which lists the names of all those who died in the Second World War, and some details about each one. A list of the names is framed on the south wall in the war memorial.

The war memorial window: The prophets

The window on the south wall of war memorial contains pictures of key individuals from the Old Testament.

The left most individual is Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a reluctant prophet who was compelled by God to tell the people of Judah about the coming invasion and their exile, and that they should not resist since this was God’s punishment for their unfaithfulness. Despite his reluctance he faithfully followed God’s leading, even though he suffered greatly at the hands of the people as a result.

The next panel depicts the Patriarch Moses who led the Israelites out of Egypt. The Israelites were slaves of the Egyptians, and Pharaoh did not want to lose this source of cheap labour. However, after God inflicted the ten plagues on the Egyptians, Pharaoh gave in and let the Israelites go.

The third pane shows the prophet Daniel. Daniel refused to obey an order that for 30 days no-one could worship any god but King Darius. As a consequence he was thrown into a den of lions. However, God sent an angel who shut the mouths of the lions. As a result Darius freed Daniel and wrote to all the people telling them to fear and revere Daniel’s God.

The right-most pane shows the prophet Samuel. Samuel oversaw the transition from a theocracy to a kingdom run by a king, albeit a king who was subject to the will of God.

The pulpit

The pulpit is of English oak, tastefully decorated with rich arabesque carving. It was made by a parishioner, Peter Short in 1636. This date is carved into one of the panels of the pulpit. The installation of the new pulpit is recorded in the Churchwardens’ accounts for that year:





Pd Peter Shorte the joyner for making the new Pulpitt




Pd for making the Pulpitt stayers for borde and nayles








At one stage the pulpit was said to have been painted green.

The clergy stall

The stall, generally referred to as “the rocket” is a superbly carved stall. As you can see, the nickname for the stall comes from its shape, resembling a rocket. The top of the rocket is adorned with a carving of an angel.

The clergy stall angel

There are two carved angels in full view, together with a number of angels carved into the ceiling. The main angels are situated atop “the rocket” and by the organ pipes. The angel above “the rocket” has one hand on his heart and the other hand is raised in praise. His face is turned towards heaven, focusing on God above.

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