The Reredos from St. John's Church
The reredos (behind the altar in St. Wilfrid’s Church) came from St. John’s, London Rd. prior to the demolition of the church. The reredos was erected as a war memorial by public subscription following a request for a faculty dated 24 April, 1919 from H.J. Clayton, vicar of Bognor.
The figures represent from left to right St George for soldiers, St. Joan of Arc for women and France, St. Nicholas for sailors, The Baptist for the church dedication, St. Mary Magdalene for the mother church in South Bersted and St. Wilfrid for the daughter church (as it was then) in Victoria Drive.
It is interesting that the drawing by the designer, F.G. Howard of Oxford is dated 1918. As this drawing incorrectly shows the shield of Wilfrid with 7 mascles (lozenges) rather than three estoiles (suns), and as the church when dedicated in 1910 used the correct shield with three estoiles, then the inference is that the ‘time window’ for when the shield changed in the Parish was between 1910 and 1918. Further information on the heraldry aspects.
Note also that the centre display is completely different to the current carving.
The original (drawing left below) was a traditional Transfiguration scene (the above photograph and centre below taken on the 25 May, 1924 confirms this) and the current patriotic view with Christ holding the banner of St. George appeared in 1934 - see right picture below below.
This followed a meeting of the PCC held on 20th February 1934 when it was resolved to apply for a faculty to remove the central panel (Transfiguration Group) and replace it by a Resurrection Group and also to erect over the reredos a Triptych representing our Lord in Glory in accordance with the designs prepared by Mr. F. E. Howard of Polestead, Boar's Hill, Oxford. The faculty was granted on 4th April 1934 (WSRO ref 4/14).
Removal of the Reredos from St. John's to St. Wilfrid's Church
St. John’s Church in London Road was demolished in 1972, after St. Wilfrid’s had been designated the Parish Church of Bognor Regis. Some of the fixtures and fittings were destroyed, some sold off, and others transferred to St. Wilfrid’s including the reredos. The installation of the reredos complete with the triptych added in 1934 was not possible under the bronze sculpture of Christ Ascendant by Uli Nyptsch erected in 1964 and initially the reredos was placed under the sculpture without the canopy. There followed a series of discussions to decide the fate of the sculpture which led to its move into the south transept in 1977.
A detailed research of all faculties applied for by St. Wilfrid's church has failed to reveal one for putting in place the reredos in the church and it has been concluded that the act, which led eventually to the removal of the sculpture from the east wall by one of Britain's most celebrated artists, was done without one. If this was the case, then the addition would not have been legalised until the faculty was granted in 1988 for the raising of the reredos by six inches so as not to be masked by the High Altar.
WSRO ref. Par 24/4/26 deals with the disposal of items from St. John's Church. Included in a list headed ‘Items for reference to Archdeacon’ was: Reredos and plaque at Main Altar. Query, removal to St. Wilfrid’s - juxtaposition with figure of Ascended Christ on East Wall.
WSRO ref. Par 24/14/6. From minutes of a PCC meeting on 24th November 1971: ‘Reredos. After discussion of any clash between the reredos and the figure on the East wall, it was decided that the reredos should be brought over and put on the wall as it now is, and that subsequently, if necessary, the figure could be raised or removed. The secretaries were instructed to write to Mr Warner requesting him to attend to this without delay.’
WSRO ref. Par 24/14/6. From minutes of a PCC meeting on 3rd July 1972: ‘Mr Peal raised the question of the completion of the reredos, feeling that it was high time that we informed the congregation of our intentions, in view of their answers to the recent questionnaire. The Vicar said that he thought we should await a decision on the completion of the church, and this view was generally accepted.’
WSRO ref. Acc. 12902. From faculty, granted on 7th March 1977: [This was an application for permission to remove the figure of the Ascended Christ from the East Wall, to enable the reredos transferred from St. John’s in 1971 to be completed by the addition of its canopy.]
Resolution proposed by Mr Minns seconded by Mr Wing and carried unanimously, 1st November 1976 “That the figure of the Ascended Christ be removed from the East wall and the Reredos completed by the addition of its canopy. Figure to be hung on the West Wall when completed if suitable.’
A faculty granted on 11th May 1988 gave permission, inter alia, for the raising of the reredos by six inches, ‘so as not to be masked by the High Altar'.
Letter from Rev. H.J. Clayton, Vicar of St. John’s Church to Chancellor G. Ashley Tyacke on 24th April, 1919 requesting a faculty to erect a reredos as a war memorial
At a vestry meeting held on the 21 inst. it was unanimously agreed to apply to the Chancellor for a faculty to erect a reredos as a war memorial in St. John's Church. The reredos has been designed by Mr. F. G. Howard of Oxford. It will be of wood and coloured and gilded, together with four riddel posts surmounted by carved wooden angels. The riddel rods on the north and south sides can be made detachable so as to allow the so-called 'North End Position' to be taken. The figures on the reredos are (1) In the centre, the Transfiguration, (2) On the South Side St Mary Magdalen, The Baptist and St. Wilfrid, i.e. in memory of Bersted, our mother, our own dedication, and our daughter church. (3) On the north side St. George for soldiers, St. Nicholas for sailors, and Joan of Arc for women and France. I hope the Chancellor will feel no difficulty about this. If he does, St. Martin can be substituted, but the figure is the gift of our Girl Guides, and I believe Queen Victoria has already appeared on reredoses.
We do not propose erecting the triptych over the reredos, at all events at present. The cost of the work is estimated at £350, to be raised by subscriptions, and of this sum £280 has already been given or promised.
We are anxious to get the carving of the figures put in hand as soon as possible, as prices are rising in an alarming fashion.
I am forwarding herewith Mr. Howard's design. The frontals are ornamental merely.
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