The Chancel and Sanctuary



The chancel and sanctuary apparently underwent various alterations between the commencement of the building of the church and its completion about two hundred years later. The chancel arch has been considerably widened and the step before the sanctuary step may indicate the eastern end of the original church where the sanctuary rails are to-day. The siting of the altar or Holy Table in many churches changed from being against the east wall of the sanctuary to being in the centre of the chancel when Puritan beliefs took precedence. During the Oxford Movement in the nineteenth century the altar was reinstated at the east end of the sanctuary. Provincial churches, in the main, did not have choirs or choir-stalls until the nineteenth century; the chancel, or 'side chapels', was the place for worship for normal services.
The spacious sanctuary, with its elegant black and white marble tiles, is beyond the altar or sanctuary rails. The rails were not part of church furnishings until well after this church was built. The great East Window has imposing nineteenth-century stained glass depicting the Resurrection and the Ascension with the Virtues inhabiting the upper sections.
In front of this window is the large High Altar upon which are the wooden cross and candlesticks in contrasting dark and light wood designed and made in recent years by a local craftsman, Andrew Pyke, who was trained by the continuing Arts and Crafts craftsmen.

The Nave 

For most of the life of this large, light and spacious church there were no seats of any sort within the main body—within the nave and aisles. This was because churches were built and used as the main community building for the area—the 'holy' part of any church starts at the chancel steps. In this church the ordinary services took place in one of the side chapels or in the chancel, later called 'the choir'; before the nineteenth century there were no choirs and organs in ordinary churches. Any music was either unaccompanied singing or supplied by local people playing a variety of instruments in a gallery above the present vestry.


The nave and aisles accommodated many community activities which are now 'secular'—feasts, meetings, concerts, exhibitions and so on. Rarely would this area be used for a church service, perhaps only at Easter when all Christians are supposed to attend church and when baptisms and confirmations often took place. The nave and aisles are the public part of the building with the pulpit being the focal point. The pulpit-fall, by Beryl Dean, includes colours echoing those in the sanctuary and holy part of this building. These colours are in the hangings behind the altar and in the modern altar-cross and candlesticks which are in contrasting light and dark wood.
The Vestry is in the base of the tower, here a small door opens on to the stone spiral staircase which goes right to the top of this very tall tower. The bell-ringing chamber is immediately above the vestry and above that is the room housing the nineteenth-century clock — a replacement of an earlier clock. Above the clock chamber are the bells which are six in number, the earliest dated 1660, and a small 'Sanctus' bell.
High on the wall of the Vestry is the 'Charities Board' which refers to various endowments and bequests. These include those of Edward Bell who founded the Bell's Almshouses, in the churchyard, and who was instrumental in the foundation of Bell's Grammar School at Newland, John Whitson an Alderman of Bristol who was involved in the Red Maids School in that city, George and Christopher Bond whose benefaction was for keeping clean the church and for looking after the clock and £4.00 yearly to Bell's Almshouses, Henry Hall a Hamburg Merchant, and William Broomwich who left monies for the Bell's Almshouses.
In the vestry are wall monuments erected during the 1863 restoration. The original siting of the monuments is unknown but it is likely to have been on the wall of the north aisle which was extensively restored as part of the restoration. These memorials commemorate local people including those mentioned on the Charities Board. It is here that memorials to Reverend Payler Matthew Proctor, Vicar of Newland for nineteen years, and his family, are placed. These were also, probably, removed from the north aisle. Reverend Proctor died in 1822 and was instrumental in founding Chapels-of-Ease at places like Christchurch, Coleford, Clear-well and Bream, which, later in the nineteenth century, became independent parishes leaving Redbrook as the one remaining Chapel-of-Ease.