St Mary the Virgin, Laira

The building work on St Mary’s began in 1907 and by 1914 it was almost complete, but lack of funding left it without a permanent west wall and an unfinished SE tower to this day. Cherry & Pevsner (2004) remark on the excellent interior stone and woodcarving work of J.B. Hunt of Plymouth (see entry for Plymouth: St Simon, Mount Gould).

Plymouth St Mary Laira Altar and Reredos
Altar and Reredos at St Mary in Laira, Plymouth

South Chapel Altar – Photograph (PWDRO 116/16, 244/2 & 244/6); 1930

South Chapel Reredos and Panelling – Photograph (PWDRO 116/16); 1930

South Chapel Altar Rails – Plan (DHC Faculty DEX/9/a/2/Eggbuckland/12) R.F. Wheatly architect; 1930

A faculty for these items (DHC DEX/9/a/2/Eggbuckland/12), confusingly filed under Eggbuckland, its former mother church, includes a plan by V. Pinwill for all these items. In addition, an old guide (Camp, 1964) confirms that the reredos in the south chapel was designed and executed by Miss Pinwill. This is in memory of Cecil Theodore Baker Pike who died in 1926. The panelling either side of the reredos was later adapted to form a war memorial.

Litany Desk – Photograph (PWDRO 116/16, 244/3); date unknown

This item is no longer in the church (Keith Haydon, Priest in Charge, pers. comm.).

Nave Desks (2) – no documentary evidence; date unknown

At the front of the south aisle are two nave desks that are in themselves rather basic and plain. However, one bears a pair of angels and the other a pair of doves that are almost identical to Pinwill ones found elsewhere. The desks may have been made rather inexpensively but embellished with ‘spare’ ornamentation.

Figure of the Christ Child – Guide (Camp, 1964); after 1933

This figure is identical to others described elsewehere. The guide states that the children’s corner (i.e. the figure and the surrounding panelling) is the work of Miss Pinwill. The figure is now enclosed by a small kitchen and, very unfortunately, some of the support for the worktop is screwed across the panel that bears the dedication. It commemorates Phyllis Hunt, who was involved with the Girl Guides at the church and died in 1933.

Churchwardens’ Staves (2) – Newspaper article (Western Morning News, 1939); 1939

The Western Morning News reported that two Churchwardens’ Staves of carved oak, designed and executed by Miss V. Pinwill, were dedicated by the Bishop of Exeter on his first visit to St Mary’s on 15 October 1939. They were given to the church in memory of Mr J. Mason, people’s warden for 13 years, who had died about nine months previously. No other documentary evidence for these staves has been discovered.


Camp, P.L. (1964) The First Fifty Years: The Story of the Church and Parish of Saint Mary the Virgin, Laira 1914-1964.

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

DHC DEX/9/a/2/Eggbuckland/12 Faculty. St Mary Laira. Altar Rails.

PWDRO 116/16 Photographs. Plymouth St Mary Laira. Altar Front, Litany Desk and Reredos.

PWDRO 244/2 Photograph Album. Various. Woodcarvings.

PWDRO 244/3 Photograph Album. Various. Woodcarvings.

PWDRO 244/6 Photographs. Various. Woodcarvings.

Western Morning News (1939) World’s Need for Prayer Stressed. Plymouth Appeal. Bishop’s First Visit to St. Mary’s. 16 October p. 3.