THE CHANCEL was totally rebuilt during the restoration of 1855-61. It is similar to the finest of chancels you would have found in a medieval church before the Reformation. The architect who was commissioned with carrying out the work was Philip Boyce of Cheltenham whose brilliant design was accepted for display at The Royal Academy Exhibition of 1856. The decorative carving including the pulpit was done by the sculptor Henry Earp (brother of the more famous Thomas) and also the young Benjamin Grassby. Many animals, beasts and flowers can be seen around the chancel walls including the crowned pelican shown on the left.
A small heart-shaped brass, in memory of Robert Alen a former Vicar who died in 1487, is fixed on the south wall of the chancel. It would have been on the slab that marked his grave in the former chancel that was demolished. The inscription reads: ‘Prost tenebras spero lucem: Laus deo: neo’ – which translates as ‘After the shadows I hope for light. Praise be to God.’
On the north wall is an Easter Sepulchre with on the back wall a dedicatory inscription to the Reverend Jonathan Dawson, in whose memory the complete restoration was carried out at the expense of his widow Catherine Alice, whose father the Reverend George Pearse was Vicar of Martham at that time.
Here is the inscription in Latin and the English translation:
dedit ad domini optimi maximi gloriam et in memoriam mariti amantissimi viri reverendi artium magistri e collegio exoniense inter Oxonienses qui 29 (viginti nono) die January 1855 annos 34 natus apud Rollesby at Rollesby obiit et juxta hunc locum orientem versus extra muros conditus iacet a Catherina Allicia Dawson uxore ejus sacrarium hoc erectum est et tota ecclesia renovata anno salutis 1855 (quinquaginta quinto) inceptum est opus anno 1861 finitum
“To the Glory of the Lord, the best, the greatest and in memory of a very loving husband the Reverend Gentleman Jonathon Dawson, Master of Arts from Exeter College one of the Oxford Colleges who died on the 29th day of January 1855 aged 34 years at Rollesby and near this place facing east outside the walls lies buried. By Catherine Alice Dawson his wife this sanctuary was built and the whole church restored. In the 1855th year of salvation the work was begun. In the year 1861 it was finished.”
Also in the Easter Sepulchre you will find the coat of arms of the Dawson and Pearse family as follows: Arg., a chevron gules between, in chief three martlets and in the base a cross moline sable, Dawson: impaling. Vert, a bend cotised or, Pearse. Crest, a nag’s head couped fretty. To the memory of the Rev. Johnathan Dawson, A.M.
(The busts of the Rev Jonathan Dawson and his wife by Holme Cardwell are not part of the original design but have been placed there in more recent times. Subsequently, Catherine Dawson married again and became Mrs Longley.)
The stained glass of the great east window of the chancel was installed during the rebuilding of the chancel in 1855-61. It is by Hardman & Co. of Birmingham. Depicted are scenes from the life of Christ, with the Ascension in the centre. All of the other chancel windows installed in later years are also by Hardman and Co., and were given by members of the families of Jonathan Dawson and George Pearse.
The iron work chancel screen was also made by Hardman & Co.
Angels on the Chancel Arch
The angels each side of the chancel arch hold a chalice and paten.
Angels on the Chancel Roof
Beginning by the chancel arch you see on the north side:
An angel swinging a censor.
An angel with a shawm.
An angel playing a lute.
An angel blowing a ram’s horn.
On the south side is:
An angel swinging a censor.
An angel holding a viol.
An angel playing an accordion.
An angel playing a harp.
THE VAULTED SOUTH PORCH with a parvise room above protects a fine south doorway with its original heavy oak door still with its original ironwork and some of its wooden tracery. Inspect it closely and you will be able to compare the original tracery with that replaced during the Victorian restoration.