Mr. Street was one of the first architects of the revival who showed how effective Gothic architecture might be made where it simply depends for effect on artistic proportion. Standing behind the altar and looking down the Nave of the church one is struck by the sense of proportion and splendour of the Chancel and Sanctuary. Photographs of the interior of St. Mary’s, after restoration, can be seen in the book’ Colton, History of a Staffordshire Village.’
Standing in front of the Chancel, with the pulpit to your left, and in front of the stone screens, the step into the chancel still contains fittings that once were part of ornate gates, these have long since been removed.
Walking into the Chancel on either side are the ecclesiastic and choir seats, with ornate carvings at both ends. You reach the altar rails; these are painted in blue, red and gold. The middle section is telescopic thus allowing the rails to be extended into one during services. The design drawing for the altar rail is at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Passing through the altar rails you step into the Sanctuary, here you see a flight of three steps; these were an important part of Streets design. The altar was originally placed on the top step, and close to the wall, the priest would stand at the front, with his back to the congregation, that is why the vestment of the clergy is ornate at the back, as well as the front. The Church of England later changed tradition, and the clergy now stand behind the altar and face the congregation. The altar was moved down one step to allow for this change. The altar itself is made of oak and dates from the restoration period of 1851; it is furnished with two brass candlesticks, 2 brass vases and the Cross.
On the South wall you can see a Piscina built in, with a proper drainage system, this allowed for the washing of the Communion Vessels. It is no longer used today.
An ornate wooden screen divides the Chancel from the medieval South Eastern part of the church which is now called the vestry. Years ago the vestry was the Sunday school and the small benches either side of the altar used to be in the Sunday school, note their size.
Situated to the right of the altar, and attached to the wooden screen, are three seats. These were purchased by the Reverend A. Seaton when the church was restored in 1851; they were bought from a summer house, of a property in Tenby, South Wales. The seats have a small carved shelf on the underside and it is called a misericord or sometimes a mercy or pity seat. The clergy historically were not supposed to sit down for the duration of long services, however, in great human tradition they cheated! By adding the small carved shelf, when the choir stall seat was tipped up they could still
park themselves on the shelf. The carvings depict a Janus Head from Roman mythology on the middle seat, and the other two seats depict Wyverns or Welsh dragons.
The Mothers Union Banner that hangs to the left of the altar was given in memory of George Mellor (father of George, Luke and Monica) in 1947. It was given by his widow Mrs Julia Mellor later Mrs Julia Taylor.
The Chancel and Sanctuary have beautiful Minton Tile flooring. It is recorded in the Minton records ‘a gift to Colton Church of tiles for the altar place’. If you look at the top step where the altar originally stood, the tiles are noticeably different to the main body of the Chancel. The remaining floor is laid with lovely ecclesiastical design tiles, containing symbols of the Trinity and Crosses of varying design.
George Edmund Street died at the age of 57 years from a stroke. His death is said to have been hastened by the strain of working on the Law Courts in the Strand, London. Being an eminent architect he was buried on the 29th December 1881, in the nave of Westminster Abbey. What a wonderful legacy St Mary’s has.