St John the Evangelist, Hooe

St John’s church is part of a group of buildings, including school and schoolmaster’s house, designed by William White and built 1854-55 (Cherry & Pevsner, 2004). Edmund H. Sedding was commissioned to carry out work here, including a war memorial cross in grey Cornish granite for the churchyard (DHC 1626B/P/174).

Chancel Roof Decoration – Plan (DHC 1626B/P/173) Sedding & Wheatly architects; 1911-14

Designs exist for a new decorated chancel roof with carved corbels, bosses and beams. These decorations may well have been carried out by the Pinwill workshop an further research is required.

Altar – Plan (DHC 1626B/P/175) Sedding & Stallybrass architects; after 1914

A design for a new altar in ‘oak painted and gilded’ includes a beautifully coloured front elevation as well as an annotation for ‘Mouldings to be rich red, and green: fillets white; all carvings gilt: Background, panels etc fumed dark oak.’ The plan and description matches the altar now in the church, aside from some colour changes, and could have been carved by the Pinwill company. A faculty may, at some stage, come to light to confirm or otherwise.

Panelling – Cherry & Pevsner (2004); 1916

Cherry & Pevsner state that the nave of St John’s was ‘cosified’ by linenfold panelling by Violet Pinwell (sic) in 1916. The date is verified by the existence of a faculty to pave the nave walls with oak (PWDRO 724/78).

Children’s Corner – Plan (PWDRO 724/68) Drawing and Bill (PWDRO 724/71) V. Pinwill designer; 1944

A figure of the Christ child, identical to the one depicted in PWDRO 244/2 for St Ives, Cornwall, apart from the colouring, was discovered next to the main altar while inspecting the panelling listed above. It transpired that it was once part of a children’s corner in the SW of the church designed and carved by Violet Pinwill in 1944. A plan of the children’s corner by Violet, dated May 1944, shows that at this later stage in the company’s history she was carrying out much of the design work herself. Affixed to the plan is a photograph of the Christ child made for Beneden in Kent some 20 years previously, to illustrate the intended figure. Also deposited at is a painted drawing of the children’s corner, with suggestions for furniture. With the drawing is a bill, dated October 1944, listing the work carried by both V. Pinwill and Messrs Pearn, who stained the floor, made the pedestal and fixed the figure in place. The total came to £44 15s 8d, of which £17 was for carving and painting the Christ child and the cost of the oak. A further 12s was for its carriage to the church by taxi!

The figure has suffered badly from being repainted at some stage and has peeling paint on the robe, dark skin and hair, and black staring eyes, and is not at all the appealing figure it was designed to be. There are plans to renovate the figure but the question of whether it is restored to its original blond-haired, blue-eyed state is, of course, highly contentious.


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

DHC 1626B/P/173-175 Plans. Plymouth St John Hooe. Chancel Roof, War Memorial, High Altar.

PWDRO 724/68 Plan with Photograph. Plymouth St John the Evangelist Hooe. Children’s Corner.

PWDRO 724/71 Bill and Drawing. Plymouth St John the Evangelist Hooe. Children’s Corner.

PWDRO 724/78 Faculty. Plymouth St John the Evangelist Hooe. Panelling of Nave.