In our early talks with Monsignor Curry we put forward the idea that instead of making the wooden furniture large, grand, and heavy, we should make it modest, humble, and light. In the background was our shared love of simple 'bodged' (i.e. greenwood) furniture which had been forged from several projects arising from Bodging Milano in 2010, and then developing this classic English vernacular.
The choice of timber proved difficult, with many views being expressed, however we were keen to use home-grown timber, For a long time, impressed by its ‘green’ credentials, we pushed the idea of using English Ash from Herefordshire. However, due to the size of the Sanctuary it was felt that the designs would be lost and that a deeper colour was required to stand out within this large space, In the end we settled on English Oak from a managed plantation in Suffolk.This was given an ebonized finish with the application of a black stain made from vinegar and rusty nails, which reacts with the natural tannin in the Oak. We felt that this itself had religious significance - referencing the Crucifixion - and at the same time seeming a wonderful solution to help the pieces stand out, and to give them a richness and authority.
The Warwickshire workshop of Sitting Firm Chairmakers was our choice for the making of all the wooden furniture. Having worked with them previously, we both knew that they have the craft skills, the equipment, and the facilities for steam-bending, adzing, and turning, that are needed for this type of furniture.
These are the chairs for the clergy, traditionally with the centre seat having more presence.
Initially we had the idea of combining these into a triple-seat 'bench', and even went as far as making a mock-up of this. We tried it out in the Church and the general view was that it was interesting, but it didn't work. So we went back to the idea of three separate chairs, the middle one being just a little bit higher and wider. The aesthetic is deliberately 'modest', which derives from our joint experiences with greenwood furniture-making.
A small lectern is needed for the presiding clergy to use for notices and less important readings. This needs to be lightweight so that it can be easily moved.
A pair of side (or 'Credence') tables are useful against the walls on either side of the Sanctuary for the Servers to use during Holy Mass.
Choir Benches and Prayer Kneelers
On either side of the Sanctuary are two alcoves which divide the main Church from two side chapels. Here are benches and prayer kneelers for the members of the choir. Initially, taking our lead from what was already there we designed a pair of benches for each alcove, however an inspired parishioner suggested that we should make two long benches, one for each side. The kneelers are also made in one long length for each side.
The finely stitched leather pads for the kneelers were master by master-craftsman Sten Tromans at Stenraft in Walsall, the home of leather.