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"Occasionally a project comes along that's just got a great story to go with it. Making the altar table and lectern for St Mary's Church in Monkseaton has been a real highlight of the last few years."


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Geoff machines the old oak pews which are used to create the new altar

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The legs are clamped and glued up

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Geoff and John fine tune the adjustable lectern 

The congregation at St Mary's is active and passionate about their church and the way they worship within the space. A generous donation in memory of a late retired vicar started a project to create a new altar that took almost 2 years from start to finish and involved a series of discussions with many in the congregation.

"We were asked to submit ideas for the design of the new altar table. I knew that Reverend Greenwood had instigated a considerable in depth consultation process and that it was going to be very important to listen to the ideas and concerns of all of the congregation. The first sketches ranged from a quite formal table right through to an organic earthy design but they could see that we were open to working with them and so they awarded us the contract. It was great working with people that were so excited about the opportunity, and responsibility of creating such an important piece. Over many meetings, including speaking in the church to those that had originally had concerns, we settled on an organic design that reflected strong ties with nature and utilised classic joinery that you would see inside the roof of the church."

True to the spirit of the project, the new table was constructed entirely by recycling the old pews and original altar, which had last been consecrated in 1931. Much of the budget had been allocated to the process of stripping the old materials back and making them suitable to be re-worked. There were a few surprises on the way, for example realising that the old pews that had sagged over decades of being sat on could be reused to create the gentle arc on the underside of the altar.

Strong curves were used in the legs as a reference to growth and acted in contrast to the elliptical top. Unlike many household tables, the altar is seen mostly from the side and so as much consideration was given to the view from the congregation as for the vicar leading the service.

"By investing time to build trust we created an important piece of work that reflects the energy of this vibrant church. It was a proud moment to be there as the altar table was re-consecrated in 2012, eighty one years after the original".

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