St Ia

The fifteenth-century church of St Ia underwent several restorations in the nineteenth century, the last of which was by Edmund H. Sedding 1897-1905 (Beacham & Pevsner, 2014). This work probably included designs for the reredos and organ case described below and carved by Rashleigh, Pinwill & Co., but Sedding’s involvement is not recorded.

Reredos – Newspaper article (Cornishman, 1913); 1906

This reredos includes an elaborately carved, coloured and gilded wooden coving, under which are figures and panels in alabaster, added much later (see below). Its installation was part of a renovation after an explosion at Hayle Dynamite Works in January 1904, which completely destroyed the east window (Cornishman, 1906). A newspaper report on the dedication of a new window records that ‘the renovation includes a new reredos, altar, marble steps, and flooring’ (Ibid. p. 3) but no mention is made of who carved the reredos. Some years later, however, when the choir stalls discussed below were dedicated, another report states that they were the work of ‘the well known firm of Rashleigh and Pinwell [sic], of Plymouth, who were also responsible for the beautifully carved reredos and organ case’ (Cornishman, 1913 p. 7). There is no evidence to suggest that the altar, made of alabaster and with a granite top, was carved by the Pinwill company, although that is a possibility, but see below for the addition of alabaster angels.

Organ Case – Newspaper article (Cornish Telegraph, 1907); 1907

The organ case is not included in the photographs at PWDRO but is referred to in a newspaper article as being dedicated by the Bishop of Truro, along with the organ, in 1907. The case of fumed oak was designed by Edmund H. Sedding and carved and executed by ‘Messrs Pinwill and Co.’ (Ibid. p. 4). It was noted that ‘the carving on the fine western front, with its three bold towers, and also on the southern side facing the sanctuary is exquisite, and an examination of the detail shows how appropriately a number of little fishes have found their way into the otherwise more conventional treatment’. Even closer inspection would have revealed that the little fishes swim among seaweed, a devise often used by Sedding in his designs. The organ was built by Messrs Hele and Co. of Plymouth, who worked closely with the Pinwill company when the latter made cases for their instruments (M. Eglinton, retired manager, Hele & Co., pers. comm.).

Clergy Stalls and Choir Stalls – Photographs (PWDRO 244/4); 1913

The photographs of these items in PWDRO were taken prior to dispatch and show three pairs of stalls, which correspond with a description in a newspaper article of ‘priest’s seat, desk, and chorister’s desk’ (Cornishman, 1913 p. 7). The front of one of the choir desks is shown with ‘AD 1913’ carved within shields. This front has had one of its ends removed and is now attached to the fifteenth-century panels and coloured dark to match. The clergy seats are still in place but the two clergy desks, one bearing the figure of St Ia and the other the Virgin and child appear to be redundant and sit behind the choir stalls. The newspaper report states that Sedding & Wheatly were the architects for the work. The stalls were the gift of Mrs Ethel M. May of Kowlroose, St Ives, in memory of her husband John Coleridge Frampton May.

Alabaster Figures (4) and Panels (2) – Photograph (PWDRO 116/78) R.F. Wheatly architect; after 1921

These figures and panels in alabaster were created for the reredos installed in 1906 but the photograph of them in PWDRO credits R.F. Wheatly as the architect, which means they were designed after the death of Edmund H. Sedding in 1921. They may, of course, be contemporaneous with the angels below. They depict (left to right) St Uny, Moses and the burning bush, St Nicholas, St Ia, the Transfiguration and St Leonard (Jenkins, 2010).

St Ives Altar Angel
Figure of an Angel on the Altar at St Ives

Alabaster Angels (2) – Photograph (PWDRO 116/78) R.F. Wheatly architect; 1927

Twenty years after the altar was made, two alabaster angels were carved and placed in niches at the front. They are both sounding long trumpets, although their poses are different. A plan for one of the angels exists, drawn by Wheatly and dated 1927 (CRO AD889/16), but it does not possess the elegance and exuberance of the final piece. It is a pity that the altar is nowadays covered and the angels are not on view.

Prie-Dieu and Panelling – Photograph (PWDRO 116/78 & 244/2) R.F. Wheatly architect; 1928

The photograph of these items is marked ‘St Eves’, which does not exist in Devon and Cornwall. One explanation may have been that the church in question is St Ive, near Liskeard, which is pronounced ‘Eve’. However, the discovery of a plan for a prie-deau for St Ives dated 1928 (CRO AD889/16) that matches the desk in the photograph solved the mystery. However, on two visits to the church neither the prie-deau nor the panelling were evident.

Figure of the Christ Child and Panelling – Photographs (PWDRO 116/78 & 244/2) R.F. Wheatly architect; 1928

This is one of six figures of the Christ child so far discovered. In Chaytor (1990) it is described as being painted by Charles Gait ‘who had learned the way it was done in medieval times’ (Ibid. p. 65). The figure stands in a canopied niche and with panelling forms a children’s corner in the east end of the south aisle. The three surviving plans for the children’s corner are all dated 1928 (CRO AD889/16). On one of the plans the canopy is annotated ‘like Falmouth A.S.’ (All Saints). Another plan includes a rough drawing of the Christ child with a note that says: ‘Coloured, carved oak figure to be modelled by carver to the approval of the Architect’. This suggests that Violet was given considerable leeway in the design of the Christ child.

Candlestick – Plan (CRO AD889/16) R.F. Wheatly architect; 1927-28

A plan by Wheatly for a tall elaborate Candlestick is stored with the other plans outlined above and appears to be of the same period. It seems likely that it would have been carved by V. Pinwill with the other items, although it was not seen on several visits to the church.


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

Chaytor, E. (1990) Ermington Days. Melinga Publishing, North Cheam.

Cornishman (1906) St. Ives Parish Church. Dedication of New East Window. 7 June p. 3.

Cornishman (1913) St. Ives Parish Church. Further Gift of Choir Stalls. 27 March p. 7.

Cornish Telegraph (1907) St Ives Church Restoration. Dedication by the Bishop of Truro. 26 December p. 4.

CRO AD889/16 Plans. St Ives. Children’s Corner, Candlesticks, Figures for Altar Niches, Prie-Dieu and Window.

Jenkins, H. (2010) A History of Saint Ives Parish Church.

PWDRO 116/78 Photograph. St Ives. Panels (2) and Figures of Saints (4), Figure of Christ Child, Figures of Angels (2), Prie-Dieu and Panelling (marked ‘St Eves’).

PWDRO 244/2 Photograph Album. Various. Woodcarvings.

PWDRO 244/4 Photograph Album. Various. Woodcarvings.