EXMOUTH, Devon – Holy Trinity. 

Restoration and enlargement 1905-7

The Builder of 28 October 1915 reported that 

The foundation-stone of the work of restoring and enlarging Holy Trinity Church, Exmouth, was laid on 18th inst., by the Bishop of Crediton.  The scheme embraces, in addition to the internal work, the encasing of the tower and the whole of the nave in Ipplepen limestone, with Bath stone dressings ; the building of a north transept, vestries, organ loft, and the lengthening of the chancel.  The cost of this work will be £6,092 17s 4d.  The architect is Mr. George H. Fellowes Prynne.

It appears that the 1824 church was not well maintained, and had fallen into a state of disrepair, necessitating essential remedial action. This took two years and involved much rebuilding, including:

  • External walls to be re-faced with Ipplepen stone
  • Mouldings, doorways and windows to be replaced with Bath stone
  • Window tracery and doors to be renewed, roofs reconstructed
  • Lady Chapel to be added to north transept
  • Minstrels’ gallery, organ chamber, vestries and new west galleries to be built
  • Galleries in north and south aisles to be removed
  • Chancel to be lengthened by what is now the sanctuary
  • Heating to be installed by Kinnell & Co.

Windows were designed by Fellowes Prynne and executed by Percy Bacon Brothers, giving a united scheme to fit in with the rest of the rebuilding. Only those in the Lady Chapel, and the great east window remain, the rest having been destroyed in World War Two.

There are some interesting points arising from this rebuilding work.

To quote Niklaus Pevsner in his seminal series of books The Buildings of England:

Holy Trinity was built in 1824, but has been completely and regrettably renewed in 1905 by the indefatigable Fellowes Prynne.

And, in a letter to a Mr. Shelmerdine (author unknown) date 16 October 1935:

The building is a fine one, but at the same time it has what I might call all the unfortunate mannerisms of its architect. It is undeniable that the late Mr. Fellowes Prynne did not understand a Gothic building, and it is quite natural perhaps that he should be influenced by the mistakes which had become common practice among those trained in Victorian times… There is the difficulty of the red sandstone exposed in the walls: we have some red exteriors in Devonshire, but none of these old builders ever left red showing inside. They knew better, for such an expanse of colour used in this way makes havoc of the other colours placed near it. I doubt very much if the colour in that chancel will ever look effective until this red stone has been whitened in the normal way. We have just the same trouble with the Victorian red brick interiors of the London district: they look far better when they are whitened.

Readers may be interested to compare notes with the account of Fellowes Prynne’s speech at the consecration of St. Saviour’s, Ealing, with regard to whitened walls!

The Building News and Engineering Journal of 24 May 1916 illustrated the interior of the church as drawn by the architect, together with the following text.

The interior view illustrated today, from the Royal Academy Exhibition drawing, is taken looking across the church in a south-west direction from the north transept.  The original church was a sample of the worst type of so-called Gothic churches built about 1830, and consisted of a brick and stucco building, with columns constructed partly in stone and partly in cast-iron, cement-moulded arches, with clerestory above, and a flat lath-and-plaster, imitation-groined roof.  Galleries occupied the upper part of the aisles and west end of the nave, cutting half-way into the columns.  The only redeeming points in the original building were its lofty proportions and solid, strongly built walls.  The complete remodelling and partial rebuilding of the church were taken in hand some few years ago from the designs and under the supervision of Mr. Geo. H. Fellowes Prynne, F.R.I.B.A., of Westminster.  The work included a completely new chancel, chapel, vestries, and organ chamber, and transepts; the casing of the whole of the tower, nave, and aisles in stone; inserting new doorways, tracery windows, and entirely remodelling the design of the tower, with baptistery under (which is shown in the drawing), the renewal of the nave columns, arches and clerestory windows in stone, and the preparation for decorative mosaic panels on the nave walls.  The old oak seat ends have been used as a dado around the aisle walls, and a new apparatus for heating and electric light installed.  Messrs. R Wilkins and Sons, of Bristol, were the builders, the heating being carried out by Messrs. C. P. Kinnell & Co, of Southwark Street, London, S.E.  The total cost of the work was about £15,000.

Finally, from another (anonymous) perspective, more positive than that of Pevsner, the refurbishment

…not unfortunately involved much rebuilding and some addition… Best of all, the architect’s new design did away with the angularity of the old church and produced the graceful and magnificent unity of style.


The undated postcard shows the interior of the church following restoration.

These photographs show details of Holy Trinity church as it is now.

The photographs here show details of the reredos and the Lady Chapel roof.