Description of St Gabriel’s
You will probably have entered through the door on the north side of the church. As you come in you are in the nave, the main seating area. To your left, at the east end of the nave, you will see the fine wooden screen and beyond that is the chancel and the high altar at which Mass is celebrated every Sunday. To the south of the chancel is the Lady Chapel and in the north aisle of the nave is the chapel of St Nicholas. These are used for weekday celebrations when fewer people are present. During Christmas the Crib is set up in front of the St Nicholas altar and during Eastertide the Easter garden is set up here.
This westernmost bay of the church was only added in 1931. The different colouring of the stone shows where the original building ended. This area was screened off in 2011 to adapt it as a meeting area for social events. The extension which houses a kitchen and lavatories was added at the same time.
The stained glass in the great central window in the west wall was installed between 1949 and 1959. It depicts a selection of early Celtic saints. The windows at the west end of the two aisles were given in 1967 and 1972 in memory of members of the Excell family and Maria King.
The stained glass window at the east end of the north aisle is the memorial window to Fr Williams, vicar from 1910 to 1949, who played a major part in the development of the parish tradition.
The font in the centre of the south aisle was installed in 1931, although its design is pure medieval. It was designed by Frank E. Howard (1888-1934), a prolific designer of church furnishings and an authority on medieval church woodwork. He also designed the high altar with its reredos and the choir stalls.
Stations of the Cross
All round the walls of the nave you can see carved panels, fourteen in all, which mark incidents in the final hours of our Lord’s life from when he was condemned to death until he was laid to rest in the tomb. They were donated by members of the congregation between 1928 and 1933 and replaced a previous temporary set that was just brought out when required. They are the work of Sister Dorina of the Sisters of the Church, an Anglican order which at that time had a house in Kilburn, London. Similar sets can be found in a number of other churches, especially in the London area, such as St Silas (Kentish Town) or St Gabriel (North Acton). In many cases they have been coloured but the set in St Gabriel’s remains in its original sepia state.
Following the Stations of the Cross is a devotion that is regularly observed in St Gabriel’s during Lent and Passiontide.
The nave is divided from the chancel by a very fine wooden screen which was given in 1914. It is the work of Geoffry Lucas (1872-1947), an architect who is better known for his connection with the Garden City movement of the early twentieth century. It is similar to, but rather more elaborate than a similar screen which Lucas designed for St Edmund’s church, Downham Market, Norfolk in 1912. The figures of Christ on the cross, with Mary and John on either side, were added in 1917. The pulpit was given by Colonel Morgan in 1898. As described on the history page, Morgan was a generous benefactor of the church.
Just in front of the screen are the seats which the celebrant and the sacred ministers occupy during the first part of the Mass. The celebrant’s chair in the centre is of English oak, and was made in about 1860 using a late medieval design known as the Glastonbury chair.
Also in front of the screen is an icon depicting Christ Pantocrator (from the Greek ‘Lord of All’). It was written by the Revd Susan Mobberley and presented in 2012 by Fr Brian & Monica Jones presented in thanksgiving for Fr Brian’s 50th anniversary of priesthood.
The high altar, with the gilt and painted reredos behind it, was installed in 1920 as a memorial to the men of the parish who lost their lives in the Great War. The designer was F. E. Howard. He also designed the choir stalls (1928) and the font (1931).
In the centre of the reredos is the Crucifixion with Our Lady and Saint John on either side of the crucified Christ. The figures in the flanking panels on the north (left-hand) side are Saint George, Saint Patrick, Saint David; and on the other side Saint Andrew, Saint Nicholas and Saint Michael. The patron saints of the four countries of the United Kingdom, together with the patron saint of sailors and the warrior angel form an appropriate selection of saints for a war memorial. The symbol of each saint appears beside them on a shield in a panel.
The east window was given in 1925. It is based on the early Christian hymn of praise, the Te Deum. The most prominent figures are the archangels Gabriel (left) and Michael (right). The wooden panels on either side of the altar and the green and white marble steps were added in 1912 as a memorial to the much loved second vicar, John Pollock (1890-1911). The organ, by Conacher & Co of Huddersfield, was installed in 1892, although the present organ case dates from 1923; it was refurbished with the aid of a Heritage Lottery Fund grant in 2003.
The screen around the Lady Chapel also formed part of the Great War war memorial and was designed by F. E. Howard. The names of those from the parish who were killed in the war are carved on the panels facing the nave. The altar in this chapel was originally the high altar. It is probably the work of the Revd John David Davies, the Rector of Cheriton between 1860 and 1911, a distinguished local historian and a friend of Colonel Morgan who shared his antiquarian and local history interests.
Note the gilded wooden statues of the four archangels, Gabriel, Michael, Raphael and Uriel on the reredos behind the altar. The windows in the Lady Chapel are a memorial to Colonel Morgan’s brother, Captain Thomas Morgan, who died in 1925.
The Blessed Sacrament is reserved in this chapel so that Holy Communion may always be taken to the sick whenever it is needed. The tabernacle was installed in 1925 when St Gabriel’s was one of only a handful of Anglican churches in Wales where the Blessed Sacrament was permanently reserved.
At the entrance to this chapel there is an unpainted wooden statue of Mary holding the infant Jesus. It is believed to have originated on the continent. The two episcopal chairs nearby are also very probably the work of Fr Davies.