St Peter and St Paul

Pulpit – Chaytor (1990) R. Smith, designer; before August 1889

The pulpit is one of the earliest pieces made by the sisters and was completed before August 1889 (Cheltenham Chronicle, 1889). It was designed by Robert Smith, the modeller/sculptor employed on the Ermington restoration (The Queen, 1889). It is an accomplished piece of work, although Cherry & Pevsner (2004 p. 355) call it ‘ambitious… competent if not original’.

Organ Case – Chaytor (1990) E.H. Sedding, designer; 1890

The carved panels for this case were shown in a Home Arts and Industries Association exhibition in Torquay in May 1890 (The Queen, 1890).

Ermington Lectern
Lectern at Ermington

Lectern – Chaytor (1990); date unknown

Credence Table – Chaytor (1990); date unknown

No photographs of the lectern or the credence table exist in the PWDRO archive, but they are in the ‘complete list’ of Pinwill work in Ermington church given by Chaytor (1990).

Font Cover – Photograph (PWDRO 244/5); date unknown

A typical ornately-crocketed design, this has no dedication or suggestion of date.

Reredos – Photograph (PWDRO 244/1 & 244/5) E.H. Sedding, designer; 1911

The reredos behind the High Altar is a masterpiece of skilful carving. The upper portion features carvings in wood of the annunciation, the crucifixion and the burial, interspersed with seated figures of the four evangelists, all surmounted by a figure of the risen Christ. The lower section houses a 10’ by 4’ alabaster panel depicting a Nativity scene, the design of which is said to be after Edward Burne-Jones. The figures in the panel certainly have a gracefulness that is evocative of Burne-Jones’s work. Further information on the precise source is given in a newspaper report on the dedication: ‘In the presence of a large congregation the service took place, the bright sunlight lighting up the reredos which, in its reverent conception, conveys the impression given by Burne-Jones’s famous tapestry at Oxford and Eton’ (Western Morning News, 1911). The tapestry to which this statement refers, known as The Adoration of the Maji, may well have been the inspiration for the design of the Ermington reredos, although a single shepherd and only one Maji are depicted. The greatest care was taken, however, to ensure the successful realisation of the design. A plaster maquette was made for this panel by the accomplished sculptor Nathaniel Hitch (Jenny Thomas Archive), which can be seen in three pieces in a photograph of the workshop (PWDRO 244/5). The back of a loose photograph of the reredos (PWDRO 255/1) is annotated ‘Designed by Edmund Sedding Carried out by V. A. Pinwill’, which strongly suggests that the reredos was carved entirely by Violet. Cherry & Pevsner (2004 p. 355) do concede that the reredos is ‘especially remarkable’. Another newspaper report of the dedication states that the cost of the reredos was donated by Mrs Pearson in memory of her husband, once a churchwarden at Ermington (Western Weekly Mercury, 1911).

A drawing for the reredos by Sedding dated 1909 exists at DHC (1626B/P/21). It differs from the final piece in several respects, most notably in the size, shape and form of the brackets either side of the alabaster panel. Such changes may have come about during the recarving of the piece after the original, almost complete, reredos was destroyed in a fire at the Pinwill workshop in 1910. It is reported that an exact replica was produced (Chaytor, 1990) but it is conceivable that some changes were introduced. The fire was the cause of the long delay between conception and dedication of this wonderful piece of work.

WWI Memorial – Chaytor (1990); after 1918

A simple war memorial, featuring Christ on the cross, was carved to commemorate the men of the parish who died in the Great War.

Lady Chapel Reredos – Photograph (PWDRO 244/4); 1922

This reredos is a memorial to Elizabeth A. Pinwill, wife of Edmund and mother of the sisters, who died in October 1900. It features a figure of St Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians, a roundel of the Virgin and child, based on a painting by Guercino, and a figure of St Elizabeth with the young John the Baptist. In a letter from Revd E. Pinwill to the Diocese about a faculty for the work, dated 10 April 1922, he states ‘The proposed reredos is for a memorial to the late Mrs Pinwill – who for many years played the organ in the church. The material of the work is to be of oak, & the design by the late Mr Edmund Sedding. Rashleigh Pinwill will carry out the work, when approved’ (DHC DEX/9/a/2/Ermington/6). Though the original design may have been devised by Edmund H. Sedding, the plans submitted for the faculty were drawn by Violet Pinwill.

Ermington Lady Chapel Altar Rail
Lady Chapel Altar Rail at Ermington

Lady Chapel Altar Rails – Photograph (PWDRO 116/31 & 244/1); 1924

When Revd Edmund Pinwill retired as Vicar in 1924, a collection was made, and the proceeds used to pay for altar rails in the Lady Chapel and an armchair for Edmund’s use (David West Archive). A book of subscriptions was compiled that is now in the archive of Ermington church. The inscription on the altar rails states they were erected by parishioners and friends in memory of the service of Edmund Pinwill, Vicar of Ermington and Kingston 1880-1924. A faculty for the altar rails (DHC DEX/9/a/2/Ermington/7) includes a sketch made by Violet Pinwill, which suggests the design was hers, though the semi-kneeling angels are strongly reminiscent of those by Edmund H. Sedding.

Memorial Tablet – Newspaper article (Western Morning News, 1928); 1928

Revd Edmund Pinwill died in 1926, only two years after his retirement. A memorial tablet carved by Violet, situated on the wall to the left of the altar, was dedicated in December 1928 at a service conducted by Revd H. J. Chaytor. The memorial also commemorates the role of Henry Bingham Mildmay of Flete in the restoration of the churches at Ermington and Kingston. Over 100 parishioners and friends subscribed to the memorial fund. The faculty for the tablet (DHC DEX/9/a/2/Ermington/8) includes a detailed sketch by Violet Pinwill of the design and inscription.

WWII Memorial – Chaytor (1990); after 1945

A small plaque was added below the WWI memorial, listing the names of those who died.

Bench Ends, Screens, Beams and Bosses – Mee (1947) Cherry & Pevsner (2004)

Mee attributes all the modern woodcarving at Ermington to Violet Pinwill, including bench ends, chapel screens and restoration of the beams and bosses of the chancel roof. Similarly, Cherry & Pevsner state that stalls and bench ends were by the Pinwells (sic). It is possible that, while learning their craft, the Pinwill sisters practised on carvings that are now in the church, particularly ones such as roof bosses. This idea is given some credence by the fact that one of the bosses in the south aisle bears the date ‘1888’ and an ornate ‘R’, which perhaps indicates that it was carved by Mary Rashleigh Pinwill. However, it is likely that the majority of the items mentioned by Mee and by Cherry & Pevsner were carved by expert woodcarvers during the restoration of 1884-89. Much as one might like to attribute more to the Pinwills, the craftsmen hired by John Dando Sedding to restore Ermington church must have produced the majority of the carvings. Only those items listed above can therefore be verified as having been carved by the Pinwill sisters, by Violet herself or in the workshop of V. Pinwill.


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

Cheltenham Chronicle (1889) The Ladies’ Corner. 31 August p. 3.

Cherry & Pevsner (2004) The Buildings of England. Devon. Yale University Press, London.

DHC 1626B/P/21 Plans. Ermington. Reredos.

DHC DEX/9/a/2/Ermington/6 Faculty. Ermington. Lady Chapel Reredos.

DHC DEX/9/a/2/Ermington/7 Faculty. Ermington. Lady Chapel Altar Rails.

DHC DEX/9/a/2/Ermington/8 Faculty. Ermington. Memorial Tablet.

Mee, A. (1947) The King’s England. Devon. Cradle of our Seamen. Hodder & Stoughton, London.

PWDRO 116/31 Photographs. Ermington. Reredos and Altar Rails.

PWDRO 244/1 Photograph Album. Various. Woodcarvings.

PWDRO 244/4 Photograph Album. Various. Woodcarvings.

PWDRO 244/5 Photograph Album. Various. Woodcarvings.

The Queen (1889) Pulpit in Ermington Church. 17 August p. 243.

The Queen (1890) The Arts and Crafts Exhibition, Torquay. 10 May p. 620.

Western Morning News (1911) Ermington Church Reredos. 15 May p. 8.

Western Morning News (1928) Memorial to Vicar. Tablet Dedicated in Ermington Church. 27 December p. 2.

Western Weekly Mercury (1911) Fine New Reredos Dedicated in Ermington Church. 20 May p. 18.