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St. Helen’s Church
 

(A brief pen-portrait of the interior)
 

The Tower

 
 
The lower section of the tower and particularly the base may be dated stylistically as early 13th century, being built sometime between AD 1200 and 1276, when it is believed the construction of the Tower, Nave and two Transeptal chapels was completed. There is no doubt that much repair and restoration work; and re-building, has been necessary since the original tower was constructed. An entry in Churchwardens Accounts for 1857 reveals that £422 8s 4d was paid during this year “for work on the tower”. At a Vestry held on 27th day of March 1857 it was recorded:—
“At the same time it was agreed that Mr. St. Aubyn shd. be requested to make working drawings & give specifications for the repair of the Tower.
Ed. HenryLee. Curate”
“At a Vestry held this 29th. day of May 1857, It was agreed that Mr. Wallcott’s tender for the restoration of the tower according to the plans and spcification prepared by Mr. St. Aubyn shd. be accepted, and be proceeded with forthwith.
Ed. HenryLee. Curate”
 
A walled-up doorway is visible externally at the base of the tower on the south aspect. No information or reference to this has been found during present research.
 

The lower section, and particularly the base of the Tower, is likely to be original. The ground stage of the Tower has a rib vault with chalk panels. There are three windows and although these may be replacements of earlier ones the arcading no doubt goes back to the Early English period. There is evidence of medieval colouring on the arcading and on the archway leading into the nave. It would be interesting to know if the rib vault, now daubed with lime, was once coloured. The wooden trap-door is to facilitate the passage of the bells, which fortunately is an infrequent event!

 
Entry to the Tower is now by way of a screen originally came from the Lady Chapel and is the one referred to in the ‘Cliffe Monthly Magazine’ of September 1913 which states “the screen at the Vestry end of the church is fourteenth century and in wonderfully perfect condition.

 
The floor of the base of the tower is laid with 9” x 9” paving bricks with a row of York stone slabs laid in a line from pillar to pillar; the area is now used mainly as a vestry for the choir. The large cupboard standing centrally (and in which the choir keep their robes) has an interesting history. An entry in the Clyffe Register of 1720- 1812 by the Reverend H. R. Lloyd reads:— “The piece of furniture in the Vestry separating the Clergy Vestry from the Choir Vestry and containing one side the Vestments of the Clergy, and on the other the Habits of the Choir, was made by the Rector out of the best parts of the old pews”. For some years after 1958 this piece of furniture stood in the South Transept, but was moved back to the Tower again during the Great Spring Clean of 1972.
 

Around the north and west wall are ledges topped with red quarries. The doorway leading to the turret was obviously higher at one time. It is unlikely that the present door is the original. Certain masonry repairs appear to have been effected with cement (an unfortunate byproduct of the parish’s connection with the cement industry).

 
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