High Altar

The High Altar
The High Altar
Altar crucifix
Altar crucifix
High Mass
High Mass
Altar detail
Altar detail

Herbert Ewart gives a description of the original High Altar in his 'Sketch of a Little Church Now 50 Years Old'.

A large stone crucifix, flanked by statues of Saints Mary and John, occupied the centre. The figures as far as they went were quite good, but the same cannot be said of the canopy, which, of poor Gothic design, was rather aptly compared to St Pancras Railway Station.... The Altar itself was in those days a wooden structure, painted in three panels; in the centre, the Lamb as described in the Apocalypse; on either side, each in its panel, an adoring angel swinging a censer.

When St Mary's became a parish in its own right in 1909 the first Vicar, Fr Cyril Howell, commissioned Sidney Gambier Parry to replace the reredos. He installed an arch in the Elizabethan style in dark wood with strapwork cresting and, above, a sunburst device. He retained the cross and the figures.

Fr Howell's successor, Fr Humphrey Whitby, immediately commissioned Martin Travers to carry our further work. He introduced a sarcophagus altar of gilded wood incorporating a gradine and a domed and gilded tabernacle and six baroque candlesticks (which have since been replaced by close copies). In 1923 Travers was asked to adapt the reredos as a memorial to Fr Howell. He retained the arch and strapwork cresting of Gambier Parry but removed Saints Mary and John and put in a new crucifix.

In 1934 Goodhart-Rendel added the volutes at the side and the cartouche of the Coronation of Our Lady.

In later years a parish priest, concerned at the state of the gold and silver gilt, took it upon himself to 'restore' the High Altar with the aid of spray paint with the dreadful results that can be seen today. It is hoped to regild the altar once funds are available and any contributions towards this work will be most gratefully received.