CROCornwall Record Office
DHCDevon Heritage Centre
FRCSFellow of the Royal College of Surgeons
HMSHer/His Majesty’s Ship
MAMaster of Arts
MDMedical Doctor
MPMember of Parliament
PCCParochial Church Council
PWDROPlymouth and West Devon Record Office
RWYCRoyal Western Yacht Club
TNAThe National Archives
WWIWorld War One
WWIIWorld War Two


The definitions provided here are applicable in the context in which they are used in the Catalogue; other interpretations may be relevant elsewhere.

Alms Dish – a tray for collecting the offerings from a congregation.

Altar Rails – a pair of railings, sometimes ornate and usually of wood, delimiting the sanctuary that contains the altar; also known as communion rails.

Aumbry – a cabinet in the wall of the sanctuary used to store vessels for the Eucharist.

Belfry – a bell tower.

Boss – a protrusion found in ceilings at the intersection of beams and on screens in the vaulting; they are usually carved with foliage, animals, human heads, heraldic devices, or other decoration.

Cabinet Card – a thin photograph mounted on card, usually with the name and address of the photographer at the bottom and/or on the back.

Chancel – the space around the altar at the east end of a church, usually including the choir. The word chancel is derived from the Late Latin word cancellus meaning ‘lattice’, suggestive of the tracery typical of the screen that originally separated it from the nave.

Chancel Screen – this term often refers to an ancient rood screen that no longer supports a rood, and commonly to a modern screen erected between the nave and the chancel.

Churchwardens’ Staves – a symbol of the churchwarden’s office that alludes to their ancient responsibility for keeping the congregation in order.

Cornice – a horizontal moulded projection crowning a piece of church furniture, especially a screen, formed of strips of decorative work (running ornament) between beading; from the Italian cornice meaning ‘ledge’.

Credence Table – a small side table in the sanctuary for holding articles used in the celebration of the Eucharist, sometimes called a credenza.

Cresting – openwork at the top of a screen cornice or other decorative work; inverted cresting is used on the lower edge.

Faculty – a licence issued by the Church of England Diocese to carry out works to church buildings, their contents and churchyards.

Lectern – a reading desk or stand from which the scripture lessons are chanted or read.

Litany Desk – a movable desk at which a minister or reader kneels facing the altar, while he or she recites the litany.

Misericord – a bracket beneath a hinged seat in the choir stalls, which, when the seat is tipped up, gives some support to those standing during long services.

Nave – the main body of the church, extending from the entrance to the transepts or, in the absence of transepts, to the chancel.

Parclose Screen – a screen used especially to separate a chapel from the main body of a church, usually at right angles to the chancel or rood screen.

Prie-Dieu – a type of prayer desk primarily intended for private devotional use that may also be found in churches and can be used for the litany.

Pulpit – a raised enclosed platform from which the priest or preacher delivers a sermon.

Reredos – ornamented screen that rises behind the altar of a church, forming a background.

Retable – originally a large tripartite and sectioned altarpiece containing paintings or figures of saints; nowadays more often a raised shelf above an altar for the altar cross, lights, and flowers.

Riddel Posts – curtains that sometimes frame the altar are referred to as riddels (from the French rideau for curtains) and hence the posts that support them are riddel posts; they are often topped by angels.

Rood Screen – a screen erected to separate the nave from the chancel, on which is placed a rood, an often life-size crucifixion scene.

Sanctuary – the area around the altar, considered holy because of the physical presence of God in the Eucharist, in which a medieval fugitive from justice could claim sanctuary.

Sedilia – a range of seats, usually three, normally on the south side of the chancel, for the use of the clergy.

Sound(ing) Board – a structure above or behind a pulpit that helps to project the sound of the speaker; sometimes called a tester or an abat-voix.

Stoup – a vessel containing holy water generally placed near the entrance of a church.

Tabernacle – a fixed, locked box in which the Eucharist (the consecrated bread and wine) is ‘reserved’ or stored.

Tampeon – a plug placed in a gun’s muzzle when the gun is not in use, to keep out moisture and dust.

Thurible – a metal censer suspended from chains, in which incense is burned during worship.

Tracery – carved rib-work, intersecting to form patterns, in the upper part of a Gothic window, on walls and panels, and within the bays of screens.

Transept – the transverse part of a cruciform church, crossing the nave at right angles.

Transom – in screens, a rail across the top of the panel-work (wainscot) comprising the base.

Vaulting – in screens, an arched surface below the cornice, comprised of ribs and panels that are often carved.