Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Some thoughts on Our Lady of London

Our Lady, Martin Travers
One of my favourite images of Our Lady is the poster 'Our Lady of London' which was designed in 1935 by Martin Travers. I took this photo of it from a surviving copy hanging in a Nottinghamshire church. Our Lady has twelve stars around her head and is set in a crescent moon, superimposed against the sun, holding the Blessed Infant. Below is the sillouhette of the London skyline and St Paul's cathedral against a dusky sky. It is a striking image.

The iconography of Our Lady and the crescent moon isn't particularly unusual.  The iconographical elements are all based on the vision of the woman in Revelation 12: 1.  Usually Our Lady is standing or sitting on the moon.  Albrecht Durer produced a woodcut of the Virgin and Child with all of these and it bears a striking resemblance to Travers' work.  Except that Our Lady and the Infant are set on the crescent moon, rather than in it.

There is more. Among my collection of oddments at home, I have a small pewter pilgrim badge dating from the later part of the Middle Ages, which I bought it from an antiquities dealer in the mid 1990s. This tiny badge had been found on the foreshore of the river Thames, where I understand they have been found in their hundreds. The badge itself is believed to have been a pilgrim souvenir obtained during visit to the shrine of Our Lady of the Pew, an image of the Virgin and Child  set in a chapel in the north Ambulatory of Westminster Abbey.  Like the Travers image, on the pilgrim badge, Our Lady is set in rather than on the crescent moon.  So I wonder - as well as seeing the Durer woodcut, had Martin Travers also seen a copy of this pilgrim badge? Was his design and the choice of this form of the Virgin and Child, based on this London connection with the cult of Our Lady of the Pew? 

Pilgrim badge

Monday, 24 May 2010

A practicality.

Doddiscombsleigh, St Michael, Devon, nII, 2c, Baptism
Glass at Doddiscombsleigh in Devon.

So you are medieval priest in a rural parish, with very fews clerks to hold your liturgical books for you.  What do you do at a baptism with your nice new copy of the Sarum Manual?  Well you either use a wooden lectern or have a stone one constructed against the pillar next to the font.  That is precisely what they did at Beckley in Oxfordshire, where a fifteenth century stone lectern built as an integral part of a pillar next to a plain reset Norman drum font.  There are one or two stone gospel lecterns still in existence, built out from the north wall of the chancel, but this font lectern is, I think, a unique survival.

Beckley, Oxfordshire

Charity Boards

This post is entirely off topic, you couldn't you argue that these objects are medieval or medieval revival, but their uniqueness makes them worthy of inclusion.  For St Lawrence's in Bardney in Lincolnshire has two remarkable seventeenth century painted charity boards, which commemorate the generosity of parishioners in the alleviation of poverty. 

Bardney, Lincolnshire

The sixteenth and seventeenth century was a time of great social flux, with the population of England rising. There were winners and losers in this rapid movement and poverty rose considerably.  The losers were, of course, as you would expect, the labouring classes.  The winners were not the usual suspects, the nobility and gentry, but the 'middling sort', artisans and craftsmen, who with a rise in population found an increased demand for their skills.  In this time of boom they invested heavily in property.  From this new found affluence and with the memory of their own struggle at the back of their minds, the middling sort developed a strong sense of social responsibility and the charity boards at Bardney reflect that.

Bardney, Lincolnshire

Bardney, Lincolnshire

The earliest board (above) commemorates the generosity of two members of the same family, both of the middling sort, Joseph Knowles and his uncle John Knowles.  Joseph, from Bardney, was an apprentice in London who died in 1603 at the age of twenty five.  He had managed to accumulate thirty pounds and this was invested in property to provide an income to buy bread for the poor.  When his uncle died, he followed the nephew's example and added an extra ten pounds to the investment, making the weekly disbursement of twelve pence worth of bread. The board bears the portraits of the two benefactors, Joseph has hand placed on a skull, John holding a Bible. 

Bardney, Lincolnshire

At the bottom a finger points to the exhortation 'Go and do thou likewise', the final command of Christ at the end of the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10. 25-37).  A challenge to their neighbours.

Bardney, Lincolnshire

Well thirty years later one of their neighbours did likewise.  For on the opposite wall of the nave is a similar board.  William Hurstcroft, who died in May 1639, gave one of his properties to provide an income to be divided between the poor of Bardney and Newport in Lincoln.  Presumably he was in trade in Newport.  We are told that this was only one of 'other charitable deeds'.  At the top of the panel, like John Knowles clutching in his hand his Bible.  The charitable response a consequence of internalising the scriptures. 

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Lady Margaret - errr who?

After saying mass on the altar at Torksey, I removed the frontal to take some photos of the fascinating object it covers. The front of the stone altar at Torksey is formed from a fifteenth century incised slab. The centre of the slab has a full length, but very worn, figure of a woman. She wears a long gown, her fully covered head resting on a tasselled pillow, a little lap dog playing at her feet. The marginal inscription around her is fairly generic 'Hic jacet Domina Margareta' it says 'Here lies Lady Margaret'. The slab is very broken and sadly the bit of slab that gave her surname is badly damaged, but you can work out that her name ended in 'on'. She died sometime in the fifteenth century, but once again the bit that was engraved with the year has been broken. On either side she has two shields of arms, 'barry of six', but in the absence of tinctures, they are frustratingly of little use. So Lady Margaret the anonymous.

Torksey, Lincolnshire

It has been suggested that the figure was that of the last prioress of the Priory of Fosse, a poor Cistercian priory within the parish of Torksey. Given that the priory was dissolved in 1539 and the slab is fifteenth century, that seems unlikely. Various suggestions have been made to complete the name of the 'prioress', including Margaret Winton and Margaret Multon. However, neither name accords with any in the list of prioresses in the Victoria County History. The only Margaret who served in that office was Margaret Barnby elected in 1410 and as the surname of this mysterious Lady Margaret ends in 'on' this is a blind alley too. So for the moment she remains unidentified.

Torksey, Lincolnshire

Personally I am not convinced she is a prioress at all. I would expect her ecclesiastical position to be noted in the inscription and it is not. Also the little lap dog at her feet is perhaps indicative that she is in fact a lay woman, I can't imagine a prioress of a poor and austere Cistercian house (and in 1539 it was described as a 'beggarly poor house') is likely to have owned or asked to be portrayed with such a luxury on her grave slab.

For some reason F A Greenhill, the slab historian, managed to miss this slab in his 'Monumental Incised Slabs in the County of Lincolnshire' even though he recorded another inscription in the church. I suppose the location of the slab doesn't help! Anyway an interesting puzzle, one that I am determined to work at. My next stop is a search of Lincoln Wills to see if any match up.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Window splays

Browsing on friends photos on Flickr I came across this lovely image of the south side of the chancel at Silchester in Hampshire by Eric Hardy. The splays of the windows are decorated with a red ochre masonry and rosettes, part of a 14th century scheme that appears to cover the rest of the chancel interior. It reminded me of the decoration on the arches at Down Ampney in Gloucestershire a featured recently.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Bodley and Garner in Lincolnshire

Laughton, Lincolnshire

Friday was my day off, so I had a trip out with my camera to Laughton, near Gainsborough in north-west of Lincolnshire. I had visited this church before in the summer of 2005, but my photos were not good, so a new set were needed. The church was breathtaking in 2005 and as I stooped down to enter via the south chancel door the building was just as staggering.

Laughton, Lincolnshire Laughton, Lincolnshire

Before the 1890s Laughton church was a somewhat dilapidated medieval building. It had been a fine structure and the remaining high quality Transitional north arcade is ample evidence of that. I understand that the chancel was early Decorated and there was much Perpendicular work too. Among the treasures of the church is a fine early fifteenth century brass to a member of the Dalison family, appropriated by a later member of the same family.

Laughton, Lincolnshire

In the final quarter of the nineteenth century the lady of the Manor of Laughton and patroness of the living, was a widow, the Hon. Mrs Emily Charlotte Meynell-Ingram. The daughter of the first Viscount Halifax, she had married a wealthy MP called Hugo Francis Meynell-Ingram, who owned a considerable property, including Laughton and Temple Newsam hall in Yorkshire and Hoar Cross in Staffordshire. Tragically Hugo Meynell-Ingram died in 1871 in hunting accident, before he and Emily had any children. She a devoted churchwoman, who was greatly influenced by her brother, the Anglo-Catholic 2nd Viscount Halifax, set about building and rebuilding churches in her husband’s memory. The first work she undertook was the construction of the Church of Holy Angels in Hoar Cross, which was completed in 1876. It was a new building, designed by the fashionable Gothic revivalists G F Bodley and Thomas Garner. Here Mr and Mrs Meynell Ingram are buried side by side under marble effigies.

Twenty years after completing Hoar Cross, Mrs Meynell-Ingram decided to restore Laughton church and she turned to Bodley and Garner once again. The nave of the church was thoroughly restored and a new chancel was built in the Decorated style. The work of restoration was once again a memorial to her late husband and his effigy in white marble, a copy of that at Hoar Cross, is at the east end of the nave. Mrs Meynell-Ingram died in 1904, but her nephew and heir, Lord Halifax, continued the work of restoration at Laughton, which was finally completed in 1926 with the glazing of the nave by Burlison and Grylls. I will say no more and let the photos of this glorious, but little known building, speak for themselves.

Laughton, Lincolnshire

Laughton, Lincolnshire

Laughton, Lincolnshire

Laughton, Lincolnshire

Laughton, Lincolnshire

Laughton, Lincolnshire

Laughton, Lincolnshire

Laughton, Lincolnshire

Laughton, Lincolnshire

Laughton, Lincolnshire

Laughton, Lincolnshire

Laughton, Lincolnshire

Laughton, Lincolnshire

Laughton, Lincolnshire

My full Flickr set is here.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Christ's feet.

This panel of early fifteenth century glass is at Newark parish church in Nottinghamshire and is from Gordon Plumb's photostream. It is representative of late medieval images of the Ascension of Christ, his feet dangling from a cloud. Do click through to Gordon's image and have a look at his commentary on the photo, where he talks about the art historical development of this type of Ascension image of the 'disappearing Christ'.

You may also like to have a look at a previous article I wrote on on the glazing of East Harling in Norfolk, as there is a comparable image of the Ascension.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010


There are a group of churches in north Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, that have a arcades of c.1340, with pillars topped with fascinating capitals.  Each capital is decorated with four crouching demi figures, some with interlocking arms. 

Hanwell, Oxfordshire

Hanwell, Oxfordshire

The two above, decorated with demi figures of male and female civilians, are at Hanwell in north Oxfordshire.

Hampton Poyle, Oxfordshire

The example above, with four men in chainmail, is at Hampton Poyle also in Oxfordshire

Ludgershall, Buckinghamshire

And the last one is at Ludgershall, Buckinghamshire (Martin Beek's photograph) is a similar example.  Interestingly the quality of the capitals at Hampton Poyle and Ludgershall are not so fine, does this suggest that the trend was set by the Hanwell capitals?

For more images of capitals, figurative and foliate, see my capitals set on Flickr  

Monday, 10 May 2010

Lenten Array ... one that got away

I fully intended to post this photograph during Lent. The Lady altar in the Tame chapel at Fairford in Gloucestershire has a reredos of 1913 by Geoffrey Webb, covered during Lent with Lenten Array. The reredos veil is decorated with a central rood group in grisaille with Oxblood stencelling around it. The tabernacle containing the image of Our Lady, that forms an upper level of the reredos, is enclosed with doors and the backs of the doors are also stencilled. Sadly these seems to be the extent of the surviving array, the blue frontal remains in place during Lent, as does the very festal dorsal with its armorial embroidery. Consequently the veiling rather loses its impact.

If you want to see an image or two of the reredos and the image of Our Lady uncovered, there are a couple of nice photos on Brother Lawrence Lew's photostream. Here and here.

Friday, 7 May 2010

A mighty Norman tower

Fingest is a tiny village in the Chilterns in south Buckinghamshire. The village is dominated by the mighty Norman western tower of St Bartholomew's church. In fact the tower is so mighty, 27 foot square, that it makes the church attached (mostly of 1866 by G E Street) look faintly silly. Sir Alfred Clapham in his volume English Romanesque Architecture before the Conquest, published in 1930, argued that the tower was constructed to serve as the nave of the church. To this tower/nave was originally added just a small chancel.

Fingest, Buckinghamshire

The breadth of the tower evidently caused some roofing issues and the tower is currently made weatherproof by a pair of saddleback roofs of the 14th or 15th century. The whole structure, build of flint rubble, is covered in stucco. It's ochre limewash giving it rather a continental air.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Beware the Ides of March

Glympton, Oxfordshire

The Norman chancel arch at Glympton in Oxfordshire has the following interesting and tantalising inscription carved on its jamb: 'Dedicatio hujus templi Idus Martii' i.e. 'this temple was dedicated on the Ides (15th) of March'. Sadly the stone with the rest of the date has been replaced, but presumably the dedication took place on a 15th of March sometime towards the end of the 12th century, if the style of the arch is anything to go by. 

Glympton, Oxfordshire

Glympton church, with its perfectly preened churchyard stands in the middle of a north Oxfordshire estate owned by a Saudi prince.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Powdered arches

Down Ampney, Gloucestershire is the birthplace of Ralph Vaughan Williams. The beautiful village church has a transitional north arcade, c.1200, with very early stiff leaf capitals. The arches are delightfully stencilled with a rather erratic powdering of ochre roses. This decoration is so wonderfully rustic and haphazard, notice the stencilling of the centre arch hasn't even been completed!

Bench End of the Passion

Looking back through the Flickr archives I came across this bench end at Cumnor in Berkshire, a double-sided poppy head decorated with instruments of the Passion on one side and the cross, a sacred monogram and the five wounds on the other. It rather speaks for itself.

Cumnor, Berkshire

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Carnations for Our Lady

As we enter May, the month of Our Lady, here are a group of late medieval quarries decorated with Gillyflowers or Carnations. Carnations were one of a myriad of flowers that were associated with Our Lady in the Middle Ages. The etymology of the word Carnation is not precisely certain, but some argue that the name is a corruption of Incarnation!

These Carnations are at South Muskham in Nottinghamshire and just down the road at Kelham is the following interesting glass, a roundel decorated with a white flowering rose.

Kelham, Nottinghamshire

Sadly the legend on the roundel is damaged preventing a full determination of the text, but it possibly alluded to Our Lady who was often represented by the white rose, the Queen of flowers.

Kelham, Nottinghamshire

This roundel is in the tracery of a north aisle window at Kelham and in the next door window are a couple of IHS monogram roundel and this lovely 'MR' monogram. The initials stand for 'Maria Regina', Mary the Queen of Heaven and allude to the long held tradition that Our Lady was bodily assumed into heaven and crowned queen by her son. As late as 1913 the main lights of the windows also contained the repeated inscription 'lade helpe', so these windows evidently had a Marian theme.