in a family of eight children of John Allen Prynn (a form of the surname abandoned later by his son) by his wife Susanna, daughter of John and Mary Rundle of Looe, Cornwall. The father, who claimed descent from William Prynne [q. v.] the puritan, was a native of Newlyn, Cornwall. After education first at a school kept by his sister at Looe, then at the (private) Devonport Classical and Mathematical School, Prynne matriculated at St. John's College, Cambridge, in October 1836, but migrated to Catharine Hall (now St. Catharine's College), graduating B.A. on 18 Jan. 1840 (M.A. in 1861, and M.A. ad eundem at Oxford on 30 May 1861). Ordained deacon on 19 Sept. 1841, and priest on 25 Sept. 1842, he was licensed as curate first to the parish of Tywardreath in Cornwall, and on 18 Dec. 1843 to St. Andrew's, Clifton. At Clifton he first came in contact with Dr. Pusey [q. v.], whose views he adopted and publicly defended, but he declined Pusey's suggestion to join St. Saviour's, Leeds, on account of an implied obligation of celibacy. On the nomination of the prime minister, Sir Robert Peel, he became vicar of the parish of Par, Cornwall, newly formed out of that of Tywardreath, from October 1846 to August 1847, when he took by exchange the living of St. Levan and St. Sennen in the same county. From 16 Aug. 1848 until his death he was incumbent of the newly constituted parish of St. Peter's, formerly Eldad Chapel, Plymouth. At Plymouth Prynne's strenuous advocacy of Anglican Catholicism on Pusey's lines involved him in heated controversy. The conflict was largely fostered by John Hatchard, vicar of Plymouth. In 1850 Prynne brought a charge of criminal libel against Isaac Latimer, editor, publisher, and proprietor of the 'Plymouth and Devonport Weekly Journal,' for an article prompted by religious differences which seemed to reflect on his moral character (24 Jan. 1850). The trial took place at Exeter, before Mr. Justice Coleridge, on 6 and 7 Aug. 1850, and excited the bitterest feeling.
The defendant alleged that the English Church Union was responsible for the prosecution and was supplying the necessary funds. The jury found the defendant not guilty (Western Times, Exeter, 10 Aug. 1850), and the heavy costs in which Prynne was mulcted gravely embarrassed him. In 1852 Prynne's support of Priscilla Lydia Sellon [q. v.] and her Devonport community of Sisters of Mercy, together with his advocacy of auricular confession and penance, provoked a pamphlet war with the Rev. James Spurrell and the Rev. Michael Hobart Seymour. An inquiry by Phillpotts, bishop of Exeter, on 22 Sept. 1852, into allegations against Prynne's doctrine and practice resulted in Prynne's favour, but a riot took place when Dr. Phillpotts held a confirmation at Prynne's church next month. In 1860 Prynne 'conditionally' baptised Joseph Leycester Lyne, 'Father Ignatius' [q. v. Suppl. II], and employed him as unpaid curate. He joined the Society of the Holy Cross in 1860 and the English Church Union in 1862, becoming vice-president of the latter body in 1901. Meanwhile opposition diminished. His church was rebuilt and the new building consecrated in 1882 without disturbance. Although Prynne remained a tractarian to the end, he was chosen with Prebendary Sadler proctor in convocation for the clergy of the Exeter diocese from 1885 to 1892, and despite their divergence of opinion he was on friendly terms with his diocesans, Temple and Bickersteth. Contrary to the views of many of his party, he submitted to the Lambeth judgment (1889), which condemned the liturgical use of incense.
Prynne died at his vicarage after a short illness on 25 March 1903, and was buried at Plympton St. Mary, near Plymouth. He married on 17 April 1849 Emily (d. 1901), daughter of Admiral Sir Thomas Fellowes, and had issue four sons and six daughters. The sons Edward A. Fellowes Prynne and George H. Fellowes Prynne were connected as artist and architect respectively with the plan and adornment of their father's church at Plymouth, and the Prynne memorial there, a mural painting, allegorically representing the Church Triumphant, is by the son Edward.
Of Prynne's published works the most important was 'The Eucharistic Manual,' 1865 (tenth and last edit. 1895); it was censured by the primate, Archbishop Longley [q. v.]. He was also author of 'Truth and Reality of the Eucharistic Sacrifice' (1894) and 'Devotional Instructions on the Eucharistic Office' (1903). Other prose works consisted of sermons and doctrinal or controversial tracts. As a writer of hymns Prynne enjoyed considerable reputation. 'A Hymnal' compiled by him in 1875 contains his well-known 'Jesu, meek and gentle,' written in 1856, and some translations of Latin hymns. He also took part in the revision of 'Hymns Ancient and Modern,' and published 'The Soldier's Dying Visions, and other Poems and Hymns' (1881) and 'Via Dolorosa' in prose, on the Stations of the Cross (1901).