By early August, with the removal of the Noack façade, the time had come to reconfigure the Chancel furniture.
There were many elements that needed modification in the Chancel, not just for the organist, but the choir and clergy as well. The front row of the choir stalls on the south side were moved so close together in the 1980’s, that it was extremely uncomfortable to sit in this row (and forget about kneeling!); the organ console had to be moved from the south to the north side; seating capacity, seating usefulness, and sight-lines needed to be optimized; the lack of symmetry between the stalls needed correction; the center aisle needed to remain as wide as possible, yet the reading desks should act as safety rails for congregants en route to the altar rail; and, above all, it had to look like Henry Vaughan just left the building.
The key to the whole equation was flipping the furniture from one side to the other. Now that the space for the organ console niche was prepared, the platforming could be modified. The old platforming was not level on either side, and was of less than stellar construction, so it was decided to make new platforming. The beautiful (and thick!) original oak flooring was salvaged and reused as much as possible.
Some delicate work was required to modify the enormous old wall panel that would frame the newly reclaimed space on the north side.
This beautiful woodwork was superbly constructed and required a careful hand to ensure it would be structurally sound. The removal of the back panelling allows for the beautiful tracery to be even more eye-catching. Thankfully, the removal of the back panels was a fairly simple affair. The answer to the question of what to do with the long descending trim in between the three removed panels was quickly found in the reredos. We had some original tracery that was a part of the lost screen formerly separating the chapel and chancel. So it was decided to use two of the rosettes from a damaged panel to mimic the ‘finial’ on the reredos. See pictures below.
With the staining now complete for the flooring and niche, the furniture was ready to be placed back into the Chancel.
To return symmetry to the Chancel, and adequate space for those who inhabit these seats, the previously luxuriously spaced back row of choir stalls was reduced, and the space divided to achieve the necessary result.
The front row reading desks had a curious shelf for books, instead of the more usual rack. This shelf hit one’s knees. The solution was to modify the shelf to become a more normal book rack in keeping with the rest of the church. This also provided the opportunity to provide those in the front row with discreet cup holders.
The stalls all came back together in a whirlwind on September 7th and 8th, and a massive cleaning job then ensued!
Once all of the work was complete, the New Holland Furniture Company, who will be making the organ cases, also stopped by to double check measurements.
Hopefully Mr. Vaughan would approve.
Here’s a before and after: