St Simon, Mount Gould

The church of St Simon was consecrated in 1907 and is the only complete church designed by the architect Harbottle Reed of Exeter (Historic England, Plymouth St Simon). Hubert Minchinton, woodcarver with Violet Pinwill until his retirement in the early 1950s, lived nearby, although he often chose to worship elsewhere. Probably because of this association, many items within the church are misattributed to the Pinwill company. Initially, the only documentary source for Pinwill work was Cherry & Pevsner (2004 p. 645), where it states ‘Rich chancel furnishings with Pinwell [sic] woodwork’. Further, more detailed, information came to light by extensive searches of copies of the St Simon’s Parish Magazine held at PWDRO and of newspaper reports of the dedication of the furnishings and fittings. This revealed that the only the two pieces of work listed below are attributable to Violet Pinwill. The rest of the woodcarving, particularly the ‘rich chancel furnishings’, is either definitely or probably by James B. Hunt of Plymouth, who often worked with Harbottle Reed. Unfortunately, when English Heritage (later Historic England) designated St Simon’s a Grade II Listed Building in July 2014, the reasons included ‘its early C20 furnishings, including the suite of furnishings by the Pinwill sisters’. After considering the evidence set out below, showing that the furnishings concerned were not made by the Pinwills but by James B. Hunt, Historic England agreed to amend the list entry. Indeed, the change in attribution was welcomed, since it enhances understanding of the building and the work of Harbottle Reed.

Altar Rail Gates – Parish Magazine (PWDRO 2711/96) Harbottle Reed architect; 1939

In June 1938 it was decided to commission a pair of gates to sit between the existing altar rails as a memorial to Mrs Shuker. The faculty petition contains a plan of the proposed gates drawn up by the architect Harbottle Reed (DHC DEX/9/a/2/PlymouthStSimon/1-8), whose preferred carver James B. Hunt died in August 1938 (Western Morning News, 1938). After the faculty was granted in December, a tender by ‘Miss Pinwill’ was accepted and the gates made and finally dedicated in March 1939 (PWDRO 2711/96). The gates are subtly different from the rails, such as in the profile of the top, which suggests the original rails were not made by V. Pinwill.

Nave Desk – Plan (PWDRO 2711/58); after 1944

A rough sketch plan by Violet Pinwill exists for this item of furniture, together with an estimate of £75 for one desk, and proportionately less for two or four. The covering letter suggests that the cost would be reduced if they were made out of chestnut rather than oak and if the carved borders were omitted. These were difficult times financially for many churches, and the nave desk currently in the church is very plain and not made from oak.

Reredos, Panelling (E&S), Lectern, Angels in Sanctuary, Choir Stalls, Clergy Stalls and Font Cover– Parish Magazine (PWDRO 2711/92, 2711/95, 2711/96) Harbottle Reed architect; 1923-37

In February 1923 the Parish Magazine reported that the cost of the reredos and panelling was £593 11s 6d but it gave no indication of who might have made them. However, in June 1924 the sum of £115 was paid to James B. Hunt for the lectern (PWDRO 2711/92) and a newspaper account of its dedication states that the woodcarving was carried out by him (Devon and Exeter Gazette, 1924). Between 1934 and 1935, J.B. Hunt was paid £261 19s for making the choir stalls in three stages (PWDRO 2711/95). A newspaper report on the dedication of these stalls in September 1934 also states that J.B. Hunt carried out the work (Western Morning News, 1934). The issue of the clergy stalls is less clear but in March 1937 it was reported that completion of the second stall was delayed by the illness of Mr Hunt (PWDRO 2711/96), so one must assume it was he who was responsible for the entire work. The font cover was commissioned in August 1936 at a cost of £96 16s per an estimate from J.B. Hunt (PWDRO 2711/95) and was dedicated in July 1937 (PWDRO 2711/96).

WWII Memorial – no documentary evidence; 1948

In July 1948 it was decided that a WWII memorial would take the form of inscriptions on the oak panelling on the north wall of the sanctuary, similar to that on the south wall for WWI (PWDRO 2711/100). Since J.B. Hunt died in 1938, he could not have done this work and it is conceivable that it was carried out by Violet Pinwill, although there is no real evidence for this.


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

Devon and Exeter Gazette (1924) Memorial Lectern at St Simon’s Church, Plymouth. 21 January p. 3.

DHC DEX/9/a/2/PlymouthStSimon/1-8. Faculty. Plymouth St Simon. Altar Gates.

PWDRO 2711/58 Drawing and Correspondence. Plymouth St Simon. Nave Desk.

PWDRO 2711/92 Magazine. Plymouth St Simon. Parish Magazine 1922-24.

PWDRO 2711/95 Magazine. Plymouth St Simon. Parish Magazine 1934-36.

PWDRO 2711/96 Magazine. Plymouth St Simon. Parish Magazine 1937-39.

PWDRO 2711/100 Magazine. Plymouth St Simon. Parish Magazine 1948-49.

Western Morning News (1934) Dedication of Choir Benches. Impressive Service at St Simon’s. 27 September p. 5.

Western Morning News (1938) Sculptor Dead. Passing of Mr. J. B. Hunt at Pomphlett. 16 August p. 11.