Nineteenth-Century Restoration

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Church of St Nicholas would have been maintained in keeping with the Anglican traditions established in the sixteenth century. Communion services were not held as frequently as they are today. Even in 1864, only four communion services were held in the year, and in 1868 there were six. nevertheless, the Oxford Movement, beginning in the years after 1830, inspired a re-assessment of the Church of England as a combination of Catholic and Protestant traditions. This brought a new emphasis on the communion and the importance of the altar, the results of which we are still experiencing today. In 1884, the Archbishop's visitation concluded that the church building was in a poor state of repair. Rain leaked in, the need for a new roof having been identified by the incumbent some twenty years previously. The upper tracery of the east window was blocked up, so that the altar was only dimly illuminated. The arrangement of the box pews appears curious to the modern eye. In the nave, they faced the centre rather that towards the altar. They also occupied much of the chancel. The organ and the choir were on a gallery at the west end. None of this fitted in with the new way of thinking. Below is a plan drawn by the architects who were engaged by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners with a view to conducting a restoration, which began in 1885.

In the chancel, the box pews were replaced with the present choir stalls, the roof and the upper tracery of the east window were restored, and the two archways into the vestry were reopened. Next, attention was given to the vestry, so that it could provide a place of worship while the nave was being repaired. The archway between the vestry and the south aisle was unblocked and the door to the churchyard from the vestry was blocked. A fireplace was removed. The piscina to the right of the altar (shown below the section on Philip Ingleberd) was uncovered. Then repairs to the nave began, finished in 1888. Dressed stone replaced patching up in brick, the roof was completely replaced, including the beams and rafters that we see today. On the interior walls, three centuries of paint were carefully cleaned off. This means that the history of the building is now more visible in the fabric, for example, the traces of former arches and entrances, and features which had been covered up. The box pews were removed and replaced with the present bench pews. The west gallery was taken down, and the organ moved to its present position between the chancel and the vestry. The font was moved to its present position, and stone steps were added. As the flooring was replaced, a new heating system was installed, with a horizontal furnace in a pit at the back of the church, with hot gases passing under the north aisle and thence outside the building. Eventually, money ran out. The pulpit had to be made of wood rather than the high-quality stone that was planned. The roof of the south aisle still needed to be propped up. Eventually this was repaired in 1893, though a substantial sum was still owing to the builders in 1894, and a series of bazaars had to be held in the vicarage grounds.

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Plan of the Church before the restoration which started in 1885