George Fellowes Prynne


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St. Peter

Buckland-in-the-Moor is situated within the Dartmoor National Park and St. Peter’s church is a solid stone Devon church, built to withstand the worst of the moorland weather. Fairly typically, the publicity material draws attention to the features dating from the 12th to the 16th centuries. These include the south wall of the nave, the font, the chancel, the original parts of the screen, part of the tiled floor, and the 16th century chalice. The other feature of which much is made is the much later clock face on the tower.

General restoration at St. Peter, Buckland-in-the-Moor

The restoration work was done in 1907-8 under Fellowes Prynne’s direction, although his is not the only restoration to have been done. The first impression is that there are some very obvious Fellowes Prynne-type features in this church, and one then assumes that much of the “old” has been discarded in favour of the architect’s preferred devices. Closer inspection is necessary. The visitor is helped by a photo displayed on the wall of the church showing what it looked like prior to restoration. A window on the south side is now of different design and dimension from the original. The reredos, once depicting the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone, is now of wood, and the wood panelling has been extended and made taller in the sanctuary. A chimney has been removed, and a door takes its place. Pews are now smaller, and the roof has been planked in. The screen has been extended and moved a little to the west. How much of this is Fellowes Prynne’s work? A combination of observation and documentary evidence should help.

Many typical old west country churches have a rounded barrel roof structure, though often with ribs on the outside and bosses at their intersection. It is a style of roof especially favoured by Fellowes Prynne in his original designs, though usually without ribs and bosses on the larger buildings. Buckland church’s roof is of this type, but complete with ribs and bosses – in keeping with the local tradition. The sanctuary roof is particularly interesting, using extra criss-cross ribs to emphasise the importance of this part of the building. Observation indicates that some of the roof bosses are old, some new, so here was Fellowes Prynne working with the old, rather than against it.

Panelling in the sanctuary, another feature favoured by Fellowes Prynne, was present prior to his input; it reached the height of the old box pews and continued around into the chancel. With the smaller pews (note not chairs – see Thurlestone church) the panelling could be made to feature more prominently. Furthermore, the height is raised in the sanctuary in keeping with the raised level of this part of the building. The panelling is unfussy and somewhat eighteenth century in its style. It is, in fact very much akin to what was already there, though it is not known by the author from what date the earlier panelling dated.

The replacement window on the south side was necessitated by the existence previously of a rather incongruous-looking structure, the apex of which broke the line of the roof-edge on the outside. More will be said of this below. Internally, the effect is achieved of illuminating the chancel wonderfully and, in particular, the screen. No doubt this was the intention of the designer of the earlier aberration, but Fellowes Prynne’s window does at least look in keeping, as well as providing the required light. It has a small amount of cuspate decoration at the tops of the lights, taking up a similar idea in the east window, but it is otherwise far simpler than Fellowes Prynne normally would have styled. The simplicity is deliberate, and reflects the plain style of the rest of the windows in the building.

The reredos is clearly an example of the architect's wanting “his style” to be manifest. He originally replaced the Commandment stones with a simple dossal curtain, but subsequently his carved design was installed. The firm of Herbert Read of Exeter carved the reredos, and it is one of two Read-carved reredoses known to be of Fellowes Prynne’s design. The other is at Thurlestone church. The reredos at Buckland shows features not seen anywhere else in Fellowes Prynne’s designs, in particular the use of subtle relief carving backing the central crucifix.

An unusual postcard (not used, therefore undated) in the author's collection shows a photo of relief carving as “sketch models”, it would seem in plaster, for a panel of the reredos. Note the names of the architect and the craftsman appear in the corner of the postcard.

The photo shows the same panel as it was carved.

Click here for more about the screen at St Peter, Buckland-in-the-Moor

The exterior, St Peter, Buckland-in-the-Moor

And so to the exterior. The postcard reproduced is of the exterior prior to restoration. The franking date is May 4th, 1905, two years before Prynne’s work was carried out. The picture shows the south side of the church, including the dreadful window mentioned. Observing the same elevation today, the differences are immediately obvious. See the photo of the exterior taken in January 2006. Gone is the protrusion into the eaves, with the new window in keeping with, if a bit larger than, the rest of the windows. A new buttress has been put in place to the east of the new window, and next to it, a small chimney has been removed and a door the chancel added. On the north side, the roof stretches low over the side aisle, giving the impression of intimacy rather than loftiness.

The other notable external feature is the clock face on the tower, which bears not numerals but the letters spelling MY DEAR MOTHER.  It was installed in 1928 by the local squire.