SOUTH PETHERWIN, Cornwall – St Paternus (Padern). 

Restoration 1888-9; Altar 1902  

The Western Morning News of 14 May 1888 carried a lengthy article on George Fellowes Prynne’s report of the state of the church.  Note that the location is spelt “Petherwyn” at this time.

He has found the church of the most interesting character.  It is evident from some details opened up…that a church of considerable size existed on the same site in the early part of the 12th century, and it seems probable that this early building rested upon the foundations of a still earlier and more rudely-built church.  A Norman doorway in the north wall, found built up and plastered over, is a good example of the work of that period… In the south aisle, which is of late 15th century work, Mr. Prynne found the rood-loft steps, with doorways, in excellent preservation.

The article continued to log the condition of various parts of the church, including that the screen must have been of exceptional beauty, judging by the remnants found, but that the vestry and west end of north aisle are “modern” and “hideous” additions.

With regard to his plans for the restoration, Mr. Prynne says he has endeavoured (1) to retain as far as possible all the old work, (2) to leave undisturbed the most ancient and interesting remains; (3) to leave unaltered the historical continuity of the different periods of work; (4) to use the old material where possible and the best new material when necessary; and (5) to provide for the complete restoration of the whole church.

These proposals included the removal of the ugly vestry, refloor and reseat the church, move the font and give it a canopy based on one of the most beautiful ancient relics of the church, and make a tower arch screen out of the remains of the old screen and other pieces of old woodwork.  He also planned to design a chancel screen based closely on the remains of the old one, and to repair and open up the Norman doorway he found.

The need for the restoration and the subsequent re-opening of the church were reported in the Western Daily Mercury of 10 May 1889, again in some detail.  It noted the issues, including that

The floor was damp, uneven, and an unwholesome odour arose from many crevices between the tombstone aisles.  The pews were as unsightly as they were uncomfortable, while the arcade and walls were so much undermined as to render the building absolutely dangerous.  The north wall was no less than eighteen inches out of perpendicular, and the south arcade was lying fourteen inches to the south… Internally it is not too much to say that the walls seemed to be literally held together by relays of plaster.  And eighteen layers of whitewash.  No less than thirty skulls were discovered immediately underneath the church… 

The plans were submitted by Mr. Prynne to the Church Building Society for a grant, and after passing a complimentary resolution respecting them they granted £60. The money at the command of the committee was not sufficient to permit of an entire restoration being made, so the tower, screen, choir stalls and sundry details were omitted…

After two years’ continuous labour the church assumes a really creditable appearance, while inside and out may be seen evidence of the desire to retain the former style of architecture.

The work that was done included the taking up, concreting and relaying of the floor, the raising of the altar from being on two steps to five and surrounding it with encaustic tiles, and a new reredos in Polyphant stone.  The architect donated the dossal.  The whole arcade was removed, given new foundations, and replaced stone for stone. The font was relocated to the west end under the tower.  The roofs were renewed, and the drainage improved.

The contractor was Mr. J. Roskelly, of Gunnislake, and the contract price around £2,000.

A new oak altar was planned, and, according to the Western Times of 4 January 1922, it was presented to the church.  It was made in the workshop of Kelly College, in Tavistock, by Mr. F. A. May and his students, to Fellowes Prynne’s plans.

More about the history of the church, with some photographs, can be found at St. Paternus Church History | South Petherwin