The chancelChurch Layout

History - The Chancel


Much of the existing fabric is original indicating that the chancel occupies the position of the first (Norman) building. In the south wall can be seen the built-up remains of two round-headed Norman windows. Beneath one is a blocked priest's doorway. The door is still in position on the exterior. The doorway was probably used for the ringing of the Sanctus bell during mass to alert worshippers who were within the churchyard.

A straight-headed window of late perpendicular design cuts into the masonry of the former Norman window beside the chancel arch wall. Note part of an incised coffin lid (13th c.) is re-used as a lintel over this window.

Coffin lid used as a lintel

Near the east wall, slight remains of the second Norman window are incorporated into a straight-headed, perpendicular style window. The pointed window is also of perpendicular style. All the windows of the chancel appear to be Victorian restorations of the originals.

 

The east window above the altar is certainly Victorian, but the oculus (round) window high on the east wall may well be the Norman original.

The brickwork on the upper section is possibly of the time of the partial restoration of the chancel in 1895 by the Rev. de Courcy Ireland, Rector.

Maintenance of the church fabric had always presented problems, placing heavy financial burdens on parishioners, and a Visitation record of 1575 has the following entry:

"Their Chauncell and highe quere is in ruyne and decaie (the Queen's Majestic beinge patrone) so that devine service cannot be said in it nor the Communion ther ministred for danger of falling downe upon ther heads. One syde of another quere is in decaie which cannot well be amended till the high quere be also mended." (J. S. Purvis. Tudor Parish Documents.)

Points of interest in the chancel include the double sedilia: stone seats used by priests during celebration of mass before the Reformation. The stonework of these seats is almost certainly part of the original building as indicated by the remains of a string course above the sedilia and which formerly would have continued round the other walls of the chancel (see also the North Chapel).

Water used sacramentally is drained directly to the ground via a piscina. In St Laurence, the piscina is located where the chalice and patten, used in Communion services, were washed in pre-Reformation days. This piscina is much altered from early medieval form to fit in the space left after the insertion of the 15th century window.


Piscina, a small sink in the wall     Chancel screen moved to the organ


In many early churches, a large rood, or crucifix, was suspended from a rood loft above the rood screen, separating the nave from the chancel. In our church, the 15th century oak screen was removed either by order of Queen Elizabeth I in 1561, or during the Commonwealth period. Another chancel screen was placed there in 1913, which was recently used to screen the organ.

The floor of Victorian tiles belongs to the paving of the entire church in 1875 at the expense of Thomas Walker J.P. who resided at 'Woodlands', a house overlooking Highfields lake and now a club house.

The altar and reredos were given in 1904 by the Whightman family in memory of their parents. Note the brass memorial plates inside the sedilia. Panels from the screen are now mounted on the east wall of the north chapel.


Left panel of the reredos          Middle panel of the reredos          Right panel of the reredos


The Chancel received its oak roof in 1962.