Architect of St. Wilfrid's Church
One of the Architect's designs for St. Wilfrid's Church (including tower/ additional bays never completed)
George Halford Fellowes Prynne was born in Plymouth, the son of the Rev. C Rundle Prynne (author of the Eucharistic Manual, and the Hymn "Jesu Meek and Gentle"). His mother was the daughter of Admiral Sir Thomas Fellowes.
He was educated at Chard College and Haileybury, and in 1871 at the age of 18, emigrated to Canada with the intention of becoming a farmer. After two years however, he found the profession not to his liking and preferring architecture, became a pupil of R C Wyndyer of Toronto.
On his return to England, he entered the Studio of Street, working at the site office in the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand. In 1876, he entered the Royal Academy Schools and for a time became the assistant of R J Withers. In 1881, he became an associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects, gaining his Fellowship in 1891
When Street died in 1881, he left the plans for St Peters, Plymouth (where Prynne's father had been vicar) unfinished. Prynne completed this church himself, and from this time onwards, he dedicated himself almost exclusively to ecclesiastical architecture.
In 1882, Prynne married Bertha Geraldine Bradbury, the daughter of Augustus Bradbury of Stretham.
All Saint's Church, Rosendale Road, West Dulwich (recently gutted by fire) was Prynne's first major commission. At the age of 25, he was already demonstrating a passion for Byzantine and Classical Design, this church is considered by some as one of the high points in Victorian Gothic Design, and by others as 'a waste of architectural energy.' Contained within this church is the first of what became Fellowes Prynne's signature, the stone Rood screen. Inspired by the medieval screen at Saint Bardfield, Essex, the idea of a stone Rood screen occurred regularly throughout his works.
In 1896, Prynne was approached to rebuild the church of Saint John the Evangelist in Sidcup, which was completely rebuilt in 1898 to 1901, with the exception of the original chancel and the spire, because the funding ran out, (a common problem with many Prynne churches). It was the rebuilding of this church that stimulated the vestry of All Saint's, Belvedere to rebuild their church too. Although the plans were fully completed, the exit of Rev. Eden (the main force behind the project) and the inability of the fundraising to achieve the starting target (£7,000 of £10,000 was collected) the church never materialised.
In 1899 and 1900, Prynne was elected president of the architectural association, and was in 1906, made the Honorary Secretary of the Honorary Consulting Architects of the Church Building Society. He was also created Diocesan Architect for Oxfordshire in 1913.
Like his father and his brother, Fellowes Prynne was a dedicated Anglo-Catholic, and was from 1917 to 1922, the president of the West Middlesex district Union of the English Church Union. He lived and worshipped for the majority of his life at St Saviours, Ealing, a church that he designed. In 1922, he became delegate of the E.C.U. Council and was a member of both the Diocesan Conference and the Ealing Education Committee. He was also a Past-Master of the Pantheon Lodge of Freemasons.
In 1915, Prynne's design for Colombo Cathedral was accepted, however, the first world war interrupted the building, which was not to be completed until after his death, under the supervision of his remaining son Harold Fellowes Prynne, who was practising as an architect in Madras. Two of Prynne's Sons, Norman Fellowes Prynne and Edgar Fellowes Prynne were killed in action during the first world war, leaving him with one son and two daughters.
George Fellowes Prynne Died in 1927 on the 7th May after a short Illness. George and Bertha are buried in plot 3746 and his brother Edward in plot 4007 at at St Mary the Virgin, Hayes, Middlesex**.
Jonathan Farley 13th October 2004
The above is an update on the George Fellows Prynne research (of JH below) kindly provided by Mr Jonathan Farley who has conserved some architectural plans for the re-building of All Saints, Belvedere, Kent. A re-build that never happened.
This has prompted a further update from Ruth Sharville who has a website area on George Fellowes Prynne at www.gfp.sharville.org.uk/
Ruth points out that 2 sons survived the War - Harold, as already mentioned, and also Aubrey, who was the husband of Gwen (who Ruth met before she died) and father of Rundle, with whom Ruth is in regular contact.
** The details about the burial places of George and Bertha and his son Edward have been very kindly provided by David Froud, sacristan and PCC secretary at St Mary the Virgin, Hayes, Middlesex. David has also asked me to mention the following about the upkeep of the graves 'the upkeep of the graveyard is the responsibility of the London Borough of Hillingdon. We are doing our best to allow access to the graves but there are over 2000 graves with the earliest (outside the church building) dates from 1660. Hayes is not a rich area and we have just paid £80 000 having the chancel and inside of the south wall restored. The remainder of the inside will have to wait until we can raise another similar sum. The parish records date from 870 AD so we have a lot to look after and display for the Heritage Open Days next month' 28th August 2008.
David Froud has also very kindly provided the pictures of the Triptych painted by Edward Fellowes Prynne (below left) and the Reredos in the South aisle by George Fellowes Prynne (below right) in St. Mary's Church. These pictures and additional information are much appreciated.
The Family Background
The Reverend George Rundle Prynn and his wife Emily, daughter of Admiral Sir Thomas Fellowes, were married in 1849 and had four sons and six daughters. The family claimed descent from William Prynne, the controversial puritan who later became an M.P., and who had his ears cropped in 1634 for publishing veiled attacks on Charles I and his Queen. Rev. George changed his surname from Prynn to Prynne because of the connection.
In 1848 he was appointed vicar of the newly constituted parish of St. Peter’s, Plymouth, which had originally been built as a Nonconformist chapel called Eldad in 1830. (Eldad was one of the two elders to whom was given the prophetic power of Moses - see Numbers 11. 26 - 27) He remained there until his death in 1903.
Three of the sons were: George H. Fellows Prynne - the architect Edward A. Fellows Prynne - the third son. Albert Bernard Prynne - the youngest son I have not traced the name of the other son, and do not know whether George was the eldest or second son.
The registers of St. Peter’s do not appear to have been deposited in any archives office as yet (although my information may be out of date), but it seems reasonable to assume that all of the Prynne children including George were born in Plymouth. I have ascertained that at least five of them were.
At the time of the 1881 Census, Rev. George and his wife were living in 28 Wyndham Square Plymouth, with three of their daughters and the youngest son Alfred who was then aged 13. Edward was living in Worcester, aged 26, unmarried, and described as Artist (Painter). Rev. George and Edward the artist both appeared in Who’s Who. Rev. George is an interesting character in his own right, and was an early Tractarian and follower of Pusey. However, this is not his story, so I shall resist the temptation to tell it. (Further details on application)
None of the Prynne sons attended either Oxford or Cambridge.
Two of the family were officers who died in the First World War:
A measure of the rarity of the surname is that apart from these two, I can trace no other British or Empire serviceman called Prynne who died in W.W.1.
He did not ever have an entry in Who’s Who, DNB, or anywhere else that I have so far consulted - except for references to his work in the ‘Buildings of England’ series, where he is sometimes referred to, hyphenated, as G. H. Fellowes-Prynne.
He appears 42 times in ‘Buildings of England’. In 1904 the medieval building known as North Wyke in South Tawton, Devonshire, had improvements and reconstruction carried out by him. With this exception, everything else with which he has been credited relates to the design, renovation, furnishing or embellishment of ecclesiastical buildings. Of the works cited twenty are in Devonshire, and with the exception of two churches in Yorkshire, he operated in Southern England.
His first listed work (1880 - 82) was the ‘ambitious’ rebuilding of St. Peter’s Church in Plymouth, where his father was the vicar. Looking at the chronology of his work, he seems to have been occupied almost continuously until 1915, when he was responsible for the rebuilding of St. Mary in Wargrave, Berkshire, and some restoration at St. Catherine in Whitestone, Devonshire. His only subsequent work was in 1920, when he designed a rood screen for St. Mary’s in Henley-on-Thames.
Comments on Prynne’s work, in Pevsner’s quirky style, range from the enthusiastic to the downright scathing. Many of the architectural descriptions are reminiscent of the style of St. Wilfrid’s. I have copied all references to Prynne’s work in their entirety, as they make such interesting and entertaining reading.
Almost half of his commissions were in Devonshire and as these were spread throughout his working life, I think that he probably lived in the County. There is a Prynne memorial in his father’s church, so details of George the architect may well be recorded on it.
John Hawkins 26th March, 2000
The Architecture of G. H. Fellowes Prynne
(Extracted from entries in Pevsner’s ‘Buildings of England’ series)
Wargrave, St. Mary Burnt down in 1914 and rebuilt by W. (sic) Fellowes Prynne. (No comments on Prynne’s design)
Beaconsfield, St. Michael, New Town. 1914 by Fellowes Prynne. (No other comments)
Lee, St. John Baptist. In 1910 Fellowes Prynne added to the E end the vestry, transeptal short two-bay isles, and the W baptistery.
Loudwater, St. Peter. The chancel an insensitive Gothic addition. By G. H. Fellowes Prynne, 1901 - 3.
Taplow, St. Nicholas. 1912, by Fellowes Prynne, Gothic with tall spire. Nave and aisles and chancel. Tall stone screen
Kea, All Hallows. Pulled down in 1895. The church replacing it is by Fellowes Prynne, very un-Cornish, but attractive, with a lead spire and a steep tiled roof, starting low down.
St. Stephen-by-Saltash, St. Stephen. (Referring to the tower) The pinnacles seem to be modern. Perhaps they were added by G. Fellowes Prynne, who restored the tower and W end in 1895.
Budleigh Salterton, St. Peter. 1891 - 3 by G. Fellowes Prynne. The gift of Mark Rolle, built in place of a chapel of ease of 1811. Large and cruciform. Only the lower stage of the intended NW tower and spire completed. Grey limestone with Doulton stone trim. E.E. details. W end with three paired lancets, asymmetrical E end with two apses and vestries. Clustered arcade piers of Doulton stone and marble. The Lady Chapel in the S transept has its own triple arch and ambulatory. Pulpit of sandstone with pierced panels of brass and iron, given by Lady Gertrude Rolle. Screen of Beer stone and marble with dense metal cresting, both designed by Prynne.
Crediton, Holy Cross. Reredos. 1914 by Fellowes Prynne, stone, with
carved frieze, dominating but rather pedestrian.
East Budleigh, All Saints. Pulpit. 1894 by Fellowes Prynne, executed by Hems; figure panels in high relief and two tiers of angels.
Exmouth, Holy Trinity. 1905 - 7 by G. H. Fellowes Prynne, a total remodelling of a chapel of 1824... A tall, proud building of grey limestone with Bath stone dressings. W tower of Somerset type; buttresses to both aisles and clerestory linked by shallow arches. Flamboyant tracery throughout. Tall arcades on clustered piers. E window high above a very large carved stone reredos with relief of the Ascension. Low chancel screen with slightly Art-Nouveau brass finials on top. Apsed N chapel.
Horrabridge, St. John Baptist. 1893 by G. H. Fellowes Prynne, in his usual free Gothic, a simple chapel with a long sweeping roof and Dec and Perp tracery. It replaced a church of 1835.
Ilfracombe, Holy Trinity. A long description, including: Two dormer windows, one N, one 5, that light this (the ‘Glory’ above rood screen) and the screen were remade in 1899 (Fellowes Prynne). Choir stalls by Fellowes Prynne, 1900.
lifracombe, St. Peter. 1902 - 3 by G. Fellowes Prynne, for the growing suburbs. Exterior of grey limestone; inside, grey Combe Martin stone and above red sandstone. Eclectic Arts and Crafts detail. Chancel with lancets high up, E window Dec, nave windows Perp. Unfinished NW tower porch, with stone figures of angels supporting the porch roof. Unexpected interior with spiral columns and quadrant arches over the aisles. Fittings also by Prynne.
Littleham nr. Exmouth, St. Margaret and St. Andrew. Description
Loxhore, St. Michael. Nave, c. 1900, by G. Fellowes Prynne.
Lydford, St. Petrock. Stained glass. W window designed by Fellowes Prynne for Princetown, installed here in 1902.
Newton Ferrers, Holy Cross. Perp W tower and N and S arcades with piers of A type. The rest rebuilt in 1885 - 6 by G. Fellowes Prynne. The interior is dominated by Prynne’s rich woodwork, all carved by Hems.
Payhembury, St. Mary. The church was restored in 1895 - 7 (outer walls
extensively rebuilt, nave roof reconstructed) by G. Fellowes Prynne, who was
responsible for the splendid colour and rich textures of the interior... He
repainted and regilded the rood screen and celure, and added angel musicians to
the wall plate of the chancel roof. The screen (B type tracery) is complete with
E and W coving, cornice and cresting. Prynne also designed the lectern, font
cover, and prayer desk with canopy, delicate work inspired by flamboyant
tracery. Paintings: Three small panels for an uncompleted altarpiece, 1897, by
Edward Fellowes Prynne.
Plymouth, St. Matthias. Reredos by Fellowes Prynne, 1891.
Plymouth, St. Peter. A complicated history. The church began as a
Nonconformist chapel called Eldad, of 1830. It was licensed as an Anglican
church in 1848, and a small chancel was added in 1849 - 50 by G. E. Street. The
rest was ambitiously rebuilt in 1880 - 2 by G. Fellowes Prynne, whose father was
the vicar. (JMH note:
Plymtree, St. John. Restored by G. Fellowes Prynne, 1895.
Sampford Courtenay, St. Andrew. Description includes: Some of the bosses and wall-plate angels date from the careful restoration by G. Fellowes Prynne in 1889. He also inserted the S aisle windows and raised the chancel and sanctuary floors.
South Tawton, North Wyke (Now the Grassland Research Institute). The improvements and reconstruction carried out by G. H. Fellowes Prynne in 1904 have tended to obscure the fact that the house is basically medieval.
South Tawton, St. Andrew. Description includes: Screen. 1902, part of several embellishments by G. H. Fellowes Prynne. Tall, with intricate tracery; a rood above.
Whitestone, St. Catherine. Description includes: Further restoration 1915 by Fellowes Prynne, who re-used the remains of a W gallery to make the W screen... Reredos. 1915 by Fellowes Prynne, together with linenfold sanctuary panelling minutely inscribed with the Commandments.
Woodleigh, St. Mary. Restoration 1890 by G. Fellowes Prynne.
Weymouth, St. Paul. By G. H. Fellowes Prynne, 1893 - 6 (tender £5,627), the chancel chapel 1903. Rock-faced, in the mixture of Dec and Perp details which Bodley had advocated. No tower. The S side with two cross-gables. Low apsed W baptistery. Large interior with octagonal piers.
Bournemouth, St. Alban. 1907 - 9 by Fellowes Prynne. An impressive church, the E end facing the street with a window which is placed, due to the fall of the ground, remarkably high up, with vestries beneath. Rockfaced walls with dec. details. Bellcote at the E end of the nave. Double-cross-gabled transept and a two-storied S attachment. Nave and low aisles, seven-light W window. Porches and baptistery beneath it. Interior brick-faced with stone bands. Piers with triangular faces. Segmental aisle arches in giant arches comprising the clerestory. The aisle arches die against the pier.
Sarisbury and Swanwick, St. Paul. Chancel 1881 by Fellowes Prynne, and S chapel, also by Prynne, added in the C. 20... Fellowes Prynne’s Late Victorian chancel, with low ironwork screen and three stiff E lancets is an effective antidote to the ‘churchwarden’ nave. The S chapel is the best part of the church, particularly when seen obliquely from the nave; a simple rectangular space with an apsed sanctuary lit by lancets.
Bushey, St. Peter. Chancel of 1891 by James Neale, the rest by G. H. Fellowes Prynne, 1911, with a prominent flamboyant Gothic tower at the corner, a good landmark.
Ashurst, St. Martin of Tours. The pretty white weatherboarded bellcote is old, but rests on a bold stone arch inside, perhaps by Fellowes-Prynne, 1904 - 5.
Sidcup, St. John. 1899 - 1901 by Fellowes Prynne, incorporating a chancel and Lady Chapel of 1882 by Withers. Impressively big in scale, E.E., of stock brick, the dressings in red brick and stone, an artificial red stone in the chancel. The stump of a S W tower. Very long clerestoried nave, with clustered piers, the inevitable stone screen, and tiers of saints n the slant each side of it. Nobility is what FellowesPrynne aimed at, the nobility Pearson achieved so effortlessly. He does not achieve it for two reasons: first, there is not enough tension in the proportions, the nave especially seeming broad and spreading; and secondly, the details are largely left to look after themselves. See, e.g., the way the vaulting-shafts reach aimlessly down the wall, unrelated to the arcades; or the useless transepts, twelve inches deeper than the aisles, their sole function to create a diversion outside.
Whitstable, St. Peter. 1903 - 15. Red brick. Lancets in threes under shallow relieving arches. Wide, low nave and narrow aisles. Wide chancel, not long. The lozenge-shaped piers, without capitals, so much favoured in the last years of Victoria’s reign. A big church, but cosy and unassuming. Surprisingly, the architect was Fellowes-Prynne, who generally dealt in grand gestures.
Henley-on-Thames, St. Mary. Two-page description, including: Rood Screen. 1920, designed by G. H. Fellowes Prynne.
Staines, St. Peter. A prosperous brick building with entrance and tower at the side, facing the Thames, 1893 - 4 by G. H. Fellowes Prynne. Impressive interior; nave of four bays, of polychrome brick on stone columns and arches. Enormous stone tracery screen the whole height of the chancel arch, with low iron grilles. All the windows have their original stained glass, designed by Fellowes Prynne. (JMH question; but was this by Edward A. Fellowes Prynne, who was noted for stained glass? See Who was Who entry.)
Woodcote Village, St. Mark. 1909 - 10 by G. Fellowes Prynne, a typically opulent example of Edwardian Gothic.
Bognor Regis, St. Wilfred (sic). Hard and heartless also, by G. H. Fellowes Prynne, 1908. Unfinished: no loss. The inside brick and stone, and better.
Hadlow Down, St. Mark. 1836 by William Moseley. How much of this did G. Fellowes-Prynne preserve when he remodelled or rebuilt the church in 1913 ? By him the thin W tower with thin recessed shingled spire, the spire adorned by dormers. By him the pert beilcote over the chancel W end. And probably by him also the idea of a tripartite arcading at the W end and the E ends of the nave, for tower and subsidiary rooms and for chancel and chapels.
Worcester, St. Martin. By G. H. Fellowes Prynne, 1903 - 11. Large red stone church, rockfaced, and with no break in the roof between nave and chancel. The junction is marked only by a small turret. No tower. The chancel on an undercroft. Well grouped additions to the S. Wide interior of brick and stone striped. Narrow passage aisles, but two-bay-deep transepts. They are, however, not emphasised in the run of the arcades. The arches die against the piers.
Elland, All Saints. 1901 - 3 by G. H. Fellowes Prynne. Hard rock-faced exterior, not at all Yorkshire; Long Butterfieldian profile, broken only by a tall copper fl~che. Small arcaded cloister on the N side. Large and handsomely proportioned interior, the brick exposed, with stone dressings. Apsidal chancel with aisles open to a broad nave. N chapel with polygonal apse. The church is so quintessentially c. 1900-ish suburban that it might be within fifteen miles of Charing Cross, or ten minutes’ walk from some seaside esplanade.
The additional information below has been very kindly provided by Jonathan Farley:
Chronological List of Buildings:
1895 Hadlow Grange
1899 Gifford House, Roehampton
1927 St Saviour's Infant's School, Ealing
1927 Ealing Town Hall (extension)
Churches designed by Prynne
1890 All Saints, West Dulwich
1893 Saint Peter's, Stains
1893 Saint Paul's, Waymouth
1895 Saint Peter's, Budleigh Salterton
1896 Holt Trinity, Roehampton
1898 Saint Saviour's, Ealing
1900 All Saint's, Elland, West Riding (Yorkshire)
1900 St John the Evangelist, Sidcup
1901 Christ Church, Lower Sydenham
1902 Saint Peter's, Ilfracomb
1902 All Saints, Sydenham
1902 Saint Peter's, Whitstable
1904 St Martin's, Worcester
1904 All Saints, Belvedere (designed but never started)
1905 Holy Trinity, Exmouth
1908 Saint Wilfred's, Bognor
1909 Saint Alban's, Bornemouth
1909 Saint Mark's, Purley
1911 Saint Peter's, Bushey Heath
1911 Saint Peter's, Harrow
1911 Saint Nicholas, Taplow
1914 Saint John the Baptist, Horrabridge
1916 Saint Michael's, Beaconsfield
Renovations to churches
Armagh Cathedral - Chancel
St John's Cathedral Umtata, Cape Province, South Africa
George Fellowes Prynne effectively designed two types of church:
2) The Victorian Gothic interpretation of the 'Basilica ' style. More expansive to view, and in almost every case, not completed due to running over budget or funds drying up, a result of the consistent, excessively large designs unable to be supported by the populations of the areas they were being built for. For example, St John the Evangelist has a short 'temporary' roof reminiscent of a Spanish Rodeo, covering the top of the tower where a 50 foot spire was originally conceived, and All Saints, West Dulwich also lacks a 50 foot spire and 60 foot of Nave. In the 1960s, a fibre-glass specialist constructed a replica of the original All Saints spire and placed it in position. Unfortunately, within five years, the weather had caused the fibre-glass to expand, lift up the roof leading, which resulted in the rain entering the church and causing damage to the roof beams. The spire was removed and has been laying alongside the church ever since, consequently surviving the recent catastrophic fire.
To many, Prynne's Gothic Basilica is an impressive tribute to Victorian 'Gothic' architecture. To others, his style is an example of the 'ugly' and 'vulgar,' 'megalomaniac' style of the Victorians. This viewpoint is predominant among critics due to consistently poor reviews of Prynne's architecture in most Pevsner volumes. For example, this one reviewing St John the Evangelist, Sidcup:
"Impressively big in scale, early English, of stone brick, the dressings in red brick and stone, an artificial stone in the chancel. Very long clerestoried nave, with clustered piers, the inevitable stone screen, and tiers of saints on slant of each side of it. Nobility is what Fellowes Prynne aimed at, the nobility that Pearson achieved so effortlessly. He does not achieve it for two reasons: first, there is not enough tension in the proportion, the nave especially seeming broad and spreading; and secondly the details are left largely to themselves. The way the vaulting shafts reach aimlessly down the walls, unrelated to the arcades; or the useless transepts, twelve inches deeper than the aisles, their sole function to create a mild diversion outside."
It appears that Prynne's designs were modular in fashion. Although All Saints, Belvedere was never built, certain portions of it may be seen completed in exacting detail on other Prynne Churches and many missing portions of these may yet be seen on others, except in general, the spires.
Although generally unliked by the critics, he was, however one of the most prolific church designers of the late Victorian and Edwardian periods. His Basilican churches showed a great deal of sympathy to their surroundings. Travelling through Devon, it is almost impossible to avoid a Prynne church and some of the best examples may be seen there. They fit so well into the countryside that their looks belie their youth.
As Ken Russel once said: "The job of the critic is to tell us what they think we should be liking rather than what we do."
Regardless of the critics, the public at large (according to a survey I did when at college of over 4,000 people in three different areas), preferred Prynne churches to the churches designed by critic-favoured architects.
Finally, although I have never managed to contact any of them, there were
Fellows Prynnes living in Bombay, in the 1980s who were probably
All Saints, Belvedere Vestry Minutes Book 1861-1902, Available at: Bexly Libraries Local Studies Department, Bourne Road, Bexleyheath
Reminiscences of a Victorian: Charles Beadle; Distributed Privately, available
at: Bexly Libraries Local Studies Department, Bourne Road,
The Letters and Papers of Edward White Benson, Archbishop of Canterbury 1883 - 1896, available at: Lambeth Palace Library
Victorian Churches of Kent; Roger Homan, Phillimore, 1984
Letters and Papers of the Royal Institute of British Architects, available at: The Royal Institute of British Architects
Jonathan Farley 13th October 2004
Additional Churches to which George Fellowes Prynne Contributed
We have also been kindly advised by Fr. David Burrows, Parish Priest of All Saints, Elland of the additional churches to which Prynne contributed:
S.Mary the Virgin Elland: C12 Church with extensive Victorian additions; Rood Screen and embellishments around the wooden panelling to the High Altar were added by Fellowes Prynne as a memorial to Canon Ernest Winter in the early 1920s. The Screen is now at the back of the nave, with the hanging rood in the chancel (Information from Church’s History booklet, 1980)
S.John, Penzance Begun in 1880, the church has a high altar and reredos added in 1908, and also a low stone chancel screen, topped with metal work – iron and brass- which incorporates celtic cross designs. Both reredos and screen strongly resemble the Elland work. (Information from One Hundred Years at S.Johns, 1980)
St. Paul's, Town End, Morley, West Yorkshire Pevsner records1893 by Fellowes Prynne, and describes it simply as 'Gothic Revival'. It has his characteristic width over height, a nave with 'lean-to' aisles, also his trademark stone chancel screen.