St Gabriel

Chapel of St Gabriel at Postbridge

This building was originally built as a village school and chapel in about 1868 but in March 1934, after a new school was built, it was dedicated as a church by the Bishop of Exeter (Devon and Exeter Gazette, 1934). According to Chaytor (1990) the whole of the interior is the work of V. Pinwill. Although Wheatly acted as the architect, it is likely that a lot of the design work was carried out by Violet.

Reredos – Photograph (PWDRO 116/39) R. Wheatly architect; 1936

The reredos houses two figures on pedestals – appropriately, St Gabriel and St Mary – although the central canopy is unoccupied and may have been designed to hold a cross. The uprights either side of the figures are elaborately carved with plants, birds and insects. The reredos, together with the east window and the panelling below, were funded by Mrs Elsie Douglass Pethybridge, a Plymouth heiress and widow who had settled in Postbridge, and dedicated to her three brothers, two of whom died in WWI (Western Morning News, 1936).

Chancel Panelling – Photograph (PWDRO 116/39) R. Wheatly architect; 1936

The three walls of the sanctuary are covered with linenfold panelling, with gilded symbols of the four evangelists on the east side. It was installed at the same time as the reredos above.

Altar Rails – Chaytor (1990); probably 1936

A semi-kneeling angel graces the end of each rail, although they are of a plainer, less graceful design than those of 20 years earlier. No firm date has been ascertained for the altar rails, but they are probably of the same period as the rest of the the furnishings.

Clergy Stalls (2) – Photograph (PWDRO 116/39) R. Wheatly architect; 1936

One of the two clergy stalls is photographed with the panelling above and is therefore of the same date.

Postbridge Pulpit detail
Detail of the Pulpit at Postbridge

Pulpit – Photograph (PWDRO 116/39) R. Wheatly architect; after 1936

The pulpit features a large number of wild creatures, ranging from the familiar rabbits and squirrels to more exotic koala bears and penguins, while the base incorporates an aquatic scene of seaweed and fish. It was the gift of Mrs Pethybridge of Postbridge sometime after the other furnishings given in 1936 (Hedges, 2005).

Lectern – Photograph (PWDRO 116/39) R.F. Wheatly architect; after 1934

The front of the lectern bears a carving of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, with the apple about to be picked. The figure of Eve is well carved and shown as rather athletic and shapely, though Adam appears rather wooden and long-limbed. A very similar scene was incorporated into a lectern for Lansallos church several years earlier. The base incorporates the symbols of the four evangelists.

Pews – Chaytor (1990); 1934-1947

Most of the carved pews are in memory of former parishioners and feature, among other motifs, a lizard and a butterfly. Three of the later ones were dedicated in July 1947 during a service conducted by the Bishop of Plymouth (Western Morning News, 1947). Two were presented by Pinewood Schools in grateful memory of their five years’ stay there during the war. The third was in memory of John Leaman Henley, a former cider manufacturer of Archerton, Postbridge (Western Morning News, 1941). Some pews nearer the back of the church, with narrower bench ends, postdate the work of V. Pinwill but echo the design.


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

Devon and Exeter Gazette (1934) Church Consecrated at Postbridge. Ceremony Performed by Bishop of Exeter. 23 March p. 8.

Hedges, M. (2005) Ron Dustan, Woodcarver in West Country Churches. Dartmoor Society Newsletter 22, 14-19.

PWDRO 116/39 Photographs. Postbridge. Reredos, Panelling, Altar Rails, Clergy Stalls, Pulpit and Lectern.

Western Morning News (1936) Dartmoor Church Beautified. Blessing of Gifts. Ceremony at Postbridge. 11 September p.10.

Western Morning News (1941) Died at Torquay. 24 September p. 6.

Western Morning News (1947) In Gratitude. Oak-Carved Seats Gift to Postbridge Church. 21 July p. 3.