The congregation at Crowan Church must have breathed a sigh of relief at Harvest Festival in September 1907.
The special service, held at 330pm in the afternoon and led by the Bishop of St Germans, marked the end of extraordinary building work and changes in the church which must have taken many months and cost a small fortune.
A brand new, much larger, window in the chancel over the altar was unveiled .
And the congregation saw that the window that had been there in the chancel (since the church renovations in 1872) had been moved to the Lady Chapel in the North aisle where a new opening had been created to accommodate it.
The black Carrara marble statue and tomb in memory of Sir John St Aubyn 4th baronet that had formerly stood at the end of the aisle were shifted to their present places on the north wall . Moving this black marble monument - previously the most imposing in the building, according to the Cornish Telegraph – was a huge undertaking. It weighed about six tons.
Needless to say, the man driving this extensive, intricate and expensive work was a St Aubyn himself - the Rev St Aubyn Hender Molesworth St Aubyn. He had been born and brought up at Clowance and had moved back there from his Yorkshire parish after his mother had died.
And it was done in honour of yet another St Aubyn, but this time no recently departed member of the family, but one who died 163 years earlier: Sir John St Aubyn, 3rd baronet.
Now back home in Crowan, Rev. St Aubyn, the man behind the latest enormous changes was patron of the parish – not a practising vicar. He took a lively interest in local life and was a JP and County Councillor. He had been involved in the dedication of the moved window (now in the Lady Chapel) to his late father in 1872. Nearly 20 years later in 1891, he had overseen the dedication of a new organ and vestry with his first wife, Caroline. Then sadly just under a decade later, the installation of a window in memory of her memory after Caroline died in 1899.
In a church decorated with the fruits of the harvest - a charming variety of flowers, plants, evergreens and corn - he revealed the new window with much ceremony, pulling a curtain from it after the Creed and declaring: “To the Glory of God an in memory of Sir John St Aubyn, I unveil this window.”
The new window - depicting the Ascension - was the largest and most imposing in the church with five lights (sections) and traceries of elaborately carved Breage granite. Angels on the outer lights are holding scrolls on which are written ‘Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven’ (Acts 1:11).
It was designed to impress. It succeeded, and to most eyes still does.
This Sir John St Aubyn - commemorated at such expense – died in 1744 and is buried with his wife, Catherine, in a granite vault in the church (the St Aubyn’s vault was previously at the west end of the North Aisle). According to the Cornish Telegraph, as there was no monument in his memory, the St Aubyn family, led by Rev. St Aubyn, had thought it fitting to create one.
The 3rd baronet, born around 1700, had been a friend of the famous antiquarian William Borlase when he was at Exeter College, Oxford, and was elected MP for Cornwall at the age of 22. He was to go on to become known at a national level for his political integrity. He is also remembered for his improvement of the estate at Clowance: he played many rare trees, including the first plane trees in Cornwall .
As a young man, he made a brilliant match. On 3 October 1725 at St James’s Piccadilly, London he married Catherine, the daughter and co-heiress of Sir Nicholas Morice of Werrington, Devon. She was immensely wealthy and legend has it that her dowry of £10,000 was conveyed to Clowance in two cartloads of half-crown pieces. Through her, the St Aubyns inherited valuable estates in Stoke Damerel, Plymouth.
But at Harvest Festival 1907, what was remembered most was not money but the 3rd baronet’s political integrity.
A plaque to the right of the window records a remark reportedly made about him by the Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole: “I know the price of every man in the House of Commons save the little Cornish baronet.”
The Bishop of St Germans, the Rt Rev. John Cornish, spoke of this oft-quoted remark in his sermon.
" Looking dimly across two centuries, we know but little of him to whose memory the new window is erected,” he said. “No doubt he had his imperfections and weaknesses. So had the saints of old. We think of their strength and not their weaknesses. He lived at a time when the vote of every member of the House of Commons could be bought excepting his. This was a great honour to him. Of course, no Government today would pay money for votes. But there is nothing more degrading than for any class of men to vote for what they know to be wrong, simply to please party politics."
The congregation went back to the vicarage (now Trenoweth House) after the service for tea served by the ladies of the parish.
Hopefully this pleased Rev. St Aubyn, who had re-married only five years earlier. His new wife was the beautiful Ingeborg Muller, some 37 years his junior .
But he could not have imagined what the next decade would bring. After the sudden death of his cousin Sir Lewis Molesworth in 1912 he succeeded to the Molesworth St Aubyn baronetcy and became the 13th baronet - Sir St Aubyn Hender Molesworth St Aubyn.
But he held the title for a year only. He had been suffering from heart disease and died in May 1913 when visiting London.
He was buried back in Crowan: the young organist Leslie Ursell played at his funeral.
Just the following year World War One broke out and life changed forever. Across the country, old family estates were ruined. The St Aubyns started to sell up in west Cornwall in 1919 and had left Clowance by 1923.
The clock on the church tower was installed in memory of Sir St Aubyn – and this of course remains, chiming the hour in normal times, a daily reminder (though few people realise this) of the St Aubyn’s 30 generations at Clowance.
The window was created by Heaton, Butler and Baynes. The architects were St Aubyn and Wadling (London) and the stonework and actual erection were executed by Thomas Edwards, builder, of Praze .