The Remarkable Pinwill Sisters
The Pinwill sisters, Mary, Ethel and Violet, worked as woodcarvers in Ermington and then Plymouth, Devon, from about 1889, setting up their own company, Rashleigh, Pinwill & Co. When Mary and then Ethel left the business, Violet became the sole proprietor and established a large workshop in Plymouth, ranked among the best in the Westcountry, producing ecclesiastical works in both wood and stone. Instrumental in the success of the business was the involvement of architect Edmund H. Sedding (nephew of John Dando Sedding), who championed the sisters by creating most of the early designs, thus establishing a high standard from the outset and bringing a uniquely Arts & Crafts perspective to naturalistic themes. This paved the way for other architects to commission work from the Pinwills, including Sir Charles Nicholson. By the time Violet died in 1957, Pinwill carvings featured in over 185 churches in Cornwall and Devon. This presentation will relate the development of the Pinwill company over nearly 60 years, with numerous illustrations of their fine and beautiful carvings.
Dr Helen Wilson’s background is in Environmental Science at Plymouth University. After retirement from lecturing, she researched family and then local history, until a project emerged that really fired her imagination. Since 2012 Helen has presented numerous talks and written several papers on the Pinwill sisters, as well as their architect Edmund H. Sedding, culminating in 2021 with the publication of her book on these inspirational and highly talented women, entitled From ‘Lady Woodcarvers’ to Professionals: The Remarkable Pinwill Sisters. The book is splendidly illustrated and described as engaging, highly readable and meticulously researched.