Palm Sunday in Plymouth, 1903

Tomorrow marks the beginning of Holy Week culminating in the Paschal Triduum – or The Three Days.

For Christians this is of course the most Holy time of year.

It seems fitting therefore to share the following image and short article relating to Palm Sunday at Plymouth in 1903 with a wider audience. The article also gives an insight into a Plymouth custom of the time, which has perhaps, largely disappered…

The following appeared in the Western Weekly News of 4 April 1903…

Palm Sunday 1903 in Plymouth
“Distributing Palm Crosses” – Palm Sunday at St Peter’s Church, Plymouth, 1903


At the “advanced” churches in the Three Towns, Palm Sunday was observed with great solemnity.

The principal service of the day commenced with the blessing and distributing of palms made into crosses, whilst palm branches were arranged on the altars. The distribution of these emblems of the event which Palm Sunday commemorates, was followed by a procession in which the priests and choir carried palm branches over their shoulders, palm being also tied to the draped processional cross. The Gospel for the day was supplemented in some instances by the celebrant reading “The story of the Passion,” and to bring the service within reasonable duration, this recital of the events leading up to the Crucifixion took in one instance, the place of the sermon, but even with this omission the impressive ceremonial prolonged the service, and also imposed no inconsiderable strain upon those who assisted in it.

Just as the fine weather led to large congregations, alike at churches and chapels, so it also enabled another Palm Sunday observance to be largely followed – that of visiting the graves of relatives and friends, as the cemeteries of the Three Towns bore witness during the afternoon. In some parts of the country this respect for the dead is more generally observed on Mid Lent (or Refreshment) Sunday, but in the Three Towns Palm Sunday is the day set apart by most people for carrying flowers to the graves of those who have been near and dear to them.

Although not captioned, the pencil sketch above depicts the ceremonies in St Peter’s Church, Wyndham Square, Plymouth – the well known home of the Anglo-Catholic Fr. George Rundle Prynne who had died just before Holy Week on 25 March 1903.

On Monday 3 April 1939, the Western Morning News published a photograph of the Palm Sunday Procession at St Peter’s, Plymouth:

Fullscreen capture 19032016 204753.bmp.jpg

© Graham Naylor