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Many Victorian churches look very similar from the outside with few distinguishing features. The real beauty of St Martin's is found inside. It is at once apparent when you enter the inner doors and your eye is drawn to the hanging rood and the chancel (right) whose entrance it marks. The beauty of the proportions can be seen as your eye is drawn towards the focus of the church's main activity, the celebration of Holy Communion, when our hearts and minds are lifted to God as we gather in his name in obedience to Christ's command.
The area where the central act of communion is celebrated, the sanctuary (left), is marked off by a simple rail. The back wall consists of a number of walls curving round in a rough apse. This traditional aspect of church architecture provides a semi-recess for the altar, something that was more obvious when the altar was against the wall rather than having been brought forward a short distance. Since the priest would then have been facing away from the congregation for the consecration of the bread and wine this feature would have helped reflect his voice back towards them.
The High Altar (right) is a relatively simple wooden table. Generally the front face has a frontal whose dominant colour as appropriate to the Church's liturgical season. The picture shows the green frontal used during most of the year, so-called Ordinary Time which is kept when there isn't a particular feast or other season. White is used for times of celebration such as Christmas and Easter, as well as when we remember those renowned for their faith. Red rarely appears. It is used on Palm Sunday, when we remember Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem a few days before his crucifixion, and Pentecost, or Whitsunday, when we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit on Jesus's disciples. The other time it is used is when we remember those who died rather than deny their faith in Christ. Purple is the other colour used in the Church's year. It marks times of spiritual preparation in Advent and Lent as we prepare for the great feasts of Christmas and Easter that are to follow.
Near to the entrance to the chancel is a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary (left) holding the Christ child. Such a statue is frequently called a Madonna and child. The workmanship of this particular statue is quite fine and widely admired.
To one side of the chancel is a small chapel (right) dedicated in honour of St Mary. One of the titles frequently accorded her is "Our Lady" which is why a chapel with that dedication is generally called a Lady Chapel. This space is where the organ was installed in 1900 (music until then being provided by a harmonium) with the vestry occupying the corresponding space at the end of the North aisle. Two years later the building of the vestries at the Two years later the present vestries were added, outside the original building, and the organ was moved into the vacated space. Because of its small size, and the steps that lead up to it, this chapel is generally used only once a month when the Cell of the Society of Our Lady of Walsingham meets and has their mass there. This enabled the space to be converted to its proper use, the furnishings being provided by members of the congregation. General Toker made the altar while Mr McDonald made the kneeling desks. Mrs Francis and the Revd F J Lyall supplied the curcifix and candle-sticks for the altar.
At the other end of the church from the sanctuary and the High Altar is another apse called the Baptistry. This contains the font used for baptisms. While all Church of England churches have a font it is not always a stone structure and may only be brought out when there are baptisms to perform. Baptistries such as the one in St Martin's are relatively rare in parish churches. It is placed here, by the main entrance to the church, because baptism marks someone's becoming a member of the Church. Its location also means that when there is a funeral the coffin is carried out past the font, a reminder to the bereaved and to the other mourners, that we place our trust in the faith expressed by and in our baptism.
The main body of the church shows few changes from when it was orginally designed, which helps maintain its architectural integrity. One change that has been made is the creation of a chapel in the North Transept. This is marked off from the body of the church by wooden partitions and was intended as a memorial to those from the parish and congregation who died in the Second World War. Delays in raising the money gave time for more thought on this. Accordingly it was dedicated in memory of all the members of the parish who had died, not just those who had been killed on active service. The names of many of them are recorded in the Memorial Book kept in this chapel. Generally it is referred to as the Memorial Chapel but it is dedicated in honour of All Souls. It is the location of the war memorial (right). Research has revealed details of most of the names recorded on the memorial and can be found here.
High in one corner of the church, in a glass-fronted wooden frame, is a picture (right) that is a bit of a mystery. The subject-matter is clear, the ascension of Our Lord when he left the 11 remaining disciples to return to heaven. However the work is clearly unfinished with many of the details still to be filled in. The picture's size and shape suggest that it was intended as an altar-piece to go behind the High Altar. There is no record of any such work having been completed or installed. It may be that such a work of art was considered at some time and this sketch or cartoon was produced to give an impression of the finished work. We can only assume that the project was then abandoned, for whatever reason, and this is all we have left as evidence of it.
The size of the church means there is plenty of room for flower arrangements that fit in with the surroundings either in the body of the church (left) or in the sanctuary (right). These displays are created and maintained by volnteers from within the congregation as part of their support for the church. During Advent and Lent we do not have flowers in church. This reminds us to use these seasons for reflection in preparation for the coming feast, Christmas and Easter respectively. By not having flowers in church in the weeks leading up to these major festivals the displays created to adorn the celebrations are appreciated even more.
At special seasons of the year there can be temporary reminders of the season in places which are normally empty. An example is this gathered display (left) at our Harvest Festival. More pictures of the stained glass windows can be seen here while pictures of some of our members and our various activities are here.