Church Fittings

The fittings of St Luke’s were assembled over quite a long period, several of them the gifts of individual members of the congregation. A printed description of the church datable to the period after the completion of the chancel and temporary nave shows that some items given later were part of a coherent scheme conceived at the outset. The focal point of the church, hanging on the east wall above the altar table, was the large oil painting of the Last Supper by Francesco Albano, which W.J. Thompson had donated. Considerable thought was given to the framing and setting of the painting, but in the end it was simply hung against a dark blue curtain suspended from the lower sill of the east window. The window itself, consisting of three long lancets, was intended to be filled with stained glass depicting the Ascension. Thus painting and window were to be thematically linked. The glass was eventually installed in 1913, made by J. Egan of Wardour Street, a church furnisher who had been supplying minor items for the church from the beginning. This unity at the east end was disrupted in 1926, when the then vicar, the Rev. C.R.E. Yates, installed an English altar, with riddle posts and curtains, and removed the painting to its present position on the north wall of the chancel. However, as Dr Gabriele Finaldi of The National Gallery noted in a lecture given in St Luke’s in October 2000, the painting does not treat the subject of the Last Supper for its eucharistic significance, but rather as a drama. Thus it was probably originally painted, in Italy in the early 17th century, for a rich art collector, not for a church.The unusual altar rails are the only fitting designed by the original architect, J.T. Lee. They are of bronzed beaten metal and represent conventionalized oak trees, eight for symmetry’s sake, not seven. Similar rails in the Lady Chapel, of vine, palm, pomegranate, etc., were given c. 1952. The three square panels within the large blank arch on the north side of the chancel were intended to be filled with reliefs of similar beaten metal representing demi-figures of the three archangels, Raphael, as a pilgrim with a shield depicting Tobias, Michael in armour, and Gabriel with a lily, and a shield alluding to his Annunciation to the Virgin Mary. These have never been executed, and in their place are sketch designs for them, in white chalk on brown paper. The heraldic shields on the chancel and nave roofs appear in the architect’s drawings. Those in the chancel must have been executed at once, as they refer to the diocese of Canterbury, in which Sevenoaks lay until its transfer to Rochester diocese in 1905. Those in the nave date from 1909. The late Ronald Peal identified the arms depicted as follows, reading from east to west:Chancel north side: See of Canterbury impaling Archbishop Randall Davidson County of Kent Priory of Dover impaling William Walsh, Bishop of Dover City of Canterbury Chancel south side: Dover/Walsh Borough of Maidstone Canterbury/Davidson Town of Sevenoaks Nave north side: Diocese of Rochester Unidentified Nave south side: Bishop |.R. Harmer of Rochester Unidentified The ironwork (‘ferramenta’) of the windows is unusual, forming two open shields in each light. This was to accommodate devices in stained glass which were never carried out. The printed description mentioned above explains what was intended. ‘In the Transept: (1) The device of St Augustine, the Baptism of St Ethelbert: (2) of St Nicholas, the Saint as patron of Sailors quelling a storm; (3) of St Luke, the Winged Ox; (4) of St Mary, the Lily and Celestial Crown. ‘In the windows over the screen to the Chapel, the emblems of the four Latin Doctors of the Church; and in the four two-light clerestory windows of the Chancel, the emblems of the Virtues.’The nave windows have similar ferramenta but what devices, if any, were intended here is not known. It is regrettable that none of this glass was installed, as it would have enhanced both the colour and the significance of the interior without unduly reducing its illumination. The font, of heavily mottled alabaster, is simply designed with a plain octagonal bowl, and IHS in relief on the eastern face. It was given in 1908, but was re-sited in the western extension in 1958 (see below). The pulpit is of timber and early 17th century in date. It stood in Lynsted church, near Faversham, until 1843, when it was removed during a restoration there. The story of its eventual acquisition for St Luke’s in 1912 by Mrs H.P. Thompson from an antique dealer in Crowborough is told in H.W. Standen’s book. The pulpit was at first set up at the south end of the chancel steps, where it remained until 1958. The decorative character of the pulpit set the tone for the design of the choir stalls, commissioned from Potter & Harvey in 1913. North and south choir stalls to their design were made by Wiltshire’s, who submitted their bill in the spring of 1915. The reader’s desk, at the north-west corner of the chancel, is uniform with the stalls. The lectern, supported on a near life-size angel, which made a vivid impression on many younger members of the congregation, was removed in 1958.