From ‘Lady Woodcarvers’ to Professionals: The Remarkable Pinwill Sisters

The Remarkable Pinwill Sisters


This splendidly illustrated book brings the story of three remarkable nineteenth-century women to life. It recounts in rich detail the beginnings of the Rashleigh Pinwill ecclesiastical woodcarving company in Ermington, Devon, in the early 1890s, through to the establishment of a Plymouth-based business, ranked among the best in the Westcountry, and run single-handedly by Violet Pinwill until the 1950s. The front cover, showing a beautifully-carved praying angel from Plympton St Mary, Devon, is featured on the right.

Full colour throughout with over 350 illustrations; 312 pages and 246mm x 191mm.

£25.00 + £4.00 p&p (mainland UK) with payment by bank transfer or cheque. Please enquire for overseas postage and payment.

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The emergence of the Pinwill sisters as woodcarvers in the late nineteenth century was shaped by several factors, most importantly, the support and encouragement of their family, and the patronage of architect Edmund H. Sedding. Wider influences that allowed their work to flourish included the relative freedom given to women within the Arts & Crafts Movement and the drive to restore ancient churches guided by Anglo-Catholic sensibilities.

Over more than six decades, the company produced ecclesiastical carvings in both wood and stone for nearly 200 churches across Devon and Cornwall and further afield, many of which are described and illustrated. The narrative contains accounts of the trials encountered in withstanding two world wars and the Great Depression, as well as the need to adapt to changing architectural styles from Gothic Revival through to Modern.


The book will be reviewed by several national and local journals, magazines and newsletters later in the year. Meanwhile, here’s an appreciative online review from Victorian Web.


Online presentations on The Remarkable Pinwill Sisters have been arranged with national and local organisations. Those still to come and open to the public have a link for booking.

Cornish Buildings Group Thursday 18 March at 6:30pm.

Victorian Society Tuesday 27 Apr 2021 at 7:00pm. Book with Eventbrite.

Ecclesiological Society Thursday 27 May at 7:00pm.

West Dartmoor U3A Thursday 19 August at 10:30am.

Other publications about the Pinwill sisters

Helen Wilson, ‘The Emergence of the Pinwill Sisters’, Devon Buildings Group Newsletter, 34 (2016) pp. 59-67.

Helen M. Wilson, ‘The Architect Edmund H. Sedding and his Devon Churches’, Transactions of the Devonshire Association, 148 (2016) pp. 255-292.

Helen M. Wilson, ‘From ‘Lady Woodcarvers’ to Professionals: The Remarkable Pinwill Sisters’, Transactions of the Devonshire Association, 151 (2019) pp. 273-294.

Helen M. Wilson, ‘The Architect Edmund H. Sedding’ in P. Holden (ed.) What is unique about Cornish Buildings? Proceedings of the 2019 Cornish Buildings Group Conference (in press).