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The Church Altar Cheltenham


“The end result for us was an altar which is unique, widely admired and, I think I can say, loved and which will adorn our church for many, many, years to come.”


In a church in Cheltenham, there was need for a new portable nave altar. The church’s existing high altar meant that the priest celebrating the Eucharist was very isolated from the congregation and it was difficult for the elderly to access. We spoke to Jean, one of the churchwardens about the church’s requirements. “We knew we wanted to commission a movable altar, we knew the dimensions required by the space where it would be used and that we wanted to commission local craftsmen but, beyond that we had little idea of design, woods, or anything else.



Key features

Brass Inset Crucible (Pangolin)
Sandwiched Ash and Oak
Dovetailed Joints


Nigel Wilson
Tom Shield


Why Auspicious Furniture?

Jean and other representatives from the church took a visit to the Auspicious Furniture workshop in Nailsworth, “We wanted to use a local craftsman. Auspicious Furniture was one of the companies whose website we looked at. We were bowled over by the pictures of the lava table on the website – it was beautiful, different and clearly an inspired piece of craftsmanship. That first visit to Nailsworth and the questions Nigel asked us helped us to clarify our thoughts and the requirement.”

When we met we were impressed with Nigel’s obvious love of wood, with his enthusiasm for the project and with the quality of their work. We had no doubts that we had found genuine craftsmen who could produce a bespoke altar which would grace our church for maybe hundred or more years to come!
— Client

The result

Working with the church to produce a fitting design, Nigel and Tom created a piece that celebrates the age-old tradition of craftsmanship but sits perfectly within its present-day religious setting.

The altar is made of English oak and the legs, or frame, are made up of alternative layers of ash and oak, which were sandwiched together to create the stunning layered effect. The curvaceousness of the legs giving the piece a distinctive, organic shape. The English oak that forms the top of the altar and the foot piece both contain a plethora of original knots and features from the original wood, allowing its heritage to shine through. The soft geometry of the altar not only imbues it with a quiet sense of harmony but also offers a compelling invitation to touch.

The inset cross, made of bronze by Pangolin Editions in Chalford, looks so contented nestled between the front legs of the piece that it seems to have grown naturally from the wood. The overall solidity of the altar, despite the open nature of its design, gives it an inherent sense of longevity that will allow it to gather memories and meaning as it settles into its religious context.

The durability of the wood, the careful detailing in the dovetails and the strata of the legs, combined with the organic design has resulted in a piece of work that is exceptionally tactile and generous, and that embodies a significance to last for decades to come.


The impact

Did the completed altar meet the church’s expectations?

“Yes – we were delighted with it. When Nigel and Tom delivered the altar, and we saw it in place for the first time, we knew we had made the right choice in craftsmen! It was stunning, and Nigel and Tom were justifiably proud of the piece they had created.”

What impact has the new altar had on the church?

“The altar fits in very well and, when it is in place, looks absolutely right for its position. Comments about the altar have been almost universally positive … everyone recognises the quality of the craftsmanship, the beauty of the wood. As the months have passed the altar continues to establish itself as a much-loved part of the furniture. The end result for us was an altar which is unique, widely admired and, I think I can say, loved and which will adorn our church for many, many, years to come.”

What are your thoughts on the service from Auspicious Furniture?

“I cannot fault the service received. This was as much a labour of love for Tom and Nigel as it was for us. Trust in their skill, knowledge, craftsmanship and obvious delight in and love of wood to produce a beautiful piece of bespoke furniture.”