A Short History of Epiphany House
The building currently known as Epiphany House has served as a vicarage, a bishop’s residence, a school and a convent. Since 2002 the House has been run by an ecumenical charitable trust as a retreat and conference centre with a rhythm of prayer and worship at its heart.
16th-19th century — Kenwyn Vicarage
The first property on this site was in existence by 1570. The building was substantially rebuilt in the 1770s but a small part of the original parsonage remains within the present house. John Wesley visited the House in September 1787 on one of his preaching tours of Cornwall.
1877-1953 — Lis Escop
The Diocese of Truro was created in 1876 and in 1877 Kenwyn Vicarage became Lis Escop (Cornish for Bishop’s Court), a home for the Bishops of Truro, their families and households. The first Bishop was Edward White Benson who supervised extensions to the building. While he lived here, Benson devised the well-known Christmas service of Nine Lessons and Carols.
The second Bishop, George Howard Wilkinson, was supported in his London parish by a group of women with a religious calling and social commitment. When Wilkinson came to Truro in 1883 they came with him and became an Anglican order of Sisters known as the Community of the Epiphany. A substantial private house called Alverton was bought and became their convent.
Subsequent Bishops extended and altered the house. The fourth Bishop, Charles William Stubbs arrived in 1906 and commissioned designs for a Chapel and Dining Room from E.H. Sedding to create the House as it is today.
During the First World War, when Winfrid Burrows was Bishop, the house was used for convalescing officers and Belgian refugees. In the Second World War, Bishop Hunkin joined the A.R.P. (Air Raid Precaution) and used the grounds for fire watching. Hunkin became famous for his extensive development of the garden.
Between 1923 and 1934 the house became a branch of the Community of the Resurrection so that Bishop Walter Frere could continue to be an active member of the monastic order of which he was a founder. There were always at least three monks in residence during this time.
1953-1982 — Truro Cathedral School
After the Second World War, Bishop Edmund Morgan decided that the house was too large for the needs of a Bishop and it was sold to the Truro Cathedral School Trust to provide premises for the junior boys and a house for the headmaster. The purchase was made possible by a gift from the Copeland family of Trellisick in memory of their son Geoffrey, a former pupil. The property was renamed Copeland Court and continued to be part of the School until it closed in 1982.
1983-2001 — The Community of the Epiphany
In 1983 Copeland Court became a convent, the home of the Community of the Epiphany founded by Bishop Wilkinson. Twelve nuns moved here from their original home at Alverton and continued their work of visiting the sick and the elderly, running Sunday Schools, confirmation classes and women’s groups and acting as sacristans at the Cathedral. The house hosted quiet days and retreats.
In 2001 the last two remaining Sisters left the convent. The property was renamed Epiphany House as a tribute to the work of the Community. Today, Epiphany House is run by an ecumenical trust that carries forward the work of the Sisters by arranging retreats and quiet days and by offering facilities for training and education to serve the Church and the community in Cornwall.