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. You can use the Contact page to order.

For those living in (or visiting) Devon and Cornwall, there are several bookshops that now stock The Remarkable Pinwill Sisters. These are:

  • Harbour Bookshop, 2 Mill Street, Kingsbridge, Devon
  • Bus Stop, 3 Market Street, Tavistock, Devon
  • Ivybridge Bookshop, 18 Fore Street, Ivybridge, Devon
  • Liskeard Bookshop, 2 Borras Street, Liskeard, Cornwall


The book has been reviewed by several national and local journals, magazines and newsletters. Here’s an online one from Victorian Web and some extracts from printed reviews.

The title speaks of performers being summoned onto the stage of the Music Hall by the Master of Ceremonies and that sense of anticipation is fully rewarded by this outstanding book, with plates to match. Matthew Saunders, Ancient Monuments Society, Summer 2021.

In this tercentenary year, while we consider Grinling Gibbons’ life work, it is useful to reflect on the stepping stones to be found in the historic record. Dr Wilson has revealed the Pinwill sisters as significant contributors. Hugh Wedderburn, Friends of City Churches, August 2021.

This book is much more than a combination of biography and business history, though it is certainly both. The chronological survey of the expansion of the firm, its changes of premises and the enlarged scope of its output is set against the history of changing artistic taste, economic forces and social movements. Jane Howells, British Association for Local History, Summer 2021.

As well as telling the fascinating story of this flowering of woodcarving talent in a Devon family of sisters, it is a beautiful item in its own right, with over 350 illustrations. It could also be used to create a tour of the Dartmoor churches graced with their skilled work. Fiona Senior, Dartmoor Preservation Association, Summer 2021.

This is an important book, not only because of the story of the Pinwill sisters, but also of what it says about the role of women in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Wilson is not only to be congratulated as author of the book, but also as its publisher. Beautifully produced and illustrated with numerous colour photographs, the design by Topics and the printing by Short Run Press, both of Exeter, show the quality of publishing here in Devon. Peter F. Mason, Dartmoor Magazine, Autumn 2021.

The book wears its scholarship and exacting research lightly… Wilson has pieced the story back together again to reveal the importance, skill and tenacity of the Pinwill sisters, particularly Violet, restoring their reputation as one of the foremost ecclesiastical woodcarvers of the South West, and leaving us the happy task of going to discover the works for ourselves with the book as our guide. Kirsty Hartsiotis, Decorative Arts Society, Autumn 2021.


Online and face-to-face presentations on The Remarkable Pinwill Sisters have been arranged with national and local organisations. These below took place in 2021 and there are others still to come in 2022. More details later.

  • 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.


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).