SAMPFORD COURTENAY, Devon – St Andrew.
Restoration 1898-99 and 1911
The Exeter and Plymouth Gazette of 11 December 1894 reported on a meeting to discuss the proposed restoration.
In opening the proceedings the Rector gave a brief resumé of the defects and disfigurements of the building. He stated that he had privately engaged Mr. G. H. Fellowes-Prynne [sic], a Devonian architect in London, to draw up a report. Among the proposals were the removal of the gallery and the opening out of the west arch, the abolition of the box pews, a new floor in the chancel, relaying the floor in the nave, repointing the walls, tracery, &c. the approximate cost was estimated as follows:- £1,400 to £1,600 if chairs were used instead of oak seats, £260 extra if oak seats were used, and £110 for recasting the tenor bell and remedying defects in the woodwork of the belfry: architect’s bill £120. Hence it would be seen that £2,000 would be necessary in order to carry out the proposed scheme.
On 28 July 1899 the Devon and Exeter Gazette reported on the re-opening of the church.
During the restoration the gallery was removed, which had disfigured the interior for a long time. The nave columns had been put right, each before the restoration being 15 inches out of the perpendicular, and only held by three strong tie rods. Every stone in the columns was taken down, marked, and replaced in its original position. There were previously no foundations to the columns, which were placed in what is called “the country”, or in other words, the bare earth. The old box pews were removed and the seats are now of comfortable chairs. The material of the old pews has been utilised for panelling several feet from the ground, making the interior look more warm and homely. The roof of the chancel had been found to have been so destroyed that only a vestige of its original richness remained. The east windows were taken out and replaced perpendicularly. The floor has been relaid altogether with wood, with the exception of some portions consisting of stone.
As regards the rood screen, a lengthy article about the re-opening of the church in the Western Times of 26 July 1899 explained as follows
A fine old rood screen, one of the finest in Devon, was to be seen at the beginning of the century, and from the register that screen was it appears in its place in 1830, but the then Rector, who was at that time Rural Dean, condemned it, and next year in his official capacity commented upon its destruction, and portions of the screen have now been found under the floor, and at some future time it will be restored and replaced.
The same journal provided some more information on what was completed.
The font has also been entirely replaced and removed from the South aisle to the West end, and under the arch of the tower. Possibly an almost unique feature in the church is that the vestry is at the East end and approached through the chancel… The alterations made in the sanctuary are very noticeable and imposing. The altar has been raised to its original level, with three steps in the sanctuary. Both steps and floor are laid in marble blocks of black and white, and may other alterations have been made…
The whole of the work has been carried out is a most efficient and workmanlike manner by the contractor (Mr. Wiffen, of Holsworthy, and his staff) under the plans and specifications of Mr. Geo. H. Fellowes Prynne, of 6, Queen Anne’s Gate, Westminster, an architect of great repute in church and ecclesiastical matters, and well known in the West of England as the son of the Rev. Mr. Prynne, St. Peter’s, Plymouth.
George Fellowes Prynne donated the altar cross as a gift.
The rood screen was not included in this restoration. It was later fashioned by Herbert Reed using fragments of the old screen as a basis for his design, and placed in the south aisle.
In 1911, prior to moving on to a new parish, the vicar saw to it that the neglected roof of the church’s porch was also restored. The Western Morning News of 7 December 1911 reported that
…the whole work has been carried out within the last month, the roof being now filled with richly carved beams and bosses, in keeping with those in the church. The bosses all bear devices, with emblematic meanings, representing the patron saint (St. Andrew), the Arms of the Exeter See, &c. The work was carried out by Rashleigh Pinwill, of Plymouth, from plans drawn by George Fellowes Prynne, architect.
The two photographs, by Michael Garlick, via Geograph.org.uk, show the interior of the church, in particular the typical Fellowes Prynne altar. The black and white postcard, undated, but with chairs and the later screen, shows a larger reredos than it has now. It suggests that some of the architect’s work has since been removed.