Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Renovations in Action: Saint Mary Magdalen, Brighton, UK

We have shown readers Fr. Ray Blake's handsome gothic revival church of St. Mary Magdalen in Brighton before. Many readers may not realize, but Fr. Blake has recently begun to undertake some restoration work in his parish that was approved by the Historic Churches Committee in Britain. Restoration work has now begun.

It is rather interesting following the work that is going on here and I imagine it must be something of an archeologically exciting time as they do not precisely know what they will uncover, or what original elements of the church and its decoration they may find.

Here is the church plan as it exists:

Here is the renovation that is proceeding as we speak:

So, what does this show you? The sanctuary is being restored to its original dimensions, the altar is being moved back deeper into the sanctuary, the altar is being placed upon a predella (steps) as is traditional, the baptismal font is being moved to the traditional placement at the back of the church, the flooring that was covered by lino is being restored, the organ is being put in the organ loft and an improvised confessional is being removed which will unobscure some Hardman windows.

Here are a few highlights so far from Fr. Blake's site.

"...went down into the depths of the crypt today... We found the pillar that used to be used for the statue of our Glorious Patron and this piece of stone beautifully gilded, I don't know what it was for, I presume it was the base for the pulpit though it is not quite in keeping with carving elsewhere in the Church."

"...we demolished an old confessional which seems to have been made up of old wardrobes. It is very rarely used and obscures one of our Hardman windows, which are one of the treasures of our Church... it hasn't been seen properly for over fifty years."

"Here is the original colour scheme, the stone unpainted, the plaster whitewashed with a little restrained stencilling."

(A general thought: the use of stencilling to add additional elements of pattern, colour and ornament -- not to mention Christian symbolism -- is rather under-utilized as a consideration today I think.)

"It took about two and half hours to get rid of the lino and pull up the nails... you can see traces of an interior porch, the foundations of the font and pulpit and even holes for the original lighting system, gasoleers, which would have emerged from the floor... There are one or two metal plates around that would have had a purpose which is now forgotten."

The NLM will certainly keep you posted as the work continues.

I would note that Fr. Blake's parish could use donations to help pay for these worthwhile restorations.

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