From ‘Lady Woodcarvers’ to Professionals: 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.

The Remarkable Pinwill Sisters

Paperback; full colour throughout with 350+ illustrations; xii + 300 pages; 246mm x 191mm.

First impression (2021) – just a few copies left: £25.00 including p&p

Second impression (2023) – with minor corrections: £30.00 including p&p

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

The book is also available through Ermington Church, Devon, with £5 going to church funds.


The Devon and Cornwall Record Society (DCRS) presents a series of podcasts interviewing authors of books on subjects related to the area. Here is the DCRS podcast on The Remarkable Pinwill Sisters, in which Todd Gray interviews Helen Wilson about her research.


The book has been reviewed by several national and local journals, magazines, newsletters and websites. Here are online ones from Victorian Web and Public Statues and Sculptures Association, plus 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.

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.

I had heard of the Pinwill sisters before reading this book, but I had no idea how prolific they were or how they had developed their amazing woodcarving skills. The author has undertaken a vast amount of research to write the sisters’ story in a very readable and interesting way with plenty of illustrations. Rachel Bloomfield, Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, Autumn 2021.

Their work is described in detail in a highly readable style by one who is clearly completely in awe of all the pulpits, bench ends, rood screens and other ecclesiastical carvings the sisters created and repaired. One is left with a new understanding of the art of woodcarving and an empathy for the past times which allowed for its creation. Stella Beaven, Devonshire Association, Autumn 2021.

The author has already made the Pinwill sisters more widely known in recent years through her articles and lectures, but this volume firmly establishes their reputation and will be a valued resource for all those interested in the history and decoration of churches in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as well as those who love visiting country churches. Kate Hay, Furniture History Society, November 2021.

One hopes that Helen Wilson’s superb achievement in chronicling the Pinwill sisters, with such lively writing and scholarly skill, will now generate widespread interest and enable an important part of the West Country’s artistic heritage to be properly appreciated. Peter Cormack, The Victorian Society, November 2021.


Helen Wilson (2015) The Pinwill Sisters: Woodcarvers Par Excellence. Institute of Historic Building Conservation SW Bulletin 30, 5.

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

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

Helen Wilson (2018) An Edgcumbe Memorial at maker and the Remarkable Violet Pinwill. Tamar: Journal of the Friends of the Tamar Valley 40, 20-27.

Helen Wilson, Featured churches: St Mary, Abbotsbury, Newton Abbot, Devon The Ecclesiological Society.

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

Helen Wilson (2019) Devon: Ermington Reredos, St Peter and St Paul, Ermington. In: The Arts Society South West Fifty Treasures of the South West. pp 74-75 (The Arts Society South West).

Helen Wilson (2022) Early Work of the Sedding Dynasty in Cornwall. Cornish Buildings Group Newsletter Winter 29-32.

Helen Wilson (2023) The Remarkable Pinwill Sisters. West of England and South Wales Women’s History Network Blog.

Helen Wilson (2023) The Architect Edmund H. Sedding. In: Paul Holden (ed.) The Distinctiveness of Cornish Buildings. Conference Papers Marking the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Cornish Buildings Group Presented at St Austell in 2019. 217–35 (Shaun Tyas).

Helen Wilson (2023) The Remarkable Pinwill Sisters. Heritage Now: Magazine of Historic Buildings & Places Winter 16-19.