THURLESTONE, Devon – All Saints. 

Restoration 1902-04; Chandos-Pole Memorial 1919

The Totnes Weekly Times of 12 October 1901 reported that

…the old Parish Church, which is in a most deplorable condition, is now about to be restored by Mr. Prynne, the well-known Devonshire architect.  The restoration fund now reaches nearly £1,800.  It has been decided to proceed when the weather permits with the walls, roof and other structural matters, leaving the rebuilding of the vestry, the heating, and the internal decorating until further funds shall be forthcoming.  In the meantime the building will be patched up for use during the coming winter.

The Building News and Engineering Journal of 6 May 1904 reported on the reopening of the church.

The chancel roof has been decorated by the addition of carved oak representations of angels bearing musical instruments, of the emblems of Faith, Hope, and Charity, and the Holy Eucharist, and of bosses bearing symbols of the Passion.  New roofs, floors, and windows have had to be put in, and the south and east walls have had to be practically rebuilt.  The special gifts include a stained-glass east window and carved oak pulpit, parclose screen, choir stalls and faldstool.

Additional information was given by The Builder of 21 May 1904, in the journal’s report on the restoration.

The church, during the early part of last century, went through some damaging restoration and repairs, which have had, in great measure, to be undone in the present restoration.  The architect, Mr. Geo. H. Fellowes Prynne, when consulted in 1900, found the church to be in a deplorable condition, necessitating the rebuilding of certain portions, and new roofs in nave and aisle.  Every bit of the old stone or woodwork that it was possible to retain has been replaced, and the main characteristics of Devonshire churches have been carefully adhered to.  The work has been executed by Mr. G. B. Andrews, builder, of Ivybridge.

Fellowes Prynne’s thoroughness when undertaking the restoration of a church was evident to all who worked with him, and comment to this effect can be seen elsewhere on this site.  An example is evident in a letter Fellowes Prynne wrote to the incumbent, the Rev. F. E. Coope on 23 March 1904, concerning the seating in the church, brief extracts of which follow.. It should be borne in mind when reading the letter that by “seat” Fellowes Prynne means what we would nowadays usually call a “pew”.

I am sorry that it is impossible for me to be present at the meeting to be held on Thursday, when, as I am informed, the subject of the seating of your Church is to be discussed, and I should much like to have again put my views before you on the subject in person.

… I do most strongly advise the use of chairs (the pattern of which you have), throughout the church, and for these reasons:-

1st – Chairs will cost at least three times less than good oak benches.
2nd – if chairs are ever replaced by oak seats, the chairs will always have a marketable value, whereas the deal seats would have little, or no other value than use as firewood.
3rd – The chairs, if properly fixed and spaced, are unquestionably comfortable, and have the great advantage of preventing crowding. Only the exact number of people as there are chairs in a row can be accommodated, thus the crowding in of an extra person or child is prevented, and each person always has his, or her, own allotted space.
4th – The same type of chairs as the specimen you have, has been used of late years in numerous churches, and in every case that I have had to do with, with complete satisfaction. Of the numerous churches I have built and restored during the last 12 years, in all except three cases chairs have been used.

At Sampford Courtenay, as in other cases, there was at first a strong prejudice against chairs, but when in actual use, the chairs have entirely overcome prejudice, and are much preferred to the old benches.

But in advising the use of chairs, I always insist upon careful fixing, spacing, and a comfortable 4 inch kneeler, (not a thin pad), as the comfort of a chair, both for sitting and kneeling, depends in great measure upon proper attention to these details.

I can only add that my one great wish is that the restored church may be such as all interested may be proud of; and I am sure that all will forgive me in opposing anything that would in my humble opinion mar the good effect of the restoration.

I am yours very truly,   Geo: H. Fellowes Prynne 

A booklet entitled Thurlestone Church and Parish was written and self-published by the recipient of the above letter, The Rev. Frank Egerton Coope.  In it he mentions George Fellowes Prynne’s work with reference to features in the church. Some of the points he discussed which have not already been covered here are quoted below.

The Holy Water Basin was found in a broken condition…and given to the church.  Mr. Prynne had great doubts as to its being the old basin, but it was repaired and placed, with the sanction of the Bishop, in the niche in the porch.  From what I have read since, I have come to the conclusion that it is an ancient granite mortar, such as were not uncommonly used in farmhouses in old times…

The Font is shaped like a chalice and is Late Norman.  It is of red sandstone.  In 1904 it had to be repaired.  The corners of the base on the west side had been worn away by the feet of priests during 800 years, and there were two ugly breakages on the top, where the metal used in mediæval times for locking the lid of the font had corroded, and so split away the stones; a missing piece was also provided between the pillar and the bowl.  It was relined with lead – the old lead having disappeared – mounted on a granite base, and provided with a drain.  The stone to match the font came from Paignton.

The screens in the church were given to us, at Mr. Prynne’s intercession, by the Rector and churchwarden’s of St. Cleer, Cornwall.  They were designed by Street for St. Ives Church, Cornwall;  when oak screens were provided there they went to St. Cleer, and for the same reason were moved again to Thurlestone… The temporary choir stalls came from the same church.

The Aumbry in the north wall of the Sanctuary was formerly a credence…but when in 1904 the facsimile of the thirteenth century credence and piscina was placed on the south side, doors were made and the other credence converted into an aumbry.  The ironwork was made, after Mr. Prynne’s design, by our village blacksmith, Mr. John Ingram, and is much admired.

The west window was new in 1904, replacing a very rotten wooden one, and the white marble steps in each of the sanctuaries were brought direct from Sicily, ready-made.

The carved Rood with Figures was the gift of Mrs. Frances Chandos-Pole, in memory of her husband.  The work was given to the church in 1919. The memorial was carved by the firm of Herbert Read of Exeter. The drawing for the Chandos-Pole memorial rood and figures was originally submitted to Dart and Francis. They returned it on 7th July 1920, having been unable for some reason to do the work.   The firm of Herbert Read also carved the reredos.

The postcard of the interior is unposted, but clearly post-dates the restoration. The barrel roof looks to be in excellent order – and chairs are indeed in situ!  The Chandos Pole Memorial rood is also in place.