Mosaics are mural decorations of painted stone or glass set into cement on a solid wall or floor surface, and in that respect, differ from windows which are designed to admit light.
It all started in Mesopotamia in the third millennium BC and most forms have since been found in dwelling places, businesses and bath-houses, palaces, temples, parks and gardens.
In Launceston mosaics appeared as decoration in Charles Street.
A colourful, geometric design covered the section of pavement outside F. & W. Stewart, jewellers, and was prominent until removed by council workers in the 1920s.
One row of brightly coloured star-patterns remains today close to the shop-front, a tantalising hint of what once was.
The interior walls were also decorated in mosaics.
Some of the ‘well-to-do’ houses around Launceston displayed mosaic pathways, entrance halls and doorsteps.
All the entrances into Shepherd’s old building have the same design in red and black.
The entrance into Morton House, Charles Street is beautiful.
Another pathway is located in Elphin Road and mosaics of blue and gold are on the building next to the Post Office.
The most striking local examples are found in the larger churches.
Holy Trinity in Cameron Street has two large complete mosaic pictures on the East Wall, designed by Alexander North, costing a little over £1000.
The picture on the left is of ‘Christ Before Pilate’, in the window is ‘The Ascension’ and the right-hand picture is ‘The Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost’.
They have been placed so that they appear as part of the wall structure and the colours chosen do not out-shine those of the window.
In St John’s Church only the central picture of the reredos is complete and a panel of archways at each end of ‘The Last Supper’.
These archways were to cover the whole curved wall beyond the altar table.
The tiles of the reredos are irregular in shape where other mosaics mentioned are of regular square cut.
This work has been done to real advantage in the dome of St John’s.
Architect Alexander North donated the centre-piece in brilliant gold mosaic.
His plan in 1935 was to cover the entire space of the dome and chancel area in this manner.
He further planned to complete the capitals or the nave pillars in mosaic gold.
The capitals were carved as native flora by Gordon Cumming before 1945, with no sign of gold, and then in the 1980s the unfinished parts of the chancel and dome roofs were painted cobalt blue.