Built in the 1960's, the East Thornbury church cannot be said to embrace any particular architectural style. The building is rectangular, wide, the ceiling is rather low; the interior walls partly rendered and painted, partly exposed brick. The sanctuary is part of the main structure, rather than a separate space, although well-elevated on steps. Visually, the principal difficulty was that the sanctuary appeared a small and ill-defined area within a much larger space and not the focal point of the church, as it ought to have been. The original timber High altar had been dismantled, but its components re-used.
The Studio recommended various improvements, which were carried out in conjunction with a local architect and tradesmen. These are as follows :
Reconfiguration of reredos
A new treatment of the reredos was crucial to the success of the work to enhance the church visually. A brick reredos, painted a subdued yellow, was located in a slightly-recessed wall. The recessed wall was painted anew in a burgundy colour, whilst the reredos was changed from yellow to an ivory colour; this ivory colour was also used for the repainting of the sanctuary walls. Flanking the recessed wall, decorative work was carried out along the full height of the sanctuary wall, and framed by a new structure of timber. This work effectively expanded the width of the reredos and made it appear more three-dimensional. A timber panelwork dado - a remnant of the removed High altar - was modified, reducing its ungainly width to correspond to the width of the altar. Lastly, a peculiar arrangement whereby the tabernacle was embedded into the brick reredos at the foot of the prominent Crucifix was changed by lowering the tabernacle to be contiguous with the panelwork.
Creation of a predella and re-siting of altar
A partial re-instatement of the High altar timber predella (altar step) took place on which the altar was placed. Carpet was removed from this section of the sanctuary floor and parquetry was installed. The altar was re-sited to be directly beneath the tester or canopy which was part of the original High altar arrangements. This allowed the altar to be illuminated by lights in the canopy.
Repainting of sanctuary walls
A feature wall running the full-length of the building was of untreated brick. In association with the installation of timber posts to demark the sanctuary visually from the nave, the sanctuary section of that feature wall was painted ivory-white, along with the adjacent sanctuary walls.
In making recommendations for the redecoration of Holy Spirit Church, Thornbury East, the Saint Bede Studio made no attempt to impose a pseudo-Classical or pseudo-Gothic makeover. Instead, a simple treatment which enhanced the liturgical appointments of the building was successfully carried out. The two photographs above, shewing before and after, illustrate everything described above.
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