Proposals for West End of Parish Church
The Fabric Committee has given lengthy consideration to the views expressed by church members to the Parish Think Tank and at the last Parish Away Day, and having consulted the Church Architect has developed the following outline proposals which are illustrated below and in the drawings now posted on a board in the church.
The Overall Concept
The main object is to remove most of the existing clutter from the West End to create a welcome area which would be quite distinct from the main body of the church, and to widen the route from the South-West door through to the nave, and on to the Octagon.
1. The Font
Where it is at the moment, the Victorian font (and the two-step plinth on which it stands) creates a significant bottleneck close to the main church entrance and exit. Moreover, its present position makes it very difficult to use for its intended function, either in a private ceremony or in the course of congregational worship. Examination of church records suggests that it has seen comparatively little use since it was installed in the late 19th century.
By contrast, the old (Tudor) font which is presently stored behind the altar in the Lady Chapel saw extensive and well-documented use during its four hundred years of service. Not only does it have far more history attaching to it but, as it is rather smaller, it is a more convenient and appropriate size for modern purposes. We propose that it should be restored to its original condition and installed on a single step at the west end of the nave - where the churchwardens’ pews are currently situated.
We propose to re-order the pews around the font so that they form a single row along the back wall, and face inwards at the sides to create a new baptistery area. This would only be used for private baptisms; those taking place within a public service of worship would be conducted at the nave altar as now. Any resulting shortage of seating at major festivals would be remedied by the provision of chairs. (The churchwardens would have to move back into the main part of the nave, while those on sides duties would need reserved spaces at the West end of the South aisle – or perhaps chairs in the South-West corner.)
The cover for the Tudor font has, sadly, disappeared though we know from illustrations what it looked like. As and when funds are available we should like to have a new one made, and the accompanying plans show it in position, hanging above the font.
We think that the Victorian font is too large to be stored behind the Lady Chapel altar and our present thoughts are that it should be put to some ornamental use in the garden of the Rectory. Other suggestions appropriate to its sacramental function would be welcomed.
To separate the welcome area from the main part of the church, we propose that screens should be installed immediately behind the rear pews in the North and South aisles. (As the pews extend a little further to the rear on the nave side of each aisle, it would be necessary to remove the short pews abutting the pillars to leave a clear line for the screens to follow.) As shown on the plans, these screens would be part-glazed and would match the inner (Arts and Crafts) doors at the South-West entrance in both design and height. Each would have a plain opening giving access to its respective aisle. There would be no screen at the rear of the pews in the nave and the proposed baptistery would thus be part of the worship space of the church, though detached from it by the width of the crossing from the South-West door to the door leading to the Octagon.
The opportunity would be taken to refit the South-West doors and their threshold to make them more close-fitting to eliminate draughts.
3. Storage and Display Space
We envisage removing all the tables, bookshelves and assorted notice boards in the South-West corner, and replacing the space they provide with a line of lockable cupboards (rising to table height) along the rear wall in this area. Along the wall above them would be new notice boards, and a section of board with pockets to take the many leaflets which currently cover the table on the North side of the present font. The new cupboards would provide a home for, among other things, the orders of service and hymn books. It is likely that a table will remain to the right of the doors as you enter, to take visitor information, parish magazines, etc, as at present. (The plans displayed only show the cupboards at this stage.)
4. The North-West Corner
As shown on the plans, we propose that there should be a new, purpose-built working space in this area for our talented flower-arrangers. It would be sited where the ladders are currently kept and would have its own door, sink and worktop. Details are shown but these are subject to suggestions for amendment from those who would use the space. As for the ladders, we want to provide a new, secure and weatherproof stowage for these running horizontally along the exterior of the North wall of the church, immediately outside the door adjacent to the ladies’ WCs.
We originally thought that the area currently used during services by those with small children should be provided with solid glass screens to reduce the risk of noise disturbing those taking part in the service. We have concluded, however, that this is very unlikely to prove cost-effective and would create an eye-sore resembling a fish-tank. We now consider that it would be better simply to refurbish the area, with some new storage cupboards similar to (but perhaps taller than) those in the opposite corner, and to deal with the noise issue by improving the sound system throughout the church.
One particular feature in this corner has divided opinion within the Fabric Committee. This is the large porch surrounding the door leading to the Octagon. It is a fine piece of woodwork, with a delicate frieze around the top and down the sides, which is believed to be by Thackeray Turner and carved by his brother, Laurence. (They were also responsible for designing and carving the Titanic/Jack Philips memorial cloister on the North side of the churchyard.) For some it therefore represents, like the North Chapel, part of the contribution of the Victorian Arts and Crafts Movement to the history of the church, and for that reason should be retained. Others point out that the door which it surrounds now leads to a modern building (rather than outside) and therefore no longer needs a porch at all, still less a Victorian one. Moreover, they consider that it is much too large, creates a looming presence at the far end of the route from the South-West door to the Octagon, and distracts the eye from the less cluttered view which we are trying to create.
The plans show what the North wall might look like without the porch, but no decision to remove it has been taken. A compromise solution which would involve removing the sides of the porch and fitting its front aspect to the wall around the door in the manner of an architrave is being looked at by the Church Architect, but this does not really address the concerns of those opposed to the porch remaining. Though careful consideration has been given to moving the porch elsewhere within the church, it is clear to all that no suitable site exists. The views of other church members on this vexed question would be particularly welcomed.
5. Heating and Flooring
At present, heating at the rear of the church is provided by four large (and rather unsightly) fan-assisted radiators. Clearly these would have to go if our other proposals are to be fulfilled. Quite what could replace them is under review and assistance from the heating expert on the Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC) is being sought.
It was the laying of the pipes which supply hot water to the radiators and which run beneath the floor right across the whole area under consideration which caused the existing disruption to the encaustic tiles which form the flooring. Changing the position of the font and moving pews will inevitably cause further disturbance and consideration will need to be given as to how this can best be addressed. Retiling the West End crossing, or perhaps resurfacing it with stone, would be a major undertaking involving significant expense, though it might be possible to reserve it to a later phase of the overall works.
We hope you will approve of our proposals but, whether you do or not, we very much want you to share your views with us (preferably in writing) so that we can reflect them in the final plan. We can then move forward to detailed discussions with the DAC, final drawings and costing, faculty application and the inevitable (and major!) fund-raising that will be required before work can start, secure in the knowledge that what we shall be seeking is what you want for your church.
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