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CHURCH OF BRADF1ELD ST. GEORGE, SUFFOLK HITCHAM CHURCH, SUFFOLK.

Bench-ends surmounB^by^gi otesques. Buttress type with grotesques 011 aim.

The East Anglian late fifteenth-century bench-end with grots squj hgures.

Figs. 192 and 193. STOWLANGTOFT CHURCH, SUFFOLK.

Pew ends carved with grotesques.

We do not usually associate colour-decoration on wood with the beginning of the fourteenth century^; hardly- with its close. There is the possibility, of course, that this colour was a later application, but the chair has the appearance of having been designed and made specially for colour and gesso, in the same manner as the East Anglian chancel screens, and the general style of the back, with its crocketted head, is late fourteenth or even early fifteenth century in character.

The chair in St. Mary's Hall, Figs. 203 to 210, is in much more perfect condition, and while only a fragment, is well preserved. That it was never intended for decoration in colours, nor has ever been either painted or partially gilded, is almost certain. Its original finish was a glossy varnish, or in other words, much the same as at the present day. This chair has been considered at such length and detail in the "Burlington Magazine'"1 that the statements made in that article may be summarised and repeated here.

1 No. CCXXIII, Vol. XXXIX, "An Oak Chair in St. Mary's Hall, Coventry," Herbert Cescinsky, October,

1921.

1 No. CCXXIII, Vol. XXXIX, "An Oak Chair in St. Mary's Hall, Coventry," Herbert Cescinsky, October,

STOWLANGTOFT CHURCH, SUFFOLK.

The finest East Anglian type of bench-end of the late fifteenth century.

STOWLANGTOFT CHURCH, SUFFOLK.

The finest East Anglian type of bench-end of the late fifteenth century.

Fig. 195

STOWLANGTOFT CHURCH, SUFFOLK.

Carved stall-end, about 1480.

Fig. 195

STOWLANGTOFT CHURCH, SUFFOLK.

Carved stall-end, about 1480.

Fig. 190

STOWLANGTOFT CHURCH, SUFFOLK.

Carved stall-end, about 1480.

Fig. 190

STOWLANGTOFT CHURCH, SUFFOLK.

Carved stall-end, about 1480.

This is a civic or state chair ; it has only a remote clerical connection, if any. The pinnacles, which are quite original, represent on the dexter, Fig. 20(), the Plantagenet .lions of England1 (the " leones-Ieopardes " of Glover's Roll of Henry III) supporting the portion of a crown, which, when complete was probably royal. On the sinister are the arms of Coventry, the elephant and castle, Fig. 207. The chair is only a fragment, being complete at the one end, Fig. 20S, but having two mortises at the other, Fig. 209, obviously for the tenons of two panel rails. The commencement of the panel-groove can be seen above the lower mortise, and this steps forward immediately, to house the applied tracery. So much is, therefore, certain, that a traceried panel, similar to that on the front, Fig. 204, with rails above and below, must have fitted, on the chair on its right-hand side. The question now arises, was the chair originally of double or triple form ? There are several reasons to justify the latter assumption.

1 The unicorn on the sinister side of the Royal arms dates from the reign of James I only.

STOWLANGTOFT CHURCH, SUFFOLK.

Carved stalls. Date about 1480. 156

BRANDESTON CHURCH, SUFFOLK.

Pew-ends of buttress-type, carved with poppy-heads and grotesque figures. Pate about 1400.

C o ve 111ry is a 11 ancient city, renowned in the fifteenth century for its woollens and dyes ; hence the old saying, " True as Coventry blue."1 It was visited, 011 several occasions, by Royalty, and is reputed to have once housed a royal prisoner in the person of Mary, Oueen of Scots. The chair is in St. Mary's Hall, a building erected in the early part of the fifteenth century for the united guilds of St. Mary, St. John the Baptist and St. Catherine; a Trinity, be it noted. The Great Hall, which measures 76 ft. in length, 30 ft. in span and 34 ft. in height, has a dais at its end with a perpendicular Great \\ indow, divided into three sections by two vertical mullions. Below this window hangs a fine Arras tapestry in three divisions, corresponding with the mullions of the window above.

That this chair was intended to stand on this dais, under the window and in front of this tapestry, is unquestionable. A double chair would have been incongruous, and if one of the seats were intended for royalty,— which is exceedingly likely, as one of the pinnacles has the Royal arms, and the tapestry has, on its right- and left-hand panels the figures of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou, and was specifically woven for the

BRANDESTON CHURCH, SUFFOLK.

Pew-ends of buttress-type, carved with poppy-heads and grotesque figures. Pate about 1400.

1 Blue was the royal colour in the fifteenth centurv. >57

Figs. 199 ana 200.

OCCOLD, SUFFOLK. SECTION OF CHOIR STALLS.

2S ins. wide across base. 3 ft. 5 ins. high over all. 1 ft. 4 ins. deep over all.

Latter half of fifteenth century.

place it occupies at present,—the other seat would have had an equal dignity. The double-seat theory is also not tenable for another reason ; while there are unmistakable indications of the fixing of a back, there are none of a seat.

A hypothetical reconstruction of this chair has been attempted in Fig. 211. The absence of a fixing for the seat can here be explained satisfactorily. The chair would be occupied by royalty only on very rare occasions. The central seat would be rich in character, with covering, probably, of cloth of gold. It would be one to be preserved with every care, as apart from its intrinsic value, the Coventry burghers would aim at keeping it clean and free from wear. In addition it would not be left in situ, for anyone to sit upon at pleasure, with loss to its royal dignity. The natural result would be that the seat would be in the form of a

Figs. 199 ana 200.

OCCOLD, SUFFOLK. SECTION OF CHOIR STALLS.

2S ins. wide across base. 3 ft. 5 ins. high over all. 1 ft. 4 ins. deep over all.

Latter half of fifteenth century.

cushioned box* which would be removed, when not in use, and its place left vacant.

The massive cills at the foot of the present chair, at front and back (see Pigs. 204 and 205), exhibit signs of having been cut. They were probably carried through, bridging the space between, and bracing the outer chairs together, and were further extended on either side to hold the banner standards of the Guilds. The Royal banner would, naturally, be displayed centrally, behind the chair.

Another point in favour of this triple-chair theory is that the number three figures everywhere. Both the great window and the tapestry below are in three divisions. The Guild Hall of St. Mary is dedicated to the Trinity of St. Mary, St. John and St. Catherine. Coventry as one of the strongholds of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John, would give their Saint the post of honour, in the centre of the back of the middle chair or throne. The side spandrel of the chair illustrated here (Fig. 208) is carved with the effigy of St. Mary; its missing fellow on the right was probably devoted to St. Catherine. Another theory suggests itself. The central seat may have been movable so that the royal stool could be taken away, and its place occupied by another, not so ornate in character, and the throne would then be used by the Masters of the three Guilds.

A resemblance will be noticed between the grotesque carvings of the arms (although these have been mutilated, apparently with a set purpose) and those on some of the clerical benches already' illustrated, Fig. 198 for example. It was usual, even in the case of choir-stalls and misericords, to introduce purely secular carving, often of questionable decency. Perhaps the arms of this chair were carved in this manner, and a wave of puritanism condemned them to mutilation. Some of these misericord carvings are exceedingly quaint. Thus, in the Victoria and Albert Museum is an example, shown here in Fig. 212, where the mediaeval carpenter is instructing his apprentice in the craft of the woodworker. Representations or pictures of this kind, in wood, must have had

Fig. 201. ROUGHAM CHURCH, SUFFOLK.

Back and end of oak bench. Date about 1510.

Fig. 201. ROUGHAM CHURCH, SUFFOLK.

Back and end of oak bench. Date about 1510.

Fig. 202. OAK CORONATION CHAIR.

Westminster Abbey. Fourteenth century. 160

Fig. 202. OAK CORONATION CHAIR.

Westminster Abbey. Fourteenth century. 160

Front view.

Fig. 205

Back view.

Fig. 20ti.

Left-hand pinnacle.

Fig. 20ti.

Left-hand pinnacle.

Right-hand pinnacle.

General view.

AN OAK CHAIR IN ST. MARY'S HALL, COVENTRY.

»\Iid-iifteenth century. 161

End view. Right.

End view. Right.

End view. Left.

Fig. 210. Detail of top rail. AN OAK CHAIR IN ST. MARY'S HALL, COVENTRY

a very wide appeal in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, difficult to comprehend at the present day, when there are so many other diversions. In the Middle Ages, few outside of the church could read or write, and books of any kind were correspondingly small in number. Illustration on paper or vellum was more meagre still. Pictures were scarce, and drawings still rarer. The only pictorial representations were in missals or illuminated manuscripts, and they were not for the multitude ;- painted effigies of saints on chancel and other screens, and these secular carvings. They were in churches not only because the Church aggrandised all decoration, but also because clerical edifices were the mediaeval recreation halls. Providing the sanctuary of the chancel were not invaded, the nave was the common property of the parish, and was used, when services were not being held, as the parish hall. Perhaps this accounts, in some measure, for the semi-clerical character of many of the Guild Halls of the same period, the rival attractions to the churches of the Middle Ages.

The original abundance of these pictorial carvings must have been almost incredible. Apart from their perishable character, in the natural course of things, we have at least four distinct periods of purposed destruction ; under Henry VIII, Edward VI, Elizabeth and Cromwell. Yet the English parish churches of the present day can

HYPOTHETICAL RECONSTRUCTION OF THE CHAIR, FIGS. 204 TO 210.

From a drawing by Herbert Cescinsky.

HYPOTHETICAL RECONSTRUCTION OF THE CHAIR, FIGS. 204 TO 210.

From a drawing by Herbert Cescinsky.

Fig. 212. OAK MISERICORD.

Fifteenth century. Victoria and Albert Museum.

Fig. 212. OAK MISERICORD.

Fifteenth century. Victoria and Albert Museum.

furnish innumerable examples of wood-carving and colour-decoration, which give some idea, yet a meagre one, of the vast richness in similar work which must have existed in the Golden Age of the fifteenth century. That the Guilds, which began to assume a prominence after the fifth Crusade (1203-5) were responsible for much of this work is undoubted. At the close of the fourteenth century they had acquired such power and influence that they rivalled the monastic establishments in the artistic education of the artisan. From these Guilds were selected the King's master-craftsmen, men who were well paid, highly considered, and often invested with delegated autocratic powers. They were probably members, to a man, of the powerful Cluniac order, the influence of which was paramount in artistic Europe from the eleventh to the fourteenth century.

Chairs of the last years of the fifteenth century are exceedingly rare pieces, as they did not replace stools, and become general articles of household furniture, until more than a century later. Fig. 213 is an example from the Mayor's Parlour in St. Mary's Hall, Coventry. Apart from the addition of the high extra back (to serve as a firescreen, as this chair is used at the end of a fine draw-table, with its back to the fireplace), the bracing of the seat to the front legs, and the absence of the original finials to the back, the chair is in original condition, and wonderfully preserved considering its age. It has a bright varnish finish and in general tone is a fine golden-brown. Some

additional measurements to those given under the illustration may be of service. The top of the original back measures 2 ft. ij ins. across, and from the seat to the machico-lated cresting i ft. g|- ins. The panels in the back are i ft. 3| ins. in height, with a top rail of ins. From the floor to the top of the mortise at the side of the front leg (the tenon is carried through) is i ft. 3!- ins., so the chair has lost little, if any, of its original seat-height, especially as it may have been provided with a squab-cushion originallj'. The legs are 4J ins. in width on the front. From the seat to the under side of the overhang of arms, measures 10 and the S^^^^^H^^^^HH

arm-caps taper from 2 ins. at the front to if ins. at their junction with the back. The seat is original, and i j ins. .Sr^BI^B 71 ^ ^ -JP:

in thickness. The bottom edge of the back rail is 3 ins. above the top edge of the side rail. The front seat-rail is 3 ins. by ins. The side-rails are tenoned right through the back legs. The entire chair is well-constructed, in the skilful manner of its period, and is made from selected quartered and sawn English oak. The fine oak draw-table from the same room is illustrated in Fig. 146 of the preceding chapter.

  1. 214 is more than half a century later in date, about 1540-50, and is the real type of a Tudor chair. The seat is boxed in, with a cupboard below open at the back. The arms are of similar form to the chair from Coventry, but the linen-fold panels are of late pattern, and the well-defined Renaissance ornament above shows that the Gothic traditions had departed at the
  2. 213. OAK CHAIR.

2 ft. 6 ins. wide across front of seat by 3 ft. 3i ins. total height. Late fifteenth century, 1490-1500.

St. Mary's Hall, Coventry.

166

Fig. 216. OAK STOOL.

7 ft. it ins. long by i ft. Si ins. high by iof- ins. deep over top, 12\ ins. at base.

Mid-fifteenth century. Victoria and Albert Museum.

date when this chair was made. Fig. 215 is later, dated 1574, and the boxed seat has the door on the front. The purpose of these cupboards under the seat can be readily surmised. The back is tall, and the chair has an ini- —^ 1 1 .if. 1 ■•.■ . ■

portant appearance, which was evidentlv intentional, I^^Hk M r ■ 1

■ \ ■ I P*-, in spite of the fact that ^HV ' m ^

it is practically without

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