St Morwenna & St John the Baptist

The church at Morwenstow, dating back to Norman times, is built in a most beautiful setting overlooking a valley that runs down to the sea. It will forever be associated with the eccentric the Revd Stephen Hawker, to whom its restoration in the 1850s is credited (Beacham & Pevsner, 2014). For the author, it will always remain an exceptional place where the work of the Pinwill sisters was first encountered and a fascination began.

Altar and Reredos – Photographs (PWDRO 244/4 & 244/5); 1908 and/or 1910

The informative guide (Tomlin, 2003) states that the altar and reredos were designed by Edmund S. (sic) Sedding in 1908 and carved by the Pinwill sisters of Plymouth. However, the date of the altar is thrown into question by a newspaper report of 30 May 1910. This states that ‘in memory of their father and mother… a considerable sum of money will be given [by the Waddon Martyn family] towards the Carving of the panels in the Altar, the design being already in Mr. Sedding’s hands’ (Hartland & West Country Chronicle, 1910 p. 3). This implies that the altar at least was not then made. The parents in question, the Revd William Waddon Martyn, Rector of Lifton, and his wife Maria, both of nearby Tonacombe Manor, died in 1900 and 1908, respectively. The altar features small gilded carvings of grapes that came from Tonacombe Manor, hanging above three arches over deep relief carvings of two angels and the Lamb of God. One of these angels, clashing a pair of cymbals, is shown in a separate (unlabelled) photograph in PWDRO 244/4, presumably before insertion in the altar. The reredos is quite different in style and may have been inspired by the Tudor panelling at Tonacombe Manor. Inserted in the reredos, beneath a heavy pediment, is a cartoon by Giovanni Battista Piazzetta (1683-1754) and below that three engravings forming a triptych of the Crucifixion by John Baptist Jackson dated 1740. These, states the guide (Tomlin, 2003), were all bequeathed by Mrs Waddon Martyn of Tonacombe Manor, presumably when she died in 1908. Her will was not proved until July 1909 (The National Archive, Probate 1908), giving credence to the idea that the reredos was also not installed until 1910. Plans for the altar and reredos are deposited at CRO (X272/56/1-5).

Morwenstow Lectern Angel
Lectern Angel at Morwenstow (Photo: Roy Reed)

Angel Lectern – Guide (Tomlin, 2003) Photograph (PWDRO 244/4) E.H. Sedding designer; after 1910

The guide states that Edmund S. (sic) Sedding also designed the angel for the lectern, which is dedicated to N. H. Lawrence Martyn, who died in 1910, and was the son of the Revd amd Mrs Waddon Martyn of Tonacombe Manor. It seemed likely that the lectern was carved by V. Pinwill and this was eventually confirmed by the discovery of an unlabelled photograph of the piece in PWDRO 244/4. The plan for the lectern is deposited at CRO (X272/56/6).


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

CRO X272/56/1-5 Plans. Morwenstow. Reredos and Altar.

CRO X272/56/6 Plan. Morwenstow. Lectern.

Hartland & West Country Chronicle (1910) Morwenstow. No. 164 30 May p. 3.

PWDRO 244/4 Photograph Album. Various. Woodcarvings.

PWDRO 244/5 Photograph Album. Various. Woodcarvings.

The National Archive, Probate 1908. Wills and Administrations. Maria Andrew Martyn. Accessed at

Tomlin, E. W. F. (2003) The Church of St Morwenna & St John the Baptist Morwenstow. A Guide and History.