ST COLUMB MAJOR, Cornwall – St Columba.
East window 1905; Restoration and additions 1901-6; Oak vestry screen 1924
The faculty for the restoration work was obtained in 1902 [CRO P36/2/10]
The Builder of 15 July 1905 reported on the installation of a large, five-light east window. Messrs Percy Bacon Brothers installed it, to the design, and under the superintendence of George Fellowes Prynne. The main lights contain depictions of major figures of the Bible, centring on Our Lord in Majesty. Beneath the major figures are depicted west country saints and other figures in Christian history.
For more on this window, and some excellent photos, please visit The stained glass of St Columb Major, St Columba (cornishstainedglass.org.uk)
A report on 6 March 1918 in the Building News and Engineering Journal, some years after the restoration, described the background to the rood screen – about which more below – and also said
The late rector, the Rev. E. J. Walker, generously undertook the restoration of the rood screen, which was duly carried out, together with the choir stall work and sanctuary furniture, from Mr. Fellowes Prynne’s designs, by Messrs. H. H. Martyn and Co., sculptors, of Cheltenham.
Messrs Martyn and Co. also carved the magnificent oak pulpit. There is almost certainly other work by Fellowes Prynne in this church, including the Lady Chapel restoration.
The oak vestry screen was noted in correspondence dated 18 September 1924 seen in the Dart and Francis archive, with an estimate given for £167.
The undated postcard shows the screen, pulpit and, beyond the screen, the reredos. See below for more about the screen.
The screen at St. Columb Major in Cornwall is typical of Fellowes Prynne’s wooden screens in style and appearance. It is of oak, retaining the rich redness of the natural wood rather than being stained dark. There are two divisions on either side of the double doors in the centre. The double doors are treated as one large division for the purposes of the tracery. The screen has the effect of a chancel wall at its base, with no “daylight” between the divisions. Instead, there is decorative foliation around what would in mediaeval times have been a sequence of paintings. (Compare St. Peter Buckland-in-the-Moor). The mullions sub-dividing each section are decorated with a spiral motif, and each arch, formed as the main pillars fan out to support the main structure of the screen, is filled with ornate tracery. Above there are layers of stylised carving, including the Latin text:
PER CRUCEM ET PASSIONEM TUAM PER PRETIOSEM MORTEM LIBERA NOS DOMINE
(By thy cross and passion and precious death deliver us Lord)
Both above and below these layers can be seen delicate patterns giving the finishing touch to this part of the screen. The rood and figures are placed on top of the screen to which there is access via a stairway and door in the north wall. The screen, though not the rood group, was carved by H. H. Martyn and Co. of Cheltenham, who also did similar work for Fellowes Prynne at St. Cleer and St. Neot; some ladies of the parish carved the rood group. Further examples of west country churches with wooden screens by Fellowes Prynne are at St Cleer, Poundstock and South Tawton.
Reporting on the restoration in general, the Building News and Engineering Journal, of 6 March 1918, said
During the restoration of the fine old Church of St. Columb Major, in Cornwall, some few years ago, from the plans and under the supervision of George H. Fellowes Prynne, F.R.I.B.A., a single panel of the lower portion of the original fifteenth century rood screen was found under the floor, which was sufficient to indicate the character of the ancient work. Portions of the doorway leading to the rood loft were discovered behind the surface plaster of the walls which clearly showed the level of the loft. Records of the church mention the fact that during the revolutionary period of the seventeenth century gunpowder was stored on the top of this loft, and that boys, whilst playing, set light to the gunpowder, with the result that the screen was completely destroyed. It is not stated what became of the boys…
The screen, which is on oak, is groined alike on both sides, and the richly-carved detail is characteristic of similar beautiful screen work in Cornish and Devon churches.
For more about this church and its history, along with some good photos, visit St Columb Major, Cornwall, St Columba’s Church | History & Photos (britainexpress.com)