Farm Street Church restoration

Farm St Church sanctuary
The current altar at Farm St

As part of a continuing programme of restoration the front facing altar at Farm Street Church will be replaced with a new one carved of stone.

This new development comes after the successful restoration of the colours and gold leaf to the Pugin high altar at the back of the sanctuary. Plans have been approved by the Historic Churches Committee and renovation will begin after Easter.

The restoration will not only give the sanctuary a fresh look, it will also allow people to see the Pugin high altar which is currently obscured.

Parish Priest, Fr Andrew Cameron-Mowat SJ, explained why it was necessary to replace the front altar: 

“It may look alright but it’s actually constructed from breeze blocks and fibre glass which are not really sufficiently worthy materials for the main fixed altar in a church. We are removing the fibreglass and creating a new one out of stone.

“Also the dimensions of the current altar are too large for the space. So in terms of the proportion it’s too wide, and for getting around the altar it’s too deep – it gets rather complicated going around the altar because it is on two steps so you’re constantly going up and down the steps.

“But the most important reason is that we have an incredibly beautiful restored high altar and this present front altar obscures it completely, you can’t see it. So with a new table shape altar in stone, visitors to the church will be able to see through the gap to the very beautiful original which is regarded as one of the Pugin’s finest.”

Over the years, the sanctuary has undergone some significant architectural changes. The original stained glass was raised to accommodate the installation of mosaics and was replaced entirely after World War II. The decoration of the Pugin altar was scraped off after bomb damage. Following the Second Vatican Council, the front portion of the floor was raised to accommodate a forward facing wooden altar.

In 1992-3 the sanctuary went through a reconstruction process which consisted of a two-step wooden podium and carpet covering the podium and the entire marble floor. A copy of the Pugin altar frontal was constructed of fibre glass, finished with bronze paint, and fitted to the front of a concrete and brick block faced with marble.

In 2016 funds were released which enabled the church to undertake a major restoration of Pugin’s high altar. After careful examination it was revealed that the original colours were red, blue and traces of gold leaf.

The church will be open from 11am to 2pm during Easter week. The deconstruction of the front altar  will take place when the church is closed.

Two thirds of the restoration programme has now been completed. Other planned works include cleaning and repairing the newly revealed marble floor.