Friday, 24 December 2010

Christmas Blessings

May I wish all readers of this blog my good wishes and God's blesing this Christmas. Allan

 East Hagbourne, Berkshire

I saw a fair mayden sytten and sing.
She lulled a lyttel childe, a sweete Lording.

Lullay myn lyking, my dere sonne, my sweeting.
Lullay my dere herte, myn own dere derling.

That same Lord is he that made alle thing;
Of alle lordis he is Lord, of alle kynges Kyng.

Lullay myn lyking, my dere sonne, my sweeting.
Lullay my dere herte, myn own dere derling.

There was mickle melody at that chylde's birth.
All that were in heav'nly bliss, they made mickle mirth.

Lullay myn lyking, my dere sonne, my sweeting.
Lullay my dere herte, myn own dere derling.

Angels bright sang their song to that chyld;
Blyssid be thou, and so be she, so meek and so mild.

Lullay myn lyking, my dere sonne, my sweeting
Lullay my dere herte, myn own dere derling.

15th century.

Friday, 12 November 2010


Snarford 3, originally uploaded by Vitrearum (Allan Barton).
This is such a striking image, one of the panels of the fifteenth century font at the remote church at Snarford in Lincolnshire. A full frontal head of Christ entirely fills one panel of the octaganonal font.  This image probably derives from the popular late image known as the 'Vernicle'. The Vernicle was a reproduction of the cloth, which tradition asserts, was used by St Veronica to wipe the face of Christ on his way to the cross and was found to be miraculously marked with the imprint of his face. It was an image that grew in popularity in the late Middle Ages and with the invention of printing the Vernicle became a popular domestic devotional item.

Snarford, Lincolnshire

Next to this image on the Snarford font is a representation of the arma christi, a shield charged with the cross and two scourges.

Friday, 5 November 2010

'and the chauncels shall remain ...

as they have done in tymes past', so states the rubric before Morning Prayer in the 1559 Book of Common Prayer. At Snarford in Lincolnshire, Sir Thomas St Pol, seems to have made a very specific statement as to how he wanted the chancel of his parish church to 'remain' and it was a radical break from the medieval past. When he died in 1582, his canopied monument was erected right at the east of the chancel as close as practicable to the east wall. Thus leaving no room for the reconstruction of a stone altar or even the positioning of the holy table 'altarwise' at the east end of the chancel. The holy table must have stood west of his monument in the body of the church and presumably lengthways, the space is now occupied with a twentieth century 'English' altar. On the monument itself Sir Thomas and his wife Faith are portrayed as very much people of the Reformation, clasping their prayer books to their chests.

Snarford, Lincolnshire

Friday, 22 October 2010

Painted coffin

In the late 1960s and early 70s the central tower of York Minster was in danger of collapse and a vast programme of repairs was initiated to prevent it.  In a remarkable feat of engineering, the tower, which was built upon the foundations of early buildings including the Roman legionary headquarters, was underpinned.  As part of this work opportunity was taken to repair the monuments in the transepts including that of  Walter de Gray, archbishop of York between 1215 and 1255 in the south transept. 

Gray's monument is spectacular piece, the recumbent effigy of the archbishop dressed in full pontificals and carved from purbeck marble, lies under a hefty pinnacled canopy supported on slender purbeck shafts.  The canopy is so substantial you could be forgiven for thinking it the feretory of the shrine and before the twentieth a number of antiquarians argued that de Gray was in fact buried in it.   He was not.


Having dismantled the canopy and removed the effigy, the Minster authorities made a quite remarkable discovery.  They came across a layer of rubble set in mortar and when that was removed they found the coffin of archbishop de Gray. 

Walter de Gray, York Minster

The lid of the coffin was painted with a lively and colourful image of de Gray (above) set against a black background.  Again de Gray was shown dressed in full pontificals holding an archiepiscopal cross staff, his hand raised blessing.  The image was painted with expensive materials, including a vibrant ultramarine and highlighted with gilding.  Sadly the image had become damaged through contact with the wet mortar of the rubble base and had left an impression on this mortar which was also recovered for the most part during the work (photo below). 

Walter de Gray 2

Matthew Sillence has argued, rather convincingly I think, that this coffin lid was intended as a more permanent memorial to de Gray and that the larger monument was an afterthought erected after the transept became filled with other burials and became less visually prominent.  It is probable that painted coffin lids were quite a common feature of medieval memorialisation, but because of their fragility they do not survive.  How lucky this example did. 

Walter de Gray 1

When the lid was removed the remains of de Gray were found, he had been buried in linen vestments his head supported on a woven cushion and the coffin including the usual episcopal grave goods, but perhaps more about those at a later time.

Further reading
There is full account of the disvovery of the coffin lid in Archaeologia 102 (1971) and the recent article by Matthew Sillence is: 'The two effigies of Archbishop Walter de Gray (d.1255) at York Minster' Church Monuments 20 (2005), pp. 5-30.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Medieval polychromy

Blythburgh, Suffolk, Holy Trinity Church.

I can't resist posting these images of the fifteenth century arch braced ceiling at Holy Trinity in Blythburgh in Suffolk.   The whole surface of the ceiling is covered in delicate polychromy, with stencilled monograms and stylised foliage forms.  The colour and gilding, rather muted now in its faded state, would once have added a gloriously rich covering to this Perpendicular glass house.  What more can I say, sheer perfection.   

Blythburgh, Suffolk, Holy Trinity Church.

Blythburgh, Suffolk, Holy Trinity Church.

Blythburgh, Suffolk, Holy Trinity Church.

Blythburgh, Suffolk, Holy Trinity Church.

Photos by Eric Hardy

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Saxo-Norman sundials (more on Stow)

Sorry for the absence from blogging, I've had a rather nasty case of the Shingles and haven't been able to do anything much.  It has well and truly sapped my energy and my mental powers.  I'm just about getting back to my old self and blogging will return, I promise.  

Stow, Lincolnshire

Anyway less of that and more of the subject in hand, early sundials.  Mr Alan Marshall, the churchwarden of Stow Minster, sent me this rather tantalising image of a fragment of a late Saxon or early Norman sundial from Stow. With it an accompanying article on the piece, published in 1985 by Professor Elisabeth Okasha of University College, Cork in the Journal of Saxon and Medieval Archaeology.  This fragmentary dial was found within a pile of rubble outside the west door of Stow Minster in 1972 by Caspar Fleming and on his death passed into the hands of an antiquities dealer called Richard Falkiner who worked for Bonhams.  I won't comment further on how the Minster could have possibly lost this important and priceless piece of its early history!   

The dial has an Old English inscription on it STTOLOVE7S, which Professor Okasha interprets as possibly forming part of the text 'CRIST TO LOVE 7 SCS', i.e. 'to the Glory of Christ and St ...'  So the dial seemingly formed part of a dedicatory panel.   Professor Okasha argues that it was part of a larger stone.  She dates it to the late eleventh century, so perhaps it recorded the reconstruction of the church by bishop Remigius of Fecamp in the 1070s, when for a short time, Stow was an Benedictine priory.  The great crossing arches of Stow date from that time.

Stow, Lincolnshire

The image looked remarkably familiar to me, then I realised that about eight years I photographed two similar dials, both of which are mentioned in Professor Okasha's article, one at Kirkdale and the other at Great Edstone, both in the North Riding of Yorkshire. Here are my photos, which give some indication of how the Stow dial might originally have appeared.

Great Edstone, North Yorkshire

Firstly Edstone.  The dial forms part of a rectangular panel of stone, which incorporates the inscription, 'OTHAN ME PROHTEA' (Othan has wrought me).  The blank space suggests that the panel was never completed. 

Kirkdale, North Yorkshire

Then Kirkdale, a much more interesting piece and is dated.  It is inscribed: ORM GAMAL SUNA BOHTE SCE GREGORIUS MINSTER THONNE HIT WES AEL TO BROCAN 7 TOFALAN 7 HE HIT LET MACAN NEWAN FROM GRUNDE XRC 7 SCS GREGORIUS IN EADWARD DAGUM C[YNI]NG 7 [I]N TOSTI DAGUM EORL, in modern English: 'Orm, the son of Gamal, bought St Gregory's Minster when it was all broken and fallen and he has let it make new from the ground ... in Edward's day the King, and Tostig's day the Earl'.  So it can be close dated to between 1055 and 1066.  The dial itself has the inscription 'HAWARTH ME WROHTE AND BRAND PRS' (Hawarth and Brand, priests, wrought me). 

Sundials, by necessity, have to be on a south wall and both panels at Edstone and Kirkdale are prominently placed above the south doors, the main entrance to the building.  The south door at Stow is the main entrance to the church and presumably the Stow dial was similarly placed.  I do wonder if it was incorporated into the ramshackle south porch that sheltered the south door at Stow until removed by Pearson's work of the 1860s. 

Stow Minster, Lincolnshire


Saturday, 11 September 2010

Missale ad Usum Insignis Ecclesie Sarisburiensis.

Sarum Missal, printed in Paris in 1555

Here are a number of details from a Sarum Missal printed in Paris by William Merlin in 1555.  This is just one of a large number of Sarum missals that were printed in Paris during the reign of Mary I, for export to England as part of the re-equipping of English parish churches following the Edwardine iconoclasm.  It seems that demand was great and consequently these Parisian missals were rather hastily composed,  Many, like this example, were illustrated with re-used woodcut blocks of varying styles and dates, some forty or fifty years old. 

Sarum Missal, printed in Paris in 1555

Sarum Missal, printed in Paris in 1555

Sarum Missal, printed in Paris in 1555

Sarum Missal, printed in Paris in 1555

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

A remarkable survival

South Cerney Christ, originally uploaded by Aidan McRae Thomson.
This beautiful Romanesque polychromed head and foot, is all that remains of a rood dating from c.1130. The fragments were found in 1913 walled up behind the respond of a nave arcade at South Cerney in Gloucestershire. Sadly the rest of the figure perished, but originally the corpus would have been around 80cm tall and extremely striking. A remarkable survival, this is one of only two Corpus figures in England to survive the sixteenth century iconoclasm. The other, an earlier 16th century example from Cartmel Fell in Cumbria, was discovered in 1876 in use as a vestry fire poker!

The South Cerney rood is now in the British Museum and I am grateful to Aidan McRae Thomson for his photograph. More information on the rood can be found in R. Deacon and P. Lindley's Image and Idol; Medieval Sculpture (London, 2001)

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Some news of recent work at Windrush in Gloucestershire

Windrush, Gloucestershire

I was pleased to receive the following photographs from Fr David Ackerman, rector of Windrush in Gloucestershire.  It is worth repeating Fr Ackerman's message in full:  

"I thought you might be interested in seeing the attached gable cross which was dedicated on Easter Day. It was made by Rory Young, and was in part inspired by Saxon Gloucestershire carvings of crucifixes. It is of Christ Triumphant and the word "pax" is encircled by the crown of thorns, an illusion to the first words of the risen Christ and that his body bore the marks of the cross. The combination of the crown and the word is also a reference to the Benedictines, to whom the donor has a devotion.  I offer the pictures as a good example of current work and what can be achieved. This, by the way, was Rory's last work before beginning his work at St Alban's Abbey"

Windrush, Gloucestershire

I'm very pleased to post these photos to the blog.  The cross is exceptionally fine.  It does demonstrate the quality of contemporary craftsmanship and that it is possible to add something contemporary that works well with existing medieval fabric. 

Fr Ackerman has also initiated other restoration work at Windrush.  Internally an 'English altar' has been restored to the chancel and external paths have been relaid.  During the latter work the following female head came to light.

Windrush, Gloucestershire

What date is it?  Well it has been suggested that it is fifteenth century, but my gut feeling says second half of the fourteenth century.

Windrush, Gloucestershire

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Greenwood Hare chasuble at St John Epping

St John's Epping - White Bodley Chasuble 002

There are some lovely photos on Flickr of a recently restored chasuble at St John's Epping in Essex.  A wonderful vestment blending Gothic and Renaissance motifs, it was designed by Cecil Greenwood Hare, Bodley's chief assistant and made by Watts and Co. There is more information here.

St John's Epping - White Bodley Chasuble 014

St John's Epping - White Bodley Chasuble 007

St John's Epping - White Bodley Chasuble 006

St John's Epping - White Bodley Chasuble 004

Thursday, 29 July 2010

My flesh in hope doth rest

I recently came across these two lovely inscriptions, both in Lincolnshire Churches.  The first at Lusby on the Lincolnshire Wolds and the second is at Kettlethorpe close to the border with Nottinghamshire. 

The Lusby inscription once formed part of the memorial to Katherine Palfreyman, wife of a wool merchant Anthony Palfreyman, who acquired the manor of Lusby in 1545. Katherine died in 1555 and the touching inscription takes the form of a conversation between the deceased and her grieving husband.  Anthony finally died in 1590.

Lusby, Lincolnshire

My fleshe in hope and rest doth slepe
In earth here to remayne
my spirit to Christ I gyve to kepe
Till I do ryse again.

And I wyth you in hope agre
Toughe (sic.) I yet here abyde
In full purpose if Goddes will be
To ly downe by your syde.

The second monument at Kettlethorpe is a black stone tablet in the chancel to the memory of John Becke MA, rector of the parish.  He died in Mary 1597. It has a lovely punning inscription, recording his munificence to the parish.  He gave lands to endow a charity to support the poor of the parish. 

Kettlethorpe, Lincolnshire

I am a Becke or river as you know

and watred here the church the schole the pore
While God did make my springes here for to flo
But now my fountaine stopt it runs no more
From church and schole mi life is now berefte

But to the poore four pounds I yearlye lefte.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Skelton stiff leaf

Skelton, North Riding of Yorkshire

Shortly after writing my recent post on stiff-leaf and posting a photo of the stiff leaf on the doorway at Skelton St Giles near York, I came across the following article.

The weathered south door of this excellent and complete Early English building, has been restored by a York firm called Lanstone and they have one a prize for the work in the York Design Awards.  Here is a detail of the door as it was prior to restoration:

Skelton, North Riding of Yorkshire

And here is the door after restoration:

What an excellent job they've done if it.  There are further photos here.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Rycote Chapel, Oxfordshire

Tower Squint, Rycote Chapel, Oxfordshire

I may have drawn your attention to the excellent photography of my friend Martin Beek in some earlier posts, but can I mention his name again.  As well as an being an excellent and photographer with a great eye for detail, Martin is an artist of great breadth and accomplishment who works in a wide range of different media and there is a lot of interest on his Flickr pages.   I was recently drawn to a series of photos he's taken of Rycote Chapel in Oxfordshire.
Rycote Chapel, Oxfordshire

Rycote chapel was built in the late 1450s for Richard and Sybil Quatermayne, to serve a chantry college founded by them in 1449.  The fabric consisting of a west tower, a nave and chancel in one with a barrel ceiling, remains pretty much as they built it.  Inside the building are a series of extraodinary furnishings.  Medieval benches and stalls still remain in the chancel, but the rest of the furnishings are early seventeenth century and high church.  On either side of the rood screen, which is a remodelled medieval screen, are two vast family pews.  That on the north is the pew of the Norreys family, who were lord's of the manor.  Above it a musician's gallery.  The pew to the south, with it's ogee canopy painted like a night sky within, was apparently built for Charles I when he visited Rycote in 1625.  With four angels at the corners, it was once topped with an image of the Virgin Mary, an iconographical display that would have enraged any seventeenth century Puritan.  In the chancel is a reredos of 1610 and an altar surrounded by balustered rails of the later seventeenth century.  Rycote chapel is a glorious example of an Anglican high church interior from those decadent first decades of the seventeenth century and is rare to have survived unscathed.      

Rycote Chapel, Oxfordshire

Rycote Chapel, Oxfordshire

Rycote, Oxfordshire

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Malvern Link

Malvern Link

I'm grateful to a Facebook friend Julie Allsopp, who has recently taken the following photos of the once glorious conventual chapel of the Holy Name at Malvern Link in Worcestershire.  This chapel, dating from 1893 is an early work by Bucknall and Comper. The community of the Holy Name moved to Derby in 1990 and the building has subsequently been used for other purposes.  As you will see the Comper fittings are not in good condition.  I understand that the building has been recently sold and is due to be converted into office space and the fittings restored.  I do hope it happens.    
Malvern Link
The crucifixion that formed the top of the reredos, has been removed to admit a air conditioning unit. 

Malvern Link
Said air conditioning unit. 

Malvern Link
The painted ceiling is still in good condition

Malvern Link
Abandoned riddel posts. 

More photos here.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Lovely, lovely stiff leaf

'Early English capitals are not so much diversified as Norman. When foliage is introduced it is placed upon the bell of the capital; the leaves usually have stiff stalks rising from the neck of the bell, hence called technically "stiff-leaf foliage," but almost always stand out very boldly, and with great freedom, so as to provide a very striking and beautiful effect, and they are generally very well worked, and often as much undercut that the stalks and more prominent parts are entirely detached.'
(J. H. Parker's Glossary of Terms, 1850)
Below are a series of images of luscious thirteenth century stiff-leaf capitals from across the country. 

Torksey, Lincolnshire
Torksey, Lincolnshire

Low Marnham, Nottinghamshire
Low Marnham, Nottinghamshire

Inglesham, Wiltshire
Inglesham, Wiltshire

East Hagbourne, Berkshire
East Hagbourne, Berkshire

North Stoke, Oxfordshire
North Stoke, Oxfordshire

Skelton, North Riding of Yorkshire
Skelton, North Yorkshire