The Screen has moved!

Any visitor to Holy Trinity, who has any knowledge of the church, will undoubtedly see that the chancel screen has moved. Why? The reasons go back quite a long way, and it might be better to start from the beginning. As you probably know, the C14th church was extensively “remodelled” by the Victorians. They wanted more of a feeling of space, since the congregation at the time was over 450 on Sunday mornings services, though there were in those days upper galleries along the north and south aisles. They engaged an architect, and started a major re-ordering. Our recent one pales into insignificance, since they knocked down all of the nave and chancel, leaving only the transepts standing, bankrolled by the patron of the time, David Ricardo (he of the four-stroke engine fame, later the basis of most modern cars). They did, of course, run out of money, and the later stages were to a lower standard.

The Victorians of the time were reasonably pleased with the result, but the chancel, in particular, was not quite right. They therefore, in the 1870’s, called in a much more, and nationally, famous architect of the time – William Burges. He did a lot, but his triumph was to replace the inadequate east window with a much larger double window, which is still rare, and much admired nationally. Incidentally, as you probably know, he strongly suggested that the parish did away with pews, and put in chairs, something that didn’t happen for quite a time.

You have to scroll forward 50 years or more before the screen was installed. After WW1, there was, not unnaturally, a feeling that the war should be registered, and the installation of the screen was part of that. It was designed by a famous man of the time, F C Eden. He wanted it made as we now know it, but painted in quite bright colours. The PCC of the time considered the design, and decided in favour. However, we should be aware that they only passed it by a majority of one, and insisted that it should not be painted, but left as plain wood. As you will appreciate, the screen, when installed, obscured William Burges’ main achievement – the east window. However, within about 10 years, F C Eden was again commissioned, to design and paint the chancel roof, another valued feature of Holy Trinity, but, ironically, partially obscured by the screen he had designed.

These are some of the reasons for questioning the placing of the screen. However, it was important to the architect, the PCC, the building group and many others that the screen would be best moved to another arch under the tower – between the chancel and the Lady Chapel. The Lady Chapel, one of the real splendours of Holy Trinity, will become a chapel where small services can be held, but also become a really important place for private prayer. The Lady Chapel, essentially unchanged from the fourteenth century is a very special place indeed, other than that the floor will be resurfaced.

Incidentally, you will now be able to see both of F C Eden’s works more clearly, at the same time, from the Lady Chapel. The other real benefit from all this is that the approach to the high altar will no longer be up a significant step, and through a narrow gap, but via a flat, wide throughway. The previous siting of the chancel screen also had another effect – modifying the acoustics of the space. The organ, when it is out of its protective cladding, should be even more clearly heard, and the choir will be “joined up” to the rest of the people sharing a service. Have all these things been properly considered by interested parties? As you probably know, the whole re-ordering project, including the screen move, was supported by 200 pages or so of documents considered by Historic England, the Victorian Society, the Church Buildings Council, the Society for Ancient Buildings, the Twentieth Century Society, and the Ancient Monuments Society. Following their almost universal support, the documents were formally considered by the Diocesan Advisory Committee in Gloucester. They, unusually for them, had no criticisms, and indeed have now used our example in showing other churches how to do it. Nonetheless the only criticism from anyone was the Twentieth Century Society, who were, of course, only interested in the screen. The London committee over-ruled their own representative, who had visited and spent two hours with the building team, and had been convinced that moving was the right option, and objected. However, that all came out in the wash with the final stage of seeking faculty for going ahead – the reference to a High Court judge. She was in no doubt that we were doing the right thing, and said so.

The screen is now moved. There is a plaque on it, saying that it was erected in memory of Lieutenant Harold Woollacombe-Boyce RN, killed in his ship, the HMS Ghurka, in 1917. There are also a number of pencilled comments inside the structure, confirming all these details. More to the point, there is a heartfelt sentence: “We found some good cider in Minchinhampton”.
Howard Browning, Church Warden