St Nicholas

This rather picturesque church, sited on the quay at West Looe, has a fourteenth-century tower topped by a late nineteenth-century Italianate cupola (Beacham & Pevsner, 2014). Originally a chapel of ease, it was used for various purposes after the Reformation, but restored to a church again in 1852. Edmund H. Sedding gave the church a sensitive restoration in 1915-17 but the Pinwill work below is from a later period after his death.

Chancel Panelling – Photograph (PWDRO 116/60 & 244/1); after 1922

The photograph of the panelling is merely labelled ‘Looe Church, Cornwall’ but a visit to St Nicholas in February 2013 confirmed that this is where it is located. There is a dedication to the memory of Emma Grace Wills, who died in 1922. During an extensive restoration in 2004 it was found that considerable damage had been caused to the south wall by storm water and parts of the panelling were also in a poor state (Looe St Nicholas, undated). The damaged oak was replaced, and the panelling reinstated. However, it was then heavily varnished and now has a dark, very shiny appearance that was never the style of Pinwill work.

Baptistery and Seating

A faculty petition was submitted in June 1932, with later plans by Cowell, Drewitt & Wheatly, for a baptistery and seats (CRO D/R 10/30). The faculty was granted in October 1932 and included a drain for the font and flooring in Delabole slate as well as the following carving work by V. Pinwill.

Font – Newspaper article (Western Morning News, 1933a) R.F. Wheatly architect; 1933

A newspaper report in early December 1933 about the dedication of the new font at St Nicholas is slightly ambiguous about who carried out the carving, whereas a ‘Letter to the Editor’ later that month states categorically that the work was done by V. Pinwill of Plymouth (Western Morning News, 1933b). It is a replica of the Norman font at St Stephen’s in Launceston, although by necessity was made from Blue Horton stone, rather than Cornish polyphant. The font cost £45 and was funded by a legacy (CRO D/R 10/30).

Panelling – Photograph (PWDRO 116/60) R.F. Wheatly architect; 1933

The photograph in PWDRO shows the panelling for the north wall behind the font that then continues at right angles to form the back of a stall (see below). The panelling was dedicated at the same time as the font (Western Morning News, 1933a).

Memorial Stalls (5) – Photograph (PWDRO 116/60) Guide (Leggat & Leggat, 2003) R.F. Wheatly architect; 1933-36

Only two stalls were specified in the faculty and two are shown in the photograph in PWDRO and would have been installed in 1933; the back of one is effectively the panelling on the east side of the Baptistery. However, a guide states that five stalls were the work of ‘Miss Pinwell [sic] and her Associates of Plymouth; Charles Gale [sic] was her senior craftsman’ (Ibid. p. 5). The three later stalls, unlike the first two, feature seahorses and fish in borders around the edges of the ends; one is dated 1936.


Beacham, P. & Pevsner, N. (2014) The Buildings of England. Cornwall. Yale University Press, London.

CRO D/R 10/30 Faculty Petition. Looe St Nicholas. Internal Works.

Leggat, P. O. & Leggat, D. V. (2003) The History of St. Nicholas Church West Looe.

Looe St Nicholas (undated) Unpublished guide within church.

PWDRO 116/60 Photographs. Looe St Mary. Reredos. Looe St Nicholas. Panelling and bench ends.

PWDRO 244/1 Photograph Album. Various. Woodcarvings.

Western Morning News (1933a) New Font Dedicated. Ceremony at St. Nicholas Church, Looe. 8 December p. 8.

Western Morning News (1933b) Letters to the Editor. New Font at Looe. 16 December p. 3.