St Hilary

The church at St Hilary was the subject of a modern-day spate of iconoclasm in the form of an attack by the Kensitites, a group of protestant fundamentalists who objected to the Anglo-Catholic ways of the incumbent, Revd N. Bernard Walke. They had tried and failed to bring about their objectives by litigation. On August 8, 1932 a group of 40 to 50 Kensitites, who had gathered at Plymouth and driven down together, attempted to rid the church of what they saw as icons of idolatry (Cornishman, 1932).

Altar – Kitty Green (pers. comm.); 1945

Kitty Green, granddaughter of Hubert Minchinton, one of Violet’s woodcarvers, was told that the high altar at St Hilary had been destroyed in this protest and a replacement made by V. Pinwill. The latter part of this story is verified by the fact that a plan for a new high altar for St Hilary was prepared by R.F. Wheatly in January 1945 and approved by the Diocese in March that year (CRO AD889/14). The replacement of a stone altar with one in wood, most probably carved by V. Pinwill, conforms to the nub of the story from Minchinton.

A visit to the church in August 2016 revealed a twist to the story, in that all three altars in St Hilary’s are now stone. The high altar in wood designed by Wheatly was removed and replaced by one in granite during the 1970s, as a memorial to N. Bernard Walke. The Wheatly altar was transferred for a while to the Sacred Heart Chapel and a photograph exists of it there in 1980 (St Hilary Heritage Centre). Sometime afterwards it was removed completely and the central portion, bearing a carved ‘IHS’, now hangs in the Heritage Centre next door to the church.


Cornishman (1932) St. Hilary Church Restored. Vicar Outwits Raiders. 18 August p. 2.

CRO AD889/14 Plan. St Hilary. Altar.