The Chancel

The Chancel

The outstanding feature of the chancel it its length, as it is longer than the nave to which it is attached. Note the blocked arcades in the south wall – blocked when the chapel on the south side was demolished.


The eastern part of the chancel is one of the most interesting features of the church. Built by the Normans, it consists of a groined vault, with three deeply –splayed roundhead windows. The splays of the window were decorated in Norman times – probably soon after they were built. They can be seen in the pictures below which show views of the chancel.

      


Above the vault there is obviously a space between the vaulting and the roof, which has given rise to much conjecture. In that space there is quite a large room, access to which can be gained these days only by means of a round window in the outer east wall. What was the purpose of this room? Was it priest’s room to which internal access is no longer possible? Was it in fact a double chancel, such as is found in at least one other church? Or was it merely a space left when the existing roof was extended over that part of the chancel? Modern research seems to indicate the latter but it is an intriguing mystery. The photograph below shows the only access to the space

 


In front of the altar is a very fine set of Laudian alter rails. William Laud, who became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633, decreed that rails should be put before the altar, ‘so thick with pillars that dogs may not get in’. The puritans bitterly apposed the introduction of alter rails and ordered their destruction but for some reason the altar rails in St. Margaret’s have survived. Originally placed on three sides of the altar, the rails were moved to surround the font when the church was restored in 1881. In 1928 they were moved once again this time to their rightful place, north to south in front of the alter, as decreed by Archbishop Laud 300 years before.