IN SEARCH OF MEDIEVAL INSPIRATION: PART 3(ii)
The finest Norman font I have ever seen is a treasured ‘Seasonal Font’ and comes from Burnham Deepdale Church. It shows scenes from the twelve months of the year on three of its sides, with lions with linked tails and foliage above.
Fig. 32 Fig. 33
Fig. 34 Fig. 35
I will quote from Mortlock and Roberts’s, The Popular Guide to Norfolk Churches: No. 3 (p. 18) when describing the monthly scenes.
Fig. 32: north side, right to left – ‘January, a seated man drinks from a horn; February, a seated figure warms himself at a fire; March, a labourer digs with a spade; April, tree pruning in progress.’
Fig. 33: east side, right to left – ‘May, a man with a banner, in a Rogation procession of ‘beating the bounds’ and blessing the crops; June, weeding; July, reaping; August, binding a sheaf of corn.’
Fig. 34: south side, right to left – ‘September, hand threshing with a flail; October, grinding corn with quern stones; November, killing a pig; December, a jolly group celebrating Christmas at table.’
Fig. 35: west side – ornate floral carving.
Norman fonts I have seen seem to have unfortunate events in their backgrounds. The Burnham Deepdale font was removed from the north aisle of the church in 1797, when it broke into three pieces and was taken to the rectory garden at Fincham, thirty-five miles away, where it remained for nearly half a century before being returned.
Fig. 36 Fig. 37
Figure 36 shows a Norman ‘tub’ font from Titchwell Church. I wanted to include this item as it was found in a field close by, being used as a watering-trough for cattle by a local farmer! The base and stand are modern. Figure 37 is similar, for it is a Norman font to be found in north transept of Warham All Saints church, that was rescued from being an ornamental feature in a rock garden. The bowl contains fragments of the font’s base. I like the juxtaposition between these fonts great age and historical importance, and their comical (by comparison), later use.
Fig. 39 Fig. 40
Figures 38-40 are examples of 13th, 14th and 15th century fonts from Langham Church, Cley Church, and Wiveton Church, respectively. I particularly like Figure 38 which bears the scratched on embellishment: ‘Alice Nettleton baptised the 14th day of April 1692.’ I wonder why this was written and what the vicar had to say about it?
Fig. 41 Fig. 42
Figures 41 and 42 show a truly wonderous font cover from Brancaster Church. Incrediably, this intricate piece of carpentry was donated by Walter Bodham in 1493. It is a considerable feat of ingenuity and workmanship, for it has a telescopic mechanism that raises the lower section so the font may be used.
Fig. 43 Fig. 44
Figure 43 is a most remarkable 15th century font cover from Salle Church, shown here with its original crane (Fig. 44), on which one can see original paint. This is a sizeable piece of engineering.
Fig. 45 Fig. 46 Fig. 47
Figure 45 shows part of a Norman window and sill from Brancaster Church. These are very interesting. If one looks closely one can see holes drilled into the sill (Fig. 46) and window jamb (Fig. 47). In days when glass cost a fortune, thin cloth was fixed over windows and these holes show where the edges were secured.
Fig. 48 Fig. 49
As we have seen (Part II, Figs. 18 & 19) material from a church is often re-used during structural alterations to that church. Stone to be re-used can come from elsewhere of course, and the south side of the chancel at Brancaster Church is a good example. Figure 48 shows re-used silver carstone/quartzite from the Roman sea fort at Branodunum, modern-day Brancaster, about half a mile away. The re-used stone is both above, and to the left of the large chalk blocks (clunch) to the right, above the lowest course.
I am always on the look-out for patterning and in Figure 49 we see a line of small stones set in mortar between large stones.
Fig. 50 Fig. 51
Figure 50 shows medieval tiles set in the south aisle floor of Brancaster Church, whilst Figure 51 shows Flemish blue marble tiles of the 16th century on the nave floor at Cley Church.
Fig 52 Fig. 53
Figure 52 shows part of the brick north aisle paviour floor at Cawston Church. Brick was unusual and expensive when this was laid in the early 15th century. Figure 53 shows the single direction brick work on the north aisle beneath the pews. They are not in a good state of repair, but are totally original. One can imagine, during boring sermons, parishioners playing and eventually dislodging the bricks with their feet.
Fig. 54 Fig. 55
Figure 54 comes from Westley Waterless, Cambridgeshire, and shows one of the earliest examples of Arabic numerals in England. The 7 was like an upside-down ‘v’. The writing comes from a south aisle window in the early 14the century. It relates to bunches of grapes that would have been used to make the communion wine, and is thought to have been written by an Italian priest named Hengritius.
Fig. 55 also comes from Westley Waterless, Cambridgeshire, and shows medieval builder’s marks.
Fig. 56 Fig. 57
Figure 56 is now housed in the Lady Chapel of Fulbourne Church, Cambridgeshire. Known as the Fulbourn Virgin, this oak figure of the 14th century, nine and a quarter inches tall, shows a unique feature – an infant facing the Madonna. According to the church’s information sheet, it was found in a local garden, and had been used as a doorstop and a marker on a dog’s grave, before being rescued from a bonfire.
When one enters Brancaster Church through the south porch door, on the left one is greeted by an amazing 15th century carved figure of St. Matthew carrying a book and money bag (Fig. 57), probably part of the original (now replaced) hammer beam roof. It is thought to have come from the ceiling of the church.
Figure 58 shows the west door at Cley Church, noted for its fine 14th century metalwork (detailed in Figs. 59 & 60). I like the patterning, it reminds me of the floral, tendril nature of the Green Man. I have made a mental note of this.