Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Wedge of Cheese and Duncton

My life is consumed at the moment by thoughts of by thoughts of "floor". Dierdre Waddington, our architect and I are trying get the arrangement of the sanctuary right. We are trying to fit a modern sanctuary into the space of a rather compact Tridentine sanctuary, it is "quarts into pint pots". Whatever we do we can't quite find the right place for the Presidential Chair. In the old days the sedillia was place in the Lady Chapel, which even then didn't quite work.
All Soul's Day Mass said the sanctuary looks as though it is a "wedge of cheese", at the moment it is floored with ply-wood, just so we can make alterations to it.
Dierdre recently visited Duncton which is the other church in our diocese designed by Gilbert Blount. it is far less exhuberant than St Mary Magdalen, and has been treated even more brutally than SMM. What Duncton lacks in fine carvings, it makes up in flooring. Where Blount gave us floorboards, which even in the earliest photographs were covered by a fitted carpet, then by lino stuck down by bitchumen, then latterly by asbestos vinyl tiles but Duncton has the most amazing encaustic tiles, which I want though I suspect we won't be able to afford them, modern ones tend to be much less subtle in their colouring, salvaged one's are like gold dust. What might possible is a combination of ceramic and stone tiles to created a similar though simpler effect. The Indian/Chinese ceramic and stone cutting industry means that at the moment such a floor will be about as expensive as hard wood, the difference is that it will last for centuries, and what Blount has left us with is stable base of piers, perlins, joists and beams.


Richard said...

What about putting the chair to the left of the main altar steps, in the corner formed by the main steps and the side steps?

It would then be facing out rather than across, but it looks like it's either that or right out in the arches to the side chapels.

Malcolm Kemp said...

An Anglican church in central Brighton is currently reaping the costly effects of some ill-advised flooring dating from internal re-ordering in the 1970s. It may be worth your while asking around to find out exactly what to avoid doing. Good luck with it all.

Cheryl said...

What a lovely church you have! You also have such a nice blog to read. I am an American who is currently living overseas with my husband who happens to be a US Marine. I really enjoined your post about the war. It really makes one think. I would love to come and visit your beautiful church one day, God willing. Please pray for my son Blake as he will be making his First Holy Communion on Nov. 17th. I will pray for you as well!

God bless,

Sussex Catholic said...

When I look at the new Sanctuary steps arrangement I can see both what you are trying to achieve and also what is meant by the "wedge of cheese" comment. In my humble view I think you have tried to be over-generous to "potential versus populum Ordinary Form concelebrants" if that phrase is not too obscure. If you look at traditional versus populum altars such as St.Peter's you will find that there is rarely room for more than two concelebrants to stand with the HF, the others tend to stand on the lower levels or to the sides or even remain in their places. I do not think you need overly concern yourself with accommodating multiple concelebrants or facilitating incensation all the way around without "dropping a step" on the way. Thus I would recommend shaving the "wings" of your platform on either side of the altar to be level with the position of the front steps and then continuing the side steps forward until they are at a right angle to the front steps thus creating the traditional sense of platform upon platform. That would also free up space at the sides for servers and for the sedilia as well as allowing for a traditional carpet up the front steps. I agree with your desire for the encaustic tiles but you should settle on a final layout of the steps and platform before embarking upon that. This may be a blessing in disguise if it gives you time to resolve this issue while fund raising for the tiles.

With all good wishes for what is turning out to be a wonderful restoration.

Simon-Peter said...

The cross fleury tile pattern on the last picture is exactly the same as my seminary, which is also woven into many of our vestments! It's great to see it somewhere else

Physiocrat said...

Those are presumably Victorian machine-made encaustic tiles, the colours are of course harsh compared to medieval ones. The overall effect is a bit like Fair Isle knitting.

I seem to recall seeing this sort of tile in flooring shops and they are small enough to be laid on a timber base.

Tanya said...

It looks like the work is coming on well.

Well, good luck wtih the flooring, I will pray you get the funds you need for what you want!

I sent you an email by the way, regarding the possibility of doing another car boot sale for the building fund - I have a lot of things to give away.

nickbris said...

Is it not possible to make it circular? It would probably be safer as at the moment it looks like a bit of a death trap or as they say an accident waiting to happen.

Apart from that the improvements appear to be going well.

Giles said...

I think the chair should not face diagonally but across the sanctuary in the space on the RHS at the base of the steps, the epistle side as was. That would work better if the reworked pulpit, now ambo, was refixed on the gospel side. At my parish church, SMMagdalen in East Hill, Wandsworth, Fr Edwards starts the Gloria at the lectern and then steps back to his chair and, standing,faces across the sanctuary to contine. The sense is that we are all directing our prayer towards the altar.

Bill of L.A. said...

How I wish I were a parishioner, Father. With or without the encaustic tile floor.

Paul, Bedfordshire said...

My thoughts are that, ideally the chair should be located somewhere that keeps symmetry to avoid the risk of dominating the view to the detriment of the altar and Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle to the rear of the altar.

All I can therefore suggest is this: Install raised flooring identical in size and shape to the flooring of the pulpit located in front of the right pillar in the same position in front of the left pillar, would there be room for the chair plus a small stool for altar servers (or Deacon/Subdeacon) either side?

dillydaydream said...

Fr Blake, this link may be of interest.

The factory is in Ironbridge, but the church is in Fulham, and presumably the PP there would be able to cost it for you - and hopefully the price won't be too much out of your league. Elsewhere on the factory site they have at least 2 of the tiles in the Church floor shown (victorian tile/floortile section).

georgem said...

Fr, These links may be useful for future restoration searches.

Dave Carr said...

Encaustic tiles can be made to look old and authentic and indeed modelled from original worn tiles.

Whilst colour matching is not 100% accurate due to changes in allowed pigments, years of wear and different cleaning techniques, you can get very close to it.

Nowadays we don't have the dust presses available in Victorian times which made perfect encaustics, so they are all handmade and tend to look a little older than the shop bought printed versions.

They can also be made quite cost effectively, fixing tends to be more expensive with all the substrate preparation etc.