Thursday, 25 February 2010

Southwark Cathedral Lent array

Southwarklent 002

As a contrast to Tapper's work at Westminster here are some pictures of Sir Ninian Comper's Lenten array in Southwark Cathedral, photographed by SarumSleuth.  Comper's array is near contemporary with that at Westminster and was added to the cathedral in the late 1920s and early 1930s.  The high altar array (above) differs from much other array in it's use of colour, particularly the striking use of copper oxide green for the cross on the dossal and the floriation around the sacred monograms on the frontal.

Southwarklent 006

Southwarklent 008

When it came to the four altars in the retrochoir, Comper stuck with the more usual ox blood red.  Comper's Lenten Array is much more delicate and florid than the array produced by others, notably by the Warham Guild.  

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Article on Trinity College chalice

Can I recommend this excellent and fascinating article to you, published in the report of Trinity College Oxford and starting on page 83. Written by Fr Matthew Rushton, it's a fascinating account of the college chalice and paten, presented to the college by its founder Thomas Pope in 1556. The chalice and paten, which dates from 1527, were long believed to have been in the possession of St Alban's Abbey before the abbey was dissolved. Although Fr Rushton says the evidence for this tradition is rather inconclusive, Thomas Pope was one of the commissioners charged with the dissolution of the abbey and would no doubt have benefitted from its despoliation. So, there is a fair chance the chalice and paten were monastic booty.  Very little has been written on late medieval English metalwork, so this is a very welcome addition to the literature.   

Monday, 22 February 2010

The Lent array

in Westminster Abbey.  The high altar at Westminster has a glorious set of Lenten array dating from the 1920s and 30s.  The frontal and dossal, decorated with ox blood red stencilling, were first introduced in 1921. The blue stencilled hangings covering the rest of the altar screen were added in 1935.  Both were designed by Sir Walter Tapper, Surveyor of the Fabric.   

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

Click through to Flickr for more detailed views of each picture. 

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

It's that time of year again, time to put up the Lenten array!

Cuddesdon, Oxfordshire - Lent array

The Lenten array at All Saints, Cuddesdon in Oxfordshire, all three altars draped in unbleached linen with blood red decoration.  

The stencilled shields containing instruments of the Passion, are from the Lenten array frontal at St Mary's Primrose Hill, Hampstead.  The photos rom SarumSleuth's Flickr page, who has a fantastic folder on Flickr with numerous pictures of Lenten array from the length and breadth of England.  For my previous articles on the subject see here and here.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

More on Stow

In my last post I excused my absence from blogging, I've been quite busy in the parish over the last few weeks. I've been particularly occupied with arrangements for the solemn Eucharist for Candlemas that was held in the glorious surroundings of Stow Minster.  I've been putting off posting about Stow Minster, but having given you that tantalising glimpse of this building, I thought I might say a bit more about the place.

Stow Minster, Lincolnshire

Stow Minster, the parish church of St Mary the Virgin of Stow, is an extremely important building.  It's a building that dominates the small village to the north of Lincoln that surrounds it - in fact it dominates the whole countryside around it. The name Stow means 'holy place' and the village was an important centre for christian mission and worship from the Anglo-Saxon period.  Stow was so important in former times that many of the villages around it have 'by Stow' added to their place names - Coates by Stow, Sturton by Stow, Willingham by Stow, Normanby by Stow.

By tradition the first church on this site was built in the late seventh century at a spot where St Etheldreda rested for a time while on a journey.  The legend is that she planted her walking stick in the ground and it blossomed into a tree and in due course the church was built beside it.  Stow is often identified as Sidnacaester, the cathedral of the Anglo-Saxon diocese of Lindsey, but that identification is possible, but sadly unprovable. 

Stow Minster, Lincolnshire

What we do know, is that by the tenth and eleventh century there was already a major church building, of the present proportions, on this site.  In the last quarter of the tenth century, Bishop Aelfnoth of Dorchester is believed to have constructed a substantial church building to serve as a Minster for the northern part of his vast diocese.  The earliest parts of the present structure, the walls of the transepts, were probably part of that building or of work completed in the early eleventh century.  In the twenty years before the Norman Conquest bishop Eadnoth II did some further work to the church, with the finanical assistance of Leofric Earl of Mercia and his wife Lady Godiva.  In 1054 Eadnoth raised this new church to be a Minster of secular canons and endowed it with property.  His intention being to establish it as a base from which he could oversee the northern part of his vast diocese.
Stow Minster, Lincolnshire

The monumental round arches of the central crossing probably date from Eadnoth's episcopate.

In 1073 bishop Remigius of Dorchester, moved his see to Lincoln and Stow ceased to be an important administrative centre and the minster foundation probably failed.   However the religious life of Stow was revived by Remigius, who moved Benedictine monks from Eynsham in Oxfordshire to Stow, to establish a priory.  As part of that work he constructed the present nave. 
Stow Minster, Lincolnshire

The priory was to be short-lived, the monks were quickly moved back south by Remigius' sucessor, bishop Robert Bloet and Stow minster became a parish church, which it remains.  The endownment was transferred to two prebendal stalls in Lincoln cathedral.   

Stow Minster, Lincolnshire

That's not the end of the story.  The bishops of Lincoln owned a manor in Stow and they established a palace there.  The palace of Stow Park was a favourite country retreat of sucessive bishops, including bishop Hugh of Avalon, St Hugh.  It was at Stow that St Hugh made friends with the swan that was to become his attribute.  The bishops of Lincoln continued to lavish money on Stow Minster, and at some point towards the end of the twelfth century, perhaps even during Hugh's tenure, they rebuilt the present chancel of the parish church. 

Stow Minster, Lincolnshire

Very little has been added to the building since.  The central tower was rebuilt in the fifteenth century and strengthened with new arches set within the Saxon arches. Perpendicular windows were inserted into the east and west ends, but little else was done to the structure.

Stow Minster, Lincolnshire

By the early nineteenth century the building had become seriously dilapidated, and in the 1850s and 60s it was restored under the direction of J L Pearson, who removed some of the later accretions including the Perpendicular windows. In the chancel, the first part of his restoration he inserted a rib vault in place of the late medieval timber ceiling.

Stow Minster, Lincolnshire Stow Minster, Lincolnshire Stow Minster, Lincolnshire
Stow Minster, Lincolnshire Stow Minster, Lincolnshire

Sadly the future of this important and venerable building is at considerable risk.  The Pearson restoration has come to the end of its natural life and now considerable work needs to be done to the building both internally and externally.  The small and devoted congregation have already managed to raise sufficient money to repair the transept roofs, but the great roofs of the nave and chancel now need urgent attention.  The full cost of this work is around three million pounds, far more than the tiny parish are capable of raising.  So what will happen?  Well one very real possibility is that this building of national importance, will cease to be a parish church and that the long tradition of christian witness and worship in this place will be lost.  A very sad future for a glorious and inspiring building that simply comes alive when used as it was intended, for the Eucharist.

Thursday, 4 February 2010


Stow Candlemas Eucharist, originally uploaded by gordonplumb.

My absence is due in the most part to busyness in the parish. One of the things I've been working on is the liturgy for a solemn Eucharist for Candlemas. This took place in the glorious surroundings of Stow Minster last Sunday 31st of January. The following photo, taken by Gordon Plumb, shows the Gloria being sung in the twelfth century chancel at Stow.