St Mary Abbotsbury

This is one of only two churches in Devon designed by Edmund H. Sedding, the other being St Peter’s at Shaldon, just a short distance away. Internally, he designed a whole suite of carved furniture and fittings in wood and engaged the skills of V. Pinwill. After he died in 1921, R.F. Wheatly acted as architect, completing the Sedding plans. In terms of the Sedding/Pinwill partnership, it is an extremely important building, being the sole example of their partnership in a new building, although Wheatly undoubtedly stamped his mark on the designs for the woodcarving. This is particularly evident in the semi-kneeling angels on the choir stalls, litany desk and riddel posts, which are quite different from those designed previously by Sedding. Many of the furnishings at St Mary’s were funded by a large bequest (£5,000) in the will of Mrs Elizabeth Clarke (Western Times, 1922). In gratitude the church established a fund in memory of Mrs Clarke that raised sufficient money to provide a screen at the entrance to the Lady Chapel. This was installed in 1925 and carved for the sum of £70 by, rather ironically, Herbert Read of Exeter (DHC 1323A/PB/257), rather than by Violet Pinwill.

Newton Abbot - Abbotsbury Screen
View from the gallery of the Pinwill furnishings at Abbotsbury (Photo: C. Anthony Lewis)

Sound Board – Photograph (PWDRO 244/1, 244/5 & 255/2) Sedding & Wheatly architects; 1912

Pulpit – Photograph (PWDRO 116/38, 244/4, 244/5 & 244/6) Sedding & Wheatly architect; 1912

An inscription on the the pulpit states that it is a memorial to Henry Clarke who died in 1909. This was the husband of Elizabeth Clarke, who provided in her will for much of the rest of the furnishings.

Chancel Screen – Photograph (PWDRO 116/38, 244/1 & 255/2) Sedding & Wheatly architects; 1922

In the faculty papers for the screen (DHC DEX/9/a/2/Highweek/13) there is a drawing by Edmund H. Sedding dated 1913, which is strong evidence that it was his plans for the furnishings that were put in place after his death by R.F. Wheatly.

Litany Desk – Photograph (PWDRO 116/38 & 244/1); after 1922

The litany desk is a memorial to Jessie Webster who died in 1922.

Credence in Chancel Wall – Plan (CRO AD889/48) Sedding & Wheatly architects; after 1923

Servers’ Desks (2) – Plan (CRO AD889/48) Sedding & Wheatly architects; after 1923

Organ Screen – Plan (CRO AD889/48) Sedding & Wheatly architects; after 1923

Newton Abbot - Abbotsbury Screen Panels
Panels for Chancel Screen at Abbotsbury(PWDRO 244/1 with permission of Pinwill family)

Candlesticks (2) – Photograph (PWDRO 244/1) Plan (CRO AD889/48) Sedding & Wheatly architects; 1924

Riddel Posts – Photograph (PWDRO 244/1) Plan (CRO AD889/48) Sedding & Wheatly architects; 1924

Reredos – Photograph (PWDRO 116/38, 244/1, 244/4 & 244/6) Plan (CRO AD889/48) Sedding & Wheatly architects; 1924

What is meant by the reredos includes not only the central panel depicting the nativity but also the panelling either side in which the statues of 18 saints are set on plinths. Faculty and other plans for the reredos (CRO AD889/48 & DHC DEX/9/a/2/Highweek/17) are labelled Sedding & Wheatly, which implies that R.F. Wheatly based them on ones prepared by E.H. Sedding, who had died in 1921. The nativity scene is based on the panel in the 1911 reredos at Ermington, which had been designed by E.H. Sedding.

Parclose Screens (2) – Photograph (PWDRO 244/1); 1924

Choir Stalls and Clergy Stalls – Photograph (PWDRO 244/1) Plan (CRO AD889/48) Sedding & Wheatly architects; 1924

The choir stalls are a memorial to Mabel Eleanor Easton who died in 1921, a gift from her sisters. Faculty and other plans for the stalls (CRO AD889/48 & DHC DEX/9/a/2/Highweek/16) are labelled Sedding & Wheatly 1924, which implies that R.F. Wheatly based them on ones prepared by E.H. Sedding, who had died in 1921.

Lady Chapel Panelling, Credence, Candlesticks (2) and Altar Rails – Photograph (PWDRO 244/1) Plan (CRO AD889/48) Sedding & Wheatly architects; 1924

A report in the Devon and Exeter Gazette (1924) records the dedication of the reredos, choir stalls, parclose screens and Lady Chapel fittings. It states that the carving of all the woodwork was carried out by Miss Pinwill of Plymouth.

Altar – Plan (CRO AD889/48) Sedding & Wheatly architects; 1925

Sources

CRO AD889/48 Plans. Newton Abbot St Mary. Credence, Candlesticks, Servers Desks, Lady Chapel Fittings, Reredos, Choir Stalls, Organ Screen and Altar.

Devon and Exeter Gazette (1924) Additions to South Devon Church. Abbotsbury Ceremony. 6 October p. 7.

DHC 1323A/PB/257 Papers. Newton Abbot St Mary. Memorial to Mrs Clarke.

DHC DEX/9/a/2/Highweek/13 Faculty. Highweek St Mary. Chancel Screen.

DHC DEX/9/a/2/Highweek/16 Faculty. Highweek St Mary. Choir and Clergy Stalls.

DHC DEX/9/a/2/Highweek/17 Faculty. Highweek St Mary. Reredos.

PWDRO 116/38 Photographs. Newton Abbot. Chancel, Pulpit, Part of Reredos, Parts of Chancel Screen and Litany Desk.

PWDRO 244/1 Photograph Album. Various. Woodcarvings.

PWDRO 244/2 Photograph Album. Various. Woodcarvings.

PWDRO 244/4 Photograph Album. Various. Woodcarvings.

PWDRO 244/5 Photograph Album. Various. Woodcarvings.

PWDRO 244/6 Photographs. Various. Woodcarvings.

PWDRO 255/2 Photographs. Newton Abbot. Interior.

Western Times (1922) £70,000 for Charity. Bequests for Newton Abbot, Exeter and Bovey. Will of Mrs E. Clarke. 10 February p.8.