Who was Nellie Payne?

Plaque, All Hallows by the Tower, London. Carved 1953.


Nellie carved this piece aged 88 or 89 and is believed to be one of the last major carvings that she undertook.

Excerpt from “Ellen Nora Payne – woodcarver of Tasmania” by Russell Atkinson Page 103.
All Hallows is an historic London church which a Nazi bomb largely destroyed during WW2.

Reverend Philip Clayton, known fondly to everyone as Tubby Clayton, was the founder of the Toc H Movement, taking its inspiration directly from the blood and sacrifices of WW1.  This club fostered a wonderful spirit of service, comradeship and support.  Tubby developed this into a worldwide movement whilst he was vicar at All Hallows. 

After the bombing, Tubby embarked on two world tours to gain assistance for the church’s restoration.  During his 1953 tour, which included mainland Australia and Tasmania, he gave lectures and accepted gifts towards the rebuilding of All Hallows, he also came across some of Nellie’s carvings and asked to be introduced to this ‘gifted lady’.  After a long afternoon of conversation, Tubby offered Nellie one hundred guineas to carve an impressive vestry plaque.  Nellie, of course, wouldn’t talk of accepting money, but agreed to carve the piece using Tasmanian blackwood.  The Tasmanian government had already agreed to donate timber panelling for the vestry and so this ornamentally carved plaque would not only enrich this panelling, but also acknowledge its origins.

Nellie did receive an invitation to attend the ceremonial rededication of the restored All Hallows at which the Queen was to be present.  Although the temptation was great, she gracefully declined as she felt she was too old for such a long journey at age 89. On the flyleaf of his presentation copy to Nellie, Tubby wrote the following –
To  E. N. Payne of Hobart
                Presented to the eminent Artist, whose craftsmanship inspires Tasmania with superb woodcarving and design.  Her genius is to bring Tasmanian tokens into the restoration of All Hallows by the Tower.
                                                                                Philip Clayton, vicar , July 4, 1953.[1]
In 1972, after Nellie had passed away and a few months before his own death, Tubby wrote to Madge, Nellie’s daughter,
In 1972 I’m 86 in age, still working hard.
I’m glad indeed to learn that Russell Atkinson is composing a book in tribute to your mother.
All Hallows and Toc H are very proud indeed of your dear mother’s truly brilliant skill, e.g. the Plaque, much admired within All Hallows, by all the pilgrims and the parish folk …
                                                                                Yours gladly and thankfully, PHILLIP CLAYTON

The Mercury , Saturday 25 April 1953, page 12