Englefield History

The Chancel

 

The chancel (seen on the left in 2012) was completely rebuilt between 1855 and 1857 on the same footprint as the original, though the 16th century arcade between it and the Englefield Chapel was retained. Under the western arch of this arcade is a portion of the old rood screen of mid-15th century date, with a door allowing entry to the chapel from the chancel. The eastern arch is occupied by an early 16th century canopied tomb, originally decorated with inlaid brass. Elias Ashmole described the church and gives the tomb as that of Sir Thomas Englefield, Speaker of the House of Commons, who died in 1514. The floor of the sanctuary was probably raised in the rebuilding as there is now a difference in level compared to the Englefield Chapel and we know that the altar rails were installed at that time along with a new altar and the choir stalls. The east window was rebuilt along with the rest of the chancel in 1855 and the stained glass, by John Hardman of Birmingham, dates from that time. In Ashmole's time the south windows had three shields of arms on them and after the reconstruction the north windows also had decorative glass as seen in the picture of the east end of the nave. Both are now plain, new windows having been fitted in 1936 although these windows had probably been reglazed in 1855 as were the others in the church.

 

 

Just about the only hard evidence of George Gilbert Scott’s involvement that can be found is the record from the Cambridge ecclesiastical woodworkers Rattee and Kett that they supplied a new oak reredos to Englefield for GG Scott in 1858. In 1881 the reredos (presumably the same one) was reported to have been enriched with colour and gold and either at the same time or shortly after a superaltar or retable was added. This has subsequently been removed although the brackets for it remain. It was certainly present in 1894 for a photograph that cannot have been taken before then, and probably dates from 1919, shows it in place with the cross and candlesticks on it.

 

The Berkshire Chronicle reported that the reredos was dedicated on Easter Day 1885 to the memory of Charles Henry Travers who was Rector for four years and died on 20 December 1884. The pictures of the Good Shepherd and the Apostles by Joseph Bouvier (in oil paint on zinc to resist the damp) are a marked departure from the 18th century preferred design, which would have displayed the words of the Creed, the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer. The two wooden tablets on the north wall of the nave between the two vestry doors have carved on their reverse part of the Commandments so may originally have been part of such a reredos. The probability is that Bouvier’s panels were added to the Rattee and Kett reredos of 1858 rather than it being a completely new one. The newspaper report of the time remarks on the two “adoring angels” on either side of the chancel window (as seen in the photograph below) so it seems that these were also painted at the same time.

 

In 1891 part of the floor of the sanctuary was raised in two further 6-inch steps and this necessitated the raising of the central portion of the reredos by 12 inches, which may explain why the top of it obscures the lower part of the stained-glass window today. Another new altar (the one in use today) was then installed on a pavement of mosaic from Minton of London, replacing the one installed in 1857. The design of this mosaic suggests that the new altar may have originally been installed further back than it is at present and that the priest stood in front of the altar. This supposition is supported by the presence of the retable which would have made officiating from behind the altar as today a practical impossibility. The super-frontal cloth for this new altar was made by Mrs Baker of Wigmore Street, London in 1892. A further new frontal cloth was presented by Mrs Skipwith in 1920. Some further decoration of the reredos also took place.

 

While the new altar was being installed the chancel was screened-off and the 1857 altar was placed “under the triptych” in the aisle where it remains today, though the triptych is no longer there, with “its own proper covering and ornaments” and services were held in the aisle. The old altar was much lower than the current one so that when placed in front of the reredos it would have left the shelf with its hanging more plainly visible so it is probable that the reredos was designed around this altar. With its “proper covering” removed (photo below) this altar is seen to have a panelled front with a painted decoration somewhat similar to that on the reredos.

 

At the same time as the second new altar, a wooden screen, made by a Mr Wheeler of Reading, with a pair of iron gates was also put across the entrance to the chancel, where the rood screen would have been in earlier times. This meant that the choir stalls had to be moved six inches eastwards and the stone mouldings cut away to accommodate the screen. The justification for this screen (at least as expressed in the faculty application) was not the desire to return to earlier practices but that the ornaments of the chancel, the organ, and the tombs and memorials in the Englefield Chapel needed protection as the church was open all day and every day. Both screen and altar were dedicated on Sunday 9 August 1891. A month or two later book desks were supplied for the use of the choir boys in the front rows of the stalls. It was proposed to remove the screen in 1952 but this was not finally accomplished until 1987. As the 2012 photograph at the top shows, the book desks have now disappeared as well - along with the choir boys.

 

The screen and altar are seen in the picture above. The retable is evidently still in place on the reredos and on it are the MAEH candlesticks given in 1894, the jewelled cross from 1892 and the flower vases presented in remembrance of Lady Day 1894. On the east wall of the chancel are the adoring angels, probably executed by Joseph Bouvier at the same time as the reredos in 1885. The lighting appears to be the incandescent mantle type installed in 1913 and replaced by electricity in 1936 so the picture is clearly between those dates. Perhaps, therefore, this is the funeral of Dame Edith Benyon in 1919.

 

The Englefield Chapel

© 2019 Richard J Smith

Englefield History

Englefield History
Englefield History

Englefield History