Thursday, 31 December 2009
The Comper glass is truly wonderful. It is fairly early work, dating from 1896/7 - so is an example, as you would expect from this point in his career, of rich medieval revivalism. Figures of St Hugh, St John the Baptist, the Virgin and Child, St Paul and St Cuthbert are set under tall canopies that could easily have come out of a York church.
The English altar below is rather a different matter and that is what got my blood boiling. The riddel posts remain and are still surmounted by four gilded Nuremburg angels, but all the hangings have been removed. Instead of Comper's rich textiles, the monumental stone altar is covered with a cheap and nasty white frontal, which looks like a dust sheet and is decorated with tacky appliqued cross.
With no dorsal or riddel curtains the riddel posts are in fact redundant and Comper's intention of visually uniting the altar with the window (as is evident in the photograph below of the altar when new) is now disrupted. Visually his work is compromised.
What is more irritating is that I discovered that many of the original hangings do in fact still survive. They are dumped in a chest at the back of the church. Thankfully they are still in good condition, but for how long. I wonder though why are they not in use? How on earth did the church get permission to remove the frontal and replace them with something that is mean and unworthy? What DAC in their right mind would allow it? Needless to say I had a little bit of a rant to myself as I spent the next hour photographing the glass.
Two of the discarded hangings from the high altar. The top one, presumably a dorsal, is quite clearly by Comper, the fabrics are his own designs. The base fabric is a beautiful murrey van der Weyden and the orphreys are in a gold St Hubert. There was probably a set of vestments to match this, as a burse is also extant. The bottom frontal, is evidently post WWI later as it has a base of Randoll Blacking's St Nicholas with red and gold St Hubert orphreys. There were other textiles in the chest, but I didn't dare get them all out!!
Thursday, 24 December 2009
Sunday, 13 December 2009
This early sixteenth century roundel at Cumnor in Berkshire, isn't a particularly distinguised piece of glass painting. It is however rather interesting. It appears to show a female kneeling donor of the type that was very common in the period. However it is a rather unusual treatment of such a donor image. Firstly the donor is within a roundel, that is far from normal and she is secondly set within a domestic setting, which is unusual too. She kneels at a prie-dieu in a rather fine room with a tiled floor, springers that hint at a vault with glazed windows, one glazed with quarries and a roundel. This glass is in its original position, occupying one of two quatrefoil tracery lights at the top of a nave window. That is rather odd too, as donor images are generally near the bottom of a window where they can be more easily seen. Donor images are generally placed in relationship with other images in a window, notably with images of the persons of the Trinity or of the saints. This image was probably paired with a second image in the matching quatrefoil in the tracery of this window. Frustratingly thus image has now gone and sadly the marginal inscription of this roundel is rather too broken to provide any other clues as to what that second image might have been. Quite often the relationship between donor images and other imagery in a window is expressed through scrolls with invocatory texts. This roundel has no such texts, so what can we surmise? That this is the image of a woman meditating in her private oratory?
Friday, 27 November 2009
I have already posted twice on St Edith's Coates-by-Stow in Lincolnshire, with its lovely screen and loft. Among the fittings in the chancel are the substantial remains of the Easter Sepulchre. After it ceased to be used at the Reformation the sepulchre was covered over and monumental brasses were inserted into the blocking, further obscuring it. What was left of it It was uncovered in the nineteenth century. The top of the arch is surmounted with a badly defaced carving of the resurrection, with Christ leaping from the tomb with the sleeping soldiers surrounding him. This was flanked by two censing angels, only one survivesd and this is virtually obliterated.
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
There will be one or two new posts this week. I apologise that things have been a bit slow of late, I have the good excuse of moving house and settling into a new parish. I had a lovely little excursion last week into Nottinghamshire and one of the churches I visited was Low Marnham, a redundant church in a rather remote area close to the Trent. It's a church I last visited ten years ago when I was working on my thesis, as there are some fragments of exceptionally bad early sixteenth century glass, including this head of St James the Great.
The church itself is very atmospheric, it has a nave with aisles that entered through a sturdy transitional north arcade (see below) and a beautiful Early English south arcade with crisp stiff leaf capitals. The photo at the top of the post shows the centre pier of the north chapel arcade, which is embellished with equally fine stiff leaf. A lot of the outer walls of the church were rebuilt in the sixteenth century and the lights of the north aisle and clerestory windows are topped with the usual depressed arches of that period.
If that's not enough there are a couple of magnificent late seventeenth century Baroque cartouches. The one in the north chapel, dating from the late 1690s, is topped with putti and is supported rather dramatically on two grisly winged skulls.
Thursday, 22 October 2009
medieval wallpaintings. The tiny church of East Shefford in Berkshire, now in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust has some fascinating wallpaintings in the nave. The east wall of the nave around the thirteenth century chancel arch, has two distinct phases of wallpaintings. The chancel arch cuts through a striking Adoration of the Magi dating from c.1100 which was originally painted around an earlier narrower arch. In the later Middle Ages these early paintings would have been covered by the rood screen and loft, the position of which can easily worked out by gaps in the paintwork. Above where the rood loft would have been, are a series of 15th century paintings which formed a backdrop for the rood and rood beam. The shadow of the lost rood beam is clearly shown and the lost rood group (which was quite small and presumably of wood) is outlined in red paint. Around that are three bold sacred monograms. O wonderful sequence of paintings they are and of course never seen together until they were all uncovered in the nineteenth century.
The chancel at East Shefford is also rather interesting too. The floor has been relaid with replica tiles, based on one or surviving medieval examples and there are other interesting features which will have to wait for another post.
Tuesday, 20 October 2009
As I was surfing around on Flickr I came across Gil Barlow's lovely photo of the St Michael panel at South Cove in Suffolk. The painted panel dates from the last quarter of the fifteenth century and fills the former entrance to the rood loft. The colouring is so vibrant as the entrance was plastered over and has only fairly recently been uncovered.
A response to the enquiry by Canon Tallis about the seating of the chancel at Coates. As you can see there is nothing to suggest the medieval seating arrangements here. The back of the screen is traceried and there is no evidence of returned stalls facing east. Even the floor appears to be fairly new, rather different than that in the nave!
Saturday, 17 October 2009
I've decided to cease moderating comments on this blog. Mostly because I'm very slow at moderating them and I'm sure this must cause you all frustration. Also because I feel, given the gentility of the readership, it is highly unlikely that I will get a scurilous comment!
The photograph is taken from Simon Knott's glorious Flickr photostream. He has 23,000 photos on it, the vast majority of churches. This particular shot is a detail of the fifteenth century screen at Binham priory in Norfolk, where the medieval imagery was whitewashed over with texts by the reformers. Gradually the figures are reappearing!!
Thursday, 15 October 2009
The church of St Edith Coates-by-Stow appears to have avoided the notice of the sixteenth century reformers and has preserved it's pre-Reformation fittings more-or-less intact.
It's in a fairly isolated spot, with only a farm for company, so it's perhaps no surprise it is so well preserved. There is nothing particularly fancy about the furnishings of this building, and as such they are probably fairly representative of the medieval furnishings many country churches have lost. The church itself is essentially a Norman building, rebuilt in the fourteenth century. Windows in the nave and the tub font betray the Norman origins of the building. Like many churches of this period it was refurnished in the fifteenth century. And the rood screen, complete with its loft, a traceried pulpit and poppy head pews all date from this one campaign.
The loft, which has a projecting desk in the centre, perhaps used for reading the Gospel? or bidding the bedes, is backed with a simple plank typanum. The rood was evidently painted onto this typanum, as the head of Our Lady appears ghostlike against the worn oak background. The centre part of the typanum, where the cross would have appeared, has sadly been renewed.
The dado of the screen and the loft are decorated with blank tracery and delicate carved foliage. The glorious silvery oak of the furniture, mixed with the stone and brick of the floors makes for an evocative building with immense charm and texture.
I am in the middle of packing at the moment. In two weeks time we move to Saxilby near Lincoln, where I am to be assistant curate in the Saxilby group of parishes. In the New Year the Stow group of parishes, including Coates-by-Stow, will added to this group. I'm looking forward to the immense privilege of celebrating mass in this lovely building.
Friday, 25 September 2009
I came across this fascinating oddity at Turkdean in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds. When the parisioners decided to rebuild they modest two cell Norman church sometime in the fifteenth century. they decided to start by constructing the tower within the western bay of the Norman nave. They then built a new nave and chancel abutting the new tower. For some reason when the new nave, tower and chancel were completed the builders chose not to remove the remaining bits of Norman nave. So you have, in effect, two odd shallow Norman aisles, complete with half a door and corbel table, embracing the tower. Very strange.
A view of the church from the east.
Thursday, 24 September 2009
Eric Hardy is a Flickr friend of mine. I went on quite a number of church crawls in his company when I lived in Oxfordshire. I was always impressed with his unbounding enthusiasm and the energy as he was photographing churches and beauty and quaility of his resulting photographs. Do have a look at his Flickrstream if you have a moment. This photo of a glorious boss depicting Our Lady being assumed into heaven, is from the porch of Walpole St Peter in Norfolk. It forms part of a lovely set of four hundred photos of Norfolk churches.
Monday, 14 September 2009
South Creake, Norfolk. A tracered pulpit, with significant remains of polychromy.
North Cerney, Gloucestershire. There are a good number of stone wineglass pulpits in the Cotswolds. All are pretty similar, with traceried panels. The second example is at Chedworth, a few miles away from North Cerney.
East Hagbourne, Berkshire. This late example has been altered in the nineteenth century.
Long Sutton, Somerset. A magnificent tall pulpit, all of a piece with the rood and parclose screens. The sides of the pulpit are decorated with polychromed tabernacle work. The original figures have been lost and replaced with the present nineteenth century apostles.
Blakeney church stands high above it's village, which was once a major port on the north Norfolk coast. The church is for the most part a fifteenth century building, with a broad clerestoried nave paid for by the wealthy mercantile class who benefitted from the port trade. The chancel, is a couple of centuries earlier than the rest of the building and is a lovely example of Early English architecture. The east window consists of seven lancets set under a single hoodmould, one step in architectural development before tracery came on the scene. Attached to the north side of the chancel is an interesting and unique feature, a slender bell turret, that rises almost as high as the west tower. Is it a sanctus bellcote? Very probably, but apparently it also doubled up as a lighthouse to guide ships into the harbour and the upper parts of the bell-openings are glazed rather than louvred.
Internally the church is rather interesting too. There is a fine chancel screen and rood group above. The nave is covered with a glorious fifteenth roof with angel hammerbeams.
Internally the chancel is vaulted and the east end has an 'English altar' set before an altar screen that divides an eastern sacristy from the sanctuary.
The quire stalls incorporate medieval benchends and misericords.