NEWTON FERRERS, Devon – Holy Cross.
The Building News and Engineering Journal of 22 September 1893 published a report on re-opening of this church, which took place in 1886, following George Fellowes Prynne’s comprehensive restoration of the building.
The church was placed in the hands of Mr. George H. Fellowes Prynne in 1885, and after a thorough renovation, which owing to the fearfully dilapidated state of the church almost amounted to rebuilding, was re-opened on Tuesday, February 23rd, 1886.
The church is somewhat singular in plan. It consists of nave and chancel, short north and south transepts, with roofs running parallel to the nave. The chancel, which inclines to the north, has many beautiful remains of Early thirteenth-century work. The piscina and sedilia are especially beautiful examples both in design and execution. The windows north and south, and priest’s doorway, are of the same type of work.
The triplet east windows were renewed about 10 years previous to the present restoration. It is noteworthy that all the early and most beautiful work in the church is in Polyphant stone. A reredos in alabaster, designed by the late John D. Sedding, was placed in the church in 1884. The body of the church consists of a fine western fifteenth-century tower, divided from the nave by a lofty arch of the simplest detail. The western portion of the nave, about 40 feet in length, is of simple character without arcade. A triple arcade divides the eastern portion of the south aisle forming the Lady-chapel. Richly-carved parclose screens fill the arches either side of the chancel. The fine old rood-screen, small portions of which were found, has not yet been placed in the church, but the design for its restoration is shown in the illustration. The roof is in oak, of the usual Devon type of waggon-roof, with carved bosses at the intersections of ribs. Devon grey granite is used for the whole of the dressing throughout, including columns, arches, and window tracery, and local stone for the facing… With the may pieces of old oak found from time to time an interesting patchwork screen has been formed across the lower part of the tower-arch supporting the bell-ringers’ floor.
The alabaster font, font cover, chancel screen and other carved oak were carved by Harry Hems of Exeter, and the total cost of the restoration was £3,500.
The font cover was exhibited by Hems at the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society Exhibition, according to a brief piece in The Builder of 17 October 1885. It was described as “of English oak, particularly noticeable for the ornateness of the hammered ironwork upon it.”
Regret has been expressed in some quarters at the loss of so much of interest and value as a result of this restoration. However, faced with the need to retrieve the building from a parlous state, loss of parts of the ancient fabric was inevitable. The reader must judge for him or her self, from this and other examples of his work, whether Fellowes Prynne was primarily a destroyer of historical artefacts, or a restorer sensitive to the past history of the building on which he was engaged, whilst taking it into the next century.
The link here gives more information about the restoration and re-dedication of the church, along with some good photographs, and a cutting from the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette. Devon Churches – Newton Ferrers