TORQUAY, Devon – St Marychurch. 

Enlargement of vestries 1893; Organ case 1894-5; Restoration of font 1904

The Exeter and Plymouth Gazette of 15 October 1891 reported on the plans for enlarging the vestry, and the possibility of moving the organ.  A resolution had been passed that the organ should be relocated in the Ilsham aisle, giving increased space for the vestry.  But not everyone in the parish agreed, including the Churchwardens, so they asked George Fellowes Prynne for his advice.

…they found that he agreed that it would be a mistake to place the organ in the Ilsham aisle, he believing that the church was so built that the aisle was very helpful to worshippers in the south aisle, and capable of receiving the whole message which the church might give.  There was a message in architecture which spoke to worshippers, and the blocking up of the aisle would be an offence which they would feel, and which was contrary to the spirit and intention of the architect.

This led to the view that they should ask Fellowes Prynne for plans to enlarge the vestries, and that

…it would be seen that the plan was drawn up by a man who understood his work.  In the plan they had the present vestry occupied by the organ-loft, just as it was, with the north wall of the vestry excluded so as to give an extra ten feet of length to the vestry.  Then there would be a second arch to bring the organ into the transept, which gave increased space in the choir vestry.  This vestry would then be used exclusively by the choir, while the clergy vestry would be in the space added to the east, and there would be a passage from the vestries to the church towards the north aisle.  Other alterations would give increased space to the north aisle, which was now very much cramped.  It was, of course, an expensive plan, and the expense would have to be met by all of them putting their hands as far as they could into their pockets…

Messrs. Hill and Son, organ builders, of London, considered that, both architecturally and musically, the plans were very satisfactory. 

The meeting agreed that they should apply for a faculty, with the costs estimated at £400 for the stonework and £650 for the work with the organ.

On 27 January 1893, the Torquay Times and South Devon Advertiser reported on

…the recently effected improvements in the fine parish church… These improvements are the enlargement of the organ and vestries at a cost of £1,500 of which £1,300 has already been subscribed… the architect, Mr. G. Fellowes Prynne, has…carried out his portion of the work most creditably, the new additions harmonising and yet dignifying the older building.

The Western Daily Mercury of 29 March 1895 described the final part of this work – the organ case.

The last addition is that of an ornamental and artistic front to the organ and its pipes, which occupy the north side of the chancel.  The case is of carved and traceried English Oak, designed by Mr. George H. Fellowes Prynne, architect, and made in the studios of Messrs. Harry Hems and Sons, the well-known church workers, of Longbrook-street, Exeter.

A meeting of the vestry committee was reported in the Torquay Times of 8 April 1904, where the following item was discussed.

At their last meeting it was decided, on the motion of the Churchwardens, to consult Mr. Fellowes Prynne with respect to the restoration of the ancient Norman font, which was discovered under the floor of the Church in 1826, and subsequently restored, but not as many authorities thought in a manner which was in keeping with its character.  Mr. Prynne had prepared a report, which, whilst admitting the difficulty of restoring the old font so as to make it suitable to a modern church, suggested that the bowl should be placed on a granite base, below which should be three granite steps, and that the whole should be removed to a site below the West window, where, if certain seats were removed, it would give the font becoming dignity.  The Vicar said from his report Mr. Prynne evidently supposed the bowl to be of granite, but he was informed it was not.  He thought the base should be of the same stone as the bowl… In its present condition the font was constantly condemned by antiquarians and architects, and he thought Mr. Prynne should be asked to come down and make a close examination of it. 

There followed much debate, as some members of the meeting disagreed with the proposal to restore the font at all, not to mention the issue of the granite, or indeed the steps it was to be put upon!

The Vicar thought they might trust Mr. Prynne who had great knowledge of old fonts… Eventually the resolution was carried in an altered form which provided that the matter should be again considered by a special vestry meeting before any definite steps were taken.

The final piece of information about this church was in the Building News and Engineering Journal of 23 December 1904.

The vestry of St. Marychurch, near Torquay, propose obtaining a faculty for placing the ancient font in the church in the centre of the tower floor.  Mr. G. H. Fellowes Prynne, F.R.I.B.A., of London and Plymouth, has prepared plans for this and other alterations to the church.


This “trade” journal often reported things some months,or even years, after the initial event, so this may simply be a brief summary of the above report from the Torquay Times.

This church has been demolished having been bombed in 1943.