The Choir Stalls - Cliffe History

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The Choir Stalls

The choir stalls are quite elaborate for a village church, although only three on either side appear truly ancient. Originally there were four on Decani and two on Cantons side. Renovation has been effected on most and there have been replacements and additions.
Early in 1873 the Reverend H. R. Lloyd made a purchase of “some handsome oak poppy-headed benches from an Augustine Priory in Leicestershire”.
These were worked up into the new Choir seats. The old Choir seats originally consisted of six ancient oak stalls with misereres, with desks of painted deal; and the other seats were of the same poor material. The four new oak stalls to match the ancient ones, and all the old fittings were cleared away, and the choir stalls presented an appearance well suited to the fabric of the Chancel, and far more becoming the worship of Almighty God than did the insufficient, and partly decayed, furniture that was removed.
There are now, on the South side besides the Rector’s stall, five stalls for Choir-men and a bench with desk for eight boys. On the North side of the Church, besides a stall for an Assistant Curate, there are now three stalls for men and a bench and desk for six boys. The carved tracery on the front of the boys’ desks was designed after the tracery of the lower part of the ancient rood screen. All the new Choir stalls and seats are of English oak given by the Rector for that purpose. The cost of the whole work, including the lights and the oak poppy-head benches, some of which were worked in, was not less than £140 according to the reports at the time.
Two further stalls for men on the north side and an extension to the bench (to match that on the south side) for the boys were added after the removal of the old organ from the chancel in 1903. This work, along with general renovation of these stalls, was done by Messrs. West of Rochester, at a cost of £39.
All of the seats of the back stalls are misericords (four of which are shown below), and were so designed as to afford support to elderly and infirm priests and monks incapable of standing for long periods during Divine worship and the many Offices that were said in ancient times. The fact that we find such seats here supports other evidence that dignitaries of the Church met here from time to time, as the monks of Christ Church Canterbury did.
Four of the misericords that can be found below the seating in the choir stalls.

The brass pricket candle-lights were restored to their present position in the Choir during the early summer of 1972, having previously been stored away since the beginning of the war in 1939. The origin and date of these lights is not known although the Reverend H. R. Lloyd could have been referring to them in 1874 when he wrote “As - regards lighting the church I have presented four 6 - light coronæ, and many 4 - light standards for use in the choir and nave”. We know that oil lamps were subsequently used in the nave but these candle lights were the only lighting in the Choir until electricity came in 1934. In modern times the luxury of candlelight is something we indulge in just two or three times a year — at the Midnight Mass of the Holy Nativity, on the occasion of a Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols and at Harvest Evensong. Between the period from 1939, some were used occasionally for the Lightbearers’ Services. There are forty-four candle holders. Willing hands can still be found to clean the brass!
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