George Fellowes Prynne


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All Saints

The postcard illustrated was sent in October 1906. The barrel roof looks very new – and chairs are indeed in situ! The card predates the Chandos Pole memorial.

The drawing for the Chandos Pole memorial rood and figures was originally submitted to Dart and Francis. They returned it on 7th July 1920, unable for some reason to do the work. The memorial was eventually carved by the firm of Herbert Read of Exeter.

Fellowes Prynne's thoroughness when undertaking the restoration of a church was evident to all who worked with him.  As an example, here is the full text of a letter Fellowes Prynne wrote to the incumbent, the Rev. F. E. Coope, concerning the seating in the church. It should be borne in mind when reading the letter that by “seat” Fellowes Prynne means what we would nowadays usually call a “pew”.

6 Queen Anne’s Gate
Westminster SW
March 23: 1904

Dear Mr. Coope,

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. In the first place, I must disclaim any prejudice in favour of seating, or chairs, as such; and if I hold strong views in the present instance, it is solely because I feel that the proposition that has been made to use the existing seats in the new church, if acted upon, would be a very great mistake from an artistic point of view. I can fully understand the prejudice that exists in favour of seats, more especially by those who have not been accustomed to chairs, or whose experience has been with some of the cheap and uncomfortable chairs that are unfortunately used in some churches.

If the Restoration Committee could afford to furnish the church with good oak seats, not too heavy in character, there could be no objection whatever to the use of such seats, which would be in character with the restoration work that has been carried out in other aspects with such thoroughness, although even then, the Architectural proportions of your church would not be seen to the same advantage as if chairs were used.

It is such a well known matter of fact, (that it is perhaps hardly necessary to repeat it), that chairs do not dwarf the effect of a Church in the same way as seats do. However, if really good oak seats were proposed, I should certainly not have advised adversely to their use, but the proposition at present being considered, is the use of extremely poor deal seats used for a time in the old Church, and I am asked as the architect responsible for the restoration of your beautiful old church to advise as to the best course to be adopted. As I feel that the intrusion of such utterly unworthy seating would be a blot on the interior effect, and entirely out of keeping with your restored church, I cannot do otherwise than most strongly advise that they should not be used in any part of the Church.
But independently of the fact of the inappropriateness of their use, there are insufficient seats to seat the whole Church, and there is surely no-one who would advocate the making of new seats to the pattern of the old. Or again, could anyone really seriously advocate the mixture of old seats and new chairs as reasonably artistic treatment?

In the first, sufficient new seats, made to the pattern of the old, would probably cost as much as new chairs for the whole church, and in the second case of mixed seats and chairs, the effect would be wholly inharmonious, poverty-stricken, and patchy – as an alternative, 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