2017 saw the 60th anniversary of the death of a woman whose career of more than 50 years as a woodcarver produced a body of work that can be seen in more than 300 churches in Devon and Cornwall.
image Context 152, p. 35 – pulpit in St Peter & St Paul, Ermington
Author Grant Elliott writes:
The late Victorian era saw a period of church restoration and renovation across the whole of the country, including a flourishing of woodcarving. Within Devon, three woodcarvers’ names are particularly distinguished. Harry Hems, Herbert Read and Violet Pinwill are all now recognised for outstanding contributions to local woodcarving in the second half of the 19th century.
Harry Hems arrived in Exeter in 1866. He was not only a gifted carver but also a very successful business-man. At one time he employed over 80 craftsmen and his business, the Ecclesiastical Art Works, became a worldwide enterprise. Herbert Read, a former employee of Harry Hems, set up his own business, the Saint Sidwell Art Works, also in Exeter, in 1892. Violet Pinwill was the third force in woodcarving in Devon. Based in Ermington and then Plymouth, she and her sisters carried out work across Devon and deep into Cornwall. Her success is all the more remarkable, given the status of women in Victorian society….
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