Cathedral furniture mixing old and new by Nicholas Hobbs
Published: Thursday, December 7, 2017
With over 35 years experience, Derbyshire-based Nicholas Hobbs specialises in designing and making liturgical, sanctuary and memorial furniture. He is a member of the National Churches Trust's Professional Trades Directory.
Interested in buildings from a very early age, Nicholas has recently been a member of the Liturgy and Furnishings Committee at the Cathedral Fabric Commission for England and is currently an elected Guardian at the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.
One of his recent projects was to design and make the furniture for St Hugh's Chapel in Lincoln Cathedral. The brief required furniture suitable for twice daily liturgy, occasional other services and seating for pilgrims in a setting directly underneath the great east window. The furniture included an altar, lectern, president’s chair, credence table, bookcase and seating for a congregation of thirty (pictured below, credit Nicholas Hobbs).
Relating fully to the cathedral, abstract design themes including time, the liturgy, St Hugh, his swan, risk, sacred numbers and the cathedral itself were researched and incorporated to propose visually simple furniture with an involved story.
One-quarter scale models were built for discussion within the cathedral and these were used in gaining the necessary permissions and later for fund raising. In the workshop, models are useful in going through the making process in miniature, and allow visual and technical problems to be addressed and resolved.
A full size-working prototype of a congregational chair for use in the cathedral was made as part of the development process, to help gain approval for the new work.
Pictured below: the lecturn (credit: Ian Daisley).
Making and materials
Figured oak was carefully sourced from locations in France from the life of St Hugh, whilst the white maple wood represents his symbolic colour. Traditional construction techniques were used for symbol and decoration, such as dovetailing, through wedged mortice and tenons, halving and bridle joints. Laminated constructions, which require a greater use of patterns and jigs, were used for curves, matching and decorative grain (construction pictured below, credit: Nicholas Hobbs).
St Hugh’s swan is a recurring motif - the flared components in the main items of liturgical furniture are a representation of its webbed feet; a silhouette with feathers is carved into the top of the president’s chair.
The human aspect embedded by hand making is crucial to the message of the church. Tactile details encourage touch, implanting discovery with memory.
Find out more about Nicholas Hobbs Furniture at the Professional Trades Directory.
The National Churches Trust's Professional Trades Directory connects churches with skilled contractors. We believe in the importance of protecting the many traditional craft skills which are essential for the building and conservation of church buildings. By supporting our Professional Trades Directory, you can help us to ensure their future.