THE CHURCH OF ST MARY THE VIRGIN
11th November 1874 - Bishop Frederick Temple licensed a newly built school chapel at Crabtree for Divine Worship. Before then residents of Laira had to walk two miles to their parish church of St Edward’s at Egg Buckland.
1906 - Land was donated by Mrs Lucy Clarke of Efford Manor for a church to be built for the increasing numbers of residents in the village of Laira.
1911 - The Foundation Stone was laid by Mrs Clarke.
2nd July 1914 - St Mary’s church, was dedicated to the glory of God, and in honour of Our Lady by the Bishop of Exeter, Dr Archibald Robertson,-
St Mary’s Church stands on the hillside, overlooking the River Plym and the Laira railway yard, it is a striking reminder to those who live and work here, or are passing through on their way into Plymouth centre, of the Gospel message of Jesus Christ, which has been preserved and passed on for over 2,000 years. It was commonly known as the ‘railway parish’ because of the church’s close links with the workforce.
The church building is 87ft (26m) long and 73ft (22m) wide, although the original design was for a building 146 ft (44m) long, but financial restrictions, resulted in half of the nave, the baptistery and the upper bell tower not being built.
The entrance to the church, through the West porch, still retains the ‘temporary’ west wall in its original Cornish hung slate facing.
At the external East end elevation, there is a fine sculpture of the Crucifixion..The design was exhibited in the Royal Academy of 1910.
St. Mary’s is a particularly fine building, but the most important thing is not the building, but what happens inside. It is where for over 100 years people have been faithfully worshipping God and taking the message of the gospel out into the community. Through prayers and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we hope to meet the challenges of future years.
On entering the Church take a few moments to appreciate the craftsmanship of the building and the smell of incense which is used at the Eucharist as a sign of our prayers ascending to God.
MAIN FEATURES OF THE INTERIOR
The roof is barrel-vaulted and is made of oak. The piers and all the internal features are of Bath stone and all the plain wall surfaces are plastered.
The nave and aisle floors are of wood block, with the passages of small red tiles. The Chancel floor is of marble, laid in large squares of white and green marble, with dove marble forming the steps.
On the church walls there are fourteen Stations of the Cross, marking points for mediation of Our Lord’s journey from his condemnation to death before Pilate, to his being laid in the tomb. Each of the Stations marks a special moment in Our Lord’s journey to Calvary. Most are deducible from the Scriptures, some are legendary.
The north aisle is now used as a social area, and where coffee is served after services, and books or leaflets are available.
At the West end is a statue of Christ as a boy, reminding us that Jesus grew up in a normal family. The feature is the work of Miss Pinwell, in commemoration of Phyllis Hunt.
The Font, at the East end of the aisle was positioned here as a temporary measure until the planned baptistery was built at the West end of the church. It is made of Cornish polyphant stone with a central shaft of polished green marble with the inscription around the bowl ‘Ye must be born of water and the Spirit’. The font cover is of oak, with open tracery terminating in a crocheted finial.
The Paschal Candle stands beside the Font and is lit as a symbol of Christ, the true light of the world, and as a reminder of Our Lord’s instruction to us to ‘shine as a light in the world’. At funerals it is a reminder of the resurrection.
The Pulpit was brought from the Crabtree Mission and remodelled to fit its present position. It is a memorial to Charles Edgar Turner.
At the centre of the church can be seen the beautiful High Altar. It is made of oak, framed and divided into panels of linen fold design on either side of a central panel which depicts the head of Christ in his Passion, wearing the Crown of Thorns. The Altar top or Mensa was formed from one large slab of Dove marble. The Reredos is of oak and is remarkable as it is carved as a naturalist representation of a vine spreading its fruit and foliage to form a ‘covered’ recess. The niches on either side were intended to contain ‘sculptured angels in adoration’ they now contain icons of Our
Lord and the Virgin and Child.
The East Window above the altar was dedicated by the Bishop of Plymouth in 1953 in memory of Violet Giles. The artist described the symbolism as ‘The main theme of the window embodies the Triumph of our Saviour and His Church and depicts the youthful Christ crowned as King and bearing the Orb of temporal power. To either side are portrayed Saint Peter and Saint Paul as is incorporated symbolically the Birth and first Christmas morn, the Baptismal Fount, the Lamp of the Mount of Olives, and in institution of the Holy Table, in juxta relation to the corporate design. To the apex of the window, the right hand of the Father, and the Dove of the Spirit complete the tenet of the Holy Trinity, and to wither side the emblems of Baptism and resurrection are shown as being the first and last meanings of Christian life’.
Italian wooden statues of Our Lady and Saint John stand in the niches at either side of the window and were given in memory of Ernest Hannaford.
Within the Chancel, suspended from the ceiling, is a light signifying the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament which is reserved in the Aumbry.
In the South Aisle is the Lady Chapel. The East window above the altar was installed in 1919 in memory of Percy Charles Luscombe, a chorister at the Crabtree Mission Church. It depicts Our Lady and the Holy Child. There is a particularly fine sculptured Crucifix above the Altar. The Reredos was designed by Miss Pinwell and is in memory of Cecil Theodore Baker Pike, and the Altar rails in memory of Martha Coom.
The carved oak lectern is from where the Word of God is read.
The belfry is situated above the Lady Chapel and July 2000 saw the fulfillment of the original plan and now houses a ring of eight bells – The Trinity Ring. The bells are inscribed with the words of a well-known hymn:
1 The Treble Ye watchers and ye holy ones 3-2-24
2 Bright Seraphs Cherubim and Thrones 3-3-07
3 Dominions Princedoms Powers 4-0-00
4 Virtues Archangels Angels choirs 4-1-21
5 Lead their praises. Alleluya! 5-1-14
6 To God the Father 6-0-21
7 God the Son 7-3-14
8 The Tenor God the Spirit. Three in one. Alleluya! 11-0-14
All weights are in hundredweights, quarters and pounds.
The original bell bore the inscription. ‘Adeste Fidelis’ – O come all ye faithful. It was sold to a needy church in Skipton Yorkshire in 2000, where, we hope, it will continue its life ringing out the message of God.
In the West Aisle there is a clock donated in 1947 to the memory of Kenneth Evans Knight, a server in the church, who lost his life on H.M.S. Barnham on 25th November 1941.
The ‘Girl Guide’ window in the South aisle reminds us of the call, vocation and response of Our Lady Mary. We are called to imitate her love for God; it is donated in memory of Florence Annie Tregedeon, one time leader of S. Mary’s Girl Guide Company.
(For further architectural detail visit: https://britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/101386301-church-of-st-mary-efford-and-lipson-ward#.W9w_4PZ2uJY)