Thursday, 19 March 2009

South Elkington

South Elkington, Lincolnshire, originally uploaded by Vitrearum.

I am very grateful to Fr Anthony Symondson for solving the puzzle of Bernard Smith (see comment on the previous post). If I had picked up my copy of his work on Sir Ninian Comper, the answer was there waiting for me. It would seem that H. A. Bernard Smith and his firm of ateliers were responsible for the execution of a lot of Comper's work and my hunch about Bodley was right too - he was a pupil of Bodley and Garner.

I'm going to take a short break from the blog for a few weeks. Prayers please for my wife who is due to give birth to our third child any day now. Allan

Friday, 13 March 2009

Te Deum ceiling

South Elkington, Lincolnshire

The chancel of All Saints in South Elkington, Lincolnshire, had been constructed by the local architect James Fowler in 1874 in a rather plain and pedestrian 'middle pointed' style. In 1904 the rector of Elkington Canon Smyth retired and his parting gift to the parish was a sum of money to enable the redecoration of Fowler's chancel ceiling and the presentation of a new organ. The work was overseen by Smyth's son-in-law and successor C. W. Stanford.

South Elkington, Lincolnshire

Fowler's plain roof was transformed with a decorative scheme based on the Te Deum. It has painted texts and gilded medallions filled with figures appropriate to the text. The whole is set against a ground of red ochre, stencilled with sacred mongrams. When I first saw the ceiling it screamed Bodley at me. Then I looked more carefully at the figurative work, which doesn't have the quality of finish you might associate with Bodley, in fact it is all rather crude (see St Helen below). The church guide book, which is my only authority until I dig a bit deeper, says that the work was executed by Bernard Smith of Woking, a friend of the family. Do any readers know anything about him? The work was completed in July 1904 and blessed by Edward King, the saintly bishop of Lincoln.

South Elkington, Lincolnshire
St Michael

South Elkington, Lincolnshire
St Helena.

South Elkington, Lincolnshire
The organ case is also lavish, the coving decorated with a firmament filled with cherubim. Sadly the later wooden screens at the base of the organ case have destroyed the visual integrity of the case and those carpets! Well perhaps enough said about those.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

The Lenten Rood Veil

Percy Dearmer, the author of the Parson's Handbook, was vicar of St Mary's Primrose Hill in Hampstead, so it is no surprise that this glorious church has a full set of Lenten array. The church also follows the pre-Reformation practice of veiling the great rood at the chancel step and they use a veil dating from Dearmer's incumbency, strikingly stencilled in black and red. In medieval liturgical practice the great rood above the rood screen was covered up with the other images in the church at the beginning of Lent. However, while the other veils remained until the Paschal Vigil, in the Sarum Use the rood veil was dramatically removed at the end of the procession on Palm Sunday as the priest twice sung Ave rex noster, fili david (hail our king, son of David) and the chanters took up the anthem. The veil at Primrose Hill is suspended on a pulley system and they still follow the medieval custom of unveiling it on Palm Sunday as Sarumsleuth's photos below demonstrate.

Here for good measure are a couple of pictures of the Lenten array in other parts of this lovely church.

For the medieval practice of unveiling the rood on Palm Sunday see: The Use of Sarum I, Richard Pynson Processionale ad Usum Sarum 1502 (Boethius Press, 1980)

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Lenten array

North Cerney, Gloucestershire - high altar lenten array
Lenten array designed by F C Eden at North Cerney, Gloucestershire

So Lent is upon us once again. Until a few years ago it was fairly common to see the altars of English churches covered with unbleached linen hangings known as Lenten array. This striking custom is a medieval one and was fairly universal in medieval England.

In the Middle Ages the idea of covering altars, reredoses and images with off-white material, was to provide a visual deprivation of colour and ornament within the church building. The purpose of this was twofold. Firstly it was reflective of the contemplative character of the season. Thomas Becon, the protestant theologian, wrote about the purpose of it as he understood it:

'So likewise [in] this time of Lent, which is a time of mourning, all things that make to the adornment of the church are either laid aside or covered, to put us in remembrance that we ought now to lament and mourn for our souls dead in sin and continually to watch, fast pray, give alms etc. etc.'

Secondly the contrast between the visual deprivation of Lent, with the visual splendour of the festal hangings of Easter, emphasised the triumph of the resurrection.

In the Middle Ages the linen hangings were usually decorated with red, black or dark blue stencilled motifs. These motifs were generally related to the Passion of the Lord, the Instruments of the Passion or sacred monograms. The coverings over images were often stencilled or appliqued with an attribute, text or even by the late medieval period a representation of the image covered.

Winchester Cathedral
Lenten array on the nave altar at Winchester Cathedral.

Dorchester, St Birinus

Lenten array by the Warham Guild at St Birinus Dorchester, Oxfordshire.

Southwarklent 008
Lenten array by Sir Ninian Comper in the retrochoir of Southwark Cathedral.

Additional reading

The best account of the medieval use of Lenten array, including a large amount of documentary evidence is probably W. St John Hope and E. G. C. Atchley English Liturgical Colours (London, 1918).

Monday, 2 March 2009

Wool merchants

Linwood, Lincolnshire
I had a quick trip on Saturday to the church of St Cornelius at Linwood, near Market Rasen in Lincolnshire. The church contains two of the finest early fifteenth century monumental brasses in the county. Sadly they are little neglected and covered in bat droppings.

The first is a double brass to a civilian and his wife and the second is a single brass of a male civilian (above), all three figures are set under elaborate ogee canopies. The brasses commemorate John Lyndewode senior who died 1419 and his wife, and their son John Lyndewode junior who died in 1421. John senior (below top) is portrayed as a man in middle age with thinning hair and modest dress, while his son John junior (below bottom) is shown as a younger man with a fashionable haircut, a fancy gown and elaborate belt.

Linwood, Lincolnshire Linwood, Lincolnshire

I am not expert on monumental brass typology, but the brasses are clearly the product of the same workshop and given the closeness between the death of father and son, they were probably laid down at the same time. Given that they are set into slabs of Purbeck marble, they were probably made in London or the South East. I'm sure one of my readers will be able to tell me what classification they are given.

The brass of John Lyndewode senior and his wife has some interesting features. At the base of the brass is a verse inscription in low relief. Above that are figures of the seven children born to the couple, each set under an individual canopy. To the left are three male figures in civilian dress, to the right three female figures. In the centre is a male cleric dressed in a cope. This last figure almost certainly represents John Lyndewode's son William Lyndewode (1375-1446). William Lyndewode was a high flying cleric, who became bishop of St David's in 1442 and was also keeper of the Privy Seal He was the most prominent canon lawyer of his day and compiled the important canon law text Constitutiones provinciales ecclesiae Anglicanae.

Linwood, Lincolnshire

John Lyndewode senior was a wool merchant and he is stood, appropriately enough, on his own product, a neatly stitched-up woolsack. Unlike this high-flying cleric brother, John Lyndwode junior, followed his father into the family firm and on his brass, he too is perched on top of a woolsack.

Linwood, Lincolnshire

John junior's woolsack is a little more elaborate than that of his father, and is decorated with the family trademark, which would have been applied to the sacks before they were exported to the continent via Calais. An early example of corporate branding.
Here is another example of a merchant balancing on his merchandise, this is John Fortey (many thanks John for noticing my misappropriation) at Northleach in Gloucestershire. He has one foot resting on a sheep and another on a woolsack.

The monumental brass society has a link to one or two further examples.