St John the Baptist, Newport

Painting – Newspaper article (North Devon Journal, 1944); 1944

A newspaper article from December 1944 describes a painted wooden plaque in medieval colouring as a reproduction of an old master of the Madonna and child and the work of Miss Violet Pinwill. It is very similar in design to the central roundel in the pulpit at St Mary’s Abbotsbury, which is based on Madonna col figlio by Guercino (GC/PA 27). It was a gift to the church from the children of the Sunday school to be placed in the Baptistery. A visit to St John’s in June 2014 revealed that, although the Baptistery had been moved during reordering, the painting had remained in its original position and was now above the new kitchen. The warden was delighted to learn about the origin of the painting, and it was later confirmed by the Revd Andy Dodwell that it would be moved to a more suitable position in the new Baptistery.

More recently (October 2022), it was confirmed by a member of the congregation, Michael Kelly, that the painting has indeed now been safely and more appropriately relocated to above the font in the Baptistery by the entrance door to the church and will be included on the asset register for St John’s.

Font Cover– Magazine (Newport Parish Magazine, 1944); 1945/46

Refurbishment of the Baptistery was evidently something the Vicar felt was necessary around this time. In the December 1944 issue of the Newport Parish Magazine, he wrote that a quotation had been received ‘from an expert church woodcarver, who has done some lovely work for Truro Cathedral and churches in the West Country. Her quotation is for £17.10s. Perhaps someone might like to give it as a memorial to someone who has died’. The woodcarver referred to here must be Violet Pinwill, as she was the only female ‘expert church woodcarver’ in the West Country at that time, and she had indeed carried out a great deal of work at Truro Cathedral. Added to this, the Vicar was the Revd Harry Franklin, whose previous church at Honicknowle in Plymouth had several pieces of furniture carved by Violet Pinwill in 1939, as well as a statue of St Francis he had commissioned for his personal devotions. By November 1945 the Revd Franklin was congratulating the choir boys for giving a font cover to the church (Newport Parish Magazine, 1945). It may have taken some time, however, for the work to appear during this difficult post-war period, as it was not until Sunday 9 June 1946 that Whitsunday Solemn Evensong was followed by a procession and dedication of the new font cover by the Revd Franklin (North Devon Journal, 1946).


GC/PA 27 Goldsmiths College Pinwill Archive. Print. Torino-Galleria Reale-Madonna col figlio. Guercino. Edizioni Brogi.

Newport Parish Magazine (1944) December issue.

Newport Parish Magazine (1945) November issue.

North Devon Journal (1944) The Living Church: A Weekly Local Review. 28 December p. 3.

North Devon Journal (1946) The Living Church: A Weekly Local Review. 6 June p. 3.