The Chancel Screen

It is permissible to interrupt the sequence of these chapters* of Ardingly history to record a fact that connects the present with the past.

In August, 1921, the ancient Screen was replaced in its original position at the entrance to the Chancel. It is remembered in this position by one of our oldest parishioners. It was taken down by the Rev. W. P. Hamilton at the restoration of the Church in 1853. He put it in the Belfry, whence it was rescued in a damaged condition by the Rev. J. Bowden, repaired and placed across the Tower Arch.

The Screen is a remarkable one in many ways, and will well repay an afternoon visit when the western sun throws up the details in the way intended by its makers. It is remarkable for its originality and for its architectural features.

Most Screens show a strong family likeness, according to the district in which they are found: so much so that they are commonly classed as the East Anglian or the Devonshire type. But the square heads, the close mullions and the unusual style of the carving on the cross rail of the Ardingly Screen seem to have no near relatives existing.

The peculiarity of its architectural details is that some of them are distinctly 14th Century or Decorated, and some distinctly 15th Century or Perpendicular. They do not merge into one another and show the transition from one style to the other, as is usually the case. The maker of our Screen must have been a man of good sense, who selected what he thought best of both styles and combined them with a sturdy self- confidence independent of fashion.

The Screen has lost its loft : the gallery or platform which it supported and which was entered by the rood staircase still existing in the North wall.

The Rood—the figure of Our Lord upon the Cross—stood on this gallery with St. Mary and St. John on either side. In our Church they appear to have hung from the beam above, in which are visible the mortices.

An order for the removal of images in 1547 led to the destruction of the Rood and its attendant figures. How long afterwards the Gallery remained we have no means of knowing: in some churches their use as singing galleries was continued till quite modern times.

The cresting which now runs along the top of the Screen does not belong there, and is probably the cresting which finished the parapet of the gallery.

Postcard showing interior of St Peter's Church, Ardingly

The Screen has been replaced within an inch of its original position, and the doors open over the Chancel step without any alteration of level. The lower step has been widened for convenience at Weddings and Confirmations and for access to lectern and pulpit. The Choir Stalls have been rearranged, and two brasses which were underneath them have been placed within the Sanctuary. These are those to the two Elizabeth Culpepers—1633-34. Both had been moved several times, and are now as near to the place where they are buried as is possible.

Sept. 23. 1633. “The Ladye Elizabeth Culpeper an olde woman was buried in the chancell 4 foote from ye southe window.” Registers.

In the southern-most panel of the Screen has been placed the following inscription:

“With thanksgiving for the goodness of God and in memory of His servants Wyndham Holgate—1830-1917, Ella Mary Holgate—1833-1904, Clifford Wyndham Holgate—1859-1903, who worshipped within these walls, this Screen is restored to its ancient place by the two remaining members of their family. August, 1921.”

Back to contents

*The original article was published in the Parish Magazine in a regular column that the author was using to talk about the History of Ardingly