The scene on the south side of the pulpit in two panels is The Annunciation, set in a medieval garden' with Mary seated reading a devotional work. In the original painting (left) there is also a large haloed dove perched near her knee, representing Mary receiving the holy spirit. Due to space constraints this feature was not included in the St. Martin's version (right). Mary's hands, with long, elegant fingers, are palm up as if in prayer. To see an enlarged version of the The Annunciation click on the image left.
The flowers in the garden, red roses and white lilies, symbolise both the sacrifice of Christ and the purity of Mary. (Medieval Christians identified the five petals of the rose with the five wounds of Christ. Roses also later came to be associated with the Virgin Mary. The red rose was eventually adopted as a symbol of the blood of the Christian martyrs.) The enclosed garden here is a symbol of Mary's virginity.
The angel is looking over the trellis in the upper panel, almost as if he were a lover in a medieval romance. Interestingly, his left hand has the thumb and first two fingers raised as if in the process of blessing Mary in the name of the Holy Trinity.
The model for Mary is thought to be Jane (Burden) Morris.
Note that the luxuriant hair of Mary is only thinly disguised by her head covering.
The framing is decorated by fleur-de-lis (iris flowers) and birds. These are pre-Raphaelite puns; the birds are martins which is a reference to the name of the church, the fleur-de-lis refers to Mary the Virgin.
There are more fleur-de-lis and martins on the south side of the pulpit (left) but they have been cleverly inverted so that they are in fact identical to the ones on the north side. Click on the images to the right for greater detail.
In the image to the left (artificially constructed) allows you to compare the larger central images of the fleur-de-lis and the martin that appear on the north side of the pulpit with the border framing the Rossetti painting on the south side of the pulpit..