In 1861 rebuilding the Nave and the South Chancel Aisle together with the construction of the Tower gave us the constructionally sound building we have today but these improvements were followed later in the century by the internal alterations which are the subject matter of this article.
In 1879 the barrel organ was replaced by the organ we use today. We do not know what happened to the barrel organ, it must have had a very limited scope and it would be interesting to know what tunes it was capable of playing. The new organ seems to have been placed in one of the two arches between the south chancel aisle and the chancel with the organist sitting in the chancel and the bulk of the organ in the south chancel aisle.
In 1889 Rev. H R Collum was vicar and he undertook the task of refurnishing the chancel. In 1889 a fund was opened with the proceeds of a concert and between that date and 17 May 1893 a total of £1,085.12.0 was collected.
There were fund raising functions:
A concert in Leigh £ 6.0.0
A Bazaar in Penshurst £243.0.9
An Entertainment in Tonbridge £ 44.5.8
The collections at the Harvest Thanksgiving and at the service for the re-opening of the Chancel were added to the fund.
However, the bulk of the money came from small donations from a large number of subscribers. Only three subscribers gave more than Ten Guineas (and none of these three were resident in the Parish) so the collection was the concerted effort of many subscribers.
The Expenditure Account gives some idea of the work which was undertaken.
The organ was moved to its present position. This was presumably to allow the screen which separates the chancel from the south chancel to be built.
The main work was the installation of the Rood screen, the panelling behind the choir stalls, the linen fold panelling round the Sanctuary, the choir stalls and the vicar’s desk together with the low screen referred to in the last paragraph.
All this work was designed by the firm of Bodley & Garner and the wood carving was carried out by Rattee and Kett.
Rattee and Kett were an old established firm of woodcarvers and Church furnishers. In 1851 they had built to Sir George Gilbert Scott’s design the canopied stall for Eton College Chapel which was given by Eton to Lancing in 1926. Their work on our screen cost £416.10.6 which is probably about £20,000 today.
Other work undertaken at the same time was the reredos also designed by Bodley and bearing a close resemblance to the reredos he designed for Mark Beech at about the same time the work was carried out by Farmer and Brindley who carried out carving in stone in many Victorian churches and in Victorian country houses built in the Gothic manner like Scarisbrick and Kelham. All the work was completed and the chancel reopened at a service held on 27 May 1892 at which the Bishop of Dover was present. At that time the parish was in the diocese of Canterbury and Dover was a suffrage bishopric in that diocese.
In 1897 Penshurst followed suit with a screen also by Bodley and Garner but in a more ornate style. This was built in Penshurst Oak in memory of the 2nd Viscount Hardinge and these two screens represent the only screens by Bodley in Kent churches.
Lawrence Biddle (parish magazine article: Feb 1990)