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, featuring a beautifully-carved praying angel from Plympton St Mary, Devon, is shown on the right.

Full colour throughout with over 350 illustrations; xii + 300 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. Please use the Contact page to order.

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 and some pre-publication comments.

Thoroughly researched and extensively illustrated… an authoritative account of the Pinwills, their family and business, which is worthy of their quite extraordinary legacy. Peter Beacham OBE, co-author The Buildings of England: Cornwall (2014)

An engaging, highly readable and meticulously researched book – the first – about the pioneering Pinwill sisters and the transformative power of art and craft at the turn of the twentieth century. Alex Woodcock, author King of Dust: Adventures in Forgotten Sculpture (2019)


Online and face-to-face 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: Online talk Thursday 18 March.
  • The Victorian Society: Online talk Tuesday 27 April. Recording can be viewed through Eventbrite
  • Devonshire Association Buildings Section: Online talk Thursday 20 May. Recording available to DA members.
  • BBC Radio Devon: Interview Monday 24 May by Pippa Quelch.
  • Ecclesiological Society: Online talk Thursday 27 May.
  • Devon Buildings Group: Online talk Thursday 10 June.
  • St Tudy Historical Society: Live talk Monday 28 June.
  • Tiverton Civic Society: Online talk Tuesday 6 July.
  • West Dartmoor U3A: Online talk Thursday 19 August at 10:30am. More details on website.


Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB): The Remarkable Pinwill Sisters and Crantock Church, Cornwall

Arts & Crafts Tours: The Pinwill Sisters – Professional Woodcarvers of the Movement

Other publications by the author

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).