Pulpits were used in churches well before the Reformation; preaching was more closely proscribed in the much more contentious times after the Reformation. Many pre-Reformation examples survive, one of the finest being at Burlingham St Edmund [1] (Norfolk); like contemporary roodscreens, it bears alternate panels of red and green, covered with stars and flowers. It has a later 17th-century canopy and sounding board, as well as a stand for the sermon-timing hour-glass. The inscription reads ‘Inter natos mulierum non surrexit maior Johanne Baptista’ (Luke 7.28). The example at Fotheringhay [2] (Northants), recoloured in the mid-20th century, is more unified; even the tester has a rib-vault.

The three-decker pulpit developed in the 17th and 18th centuries, where the parish clerk led the responses from the lower desk as the parson conducted the service from the middle tier, leaving it to ascend to the pulpit proper for the sermon. A striking and quite singular example of this is at Kings Norton [3] (Leics), where it is installed on the centre axis of the church, facing west.

Pulpits are often famous for their occupant. Elton’s [4] (Hunts) was given to the church by Fr Faber (Rector 1843–5) who went on to found Brompton Oratory, while that at Ars-sur-Formans [5] (Ain) saw the Curé preach his weekly denunciations of the sins of the folk of Ars and his calls to holiness.

To find out more visit:
J. C. Cox, Pulpits, Lecterns & Organs in English Churches (OUP, 1915)
G. W. O. Addleshaw and F. Etchells, The Architectural Setting
of Anglican Worship (Faber and Faber, 1948)