The Benefactor, John Passmore Edwards
John Passmore Edwards (March 24, 1823 – 1911) was a Victorian journalist and philanthropist. He was born in Blackwater, a small village, situated between Redruth and Truro, in Cornwall, the son of a carpenter. He served as an editor of the London Echo and as a Liberal MP under Salisbury. He later sold the bulk of his share in the Echo to focus his attentions on philanthropy.
A life-long champion of the working classes, Passmore Edwards is remembered as a generous benefactor. Over the space of 14 years, 70 major buildings were established as a direct result of his bequests. These included hospitals, 11 drinking fountains, 32 marble busts, 23 libraries, schools, convalescence homes and art galleries and the Passmore Edwards Settlement.
The foundation stone of the Passmore Edwards Institute in Hayle was laid in 1893 and officially opened by Mrs. Passmore Edwards in April 1896.
The Architect, Silvanus Trevail, 1851-1903
Silvanus Trevail was born in Luxulyan, Cornwall, in October 1851 and was educated first at the village school and then at Ledrah House School, St Austell before being sent to work in London in the offices of Henry Garling, FRIBA. He returned to Cornwall in 1872 and was commissioned to design the Elementary Board School, Mount Charles, St Austell. This was the first of 35 new schools he designed in Cornwall as a result of the surge in school building following the passing of the Education Act.
In 1878 his designs were exhibited at the Exhibition of British Architecture at the Paris Exposition and at exhibitions in Sydney, where he received a medal and diploma for his design of Fowey Grammar School, and Melbourne.
In 1893 he was commissioned to design the Hayle Institute for Passmore Edwards, and over the next 7 years designed many, but not all, of the Passmore Edwards buildings in Cornwall. Other buildings he designed included a number of chapels and churches in Cornwall, several of Cornwall’s most well known hotels and mansion houses at Blisland and St Ives, Cornwall, and in Dublin. In Cornwall he was well respected as a Borough Councillor, and later Mayor, in Truro and as a County Councillor, whilst his professional reputation was acknowledged by election as Fellow of the RIBA and firstly Vice President of the Society of Architects in 1896 and then President in 1901-1903.
The building is sombre and dignified, the front finished in rock-faced granite, with close chiselled dressings, and the sides are of elvan filling with granite dressings. The windows on all sides are large and uncluttered, classical and expansive in style, contrasting with the formidable Norman Arch porch with its heavily panelled outer doors and the granite balcony above. The leaded coloured glass panels in the top third of the outer doors, and those in the oak framed arch above, let in a warm, comforting light, though their simple geometric designs are decoration only.
The interior is much lighter and brighter than the outside, even on a winter’s day. There is much use of genuinely rich brown timber for the staircase and panelling up the stairs, set off by plain, plaster walls painted a pale colour.