IN SEARCH OF MEDIEVAL INSPIRATION: PART 1(iii)

                      

                                  Fig. 55                                Fig. 56

                                  Fig. 57                                    Fig. 58

I also like looking for designs in the towers of Saxo-Norman round tower churches, left to us by master builders. These designs cannot really be appreciated in 2D and one needs their physical presence. Figures 53 (Edingthorpe Church), 54 (Brampton Church), 55 (Appleton Church), 56 (Great Ryburgh Church), 57 (with blocked window, Little Snoring Church) and 58 (Roughton Church), provide examples of this.

                                 Fig. 59                                    Fig. 60

The exterior of Saxon, Norman and Medieval churches were originally covered with plaster to protect the stone within. Today, one can see remnants of this, but no better than the exposure of the underlying building material at Isleham Priory, in Cambridgeshire. Figures 59 and 60 show large areas where an outer coating has been weathered away to reveal wonderful patterning. Figure 59 shows a Norman window too.

 

Fig. 61

There are some unexplained aspects associated with round tower churches and I love these. One, is the existence of first floor doorways on some such towers (Fig. 61, Bexwell Church). My theory is that these towers could have been used to store grain for the village in case of famine, keeping it away, as best they could, from rats, mice and thieves. It would have been perfect, as these churches, more than likely, would have been the only stone-built structure for miles around.

                                    Fig. 62                              Fig. 63

Another unexplained question is the use of first floor tower doors that would have opened into the nave (e.g. Fig. 62, Bessingham Church; Fig. 63, Burnham Deepdale Church). On imagines they could have been used for lifting and lowering stores, but the tower had its own door, high up. It could have been an entrance-way into a loft, but I am not aware of any evidence of beam supports in any round tower church to support such a structure. It is a bit of a mystery.

                                  Fig. 64                                Fig. 65

The medieval memorable brasses of England provide a very rich source of material for the historian and artist alike, for they form a pictorial history of fashion (from armour to ecclesiastical vestments), architecture, heraldry, and palaeography in a dated object, from the late 13th–17th centuries, and represent classes from bishops and knights, through merchants to servants. Inscriptions also provide valuable information relating to wishes and deeds. There are ten times more Medieval/Tudor/Early Modern figure brasses in England when compared to all the Continent, with an estimated four thousand. This is, no doubt, only a remnant, with their numbers being reduced by the Reformation, Puritan iconoclasts, thieves, neglect and vandalism. They fall into four distant classes – ecclesiastical, civilian, shroud, and military – and will be dealt with in four separate sections throughout this work, in that order. Note that I often show the brasses (a copper and zinc alloy, known as ‘latten’) that follow as examples, in Silvertone, not only because the glare off the brass from bright light sources (invariably large perpendicular windows) makes colour photography extremely difficult, but because I feel the effect suits the subject. Where the brass photographs well, it is shown, as a preference.   

Often in churches we find brasses where all (Fig. 64) or part (Fig. 65) of the brass is lost. Figure 63 comes from Brancaster Church, whilst Figure 65 is of John Islington (c. 1460), from Cley Church.

                                 Fig. 66                                  Fig. 67

Figure 66 is a relatively humble brass in the chancel of Ringstead Church, of Richard Kegell, Rector, who died in 1482. The Latin inscription notes he rebuilt the chancel roof. There is no prayer for mercy, which is unusual for this period.

Figure 67 is, I believe, of Geoffrey Bysschop, Rector of All Saints Church, Fulbourn, Cambridgeshire (which was demolished in the 18th century – his brass is to be found in the south aisle of St. Vigor’s Church, Fulbourn).

                                     Fig. 68                         Fig. 69

Figure 68 is an impressive brass from North Creake Church. The individual represented is, probably, Sir William Calthorpe, (Fig. 69, detail) and dates to 1505. The figure of Sir William is over three feet in length and is actually buried in Norwich. He is shown here holding a church.

                                          Fig. 70                        Fig. 71

Figures 70 and 71 show the notable brass (of 1391) to William de Fulbourn, who had been Rector of Fulbourn (1377-1386), Canon at St. Paul’s Cathedral and Chaplain to Edward III. The brass is to be found in the chancel of Fulbourne Church, Cambridgeshire, under three layers of protection: rubber sponge, underfelt, and carpet.

Fig. 72

Figure 72 shows the head of the brass in detail with square indents of the rubber sponge layer evident. 

Fig. 53

Fig. 54