ST AUSTELL, Cornwall – Holy Trinity. 

Various work 1891-1923

The Royal Cornwall Gazette of 6 August 1891 reported that

The restoration of the chancel of the parish church is about to be commenced under the direction of Mr. G. H. Fellowes Prynne, the well-known Church architect.  An oak chancel arch with supporting angels will be added.  The roof is to be decorated, and the east wall over the reredos is to be painted by Fouracre and Sons, of Stonehouse, as a memorial to the late Mr. John Coode, for many years the county treasurer.  Several parts of the sacred edifice have been restored and carved by Mr. Doney, “our Cornish sculptor.”

And on 23 January 1892, the Western Morning News reported on the completion of this work.

Holy Trinity, the ancient parish church of St Austell, has long been considered one of the most beautiful in Cornwall.  During the last decade its internal appearance has been greatly improved by the erection of the sculptured pulpit, the restoration if its Norman font, and the insertion of five handsomely stained glass memorial windows.  Within the last year, however, admirers of the grand old church have been adding to its attractiveness by the addition of an oak chancel arch, and the decoration of the chancel walls and roof.  

After detailing the donors, the article continued:

The vicar and churchwardens being thus in a position to undertake the work, the services of Mr. E. H. Fellowes Prynne, [sic] the church architect…was [sic] engaged to prepare the necessary designs the result being that the chancel has been decorated in a beautiful and highly creditable manner.  At the east end on either side of the window are two panels.  In one the subject is the nativity with the text “The word became flesh and dwelt among us,” and the other the last supper, and underneath “Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life.”  These panels were the work of Mr. G. Fellowes Prynne, the artist [sic].  Over the east window there is the Agnus Dei in Glory with rainbow and clouds and stars, and an angel on each side swinging censers of burning incense.  The chancel arch is of oak and decorated with gold and vermillion and green supported by the two angels with shields bearing the Cross of St. George.  The side walls are tastefully coloured, the groundwork being of buff with ashlar work in red, green and gold.  The four medallions between the arches contains representatives of angels, with the text, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord god Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come”; whilst the chancel ceiling is coloured to represent the heavens with myriads of stars, and the woodwork of the roof dark oak, the whole reflecting the greatest credit on the architect and the contractors…The arch and angels were supplied by Luscombe and Sons, of Exeter, and the decorations were executed by Fouracre and Son,  of Stonehouse, Plymouth… When the stalls and screen are replaced with oak ones and the floor of the chancel has been retiled and marble steps placed in the sanctuary and the carved stone-work restored, this ancient church, both externally and internally, will be second to but few in the kingdom for completeness and beauty.

It will have been noted on reading this account that the journalist confused the initials of the two brothers.  Note also that the reredos here predates George and Edward’s work here, being the work of G. E. Street.  The medallion mosaics mentioned in the newspaper report would appear to be contemporary with Street’s work, not the work described above.

The tower, in 1896

…was thoroughly restored under the direction of Mr. G. H. Fellowes Prynne at a cost of some £300, the leadwork and many of the belfry timbers being replaced by new material, and the stonework extensively renovated.

The chapel was restored in memory of the Hicks family. The altar rails were adapted from the design for those at Bushey Heath, on which Fellowes Prynne had made a £13 loss.

As for the baptistry, the records available from the now destroyed archives of Dart and Francis (1921-4) give an idea of the intricacies and complexities of arrangement which had to take place between church, architect and contractor before anything could be done. The full record (as seen in the 1980s) for St. Austell Church is now summarised.

  • 7 July 1920 – priest’s desk and sanctuary chairs; drawings of altar rail, tower screen and chancel screen all returned.
  • 5 May 1921 – D & F were instructed to proceed with two oak arches, for the north and south aisles (given by benefactor Mr. Hancock).
  • 21 July 1921 – Fellowes Prynne was asked to submit a design for a rood screen.

[Nothing more until]

  • 8 March 1922 – St Michael’s Chapel credence table and altar rails
  • 6 April 1922 – Altar rails for St. Michael’s Chapel delivered.
  • 8 April 1922 – The above were dedicated. The architect had hoped to be present, but in a letter of 7 April 1922 sent his apologies as he was ill.
  • 11 April 1922 – to say the dedication went as planned. Mr. Hancock has requested a design for a dwarf screen, about 3’ high, to be fixed on a step at the back of the chapel. Also he wanted an oak panel on either side and above altar to connect with riddel posts.
  • 19 May 1922 – The dwarf screen was given the go-ahead, and
  • 6 July 1922 – it was fitted. At this occasion, Mr. Hancock took the opportunity to request a baptistry in stone and suggested Clipsham stone from Rutlandshire quarry as a suitable match.
  • 4 Oct 1922 – Fellowes Prynne was asked for an estimate for the required baptistry-memorial at west end.
  • 10 Oct 1922:
    • West End Memorial, lower portion only, in oak – £80
    • West End Memorial, upper portion, in coloured alabaster with 4 white alabaster figures, black marble and mother of pearl inlay, etc.  £280
    • Panelling on South wall, in oak  £240
    • Screen on North side, in oak  £55
    • Screen on East side, in oak (including doors)  £327
    • Granite floor  £195
    • Moving Font and so re-fixing, and shortening seats North side of Baptistery  £13

The next batch of correspondence relates to the design and construction of the magnificent font cover.

  • 17 Feb 1923 – Problems being encountered because the suspension gear could not cope with the weight of the cover. It was also agreed that Fellowes Prynne should ask Mr. Snell of Plymouth to carve the figures in cedar for the cover, and that Dart & Francis would do those in oak. It is not clear why there was a need to use cedar, but there is reference later on (below) to Mr. Snell’s ability to tint cedar to make it tone with oak.
  • 31 Aug 1923 (D & F to Fellowes Prynne): We are very grateful for your kind expression of appreciation of the work in the Cover and can assure you that we are very pleased to have been associated with the production of it from your beautiful design.
  • Then on 1 Sep 1923 they wrote to him: We have received a post card from Mr. Hancock as follows:- “I think you had better ask Mr. Prynne what Arms he has fixed for the shield.” …and requested the architect’s instructions.
  • 11 Sep 1923 – Congratulations were to be sent to Mr. Snell on a good job, with the tinting done well.
  • 23 Nov 1923 – the cover was now complete.

Further requests for designs were received from St. Austell:

  • 13 Aug 1923 – In the midst of all the correspondence concerning the font cover, an estimate was requested for an oak seat to be placed south of the Churchwarden’s seat. The cost was quoted as £60. The Shilson seat (Mr. Shilson being the donor) was fixed in place the next month.
  • 8 March 1924 – Request received for a design for tracery for the outer ends of the new nave seating.
  • 3 May 1924 – Request for a design for a litany desk.

There is no surviving evidence of any further dealings between the parties.

The first photograph shows the impressive oak font cover.  The second, thanks to Stephen Craven via, shows the view of the chancel and sanctuary in recent times.