The Project Gutenberg EBook of Ecclesiastical Curiosities, by Various This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: Ecclesiastical Curiosities Author: Various Editor: William Andrews Release Date: December 11, 2011 [EBook #38274] Language: English Character set encoding: UTF-8 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK ECCLESIASTICAL CURIOSITIES *** Produced by David Wilson
WILLIAM ANDREWS & CO., 5, FARRINGDON AVENUE, E.C.
This volume is on similar lines to some of my previously published works, and I trust it will be equally well received by the public and the press.
The Hull Press,
December 1st, 1898.
The Church Door. By the Rev. Geo. S. Tyack, B.A.
Sacrificial Foundations. By England Howlett
The Building of the English Cathedrals. By the Rev. Geo. S. Tyack, B.A.
Ye Chappell of Oure Ladye. By the Rev. J. H. Stamp
Some Famous Spires. By John T. Page
The Five of Spades and the Church of Ashton-under-Lyne. By John Eglington Bailey, F.S.A.
Bells and their Messages. By Edward Bradbury
Stories about Bells. By J. Potter Briscoe, F.R.H.S.
Concerning Font-Lore. By the Rev. P. Oakley Hill
Watching-Chambers in Churches. By the Rev. Geo. S. Tyack, B.A.
Church Chests. By the Rev. Geo. S. Tyack, B.A.
An Antiquarian Problem: The Leper Window. By William White, F.S.A.
Mazes. By the Rev. Geo. S. Tyack, B.A.
Churchyard Superstitions. By the Rev. Theodore Johnson
Curious Announcements in the Church. By the Rev. R. Wilkins Rees
Big Bones Preserved in Churches. By the Rev. R. Wilkins Rees
first impressions have no small influence in moulding the opinions of most people can scarcely be denied; and therefore in our estimate of the architectural value of a church the door is an element of some importance. A shabby and undignified entrance raises no expectations of a lofty and solemn interior; and that interior must be emphatically fine, if we are not to read into it some of the meanness of its portal. On the other hand, though the church be but plain [p 2] and simple—so that it lack not a measure of the dignity which may well accompany simplicity—our thoughts will be raised and fitted to find in it something worthy of its high purpose, if we have been prepared by passing through a noble porch, and beneath a doorway that speaks itself the entrance to no ordinary dwelling.
In primitive times the approach to a church must have been full of dignity, the worshippers being warned, by successive gates and doors, of the sacredness of the building which they were about to enter. Eusebius gives us a full account of a splendid church built at Tyre by Paulinus, from which we may gather the plan on which such buildings were erected in the primitive ages, when the means were forthcoming, and no opposition from the heathen world prevented.
The whole church at Tyre and its precincts were enclosed within a wall, at the front of which was a stately porch, known as the “great porch,” or the “first entrance.” Passing through this the worshipper entered the courtyard, or atrium, round which ran a covered portico, or cloister, and in the centre of which was a fountain, or cistern, of water. Opposite the “great porch” was the door into the church itself; at Tyre [p 3] there were (as in many of our cathedrals) three such doors, a large one in the centre, flanked by smaller ones at some distance along the wall. These opened into a vestibule, or ante-temple, from which admittance was gained into the nave of the church by yet another door or gate.
Each of the spaces formed by these several barriers had its special use. Within the atrium all the worshippers washed their hands as a preparation, both literal and emblematic, for assisting in the sacred mysteries; here, too, penitents under censure for the most flagrant sins remained during the divine offices, and besought the prayers of their brethren as they passed on to those holier courts, from which for a time they were themselves excluded. Within this open courtyard, also, as in a modern churchyard, burials were sometimes permitted. The portico beyond the second entrance was the place for the “hearers,” that is for those who were not yet sufficiently instructed in the faith to be allowed to be present except at the reading of the Scriptures and the sermons (these were catechumens in their noviciate and the heathens and Jews), and also for those Christians who were degraded temporarily to the same position [p 4] as a penance for some sin. Beyond this portico, the nave was still further divided for the separation of different orders of penitents; so that the faithful in possession of all their privileges had quite a number of doors or gates through which to pass before reaching that place, immediately outside the apse, or chancel, which it was their right to occupy.
In order that the several classes of persons attending church might be kept strictly within those portions of the building which were assigned to them, a special order of door-keepers existed in the Church. The keys of the church were solemnly delivered to these ostiarii, and they were accounted to form the lowest in rank of the minor orders. The simple words of the commission, uttered by the bishop to the ostiarius, were, “Behave thyself as one that must give an account to God of the things that are kept under these keys.” Such was the formula prescribed by the fourth Council of Carthage (398 A.D.), and found in the Roman ritual of the eighth century. This order of clergy was almost confined to the west, however; we find traces of its existence at one time at Constantinople, but for the most part the deacons guarded the men’s [p 7] entrance, and sub-deacons or deaconesses the women’s, in the east.
In the earliest English churches the entrance was of a very simple nature; for the artistic skill of the people was small, and their ideals were unambitious. The buildings consisted of a nave without clerestory, and a chancel; the door being placed in the centre of the western wall. A curious example of such a door meets us at Holy Trinity, Colchester, although in this case it gives admittance not into the nave directly, but through the ancient tower. This tower, the oldest part of the church, has been constructed of the fragments of buildings older still; the Roman bricks of the ruined city of Camulodunum having been used to form it. In the western side is a narrow doorway, contained by two square shafts with very simple capitals, and having a triangular head with an equally simple moulding by way of drip-stone. The date is supposed to be between 800 and 1000 A.D. A church perhaps yet older is that of S. Lawrence at Bradford-on-Avon, which has a good claim to be the veritable structure reared by S. Aldhelm in the first years of the eighth century. Here there is a northern porch of unusual size in proportion to the rest of [p 8] the building; the entrance to which is by means of an arched doorway, tall and narrow. The narrowness of some of these ancient doorways is remarkable. At Sowerford-Keynes is one, now built up, which, though nearly nine feet high, is but 1 foot 9 inches wide at the springing of the arch, widening towards the base to 2 feet 5½ inches. The jambs are of “short and long” work, and the abacus has a very simple zig-zag moulding. The arch itself is not built up, but carved out of one stone, which is cut square on the upper side and scooped into a parabolic curve on the lower. A double row of cable moulding decorates it. This, which has been called “one of the most characteristic specimens of Saxon architecture in England,” was the northern entrance to the church. Another instance of a western door of simple design is supplied by Crowle, or Croule, in north Lincolnshire. Here we meet with a rectangular doorway, the top of which is formed of one long stone, on which is some antique carving and a fragment of a runic inscription.1 Above this is a tympanum filled with diamond-shaped stones of small size.
With the rise of the so-called Norman style of architecture the doors of our churches took a handsomer form; and as the churches themselves were now formed on a larger and nobler plan, more than one entrance was often required. The usual door for the people was now commonly placed at the south side, except in churches connected (as were so many of our cathedrals) with monastic foundations. In this latter case the south side was generally occupied by the cloisters and other conventual buildings, and the people’s door was therefore placed upon the north side. At this period, too, the church-porch begins its development; for, although porches in a strict sense were at any rate not usual, the door-way deeply sunk in the massive wall and protected by three, four, or even more concentric arches, suggests the more fully developed shelter of the porch. Of doors of this kind any of our older abbey-churches will supply adequate, and often splendid, examples. The great north door of Durham Cathedral, and the smaller, but not less beautiful doors into the cloisters there, are fine instances. The west and north doors of the little cathedral of Llandaff supply examples in another class of building; and even small and [p 10] obscure parish churches are sometimes dignified with the possession of an entrance full of the massive solemnity of this Norman work. The village church of Heysham, on Morecambe Bay, has a south door well worthy of mention in this connection; and the Lincolnshire church already cited, Crowle, has an interesting doorway of this kind.
As art progressed in Christendom, and exhibited its growing force especially in the churches, the entrances thereto shared in the increasing splendour of the whole. The mouldings of the arches and the pillars, the elaboration of capitals and bases, all showed the evidence of devotion guided by taste and skill. And often something more than mere decoration was attempted; the opportunity was seized to add instruction, and figures of saints and angels, or complete scenes from scriptural or ecclesiastical story, filled the expanse of the tympanum or the niches of the columns. About the twelfth century, also, it became customary to divide the main entrance into two by means of a pillar, or a group of pillars; the two-leaved door being thus made symbolical of the two natures of Christ, of Whom, as Durandus tells us, it is itself [p 11] the emblem, “according to that saying in the Gospel, ‘I am the Door!’”
The Continent presents some splendid examples of these decorated porticoes. The cathedral of Strasburg, preserved as by a series of miracles in spite of every danger that can assail a building, fire, lightning, earthquake, and cannonade, has a very grand west entrance; its tall doors set within a number of receding arches, and the sharply-pointed gable which crowns them flanked and crested with tapering pinnacles. The French artists of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries were unrivalled in the beauty and wealth of statuary with which they adorned their churches, and not least their doors. “The glory and the beauty” of the great porch at Amiens has been set forth fully by Ruskin, who has woven into one wonderful whole the meaning of the statues, which, like “a cloud of witnesses,” throng the western front. But Amiens is not alone; S. Denis, Paris, Sens, Angouléme, Poictiers, Autun, Chartres, Laon, Rheims, Vezelay, Auxerre, and other cathedrals are all magnificent in this respect. The principal entrance to Seville cathedral is flanked by columns upholding niches filled with figures of [p 12] saints and angels, while the tympanum contains a carving of the entrance of the Saviour into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday. In the island of Majorca, the south door-way of the cathedral of Palma is exceptionally beautiful. The statue of the Blessed Virgin crowns the centre column, and above is the Last Supper. A record of the architect of this splendid piece of work is preserved in an old account book of the cathedral: “On January 29th, 1394, Master Pedro Morey, sculptor, master artificer of the south door, which was begun by him, passed from this life. Anima ejus requiescat in pace. Amen.” The entrance in the west front is also a fine one, and is inscribed, “Non est factum tale opus in universis regnis.”
Although in England we cannot match the gorgeousness of detail exhibited by the flamboyant architecture of some of the examples above noticed, yet we too have instances of which we may well be proud. The western front of Peterborough cathedral, over the partial renovation of which there has recently been so much controversy between architects and antiquaries, has been pronounced to be “the grandest portico in Europe;” but this has reference to the whole [p 13] façade rather than to the door-way in itself. If our subject allowed of our taking so wide a view, the splendid west fronts of Exeter, York, and others of our minsters, would demand a place of honour in the list. Gloucester cathedral has a dignified porch over the south door, in which are the figures of a number of saints. The west door [p 14] of Rochester is also interesting; its decorated Norman arches are richly carved, and enclose a tympanum covered with characteristic sculpture. Of a different type is the graceful west door at Ely, whose pointed arches are upheld by delicately cut shafts, the tympanum over the twin doorways being pierced by a double trefoil within a vesica. The parish church of Higham Ferrers has double western doors, separated by a bold shaft, above which is a niche (now unoccupied) for a statue. The tympanum, anciently divided by this figure, has five medallions on each side filled with sculptured scenes from the New Testament, round which runs a scroll of conventional foliage. The neighbouring churches of Rushden and Raunds have also good double-leaved doors. To take one instance from the Northern Kingdom, S. Giles’s, Edinburgh, has a dignified west entrance. Many of the better examples of our modern churches have admirable porticoes, of which one example must suffice. All Saints’ Church, Cheltenham, has double doors within receding arches; the tympanum has the figure of Our Lord enthroned in glory surrounded by the saints, and the central shaft and the side pillars contain other statues.
There is occasionally found in a cathedral, or other large church, a porch of unusual depth, known as a Galilee. Here, during Lent, those assembled who were bidden to do public penance; the coming of Maundy Thursday being the signal for their admission once more into the church itself. Ely has a western Galilee entered by an arch, divided by a central pillar, and filled in the upper part with tracery. Lincoln has a Galilee, deep and dignified in plan, with a vaulted roof. Another English cathedral so provided is that of Chichester; and among parish churches the Galilee is found at Boxley, Llantwit, Chertsey, and S. Woolos.
Of door-ways which, independently of considerations of date, size, or form, are noteworthy for their sculpture, there are many that ought to be mentioned. At Lincoln, for instance, we have a south door carved with a Doom, or Last Judgment, wherein we see the effigy of the Divine Judge surrounded by the dead rising from their opening graves. The north door at Ely, the whole of the surrounding stone-work of which is elaborately carved, is surmounted by the figure of the Lord enthroned within a vesica, while adoring angels kneel before Him. At [p 16] Rougham, in Norfolk, the west door is surmounted by a crucifix, round which runs the emblematic vine. Founhope church, Hereford, has in the tympanum of the arch the Madonna and the Holy Child, a grotesque with birds and beasts surrounding the figures. At Elkstone, Gloucestershire, the south door-way, a specimen (like the one at Founhope) of Norman work, has some interesting sculptures. In the centre of the tympanum is Christ enthroned, with the apocalyptic symbols of the evangelists around Him; beyond these on the right hand of Christ is the Agnus Dei with the flag, an emblem of the Resurrection, while on the left is a wide open pair of jaws, known as a Hell-mouth: above all the Father’s Hand is seen in the attitude of benediction. Elstow church has sculptured figures above the north door; not within the containing arch, but within a separate arched space divided from the door-way by a string-course. Haltham church, in Lincolnshire, has some exceedingly curious designs on the tympanum of the south door; they are mostly cruciform figures within circles, and are arranged with strange irregularity. The north door of Lutterworth church has over it a fresco painting.
Several of the churches in Brussels have door-ways which, though otherwise not remarkable, are noteworthy from the beauty of the carving of the central post dividing the two leaves of the door. The church of Notre Dame de Bon-Secours has the effigy of its patron saint crowned and robed, bearing the Infant Saviour; below are the emblems of pilgrimage, wallets, gourds, and cockle-shells. The church of La Madeleine has a crucifix with a weeping Magdalene at its foot. The old church of S. Catharine has its patroness on the door-post, and the Chapelle Sainte-Anne similarly has S. Anne holding the Blessed Virgin by the hand. Foliage or scrolls in each case fill up the rest of the column, which is of wood, and in some instances has been painted.
So far, the doorways have occupied our [p 18] attention; something must, however, be said of the doors themselves. The usual form of the old church door is familiar enough to all of us; the massive time-stained oak, the heavy iron nails that stud it, and the long broad hinges that reach almost across its full breadth. There is dignity in the very simplicity of all this; but not seldom far more ornate examples may be found.
The most elementary form of decoration consists in merely panelling the door, as is the case in numberless instances; occasionally the panels themselves are carved, as on the “Thoresby Door,” at Lynn, or the door of S. Mary’s, Bath; or tracery, as in a window, is introduced, as at Alford, Lincolnshire. These are but a few of the many instances which might be cited. Another striking form of decoration is produced by hammering out the long hinges into a design covering, more or less, the surface of the door. The west door at Higham Ferrers, already noticed, has on each of its leaves three hinges, which are formed into wide spreading scrolls. Sempringham Abbey has very fine beaten ironwork spread over almost the entire face of the door. A more curious example is afforded by Dartmouth church; where a conventional tree [p 19] with spreading branches covers the door, and across this the hinges are laid in the form of two heraldic lions. The date is added in the middle of the work, 1631.
In the decoration of the church door the mediæval blacksmith proves himself in a thousand instances, at home and abroad, to have been an artist. Free from the hurry of the present age, he could work according to that canon of Chaucer’s,
With him it was not the hand only that wrought, nor even the hand and head; but the soul within him gave life to both. Of the contrast between old ways and new, few examples are more striking than the hinges of the door at S. Mary Key, Ipswich; where we have a simple but graceful scroll of ancient date, and a clumsy iron bar of to-day, lying side by side. For a beautiful design in beaten iron the doors of Worksop Priory may claim to have not many rivals.
The most splendid doors in the world are probably the bronze doors of the Baptistery at Florence. Other bronze doors there are on the Continent, and all of them fine; Aix-la-Chapelle, Mayence, Augsburg, Hildesheim, Novgorod, all have doors of this kind; at Verona, too, in the church of San Zeno, are ancient examples, whereon are set forth in panels a number of subjects from Holy Scripture and from the life of the patron saint. All, however, fall into [p 22] insignificance beside the “Gates of Paradise,” as the Florentines proudly call their doors.
In 1400 the Gild of Cloth Merchants of Florence decided to make a thank-offering for the cessation of the plague; and the form which it took was a pair of bronze doors for the baptistery of the church of S. Giovanni, to correspond with some already there. These earlier ones are the work of Pisana and his son Nino, from designs by Giotto; the creation of the new ones was thrown open to competition. Many competitors appeared, of whom six were asked to submit specimens of designs for the panels; and, finally, when the choice lay between two only, the elder, Brunellesco, himself advised that the commission should be entrusted to Ghiberti, a youth then barely twenty years of age. The doors when completed contained twenty scenes from the Saviour’s life, together with figures of the four Latin Doctors and the four Evangelists, set in a frame of exquisite foliage. This splendid work was surpassed by a second pair of doors subsequently made for the same place. In this there are ten panels setting forth scenes from the Old Testament history; and the frame is adorned with niches and [p 23] medallions in which are placed some fifty allegorical figures and portrait heads. It was of these last doors, which were only completed in Ghiberti’s mature age, that no less a judge than Michael Angelo said, “They might stand as the gates of Paradise itself.”
Aix-en-Provence claims that her doors are as peerless as examples of the wood-carver’s art, as are the Florentine ones as types of the metal-worker’s. They have been preserved, it is said, from the sixth century, and are still wonderfully fresh and delicate. There are on each door six upper panels filled with figures of the twelve Sybils; and below one large panel, occupied, in one case, by effigies of the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, and in the other by Ezekiel and Daniel. The carving is only occasionally exhibited, two masking doors having been cleverly contrived to protect and cover the real ones.
Many of the doors of our cathedrals and great abbey churches have knockers, often of very striking designs. These as a rule indicate that the places in question claimed the right of sanctuary; and the knocker was to summon an attendant, or watcher, to admit the fugitive from justice at night, or at other times when the [p 24] entrance was closed. A curious head holding a ring within its teeth forms the knocker at Durham cathedral; a lion’s head was not an uncommon form for this to take, as at Adel, York (All Saints), and Norwich (S. Gregory’s); a singularly ferocious lion’s head knocker may be seen at Mayence.
The deep porch which we so frequently see over the principal door of the church was formerly something more than an ornament, or even a protection; it was a recognized portion of the sacred building, and had its appointed place in the services of the Church. Baptism was frequently administered in the church porch, to symbolize that by that Sacrament the infant entered into Holy Church. There are still relics of the existence of fonts in some of our porches, as at East Dereham, Norfolk. When baptism was thus administered in the south porch, it was also customary, so it is alleged, to throw wide open the north door; that the devil, formally renounced in that rite, might by that way flee “to his own place.” The font now usually stands just within the door. In the pre-reformation usage of the Church the thanksgiving of a woman after child-birth was also made in, or [p 25] before, the church porch; and concluded with the priest’s saying, “Enter into the temple of God, that thou mayest have eternal life, and live for ever and ever.” The first prayer-book of Edward VI. ordered the woman to kneel “nigh unto the quire door:” the next revision altered the words “to nigh unto the place where the table standeth;” and from Elizabeth’s days the rubric has simply said indefinitely “a convenient place.”
The rubric at the commencement of the Order of the Solemnization of Holy Matrimony according to the Sarum use began also in this way: “Let the man and woman be placed before the door of the church, or in the face of the church, before the presence of God, the Priest, and the People”; at the end of the actual marriage, and before the benedictory prayers which follow it, the rubric says, “Here let them go into the church to the step of the altar.” Chaucer alludes to this usage when in his “Canterbury Tales” he says of the wife of Bath—
The first prayer-book of Edward VI. introduced an alteration which has been maintained ever since; the new rubric reading that “The persons to be married shall come into the body of the Church,” just as it does in our modern prayer-books. In France the custom survived as late as the seventeenth century, at least in some instances, for the marriage of Charles I., who was represented by a proxy, and Henrietta Maria was performed at the door of Notre Dame in Paris. In Herrick’s “Hesperides” is a little poem entitled “The Entertainment, or, A Porch-verse at the marriage of Mr. Henry Northly and the most witty Mrs. Lettice Yard.” It commences:—
This was published in the midst of the great Civil War, and seems to show that the custom of marriage at the church porch was still sufficiently known, even if only by tradition, to make allusions to it “understanded of the people.”
Ecclesiastical Courts were frequently held in church porches, as at the south door of Canterbury Cathedral; schools were occasionally established in them; and here the dower of the bride was formally presented to the bridegroom. This last-named use of the porch is illustrated by a deed of the time of Edward I., by which Robert Fitz Roger, a gentleman of Northamptonshire, bound himself to marry his son within a given time to Hawisia, daughter of Robert de Tybetot, and “to endow her at the church door” with property equal to a hundred pounds per annum. We still have evidence of the fact that the church door was of old considered the most prominent and public place in the parish in the continued use of it as the official place for posting legal notices of general interest, such as lists of voters, summonses for public meetings, and so forth.
There are often in connection with ancient ecclesiastical foundations doors and gateways which are of great interest, though they can scarcely be called church doors. Of this class are the entrances to the chapter houses of [p 28] cathedrals, many of which are very fine. At York, for example, the chapter-house, which proudly asserts in an inscription near the entrance that, “as the rose is among the flowers, so is it among buildings,” has a doorway not unworthy of the beautiful interior.
The gateway which gave admittance to the sacred enclosure of the abbey—the garth or close round which were ranged the monastic buildings—is in many cases an imposing and elaborate piece of architecture. Bristol has an interesting Norman gateway, and that at Durham is massive and impressive, as are all the conventual remains there. Norwich is specially rich in this respect. The Erpingham Gate was the gift of Sir Thomas Erpingham, who died in 1420, and whom the King, in Shakespere’s play of “King Henry V.” (Act iv. sc. I), calls a “good old knight;” S. Ethelbert’s Gate was built at the cost of Bishop Alnwick, who ruled the see from 1426 to 1436.
But to speak of these things is to wander from our present subject, and even that is too wide to be dealt with fully in a paper such as this. The legends and traditions of the church porch might occupy many a page, while we gossiped over the mystic rites of S. John’s Eve or of All Hallow [p 29] E’en; or while we told how Ralph, Bishop of Chichester, barred his cathedral door with thorns in his anger against the King and his friends; or how the skins of marauding Danes have in more than one instance been nailed as leather coverings to the doors of English churches. Enough, however, has probably been said to show the wealth of interest which may often be found to hang about the old church porch, in which the village church may often be as rich as the great cathedral or the stately abbey.
1. See a full account of this stone in “Bygone Lincolnshire,”—Vol. I, William Andrews & Co.
In early ages a sacrifice of some sort or other was offered on the foundation of nearly every building. In heathen times a sacrifice was offered to the god under whose protection the building was placed; in Christian times, while many old pagan customs lingered on, the sacrifice was continued, but was given another meaning. The foundation of a castle, a church, or a house was frequently laid in blood; indeed it was said, and commonly believed, that no edifice would stand firmly for long unless the foundation was laid in blood. It was a practice frequently to place some animal under the corner stone—a dog, a wolf, a goat, sometimes even the body of a malefactor who had been executed.
Heinrich Heine says:—“In the middle ages the opinion prevailed that when any building was to be erected something living must be killed, in the blood of which the foundation had to be laid, by which process the building would be [p 31] secured from falling; and in ballads and traditions the remembrance is still preserved how children and animals were slaughtered for the purpose of strengthening large buildings with their blood.”
To many of our churches tradition associates some animal and it generally goes by the name of the Kirk-grim. These Kirk-grims are of course the ghostly apparitions of the beasts that were buried under the foundation-stones of the churches, and they are supposed to haunt the churchyards and church lanes. A spectre dog which went by the name of “Bargest” was said to haunt the churchyard at Northorpe, in Lincolnshire, up to the first half of the present century. The black dog that haunts Peel Castle, and the bloodhound of Launceston Castle, are the spectres of the animals buried under their walls. The apparitions of children in certain old mansions are the faded recollections of the sacrifices offered when these houses were first [p 32] erected, not perhaps the present buildings, but the original halls or castles prior to the conquest, and into the foundations of which children were often built. The Cauld Lad of Hilton Castle in the valley of the Wear is well known. He is said to wail at night:
Afzelius, in his collection of Swedish folk tales, says: “Heathen superstition did not fail to show itself in the construction of Christian churches. In laying the foundations the people retained something of their former religion, and sacrificed to their old deities, whom they could not forget, some animal, which they buried alive, either under the foundation, or within the wall. A tradition has also been preserved that under the altar of the first Christian churches a lamb was usually buried, which imparted security and duration to the edifice. This was an emblem of the true church lamb—the Saviour, [p 33] who is the corner stone of His church. When anyone enters a church at a time when there is no service, he may chance to see a little lamb spring across the choir and vanish. This is the church-lamb. When it appears to a person in the churchyard, particularly to the grave-digger, it is said to forbode the death of a child that shall be next laid in the earth.”
The traditions of Copenhagen are, that when the ramparts were being raised the earth always sank, so that it was impossible to get it to stand firm. They therefore took a little innocent girl, placed her on a chair by a table, and gave her playthings and sweetmeats. While she thus sat enjoying herself, twelve masons built an arch over her, which when completed they covered over with earth, to the sound of music with drums and trumpets. By this process they are, it is said, rendered immovable.2
It is an old saying that there is a skeleton in every house, a saying which at one time was practically a fact. Every house in deed and in truth had its skeleton, and moreover every house was designed not only to have its skeleton, but its ghost also. The idea of providing every [p 34] building with its ghost as a spiritual guard was not of course the primary idea; it developed later out of the original pagan belief of a sacrifice associated with the beginning of every work of importance. Partly with the notion of offering a propitiatory sacrifice to mother earth, and partly also with the idea of securing for ever a portion of soil by some sacrificial act, the old pagan laid the foundation of his house in blood.
The art of building in early ages was not well understood, and the true principles of architecture and construction were but little appreciated. If the walls of a building showed any signs of settlement the reason was supposed to be that the earth had not been sufficiently propitiated, and that as a consequence she refused to carry the burden imposed upon her.
It is said that when Romulus was about to found the city of Rome he dug a deep pit and cast into it the “first fruits of everything that is reckoned good by use, or necessary by nature,” and before the pit was closed up by a great stone, Faustulus and Quinctilius were killed and laid under it. The legend of Romulus slaying his twin brother Remus because he jumped the walls of the city to show how poor they were, [p 35] probably arises out of a confusion of the two legends and has become associated with the idea of a sacrificial foundation. To the present day there is a general Italian belief that whenever any great misfortune is going to overtake the city of Rome the giant shadow of Remus may be seen walking over the highest buildings in the city, even to the dome of St. Peter’s.
Sacrifice was not by any means confined to the foundations of buildings only. A man starting on a journey or on any new and important work would first offer a sacrifice. A ship was never launched without a sacrifice, and the christening of a vessel in these days with a bottle of wine is undoubtedly a relic of the time when the neck of a human being was broken and the prow of the vessel suffused with blood as a sacrificial offering.
In our own time the burial of a bottle with coins under a foundation stone is the faded memory of the immuring of a human victim. So hard does custom and superstition die that even in the prosaic nineteenth century days we cannot claim to be altogether free from the bonds and fetters with which our ancestors were bound.
Grimm, in his German Mythology, tells us: “It was often considered necessary to build living animals, even human beings, into the foundations on which any edifice was reared, as an oblation to the earth to induce her to bear the superincumbent weight it was proposed to lay upon her. By this horrible practice it was supposed that the stability of the structure was assured as well as other advantages gained.” Of course the animal is merely the more modern substitute for the human being, just in the same manner as at the present day the bottle and coins are the substitute for the living animal. In Germany, after the burial of a living being under a foundation was given up, it became customary to place an empty coffin under the foundations of a house, and this custom lingered on in remote country districts until comparatively recent times.
With the spread of Christianity the belief in human sacrifice died out. In 1885, Holsworthy Parish Church was restored; during the work of restoration it was necessary to take down the south-west angle of the wall, and in this wall was found, embedded in the mortar and stone, a skeleton. The wall of this part of the church [p 37] had settled, and from the account given by the masons it would seem there was no trace of a tomb, but on the contrary every indication that the victim had actually been buried alive—a mass of mortar covered the mouth, and the stones around the body seemed to have been hastily built. Some few years ago the Bridge Gate of the Bremen city walls was taken down, and the skeleton of a child was found embedded in the foundations.3
The practice of our masons of putting the blood of oxen into mortar was no doubt in the first instance associated with the idea of a sacrifice; however this may be, the blood had no doubt a real effect in hardening the mortar, just the same as treacle, which has been known to be used in our days. The use of cement when any extra strength is needed has put aside the use of either blood or treacle in the mixing of mortar.
It is a curious instance of the wide spread of the belief in blood as a cement for ancient buildings that Alá-ud-din Khilji, the King of Delhi, A.D. 1296–1315, when enlarging and strengthening the walls of old Delhi, is reported to have mingled in the mortar the bones and [p 38] blood of thousands of goat-bearded Moghuls, whom he slaughtered for the purpose. A modern instance is furnished by advices which were brought from Accra, dated December 8th, 1881, that the King of Ashantee had murdered 200 girls, for the purpose of using their blood to mix with the mortar employed in the building of a new palace.
A foundation sacrifice is suggested by the following curious discovery, reported in the Yorkshire Herald of May 31st, 1895: “It was recently ascertained that the tower of Darrington Church, about four miles from Pontefract, had suffered some damage during the winter gales. The foundations were carefully examined, when it was found that under the west side of the tower, only about a foot from the surface, the body of a man had been placed in a sort of bed in the solid rock, and the west wall was actually resting upon his skull. The gentle vibration of the tower had opened the skull and caused in it a crack of about two-and-a-half inches long. The grave must have been prepared and the wall placed with deliberate intention upon the head of the person buried, and this was done with such care that all remained as placed for at least 600 years.”
The majority of the clergy in the early part of the Middle Ages doubtless would be very strongly imbued with all the superstitions of the people. The mediæval priest, half believing in many of the old pagan customs, would allow them to continue, and it is both curious and interesting to notice how heathenism has for so long a period lingered on, mixed up with Christian ideas.
It is said that St. Odhran expressed his willingness to be the first to be buried in Iona, and, indeed, offered himself to be buried alive for sacrifice. Local tradition long afterwards added the still more ghastly circumstance that once, when the tomb was opened, he was found still alive, and uttered such fearful words that the grave had to be closed immediately.
Even at the present day there is a prejudice more or less deeply rooted against a first burial in a new churchyard or cemetery. This prejudice is doubtless due to the fact that in early ages the first to be buried was a victim. Later on in the middle ages the idea seems to have been that the first to be buried became the perquisite of the devil, who thus seems in the minds of the people to have taken the place of the pagan deity. Not in England alone, but all over Northern Europe, [p 40] there is a strong prejudice against being the first to enter a new building, or to cross a newly-built bridge. At the least it is considered unlucky, and the more superstitious believe it will entail death. All this is the outcome of the once general sacrificial foundation, and the lingering shadow of a ghastly practice.
Grimm, in his “Teutonic Mythology,” tells us that when the new bridge at Halle, finished in 1843, was building, the common people got an idea that a child was wanted to wall up in the foundations. In the outer wall of Reichenfels Castle a child was actually built in alive; a projecting stone marks the spot, and it is believed that if this stone were pulled out the wall would at once fall down.
Bones, both human and of animals, have been found under hearthstones of houses. When we consider that the hearth is the centre, as it were, and most sacred spot of a house, and that the chimney above it is the highest portion built, and the most difficult to complete, it seems easy to understand why the victim was buried under the hearthstone or jamb of the chimney.
There is an interesting custom prevailing in Roumania to the present day which is clearly a [p 41] remnant of the old idea of a sacrificial foundation. When masons are engaged building a house they try to catch the shadow of a stranger passing by and wall it in, and throw in stones and mortar whilst his shadow rests on the walls. If no one passes by to throw a shadow the masons go in search of a woman or child who does not belong to the place, and, unperceived by the person, apply a reed to the shadow and this reed is then immured. In Holland frequently there has been found in foundations curious looking objects something like ninepins, but which in reality are simply rude imitations of babies in their swaddling bands—the image representing the child being the modern substitute for an actual sacrifice. Carved figures of Christ crucified have been found in the foundations of churches. Some few years ago, when the north wall of Chulmleigh Church in North Devon was taken down there was found a carved figure of Christ crucified to a vine.4
A story is told that the walls of Scutari contain the body of a victim. In this case it is a woman who is said to have been built in, but an opening was left through which her infant might be [p 42] passed in to be suckled by her as long as any life remained in the poor creature, and after her death the hole was closed.
The legend of Cologne Cathedral is well known. The architect sold himself to the devil for the plan, and gave up his life when the building was in progress; that is to say, the man voluntarily gave up his life to be buried under the tower to ensure the stability of the enormous superstructure, which he believed could not be held up in any other way.
It is well known that the extinguished torch is the symbol of departed life, and to the present day the superstitious mind always connects the soul with flame. It was at one time a common practice to bury a candle in a coffin, the explanation being that the dead man needed it to give him light on his way to Heaven. It is extremely doubtful, however, whether this was the original idea, for most probably the candle in the first instance really represented an extinguished life, and was thus a substitute for a human sacrifice which, in the pagan times, accompanied every burial. The candle, in fact, took the place of a life, human or animal, and in many instances candles have been found [p 43] immured in the walls and foundations of churches and houses.
Eggs have often been found built into foundations. The egg had, of course life in it—but undeveloped life, so that by its use the old belief in the efficacy of a living sacrifice was fully maintained without any shock to the feelings of people in days when they were beginning to revolt against the practices of the early ages.
Sir Walter Scott speaks of the tradition that the foundation stones of Pictish raths were bathed in human blood. In the ballad of the “Cout of Keeldar” it is said:
From Thorpe’s “Northern Mythology” we learn that in Denmark, in former days, before any human being was buried in a churchyard, a living horse was first interred. This horse is supposed to re-appear, and is known by the name of the “Hel-horse.” It has only three legs, and if anyone meets it it forebodes death. Hence is derived the saying when anyone has survived a dangerous illness: “He gave death a [p 44] peck of oats” (as an offering or bribe). Hel is identical with death, and in times of pestilence is supposed to ride about on a three-legged horse and strangle people.
The belief still lingers in Germany that good weather may be secured by building a live cock into a wall, and it is thought that cattle may be prevented from straying by burying a living blind dog under the threshold of a stable. Amongst the French peasantry a new farmhouse is not entered upon until a cock has been killed and its blood sprinkled in the rooms.5
It is probable that sacrificial foundations had their origin in the idea of a propitiary offering to the Goddess Earth. However this may be, it is certain that for centuries, through times of heathenism, and well into even advanced Christianity, the people so thoroughly associated the foundation of buildings with a sacrifice that in some form or other it has lingered on to the present century. Now in our own day the laying the foundation of any important building is always attended with a ceremony—the form remains, the sacrifice is no longer offered. For ecclesiastical buildings, or those having some [p 45] charitable object, a religious ceremony is provided, while for those purely secular the event is marked by rejoicings. We cannot bring ourselves to pass over without notice the foundation laying of our great buildings, and who shall venture to say that superstition is altogether dead, and that we are free from the lingering remains of what was once the pagan belief?
Of all the sins of the nineteenth century, the one which most militates against its attainment of excellence in art is its impatience. A work has been no sooner decided on, than there is a clamour for its completion. Our cathedrals were for the most part reared in far other times, and are therefore admirable. Growing with the stately, deliberate increase of the ponderous oak, they speak of days when art was original, sincere, patient, and therefore capable of great deeds; original, not in extravagance or eccentricity, but in the realization of the natural development of style, advancing from grace to grace, from the perfection of solidity to the perfection of adornment, by an unforced growth; sincere, in its confidence of its own capacity for fulfilling its appointed end, in its grasp of the possibilities in its materials, in its choice of the true, rather than the easy, method of working; and patient, finally, in its contentment to do in each age a little solidly and well, [p 47] rather than a great deal indifferently, in its aim at artistic perfection in preference to material completeness. Thus it is that none of our cathedrals are the work of one age, save those of Salisbury and London, and even they have details which they owe to succeeding times.
The above words are not intended to imply that our mediæval builders made no mistakes. The brief review of some of their work will show us proof to the contrary; but the mistakes were rare exceptions. If, for instance, a captious critic turns to Peterborough, and points us to the defective foundations, which have recently required the rebuilding of the central tower, and the supposed necessity of reconstructing the west front, all that the case will prove is that our great monastic architects’ work was not always absolutely eternal. “So there was jerry-building in those days too!” someone exclaims, with a note of triumph at the dragging down of the great ideals of the past to the level of the paltriness of the present. If such be the case, we reply, there were indeed giants in those days, the very “jerry building” of which rides out the storms of well-nigh seven centuries before revealing any fatal weaknesses.
In considering these splendid buildings, of which the present century has happily proved itself no unappreciative heir, it will be of interest to devote a few lines to the means which were employed to raise funds for their construction. Several illustrations of the methods employed in the case of cathedrals and other churches have come down to us. The story of the foundation of the new buildings at Crowland Abbey in 1112, exhibits an outburst of popular enthusiasm which irresistibly recalls the free gifts of the Hebrew people for the building of the first temple. “The prayers having been said and the antiphons sung,” says Peter Blesensis, vice-chancellor under Henry II., “the abbot himself laid the first corner-stone on the east side. After him every man according to his degree laid his stone; some laid money, others writings by which they offered their lands, advowsons of livings, tenths of sheep and other church tithes; certain measures of wheat, a certain number of workmen or masons, etc. On the other side, the common people, as officious with emulation and great devotion, offered, some money, some one day’s work every month till it should be finished, some to build whole pillars, others [p 49] pedestals, and others certain parts of the walls.”
Indulgences, remitting so many days’ penance, were sometimes issued to encourage the gifts of the faithful. Thus in the time of Henry VIII. a church brief was issued soliciting help towards the repair of Kirby Belers Church, in Leicestershire, part of which runs as follows:—“Also certayne patriarkes, prymates, &c., unto the nombre of sixtie-five, everie one of theym syngularly, unto all theym that put their helpyng handes unto the sayd churche, have granted xl dayes of pardon; which nombre extendeth unto vij yeres and cc dayes, totiens quotiens.” Sometimes, by way of penance itself, a fine was imposed, which was devoted to a local building fund. Gilbert, bishop of Chichester, in certain constitutions promulgated in 1289 rules that every priest in the diocese who shall be convicted of certain scandalous sins shall “forfeit forty shillings, to be applied to the structure of Chichester Cathedral.” In modern money this fine would amount to something like £40. Walter, Bishop of Worcester, also ordained in 1240 that beneficed priests who dressed unclerically should be fined to the extent of a tenth of their annual revenue for the benefit of the [p 50] building of his cathedral. A yet earlier order concerning laity as well as clergy was issued by the Witan at Engsham, in Oxfordshire, in the year 1009, which decides that “if any pecuniary compensation shall arise out of a mulct for sins committed against God, this ought to be applied, according to the discretion of the bishop,” to one of several pious purposes, of which two are “the repair of churches, and the purchase of books, bells, and ecclesiastical vestments.”
Another way of raising money was to exact a contribution from church dignitaries, as a kind of “entrance fee,” on their accepting preferment. William Heyworth, bishop of Coventry, (a see now owning Chester as its mother city), decreed in 1428 that “every canon on commencing his first residence should pay a hundred marks towards the structure of the cathedral, the purchase of ornaments,” and other similar expenses.
In 1247, Bishop Ralph Neville, of Chichester, having died indebted to some of the canons of the cathedral, left by will a sufficient sum to discharge his obligations. But these ecclesiastical creditors decided that it should be devoted to “the completion of a certain stone tower, [p 51] which had remained for a long time unfinished.” The same canons bitterly complained because the Pope had ordained that all vacant prebends throughout the country should remain unoccupied for a year, in order that their revenues might be devoted to the erection of the minster at Canterbury; whereas they not unnaturally felt that the needs of their own cathedral had the first claim upon them.
Those churches which contained the shrines of popular saints drew, for the repair or enlargement of the fabric, no small revenue from the offerings of pilgrims. The eastern part of Rochester Cathedral was paid for by the moneys deposited at the tomb of S. William of Perth; and the large sums given by visitors to the shrine of S. Thomas of Canterbury materially assisted in keeping the building in repair.
Unquestionably the sums needed for rearing these massive piles were in most cases given, either in money or in kind, by the faithful; sometimes the princely offerings of a few wealthy men, sometimes the countless small gifts of the multitude, have become transmuted into tapering spire, or ponderous tower, “long-drawn aisle and fretted vault.” The poor, in some instances, [p 52] as we have seen, voluntarily gave their labour; in others the hands of the monks themselves raised and cut the sculptured stones.
In most cases the cathedrals which we now possess are not the first that have occupied their sites. Some humble building, often reared by one of the pioneers of the faith, was in the majority of instances the shrine that first consecrated the spot to the service of God.
It was in 401, during the visit of Germanus and Lupus, bishops of Auxerre and of Troyes, to aid in exterminating the Pelagian heresy, that the earliest shrine of S. Alban, a simple wooden oratory, was erected at Verulam; S. Deiniol built a little stave-kirk, or timber church, at Bangor about 550; and Kentigern, some ten years later, raised the first religious establishment at Llanelwy, or S. Asaph; while where now the ruined Cathedral of Man rears its weather-beaten gables and sightless windows at Peel, tradition says S. Patrick consecrated S. Germain first bishop of the Southern Isles in 447.
Many causes, however, combined to sweep away not only all traces of these earliest churches, but also in many instances more than one more solidly constructed successor. The [p 53] growth of architectural taste and skill made men impatient of the rudeness of their forefathers’ simple fanes; in a surprising number of instances the lightning-flash or the raging fire destroyed the buildings wholly or in part. The cathedrals of the north felt more than once the shock of the Border wars; and civil strife, or religious fanaticism, wrought mischief in many others. Thus it has come to pass that the centuries have seen four cathedrals in succession at Hereford, at Gloucester, and at Bangor; and three at a multitude of places, Canterbury, London, Winchester, Peterborough, Lichfield, Oxford, and half-a-dozen more.
The incursions of the Danes were answerable for the destruction of several of the earlier foundations. Canterbury had a cathedral, the most ancient part of which had been erected, according to tradition, by Lucius, the first Christian King of the Britons, and afterwards restored by S. Augustine. To this, about the year 740, Cuthbert, the archbishop, added a chapel for the interment of the occupants of the see; and Odo, in the tenth century, enlarged and re-roofed it. But in the days of saintly Alphege, in 1005, the Danish invaders fell upon the city, [p 54] making of the church a ruin, and of its bishop a martyr. A similar fate befell the metropolitan church of the north. On the site where Paulinus baptized King Edwin and his two sons into the Christian faith a little wooden oratory was raised, over which ere long Edwin commenced to build a stone church, which S. Oswald, his successor, completed. This, after having been beautified by S. Wilfred, was burnt about 741, but re-built shortly afterwards by Archbishop Egbert. It was this latter building which fell before the Danes.
At Ely the religious house founded by S. Etheldreda, which was the precursor of the modern cathedral, was burnt by the same marauders about 870. Rochester suffered in the same way; and no trace of the church built, so says the Venerable Bede, by King Ethelbert himself now remains. Peterborough has been particularly unfortunate in this respect. The first building here was begun by Peada, King of Mercia, in the seventh century. In the year 870 the Danes, on one of their forays, burnt church and monastery to the ground, and massacred the abbot and all his monks. In 971 King Edgar raised the place once more from its desolation, [p 55] but again it was seriously damaged, though not absolutely destroyed, by the sea-kings shortly before the Norman Conquest. Oxford was partially burnt in 1002 owing to the same people, but in a different way. A number of Danes took refuge in the tower of S. Frideswide to escape the senseless and brutal massacre organised on S. Brice’s day in that year, and the English fired the structure rather than suffer their prey to escape them.
It will be convenient here, although it may take us in some cases away from those primitive foundations which so far we have considered, to glance at the other instances in which war has left its mark upon our cathedrals. Hereford, lying near the Welsh border, felt the storm and stress of warfare in 1056. Originally founded at some unknown date in very early English times, the church at Hereford was rebuilt about 830 by a noble Mercian, named Milfrid, and was repaired, if not actually renewed, by Athelstan the bishop, who came to the see in 1012. Ten years before the Norman Conquest, however, Griffith, prince of Wales, at the head of a combined host of Welsh and Irish, crossed the marches and plundered and burnt the church [p 56] and city. In the reign of Hardicanute (1039–1041) the citizens of Worcester, having risen against the payment of the ship-tax, were severely punished, a military force being sent to occupy their city. So thoroughly did it carry out the work of inflicting discipline on the malcontents, that the church, amongst other buildings, was left in ruins. The original church at Gloucester was built in 681, as part of a conventual establishment; this was destroyed, and, after an interval, rebuilt by Beornulph, King of Mercia, sometime previous to 825. This church was looted by the Danes, but restored by S. Edward the Confessor. In the year after the Conquest, Gloucester was occupied by the Normans, whose entrance was not, however, accepted quite peaceably by the citizens; and in the tumult the Cathedral was seriously injured by the one or the other party. Exeter provides us with another case. Here was a cathedral in early English days, which lasted until the time of Bishop William Warelwast, who began the erection of a new one in 1112. During the stormy reign of Stephen, the city was held for Matilda and had to stand a siege by the King, to the great damage of the still [p 57] unfinished church. To quote one further illustration only: Bangor, whose wooden church was replaced by a stone one somewhere about 1102, suffered grievously in the wars waged between Henry III. of England, and David, Prince of Wales, an episode in which was the destruction of the Cathedral.
The conquest of England by William, Duke of Normandy, had a vast influence on the ecclesiastical buildings of the country. On the continent art had advanced at a pace unknown in this island, and the plain and massive churches scattered over the land must have seemed very rude structures in the eyes of the prelates who came in the victor’s train. S. Edward the Confessor, with his Norman predilections, had no doubt accustomed his courtiers to some aspects of foreign art, and through his influence the so-called Norman architecture preceded the Normans in the country; but such instances of it as were to be seen must have been few, and probably confined to the southern counties.
Lanfranc, who ascended the throne of S. Augustine in 1070, set himself to the work of rebuilding Canterbury Cathedral, not contenting himself with any enlargement or embellishment of the older fane, but making a clean sweep of that, and beginning from the foundations. S. Anselm, and the prior of the monastery, Ernulph, took up the work and enlarged upon Lanfranc’s design, pulling down and re-building the choir. Early in the next century, namely in 1130, the new Cathedral, completed under the supervision of Conrad, successor to Ernulph, was solemnly dedicated with great pomp in the presence of the Kings of England and of Scotland.
Meanwhile, Thomas of Bayeux, who became Archbishop of York in the same year as that in which Lanfranc obtained his English see, was busy rebuilding his Minster at York. William of Carilef commenced the magnificent pile, forming one of the finest Norman churches in existence, which crowns the Wear at Durham, in 1093; and Ralph Flambard took up the work three years later, completing it in 1128. London [p 61] was deprived of its Cathedral by fire probably about 1088, and the work of restoration was at once undertaken by Maurice, its Norman bishop. In 1079 Bishop Walkelyn began the erection of a cathedral church at Winchester, in the place of the old Saxon building which had first been founded on the conversion of King Cynegils, about 635. In all parts of the land, east and west, north and south, the builders were at work, rearing massive temples to the glory and honour of God. The chink of chisel and the blow of hammer rang everywhere in the ears of the eleventh century in England. Bishop Herbert Losinga laid the first stone of Norwich Cathedral in 1096, at which time Remigius of Fescamp had been some twenty years at work on that of Lincoln, and had passed away, leaving the completion to others. The new Norman Cathedral of Hereford was begun by Robert Losinga, who reigned as bishop from 1079 to 1096. Abbot Simeon began to build the Minster at Ely about 1092; Worcester was commenced by Wulfstan in 1084; five years later the foundation of Gloucester was laid; and in 1091 S. Osmund consecrated the church of S. Nicholas at Newcastle. Other cathedrals which were built, or [p 62] rebuilt, at about the same date include those of Carlisle, S. Albans, Rochester, Chester, Lichfield and Oxford.
Surely never was an age so enthusiastic in building! All these cathedrals, many still remaining largely as their Norman builders left them, most retaining many relics of their work, were commenced within the space of two reigns of by no means great duration, lasting only from 1066 to 1100.
The energy of the time was not, however, exhausted by the fervour of this outburst. The twelfth century took up and vigorously prosecuted the tasks handed on to it by the eleventh.
Among cathedrals which were entirely, or almost entirely, rebuilt during this century we have Chichester, Rochester, Peterborough, Lincoln, Oxford, Bristol, Southwell, S. David’s, Llandaff, and Ripon. In the first of these a great part of the work was done twice over within this period. Ralph de Luffa was bishop of the see when the cathedral was consecrated in 1108; two fires, however, did such serious damage to this building, the first in 1114, and the second in 1186, that it had practically to be re-constructed, and was re-dedicated in the year [p 65] 1199. The Cathedral at Rochester was largely re-built by John of Canterbury between 1125 and 1137, and like Chichester suffered twice during the century from the ravages of fire. Indeed, so frequently do we find mention of conflagrations in the cathedrals in the early mediæval days, that it is quite obvious that William I. was fully justified in taking such precautions against this enemy as the use of the curfew involved. In more than one instance the cathedral went up in flames as part only of a fire which destroyed a large portion of the town.
The undertaking of new work at Peterborough was the result of a similar cause. In the year 1116 fire destroyed almost the whole church and monastery, but in two years’ time the re-erection had commenced, and was continued throughout the remainder of the century. The choir was ready for the resumption of the Divine offices in 1143, but the builders did not reach the end of their labours until 1237. Re-construction was necessitated at Lincoln by the occurrence of an earthquake in 1185, following once more upon a fire which took place in 1141. The stone vaulting and the western towers were undertaken by Alexander, bishop from 1123 to 1147; and in [p 66] 1192 S. Hugh of Avalon, who held the see from 1186 to 1203, began a thorough re-building of the pile. This work marks an epoch in the progress of architecture in England, as in the choir of S. Hugh we meet with the earliest examples of the use of the lancet form of arch to which we can assign a known date. About the middle of this century a new church, not yet advanced to the dignity of a cathedral, was commenced at Oxford, and by the year 1180 it was sufficiently advanced to allow of the translation of the relics of S. Frideswide to their new shrine. In 1142 was founded the Abbey of Bristol, and its church was consecrated on Easter Day, 1148, although the completion of the buildings occupied the attention of the abbots for many years after. Southwell Minster was also building during the first half of the twelfth century; Peter de Leia, who became Bishop of S. David’s in 1176, commenced the erection of his cathedral four years later, following the example of Arban, who entered upon the neighbouring see of Llandaff in 1107, and reared a mother church for his diocese. Finally, Ripon also saw the masons busily at work almost through the century. First Thurstan, [p 67] Archbishop of York in 1114, began the enlargement of the Abbey Church, and after him Archbishop Roger (1154–1181) entirely rebuilt it.
But the record of the churches re-built during this century by no means exhausts the tale of work performed during that time. At Winchester, for example, in 1107 the central tower fell, necessitating the building of a new one. Lucy, bishop here from 1189 to 1205, erected a new Lady Chapel and made other alterations. At Hereford, too, operations were going forward almost throughout the century, the bishops Reynelm (1107–1115) and Betun (1131–1148) being especially energetic in pressing them on; and the closing years of this period saw the rearing of the eastern transepts. At this time also the beautiful Galilee Chapel was added to Durham Cathedral; Ely was consecrated in 1106, and towards the end of the century received its central tower and other additions; and S. Albans, moreover, had a façade built on its western front by John de Cella.
The chronicle of the damages by fire during the twelfth century is not complete without mentioning that S. Paul’s, London, which was re-building during a large portion of that time, [p 68] was injured by it in 1136; and the same foe destroyed the roof of Worcester Cathedral in the early days of the century.
The period which our rapid survey has so far covered embraces broadly the eras of the Norman and of the so-called Early English architecture. In the thirteenth century the Decorated Style came into being, and with its rise arose also the desire for greater richness of ornament even in those churches which had already, to all appearances, been completed. On all hands, therefore, in this new century, we find the pulling down of portions of the stern Norman work and the substitution of lighter and more graceful designs.
The great work of the thirteenth century, however, was begun before the birth of the more florid style, and shows little trace of the dawning of its influence. Salisbury Cathedral was begun in 1220, the work commencing, as was usual, at the eastern end and advancing westward. The whole was proceeded with continuously, and since its completion no alteration of any importance has been made in it. Other cathedrals in England exhibit in almost every case a conglomerate of several orders of architecture, blended generally with great skill, but necessarily [p 69] lacking to some extent in unity of design in consequence. In Salisbury we have one complete and splendid example of English architecture of the best period, carried out from beginning to end with unbroken unity of purpose.
Other churches which then were, or were subsequently to become, cathedrals, dating in their present form from the thirteenth century, are those of Lichfield, Wells, Manchester, Bangor, and S. Asaph.
A Norman church had been reared at Lichfield of which very few relics have survived to the present day, a new building having been begun about the year 1200, and the work of construction carried on for the major part of the century, the west front being reached about 1275. Bishop Joceline was the chief founder of the existing Cathedral at Wells, most of the previous work having been taken down in his time, and the new church solemnly dedicated by him in 1239. The Church at Manchester was probably built about 1220, but the present building is of a later date. The Cathedral at S. Asaph suffered from the great mediæval enemy of such foundations, fire, twice during this period. On the first occasion, in 1247, the [p 70] troops of Henry III. of England must be held responsible for the destruction wrought; on the second, in 1282, the outbreak was probably accidental. Repairs, if not actual rebuilding, took place in consequence of these injuries towards the end of the century. Bangor Cathedral was probably also rebuilt about 1291.
Fire played its old part throughout the century in providing work for the ecclesiastical masons, in other instances besides that referred to in the Welsh diocese. The choir at Carlisle was rebuilt probably about 1250 and the following years, but had scarcely been fully completed before it fell in a fire which destroyed a large portion of the city. In 1216, S. Nicholas, Newcastle, was almost destroyed by the same fatal agency. Worcester Cathedral was again burnt in 1202, and was rebuilt between then and 1218 sufficiently to be re-dedicated; although the retro-choir, the choir, the Lady Chapel, and some details were added at a later time in the same century.
Imperfections in the work of the preceding age were answerable for a certain amount of loss and consequent re-construction (not seldom actually a gain) in this. At Lincoln, for instance, the [p 71] central tower fell in 1237, and was replaced by the present one, which has been described as one of the finest in Europe. The east end of Ripon had to be rebuilt owing to the structure giving way in 1280; and in consequence again of the fall of the tower, repairs had to be undertaken at S. David’s in 1220.
The popular regard for Hugh, the sainted bishop of Lincoln, led to the building of one of the most beautiful sections of that Minster, namely the Angel-choir, erected as a worthy chapel for the shrine of S. Hugh, between 1255 and 1280. At Hereford, the Lady Chapel was built about the middle of this century; and at Ely, the presbytery and retro-choir at about the same date; at Bristol, the elder Lady Chapel probably a little earlier; at Southwell, the choir between 1230 and 1250; and the choir also at S. Albans, in 1256.
Several of our cathedral towers, moreover, besides that at Lincoln, date from the thirteenth century. York, S. Paul’s, Chichester and Gloucester, all had the towers erected during this period.
Passing on to the fourteenth century, we meet with the same wide-spread activity, but it is [p 72] expended now rather in additions and embellishments to existing buildings than in actual re-constructions. At Ripon, the Cathedral was partially burnt by the Scots in 1319, and later in the century the tower was struck by lightning. At S. Alban’s, part of the nave fell in 1323, as did the tower at Ely in 1322. In each of these cases repairs were of course rendered needful. More important works were the rebuilding of the nave and transepts at Canterbury at the end of the century (1378–1410), the erection of the Zouche Chapel at York about 1350, the addition of both the central and the western towers to Wells, the spires to Peterborough, and the towers also to Hereford.
The fifteenth century is specially marked by the growing popularity of chantries and side chapels. We find them erected at this time at Hereford and elsewhere; but little building on a large scale is done. In several cases the vaulting of the roofs dates from this period, and a good deal of internal carving in wood or stone was also done. Among the latter we may note the high altar screen at S. Alban’s, and the stalls at Carlisle and Ripon. Of the former work, reference may be made to the vaulting [p 73] of part of the choir and transepts at Norwich.
The sixteenth century is not a pleasant one to contemplate in connection with our ancient cathedrals. Ignorance and fanaticism were then beginning to show themselves in their treatment of the miracles of art bequeathed to the ages, and soon became more obvious than culture or reverence. This century saw the nave of Bristol taken down, the spires removed from the towers of Ripon, and other precautions against a threatened collapse; but steps were not taken to repair the losses thus caused. And in view of the nameless horrors perpetrated within the hallowed walls of churches and cathedrals, first by the extreme reformers, and in the next century by the Puritans, in the name of religion, it is only wonderful that so much that is beautiful still survives.
The one constructive work of the seventeenth century was, of course, the building of the Cathedral of London, S. Paul’s, in the place of that “Old S. Paul’s” which perished in the fire of 1666. This building shares with Salisbury the credit of complete unity, but is unique among English Cathedrals in being classical in style. However much more admirable the Gothic style may be admitted to be for [p 74] ecclesiastical purposes, probably all will admit that the grandeur of St. Paul’s grows upon one the more familiar one becomes with it; and certainly no tower, or collection of towers, could possibly dominate a vast city like London in the way that Wren’s splendid dome does.
The eighteenth century witnessed, among other things, the removal of most of the spires which down to that time had crowned the towers of many of the cathedrals. Such was the case with Hereford and Wakefield; the same thing was attempted at Lincoln in 1727, but popular tumult saved the spires; only, however, until 1807, when they were removed.
Of one work of construction the eighteenth century was also guilty; the year 1704 gave birth to that abortion among English cathedrals known as S. Peter’s, Liverpool; with which, for nearly twenty years, the population of one of the wealthiest cities in the empire has been content! Something in the way of restoration was attempted in this century, but it was for the most part done ignorantly, and no small part of the restoration of the nineteenth century has consisted in undoing so far as possible the work of the eighteenth.
The present century has seen the commencement, on noble lines, of the Cathedral of Truro; and the beautifying of not a few of our old minsters, which had been stript almost bare by the destroyers of past times. Happily, the guardians of these treasures of art and devotion have for the most part been conscious of the greatness of their trust, and the fabrics have been dealt with reverently and with judgment. Amongst others, Bristol, Chichester, St. Albans, and Peterborough have required more or less extensive measures of re-building.
The sacred buildings designated by this title were dedicated to the service of God, in mediæval times, in honour of the Mother of our Lord. The veneration of S. Mary, the Blessed Virgin, had been growing up in the Church from the fifth century, when the reality of the incarnation of the Son of God was first called into question by men who professed and called themselves Christians. The defence of the true doctrine brought clearly into view the high dignity which God had conferred on the humble maiden of Nazareth, and so reverence for her memory, as the most blessed among women, grew into veneration for her person as the Mother of God. The faithful of the Middle Ages were, therefore, not content with simply retaining her name at the head of the list of saints, but raised the human mother to a position which was almost, if not quite, equal to that of her Divine Son. They conferred on her the title of “Our Lady,” and hailed her as “The [p 77] Queen of Heaven,” just as they were accustomed to address the Saviour as “Our Lord” and worship Him as “The King of Heaven.” This title still survives in the terms which are so familiar to us, namely, “Lady Day” and “Lady Chapel.”
We see evidences of this growth of the cultus of the Blessed Virgin in the erection and elaborate ornamentation of Lady Chapels throughout Christendom. It does not seem probable, however, that our pious forefathers in the ancient Church of England intended to encourage Mariolatry, by the introduction of these buildings into this country; for it is a singular and significant fact that in Spain, where this heretical and superstitious practice chiefly prevailed, Lady Chapels are very rare, because the church itself has been made to serve the purpose. English Churchmen, in their desire to honour the Mother of Christ, were careful to avoid this evil example. The erection of smaller buildings, and the setting apart, for the purpose, of one of the side aisles rather than the sanctuary itself, tend to show that they did not assign to the Blessed Virgin that divine honour which was due only to her Son and Lord. The usual [p 78] position of the Lady Chapel, beyond the choir, has, indeed, been considered as a proof that the honour paid to “Our Lady” exceeded that which was rendered unto our Lord, since the altar dedicated to her was set up beyond the High Altar in the most sacred portion of the church, and, in that position, might be said to overshadow it. But the usual situation of the Lady Chapel, at the east end of the choir or presbytery, proves nothing of the kind. One celebrated writer on the subject disclaims the idea in the following words, “Poole principally objects to the position of the Lady Chapel at the east end, ‘above,’ as he expresses it ‘the High Altar.’ Now we believe the Lady Chapel to have occupied the place merely on grounds of convenience, and not from any design—which is shocking to imagine—of exalting the Blessed Virgin to any participation in the honours of the Deity.”6
It is true that the Lady Chapel was generally erected at the extreme east end, or one of the aisles near the choir was used for the purpose, because it was considered the most sacred part of the church next to the sanctuary. It was [p 79] erected at the east end of the Abbey Churches of Westminster and S. Albans; in the Cathedral Churches of Winchester, Salisbury, Chichester, Exeter, Gloucester, Worcester, Wells, Hereford, Chester and Manchester; at Christ Church, Hants, where there is a chantry above, called S. Michael’s Loft, which once served as the Chapter House of the Priory, but in modern times has been converted into a schoolroom; and also at the parish church of S. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, where it is situated over a thoroughfare, after the example of several churches in Exeter. But the ecclesiastics and architects of the Middle Ages did not consider themselves bound, by a hard and fast rule, to set up the Lady Chapel at the east end. If an available site could be found beyond the Choir the Chapel was erected in that position, otherwise, the north aisle of the Church, or a convenient site near the Choir, was utilised for the purpose. The building has been erected on the north or south side of the Choir or Nave, and even at the west end when deemed expedient. It was erected on the north side at the Cathedrals of Canterbury, Oxford, Bristol, and Peterborough; at the Abbeys of Glastonbury, Bury St. [p 80] Edmunds, Walsingham, Thetford, Wymondham, Belvoir, Llanthony, Hulme, and Croyland, where there was a second Lady Chapel with a lofty screen, in the south transept.7 It is on the south side at Kilkenny and at Elgin Cathedral. It stands in a similar position over the Chapter House at Ripon Minster. Sometimes it was placed above the chancel, as in Compton Church, Surrey; Compton Martin, Somerset; and Darenth, Kent; or over the porch, as at Fordham, Cambs. At Ely Cathedral it is connected with the extremity of the north transept. At Wimborne Minster it stands in the south transept, whilst at Rochester Cathedral and at Waltham Abbey, Essex, it was erected at the west of the south transept. At Durham Cathedral an attempt was made to build a Lady Chapel at the east end, but owing, it is said, to the supernatural intervention of S. Cuthbert, whose relics were deposited in the Choir, the building was erected instead at the west end, where it stands under the name of the Galilee Chapel. The original Lady Chapel at Canterbury also stood in this unusual position, until the days of Archbishop Lanfranc, 1070–1089, when [p 81] it was removed and the present building set up at the east end. The aisles were also frequently used as “ye Chappell of oure Ladye,” as at Haddenham, Cambs.
The practice of dedicating Chapels to the Blessed Virgin was introduced into this country during the twelfth century, shortly after the monastic orders had gained the supremacy over the parochial clergy. These buildings were generally founded not only to satisfy the spirit of the age, which demanded the veneration of the Mother of our Lord, but also to afford the necessary accommodation at the east end for the increased number of clergy. The founders, moreover, hoped to secure an augmentation of the revenues, by the offerings of the faithful at the shrines of the new Chapels, as appears to have been the case at Walsingham, Norfolk; All Hallows, Barking; and S. Stephen’s, Westminster. The building, in many instances, became the depository of the relics of a saint. The Galilee Chapel at Durham, dedicated to S. Mary the Virgin in 1175, contains the bones of the Venerable Bede, the earliest historian of the Church of England, who died at Jarrow-on-Tyne, on the eve of Ascension Day, [p 82] A.D. 735. These relics were translated, in 1370, from the tomb of S. Cuthbert, and placed in the Chapel, in a magnificent shrine of gold and silver. The Lady Chapel at Oxford contains the shrine of S. Frideswide, the daughter of the founder of the convent, and its first prioress, whose relics were translated from the north choir aisle in 1289. This Chapel is now called the Dormitory, as the remains of several deans and canons have been laid to rest within its walls.
The Lady Chapel has frequently served as the mausoleum of saints, princes, noblemen, and dignitaries of the Church. The stately and magnificent edifice at Westminster, known as Henry the Seventh’s Chapel, was built for this purpose in 1502, by the first Tudor monarch, on the site of the original Lady Chapel, erected by Henry III. in 1220. The royal founder, his wife, and other royal personages now await the resurrection in the tomb set up in this famous building. The Lady Chapel at S. Mary’s, Warwick, which is said to be the chief ornament of that church, was also built as a tomb-house in 1443, by Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick. Their desire to rest in the chapel, dedicated to [p 83] the blessed Virgin, was closely associated with the idea which chiefly moved our forefathers to erect these buildings. They had been taught to believe in the invocation of saints, and were anxious to secure, for themselves and their dear ones, the mediation and intercession of the Mother of our Lord, whose influence with her Divine Son, they supposed, was all prevailing. So they founded these chapels in her honour, and solicited her good offices on their behalf by frequent services and prostrations before her image, which occupied the place of honour above “oure Ladye’s Altar” crowned as the Queen of Heaven, and profusely adorned with splendid jewels and exquisite embroidery. They believed, moreover, that as she could succour the living, so she would prevail with her Son on behalf of the dead. These sacred buildings were, accordingly, used also as chantries, where masses were offered daily, and the intervention of “oure Ladye S. Mary” was solicited to secure the release of the souls of the faithful departed from the flames of purgatory, through which, it was supposed, they must pass, to be purified from all the defilements of their earthly course, and “made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.” [p 84] In frescoes on the walls, and in paintings on the windows, the Virgin was represented, interceding for the souls of the faithful as they came forth to judgment.
After the dissolution of monasteries by Henry VIII., and the suppression of chantries by Edward VI., many of these buildings shared the fate of the conventual churches to which they were attached. In some places the Lady Chapel was left to decay, and disappeared in the course of a few years, like that at Norwich, which fell into a ruinous condition as early as 1569. In other localities it was allowed to stand until the turbulent days of the Commonwealth, as at Peterborough, where it was taken down to supply materials for the reparation of the Cathedral, which had been greatly injured by Cromwell’s soldiers. In several places it was appropriated to other uses, and even divested of its sacred character. The elegant chapel at Ely, erected 1321–49, and said to have been one of the most perfect buildings of that age, was assigned at the Reformation to the parishioners of Holy Trinity to serve as their Parish Church, and is now called Trinity Church. The splendid specimen at S. Albans was [p 85] separated from the presbytery by a public thoroughfare, which was made through the antechapel, and a charter of Edward VI. transferred the sacred building to the authorities of the ancient Grammar School, and it was used as a schoolroom until the restoration in 1870. At S. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, the Lady Chapel has also been used for scholastic purposes, and at Waltham Abbey it has accommodated not only parochial schools but public meetings and petty sessions.
Among existing Lady Chapels, King Henry the Seventh’s Chapel occupies the first place for magnificence. The first Tudor monarch, in his anxiety to make his peace with God before his death, and to commemorate the union of the houses of York and Lancaster, determined to found a chapel in honour of the blessed Virgin, “in whom,” he declares in his will, “hath ever been my most singulier trust and confidence, ... and by whom I have hitherto in al myne adversities ever had my special comforte and relief.” He also made due provision for the celebration of masses and the distribution of alms “perpetually, for ever, while the world shall endure” for the welfare of his soul. The laying [p 86] of the foundation stone is recorded by the ancient chronicler as follows: “On the 24th daie of January 150⅔ a quarter of an houre afore three of the clocke at after noone of the same daie, the first stone of our Ladie Chapell, within the monasterie of Westminster, was laid by the hands of John Islip, Abbot of the same monasterie ... and diverse others.”8 After its completion it was so universally admired, that Leland the antiquary describes it as “orbis miraculum”—the wonder of the world. About fifty years after its dedication the services, for which it was specially designed by its royal founder, were brought to an end by the Act of Parliament which suppressed the chantries throughout the kingdom, and then followed three centuries of gross neglect which reduced it to “an almost shapeless mass of ruins,” as it was described in 1803. Four years later, in 1807, Dean Vincent obtained a parliamentary grant for the restoration of the building, and the necessary repairs were completed in 1822. The Chapel still retains much of its ancient splendour, and the elegant and elaborate ceiling is a marvel of architectural skill. It has been used since the [p 87] year 1725 for the installation of the Knights of the Bath, and their banners are suspended over the old carved misereres or misericordes of the monks.
“Ye Chappell of oure Ladye” at S. Alban’s is also a most elegant specimen of the buildings, dedicated to the blessed Virgin. The foundations appear to have been laid by John de Hertford, abbot from 1235 to 1260. But at the election of Hugh de Eversdone, in 1308, the walls had only reached the level of the underside of the window sills, a height of ten feet above the ground. During his rule he laboured so assiduously to complete the work, that in a short time he finished it. The building, at its dedication, was so rich in detail that it is described by ancient writers as “a magnificent sight.” The work of Abbot Hugh included the exquisite carvings in stone, which represent about seventy different specimens of forms in nature. During its use as a Grammar School, from 1553 to 1870, the interior suffered much injury from the hands of the schoolboys, and was allowed to fall into a state of ruin and decay. Shortly after the removal of the School in 1870, a restoration was undertaken by the ladies of Hertfordshire, but [p 88] their good intentions were not carried into effect, through lack of the necessary funds. Lord Grimthorp then generously came to the rescue, and through his munificence the Chapel has been thoroughly and judiciously restored. It now stands once more in all its glory, as a perfect gem of architecture and one of the most elegant Lady Chapels in Christendom.
“Ye Chappell of oure Ladye” at Waltham Abbey is said to be one of the richest specimens of mediæval architecture in Essex. The building has been greatly defaced since the suppression of chantries, but still bears traces of its original glory. “The Lady Chapel,” says the late Professor Freeman, “must have been a most beautiful specimen of its style, but few ancient structures have been more sedulously disfigured.” It was erected before A.D. 1292, as, during that year, Roger Levenoth, an inhabitant, endowed the chantry, with a house and 100 acres of land in Roydon. The Chapel was in a flourishing condition in the reign of Edward III., as we find from the return made in obedience to the royal order, which was issued to the master of the ceremonies of every guild and chantry in the King’s dominions. In the Court language of [p 89] that period, which was Norman French, Roger Harrof and John de Poley, the chantry priests, are described as “meisters de la petit compaignie ordeigne al honor de Dieu et ure Donne seyncte Marie en la Ville de Waltham seynte croice.” The architect selected, as the site of the building, the space formed by the easternmost bay of the south aisle of the nave and the western side of the south transept. This peculiar position indicates that it was not the work of the monks, but that of the parishioners, who were allowed the use of the nave as their parish church from the days of King Harold II., the founder. A well-known antiquarian writes: “It seems to have been built by the parishioners, and not by the abbot and convent, and its position is due to its occupying the only available spot, and where only two walls wanted building. A similar case occurs at Rochester. Where the Abbey built the Lady Chapel it was usually east of the transept—at the east end if there was room, at the north side if otherwise.”9 The parishioners could not erect their Lady Chapel at the east end, because the choir or presbytery had been used as the monastic church from the days of [p 90] Henry II., who, to atone for the massacre of Thomas à Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, changed the secular foundation of Harold, and introduced an abbot and monks of the Augustinian order. Another Lady Chapel had probably been erected at the east end for the use of the monks, in accordance with the custom of the age, but this shared the destruction which befell the whole of the eastern portion of the church after the dissolution of the monastery in 1540. The preservation of the parish Lady Chapel is therefore due to its position at the west of the presbytery. In a transcript by Peter le Neve, Norroy King at Arms, 1698, it is stated that a chapel was dedicated at Waltham in the year 1188, by William de Vere, Bishop of Hereford, “in honore Dei [et gloriosæ Virginis Mariae] et B. Martyris atque pontificis Thomae nomine.”10 This has led to the conjecture that reference is made to the existing building,11 or to that which formerly stood at the east end.12 But the original Waltham manuscript shows that it does not refer to a Lady Chapel at all, but to the Chapel of S. Thomas of Canterbury.13
The masonry of the exterior of the two walls erected when the Chapel was founded, consists of alternating bands of stone, squared bricks, and flint, so that it produces a “poly-chromatic effect.”14 There are three large buttresses of considerable projection, with pedimented sets-off and slopes, one being situated at the south-west angle, and the other two on the south of the building. Two smaller buttresses also occupy a place on the south. Niches, with pedestals for images, are still standing in the primary buttresses.
The interior of the Chapel measures 41 feet 7 inches in length, 23 feet in breadth, and 23 feet in height. It is approached by a steep ascent of nine long narrow stone steps, which are situated near the south-west buttress. The ancient doorway is beautifully decorated with ball flowers. The floor stands at an elevation of nearly five feet above the floor of the chancel, an arrangement which appears to be peculiar to Waltham. It was apparently built at this high level to add to the loftiness of the crypt below, which was a capacious chamber of much importance in olden times, and consists of two wide bays of quadripartite [p 92] vaulting. There is no way of access from the interior of the Church, but “the chapel is connected with the south aisle by a single arch of poor and ordinary architecture, a sad contrast to the glorious Romanesque work of the nave.”15 At the west end there is a large and beautiful six-light, square-headed window, with a rich and peculiar arrangement of a double plane of tracery, the inner plane consisting of three arches. This window, and the four elegant windows of three lights on the south side, are supposed to have been filled with stained glass, like that of the Chapter House at York Minster, and other buildings of the same period. At the extreme south-east of the building the remains of the ancient sedilia and piscina may still be seen. The walls were adorned with distemper paintings, chocolate coloured vine-leaves on a yellow ground running round the spandrels and windows. This decoration probably included a series of paintings, representing scenes in the life of the Mother of our Lord, and concluding with her assumption and coronation as the Queen of Heaven. There was also a representation of the Last Judgment in which “Our Lady” occupied [p 93] the place of honour near her Divine Son and Lord, interceding for the faithful as they appeared before their Judge. On the removal of the plaster from the east wall during the restoration in 1875, the remains of a fresco of “the Doom” were discovered, and here are depicted the Judge of all mankind in the scarlet robes of majesty, the Virgin as intercessor, S. Michael the Archangel, presiding over the balances in which souls are weighed, the Apostles as assessors, bishops and abbots with the keys of S. Peter, admitting the faithful into the Holy Catholic Church, human forms emerging from the grave, the path of life, the chains of everlasting darkness, demons clothed in flames, and the jaws of hell. The space under this fresco was probably occupied by beautiful statuary, the image of the blessed Virgin standing in the centre, immediately above the altar of “Our Ladye.” At the dissolution of the monastery “a table of imagery of the xii. apostles,” belonging to this Chapel, was valued at ten shillings. A few fragments of statuary, supposed to have formed part of this decoration, were discovered during the restoration of the Abbey Church in 1860, and have been inserted in the south-east wall of the [p 94] chancel. These relics of the splendid past include the mutilated stone figures of four saints, probably the evangelists, beautifully carved, and a representation of the crucifixion in black marble, but the ornament of precious metal, with which it was adorned, has long since disappeared.
The altars, desks, and tables in the Lady Chapel were covered with plates of silver, as in the crypt beneath, which was also, in those days, a splendid chantry, served by its own priest, who was called “the Charnel Priest.” The sacramental vessels and plate, which were of great value, were sold after the suppression. Dr. Thomas Fuller, Incumbent of Waltham Abbey in 1648, gives the following extracts from the churchwarden’s accounts: “1549. Imprimis.—Sold the silver plate which was on the desk in the charnel, weighing five ounces, for twenty-five shillings. Guess,” adds the historian, “the gallantry of our church by this (presuming all the rest in proportionable equipage) when the desk whereon the priest read was inlaid with plate of silver.” “1551. Item.—Received for two hundred seventy-one ounces of plate, sold at several times for the best advantage, sixty-seven [p 95] pound fourteen shillings and ninepence.”16 The inventory of goods made by order of Henry VIII. also mentions “iiii. tables [of oure Ladye] plated with sylver and gylte, every one of them with ii. folding leves.” The Chapel was furnished besides with “a lytell payre of organes,” valued at xxs., at the dissolution of the monastery, when Thomas Tallis, the father of English church music, was organist of the Abbey Church, and presided at the “greate large payre of organes” in the Choir. He was assisted by John Boston, of Waltham, who probably performed on the smaller instrument in the Lady Chapel. Both names are mentioned in the pension list, Tallis receiving xxs. for wages and xxs. reward, and Boston iiis. for wages and iiis. reward.
A large number of wax tapers and candles was consumed annually at the various services held in the Lady Chapel and Crypt. In the return made by Sir Roger Harrop and Sir John de Poley, masters of the two chantries in the reign of Edward III., it is stated that every man and woman in this guild paid a yearly subscription of sixpence towards the expenses, and at the feasts of “oure Ladye” all [p 96] “Christiens” of the company gave five burning tapers (tapres ardant); in honour of our Lord four large torches; and on other special occasions fifteen tapers. Lights were also kept burning during the solemn requiem and funeral services, when prayers were offered that perpetual light might shine upon the souls of the departed. It is most likely that this impressive ceremonial had been observed in both chantries, when the body of Queen Eleanor rested for the night in the Abbey Church on its way to Westminster, and again when the remains of her royal consort, Edward I., were deposited for three months before the tomb of Harold. The wax in stock for these memorial services at the suppression was sold by the churchwardens as follows: “Item.—Sold so much wax as amounts to twenty six shillings.” Dr. Fuller remarks on this transaction, “So thrifty the wardens that they bought not candles and tapers ready made, but bought the wax at the best hand and paid poor people for the making of them. Now they sold their magazine of wax as useless. Under the Reformation more light and fewer candles.”17
In the days of the chantry, lands, tenements, [p 97] and other gifts were presented and bequeathed that “obits” or prayers for the dead might be offered before the altar and image of “oure Ladye.” Dr. Fuller gives the following account of “obits” at Waltham: “The charge of an obit was two shillings and two pence; and, if any be curious to have the particulars thereof, it was thus expended: to the parish priest, three pence; to our Lady’s priest, three pence; to the charnel priest, threepence; to the two clerks, four pence; to the children (these I conceive choristers) three pence; to the sexton, two pence; to the bellman, two pence; for two tapers, two pence; for oblation, two pence. O, the reasonable rates at Waltham! Two shillings and two pence for an obit, the price whereof in S. Paul’s, in London, was forty shillings! For, forsooth, the higher the church, the holier the service, the dearer the price, though he had given too much that had given but thanks for such vanities. To defray the expenses of these obits, the parties prayed for, or their executors, left lands, houses, or stock to the churchwardens.”18 These obits were abolished when the chantries were suppressed in the first year of the reign of King Edward VI. [p 98] “Now,” says Dr. Fuller, “was the brotherhood in the church dissolved, consisting as formerly of three priests, three choristers, and two sextons; and the rich plate belonging to them was sold for the good of the parish. Superstition by degrees being banished out of the church, we hear no more of prayers and masses for the dead. Every obit now had its own obit, and fully expired; the lands formerly given thereunto being employed to more charitable uses.”19
Since the suppression both chantries have been stripped of almost all their glory. The beautiful statuary in the Lady Chapel has disappeared, the decorated walls were covered with plaster, the west window blocked up, three of the elegant south windows were partly bricked up, and the fourth was converted into a door-way. The building was entirely separated from the Church by a wall of lath and plaster, and the west front obscured by the erection of an unsightly porch, which also concealed from view the grand south Norman entrance to the Abbey Church. The exterior walls were covered with cement, in imitation of classic rustic work. The Chapel has been used during the last three centuries [p 99] for various purposes, some of which were degrading in the extreme to its sacred character. It has been used as a vestry, parochial schoolroom and lending library, also for public meetings and petty sessions, and, in its darkest days, as a store-room. The crypt has also passed through many changes, and has been stripped of its original splendour. It retained much of its beauty for a century after the suppression, as Dr. Fuller writes during his incumbency:—“To the south side of the Church is joined a chapel, formerly our Lady’s, now a school-house, and under it an arched charnel-house, the fairest that I ever saw.”20 This beautiful chantry, which is partly underground, has been used since as a sepulchre for the dead, a prison cell for the living,21 a receptacle for human bones, a coal cellar and heating chamber.
The Lady Chapel resumed its sacred character in 1876, after it had been carefully restored by Sir T. Fowell Buxton, Bart., K.C.M.G.22 whose seat, Warlies Park, is situated in the parish. The modern porch was removed from the west end, the large arch in the south wall of the [p 100] Church re-opened, and the five elegant windows were made good. A splendidly carved memorial screen has since been erected under the arch by the parishioners, and some beautifully carved altar rails set up at the east end. The arms of the Abbey and Parish of Waltham Holy Cross are represented on the screen, namely, two angels exalting the Cross. The appearance of the interior is, however, still mean and bare, when compared with its former magnificence, although so much has been done to rescue from a state of degradation and neglect, this interesting relic of mediæval times, “ye Chappell of oure Ladye.”
6. Durandus Symbol. lxxxviii.
7. “Gough’s History of Croyland. 1783.”
9. W. H. St. John Hope, F.S.A.
10. Harl. MS. 6974, fol. 106.
11. Gentleman’s Magazine, April, 1860, and May, 1864.
12. The Builder, April 2, 1898.
13. Harl. MS. 391, fol. 100.
14. Professor Freeman.
15. Professor Freeman.
16. History of Waltham Abbey, cap. 5.
17. History of Waltham Abbey, cap. v.
18. Cap. iv.
19. Cap. v.
20. History of Waltham Abbey, cap. I., 9.
21. The Quakers were incarcerated here during the reign of Charles II.
22. Now Governor General of South Australia.
It is practically impossible to point to the exact date when spires first assumed a place in the category of ecclesiastical architecture. They belong to the Gothic style, and like the pointed arch were evolved rather than created. The low pointed roof of the tower gradually gave place to a more tapering finish, but the transition was by no means progressive, and cannot be clearly traced. Some of the earliest attempts at spire-building were uncouth and ungraceful, and even in these days the addition of a spire to a modern church does not necessarily add to its beauty. This is nearly always the case where an undue regard is paid to ornamentation, either at the base, or on the surface of the spire itself. Undoubtedly the most beautiful spires are those which at once spring clear from the summit of the tower and gradually rise needle-like towards the blue vault of heaven.
By far the greater number of our principal [p 102] spires date from the fourteenth century—a time when spire-building appears to have reached the zenith of its glory. Splendour and loftiness combine to render the examples of this period distinguished above those of any other.
Northamptonshire has been well termed the county of “Squires and Spires,” and it is probably within its borders that the largest number of really beautiful spires may be found. A journey from Northampton to Peterborough along the Nene Valley is never to be forgotten for the continually recurring spires which greet the eye of the traveller at almost every point. Rushden, Higham Ferrers, Irchester, Raunds, Stanwick, Oundle, Finedon, Aldwinckle S. Peter’s, Barnwell S. Andrew, and many others all combine to render the term “Valley of Spires” peculiarly appropriate to this district.
These spires of course cover a wide area. The two finest groups of spires are those of Coventry and Lichfield. When the cathedral at Coventry, with its three spires, was in existence in immediate proximity to the churches of S. Michael’s and Holy Trinity, the group formed “a picture not to be surpassed in England,” and even now, with Christ Church added, the [p 103] “Ladies of the Vale,” of Lichfield, suffer somewhat in comparison.
In point of height the cathedral spires of Salisbury and Norwich hold their own, while for beauty of outline Louth must be mentioned, and for elaborateness of detail the spire of Grantham.
It now remains to give a cursory glance at some of our most famous spires, and to endeavour to enumerate some of their chief characteristics.
The spire of Salisbury Cathedral rises from the centre of the main transept to a height of 410 feet. This is, without doubt, the tallest of our English spires.23 It is octagonal in shape, and springs from four pinnacles. The surface is enriched with three bands of quatre-foiled work, and the angles are decorated throughout with ball-flower ornament. From a storm in 1703 it received some damage, and was, under the direction of Sir Christopher Wren, braced with ironwork. It does not appear to have moved since then, but from experiments made in 1740 it was found to be out of the perpendicular 24½ inches to the south, and 16¼ inches to the west. [p 104] On the 21st of June, 1741, it was struck by lightning and set on fire, but did not receive any great damage, and in 1827, by means of an ingenious wicker-work contrivance suspended from the top, extensive repairs were carried out. The name of the architect who conceived this lofty tower is unknown, but the date of its erection was probably at the beginning of the fourteenth century.
The spire of Norwich Cathedral rises to a height of 315 feet, and on a clear day can be seen for a distance of twenty miles. It was probably built by Bishop Percy in the latter half of the fourteenth century. About one hundred years after, it was struck by lightning, but the damage was speedily repaired. In 1629 the upper part was blown down, and was re-built in 1633.
The three spires of Coventry are those of S. Michael’s, Holy Trinity, and Christ Church. Of these, S. Michael’s is the chief, being 303 feet high. Amongst parish churches, it is therefore the tallest. The base consists of a lantern flanked by four pinnacles, to which it is connected by flying buttresses. Its erection was commenced in the year 1373, and completed in 1394. At [p 105] the restoration of the church, which took place in 1885, the tower was found to have been erected on the edge of an old quarry, and it cost no less a sum than £17,000 to add a new foundation. During the most critical period of the work the structure visibly moved, and the apex of the spire now leans 3ft. 5in. out of the perpendicular towards the north-west.
Holy Trinity spire is 237 feet high, and much less ornate than S. Michael’s. During a violent tempest of “wind, thunder, and earthquake,” which occurred on the 24th of January, 1665, it was overthrown, and much injury was done to the church in consequence. The re-building was finished in 1668. It has been completely restored in recent years.
The spire of Christ Church is some little distance away from the other two. It is octagonal in shape, and rises from an embattled tower to a height of 230 feet. It was restored in 1888.
Lichfield Cathedral contains three spires within its precincts. The grouping is, therefore, more uniform than that of Coventry, although the general effect is not thereby accentuated. The central spire rises to a height of 258 feet, [p 106] and the two which grace the west front are each 183 feet high. In the time of the great civil war, when Lichfield was besieged, the central spire was demolished. After the Restoration, it was re-built by good old Dr. Hackett.
The spire of Chichester Cathedral, built in the fourteenth century over a rotten sub-structure, was destroyed by its own weight in 1861. It was 271 feet high, and has now been re-built in its original style on a slightly higher tower. The story of its fall has often been told. On the night of Wednesday, the 20th of February, 1861, a heavy gale occurred. The next day, about twenty minutes past one o’clock, the spire was observed to suddenly lean towards the south-west, and then to right itself again. Soon after, it disappeared into the body of the cathedral, sliding down like the folding of a telescope. Only the coping-stone and the weather-vane fell outside, the rest of the masonry formed a huge cairn in the centre of the edifice, which was practically cut into four portions by the wreck. The present spire was completed in 1867.
In Lincolnshire there are two remarkable spires at Louth and Grantham. The one at Louth rises to a height of 294 feet. At the [p 107] corners of the tower are four tall turret pinnacles to which the spire is connected by flying buttresses. In 1843 it was struck by lightning; steps were at once taken for its restoration, which was completed three years later.
Grantham spire is octagonal in shape, and 285 feet in height. It is very light and graceful in appearance, and is richly ornamented with sculpture. It suffered from lightning in 1797, and again in 1882. Since the latter date sixteen feet of the masonry has been removed from the summit and re-built.
The church of S. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, has been aptly termed by the poet Chatterton, “the pride of Bristowe and the Western land.” The spire rises to a height of 300 feet, and has lately been restored at a cost of upwards of £50,000. In 1445, during a storm, the greater part of the original spire fell through the roof of the church, and for about four centuries it remained in a truncated state, although the damage done to the interior was speedily repaired.
The spire of S. Mary’s, Shrewsbury, is 220 feet high, and rises from an embattled tower, the four corners of which contain crocketed [p 108] pinnacles. During a gale on the night of Sunday, the 11th of February, 1894, about 50 feet of the masonry of the spire crashed through the church roof and did enormous damage. This has, however, since been repaired. A memorial stone on the west wall of the tower tells how one Thomas Cadman, was killed on the 2nd of February, 1739, when attempting to descend from the spire by a rope.
For elaborateness of detail, the spire of S. Mary the Virgin, Oxford, surpasses all others in this country. Its apex is some 90 feet from the ground, and around the base of the spire clusters a mass of richly decorated pinnacles, small spirelets, and canopies containing statues. The effect is picturesque in the extreme, and lends to the town of Oxford a unique charm. Its conception dates from the fourteenth century, but it has been much restored and added to since.
Of the Northamptonshire spires, Oundle is the loftiest, being 210 feet high. It bears date 1634, but this evidently refers to a re-building. It was partly taken down again and rebuilt in 1874. It is hexagonal in shape, and the angles are crocketed. Raunds church is surmounted by an [p 109] octagonal broach spire 186 feet high. It was struck by lightning on the 31st of July, 1826, and about 30 feet of the masonry was shattered. This was at once rebuilt at a cost of £1,737 15s. 3d. The octagonal spire of Higham Ferrers is 170 feet high, and was rebuilt after destruction by a storm of wind in 1632. Rushden spire is an octagon 192 feet high, and richly crocketed. At its base flying buttresses connect it with pinnacles at the corners of the tower. The spire at Finedon rises from an embattled tower to a height of 133 feet; that of Stanwick is 156 feet high, and that of Irchester 152 feet.
Space forbids more than a passing allusion to the fine spires of Newcastle Cathedral, S. Mary de Castro, Leicester, Ross, Herefordshire, and Olney, Bucks. The latter rises to a height of 185 feet. At its summit is a weathercock which, when taken down for regilding in 1884, was found to contain the following triplet—
Several of the spires which have been mentioned are perceptibly out of the perpendicular, but in this respect the “tall twisted spire [p 110] of Chesterfield has no rival either in shape or pose.” It is no less than 230 feet high, and the wonder to many is that it has for so long maintained its equilibrium. Various conjectures have been made to account for the grotesque twist which the spire assumes; but none of these seems so likely as that which accounts for it by the combined action of age, wind, and sun. There are those who aver that it never was straight, and never will be, and one such person even goes so far as to attempt this statement in rhyme as follows:—
However this may be, it is satisfactory to note that a movement has recently been set on foot to collect subscriptions towards its much needed repair.
When speaking of Salisbury Cathedral spire, allusion was made to the repairs being carried out from a wicker-work contrivance suspended from the top. This was not the first time that [p 111] wicker-work had been used for such a purpose, for in 1787 the spire at S. Mary’s, Islington, was entirely encased in a cage composed of willow, hazel, and other sticks, while undergoing repair. An ingenious basket-maker of S. Albans, named Birch, carried out the work, and constructed a spiral staircase inside the cage. His contract was to do the work for £20 paid down, and to be allowed to charge sixpence a head to any sightseers who liked to mount to the top. It is said that in this way he gained some two or three pounds a day above his contract.
People and steeple rhymes are by no means uncommon; perhaps the most spiteful is that relating to an Essex village:—
The Yorkshire village of Raskelfe is usually called Rascall, and an old rhyme says:—
Mr. William Andrews, in his “Antiquities and Curiosities of the Church” (London, 1897), gives many examples of “People and Steeple Rhymes.”
There is a never-ending romance connected [p 112] with the subject of spires. Every one possesses some story or legend. Spirits are supposed to inhabit their gloomy recesses, and are even credited with their construction. There is certainly an uncanny feeling connected with the interior of a spire, even on a sunny summer’s day, and given sufficient stress of howling winds and gloomy darkness, one can almost imagine a situation conducive to the acutest kind of devilry. So much for the interior of spires. What sensations may be produced by climbing the exterior is given to few to experience. The vast majority of mankind must perforce content themselves with a position on terra firma, whence they may with pleasure and safety combined behold
23. The spire of Old Saint Paul’s, which dated from the thirteenth century, rose to a height of 520 feet. It was destroyed by lightning on the 4th of June, 1561. The spire of Lincoln Cathedral measured 524 feet, and was destroyed in 1548. These are the two highest spires which have ever been erected in England.
On the old tower of the church of Ashton-under-Lyne there was formerly an old inscription, which incidently testifies to the popularity of cards in England at a period when the notices of that fascinating means of diversion are both few and of doubtful import. Cards were given to Europe by the Saracens at the end of the fourteenth century, and the knowledge of their use extended itself from France to Greece. The French clergy were so engrossed by the pastime that the Synod of Langres, 1404, forbad it as unclerical. At Bologna, in 1420, S. Bernardin of Sienna preached with such effect against the gambling which was indulged in, that his hearers made on the spot a large bonfire with packs of cards taken out of their pockets. Under the word Χαρτια Du Cange quotes extracts from two Greek writers, which show that cards were popular in Greece before 1498. Chaucer, who died in 1400, and who indirectly depicted much [p 114] of the every-day life of his countrymen, does not once mention cards. But they begin to be noticed about the time of Edward IV. and Henry VI. The former king prohibited the importation of “cards for playing,” in order to protect the English manufacture of them. An old ale-wife or brewer, in one of the Chester plays or mysteries, is introduced in a scene in Hell, when one of the devils thus addresses her:—
A more interesting notice of cards occurs in the Paston Letters, where Margery Paston, writing on “Crestemes Evyn” of the year 1484, tells her husband that she had sent their eldest son to Lady Morley (the widow of William Lovel, Lord Morley), “to hav knolage wat sports wer husyd [used] in her hows in Kyrstemesse next folloyng aftyr the decysse of my lord, her husbond [who died 26th July, 1476]; and sche sayd that ther wer non dysgysyngs [guisings], ner harpyng, ner lutyng, ner syngyn, ner non lowde dysports; but pleyng at the tabyllys, and [p 115] schesse, and cards: sweche dysports sche gaue her folkys leve to play and non odyr.” The lady adds that the youth did his errand right well, and that she sent the like message by a younger son to Lady Stapleton, whose lord had died in 1466. “Sche seyd according to my Lady Morlees seyng in that, and as sche hadde seyn husyd in places of worschip [i.e., of distinction: good families] ther as [= where] sche hath beyn.” This letter opens up an interesting view of the amusements which at the time were introduced into the houses of the nobility and gentry during Christmas-tide. At that festival cards from the first formed one of the chief amusements. Henry VII., who was a great card player, forbad cards to be used except during the Christmas holidays. Their ancient association with Christmas is seen in the kindness of Sir Roger de Coverley, who was in the habit of sending round to each of his cottagers “a string of hogs’-puddings and a pack of cards,” that good old squire being doubtless of the opinion of Dr. Johnson, who, with a deeper human insight than S. Bernardin and Henry VII., could see the usefulness of such a pastime: “It generates kindness and consolidates society.”
The inscription I have alluded to takes us back to the reign of an earlier English king than those named—Henry V., who reigned 1413–1422. In his time, it seems, viz., in 1413, the steeple of Ashton Church was a-building; when a certain butcher, Alexander Hyll, playing at noddy with a companion, doubtless in the neighbourhood of the church, swore that if the dealer turned up the five of spades he would build a foot of the steeple. The very card was turned up! Hyll, like a good Catholic, performed his promise, and had his name carved, a butcher’s cleaver being put before Alexander, and the five of spades before Hyll. A new tower was erected in 1516, when the church was enlarged; but the stone containing the curious inscription was somewhere retained, for it was visible in the time of Robert Dodsworth, the industrious Yorkshire antiquary, and the projector and co-worker with Dugdale of the Monasticon. Dodsworth, being at Ashton on the 2nd of April, 1639, copied the inscription, stating that it was on the church steeple. He wrote down the tradition, adding that its truth was attested by Henry Fairfax, then rector there, second son of Thomas Fairfax, Baron de Cameron (Dodsworth’s MSS. in Bibl. Bodl., [p 117] vol. 155, fol. 116). The eldest son of Lord Fairfax was Ferdinando, the celebrated general of the Commonwealth, and the generous patron of Dodsworth. Henry, the younger son, at whose rectory-house Dodsworth was entertained on the occasion of his Lancashire visit, is described by Oley (in his preface to George Herbert’s Country Parson) as “a regular and sober fellow of Trinity College in Cambridge, and afterwards rector of Bolton Percy in Yorkshire.” He held, besides, the rectory of Ashton from, at least, 1623 till 1645, when he was forcibly ejected; and that of Newton Kyme. He was a correspondent of Daniel King, author of The Vale Royal, for he had antiquarian tastes like his brother. He died at Bolton Percy 6th April, 1665. The tower of Ashton Church, as Rector Fairfax knew it, was taken down and re-built in 1818, by which time all recollection of that ancient piece of cartomancy in connection with the steeple had passed out of mind. Let it be hoped that while the tradition was lively, pleasanter things were said of Hyll, when the five of spades was thrown upon the card tables of Ashton, than assailed the name of Dalrymple when the nine of diamonds—the curse of [p 118] Scotland—came under the view of Tory Scotchmen. We may bestow on Hyll the card-player’s epitaph:—
“Noddy” is, of course, the very attractive game of “cribbage.” A great aunt of mine still living at Ashbourne, with whom I used to play when a boy, always called it by that name. It is one of the Court games, temp. James I., noticed by Sir John Harrington:—
The same is also alluded to in a satirical poem, 1594, entitled, Batt upon Batt:—
Do not imagine that this is an essay on campanology, on change-ringing, grandsires, and triple bob-majors. Do not fancy that it will deal with carillons, the couvre-feu, or curfew bell, with the solemn Passing bell, the bell of the public crier, the jingling sleigh bell, the distant sheep bell, the noisy railway bell, the electric call bell, the frantic fire bell, the mellow, merry marriage peal, the sobbing muffled peal, the devout Angelus, or the silvery convent chimes that ring for prime and tierce, sext, nones, vespers, and compline. Do not conclude that it will describe bell-founding; and deal with the process of casting, with technical references to cope, and crook, and moulding, drawing the crucible, or tuning.
It is of bells and their associations and inscriptions that we would write, the bells that are linked with our lives, and record the history of towns, communities, and nations; announcing feasts and fasts and funerals, interpreting with [p 120] metal tongue rejoicings and sorrowings, jubilees and reverses; pæans for victories by sea and land; knells for the death of kings and the leaders of men. As we write, the bells of our collegiate church are announcing with joyous clang the arrival of Her Majesty’s Judge of Assize. Before many days have passed another bell in the same town will tell with solemn toll of the short shrift given by him to a pinioned culprit, the only mourner in his own funeral procession.
Bells are sentient things. They are alike full of humour and pathos, of laughter and tears, of mirth and sadness, of gaiety and grief. One may pardon Toby Veck, in Charles Dickens’ goblin story, for investing the bells in the church near his station with a strange and solemn character, and peopling the tower with dwarf phantoms, spirits, elfin creatures of the bells, of all aspects, shapes, characters, and occupations. “They were so mysterious, often heard and never seen, so high up, so far off, so full of such a deep, strong melody, that he regarded them with a species of awe; and sometimes, when he looked up at the dark, arched windows in the tower, he half expected to be beckoned to by [p 121] something which was not a bell, and yet was what he had heard so often sounding in the chimes.” The bells! The word carries sound and suggestion with it. It fills the air with waves of cadence. “Those Evening Bells” of Thomas Moore’s song swing out undying echoes from Ashbourne Church steeple; Alfred Tennyson’s bells “ring out the false, ring in the true” across the old year’s snow, and his Christmas bells answer each other from hill to hill. There are the tragic bells that Sir Henry Irving hears as the haunted Mathias; “Les Cloches de Corneville” that agitate the morbid mind of the miser Gaspard; and the wild bells that Edgar Allen Poe has set ringing in Runic rhyme.
“Bell,” says the old German song, “thou soundest merrily when the bridal party to the church doth hie; thou soundest solemnly when, on Sabbath morn, the fields deserted lie; thou soundest merrily at evening, when bed-time draweth nigh; thou soundest mournfully, telling of the bitter parting that hath gone by! Say, how canst thou mourn or rejoice, that art but metal dull? And yet all our sorrowings and all our rejoicings thou art made to express!” In [p 122] the words of the motto affixed to many old bells, they “rejoice with the joyful, and grieve with the sorrowful”; or, in the original Latin,
An old monkish couplet makes the bell thus describe its uses—
“I praise the true God, call the people, convene the clergy; I mourn for the dead, drive away pestilence, and grace festivals.” Who that possesses—to quote from Cowper—a soul “in sympathy with sweet sounds,” can listen unmoved to
The same poet makes Alexander Selkirk lament on his solitary isle—
Longfellow has several tender references to [p 123] church bells. He sets the Bells of Lynn to ring a requiem of the dying day. He mounts the lofty tower of “the belfry old and brown” in the market place of Bruges—
Who does not remember Father Prout’s lyric on “The Bells of Shandon”? We venture to quote the four delicious verses in extenso—
“The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,” in Gray’s “Elegy,” the best known, and, in its own line, the best poem in the English language. More dramatic is Southey’s story of the warning bell that the Abbot of Aberbrothock placed on the Inchcape Rock. James Russell Lowell has a beautiful thought in his little poem “Masaccio”—
In the belfry of Tideswell and of Hathersage, in the Peak of Derbyshire, are a set of rhymed bell-ringing laws. Those at Hathersage we give below; the Tideswell ones are almost word for word similar.
Churchwardens’ accounts abound with bell charges. We have before us the accounts of the churchwardens of Youlgreave, in the Peak of Derbyshire, for a period of a century and a half. Under the year 1604 we have “Item to the ringers on the Coronation Day (James I.), 2s. 6d.; for mending the Bels agaynst that day, 1s.; and for fatchinge the great bell yoke at Stanton hall, [p 127] 6d.” In 1605 there is “Item for a rope for a little bell, 5d.” In the following year is “Item to the Ringers the 5th day of August, when thanks was given to God for the delyvering of King James from the conspiracye of the Lord Gowyre, 5s.” In 1613 we find the sum of 6d. expended in purchasing “a stirropp for the fyrst bell wheele, 8d.” The year 1614 is prolific in charges connected with the belfry, as the following enumeration will show: “Item for the bellefonder, his dinner, and his sonnes, with other chargs at the same time, 10d.; at the second coming of the sayd bellfonder, 9d.; at the taking downe of the bell, 6d.; for castyng the fyrst bell, £4; for the surplus mettall which wee bought of the bellfounder because the new bell waeghed more than ye old, £3 15s. 10d.; to the bellfounder’s men, 4d.; for the carryage of our old bell to Chesterfield, 3s.; for carrying the great bell clapper to Chesterfield, 4d.; for carrying the new bell from Chesterfield, 2s. 8d.; to Nicholos Hibbert, for hanging the said bell, 1s. 1d.; to Nicholas Hibbert the younger, for amending the great bell yoke and wheele, 6d.; spent at Gybs house at the bellfounder’s last coming, 3d.; for amending the great bell clapper, 10d.”
The inscriptions on church bells would make an interesting chapter. On the second bell at Aston-on-Trent appears in Lombardic capitals, the words, “Jhesus be our spede, 1590,” and on the fourth bell is inscribed, “All men that heare my mournful sound, repent before you lye in ground, 1661.” The fourth bell of S. Werburgh’s at Derby is inscribed—
The third bell at Allestree bears the words—
The second bell on the old peal at Ashbourne was inscribed—
The fifth bell at Dovebridge has the words: “Som rosa polsata monde Maria vocata, 1633.” This is—according to the Rev. Dr. John Charles Cox—a corrupt reading of “Sum Rosa pulsata mundi Maria vocata,” a legend occasionally found on pre-Reformation bells, and which may be thus Englished—
A similar inscription—similarly mis-spelt—occurs on the third bell at Ibstock, Leicestershire, the date of which is 1632. Mr. Sankey, of Marlborough College, gives it a graceful French rendering—
The fourth bell at Coton-in-the-Elms has the inscription—
The sixth bell is inscribed—
The seventh bell at Castleton has the following legend—
The second bell at Monyash is inscribed: “Sca Maria o. p. n.” (Sancta Maria ora pro nobis.)
The old curfew custom is still kept up in the [p 130] Peak district of Derbyshire, notably at Winster, where the bell is rung throughout November, December, January, and February at eight o’clock every work day evening, except on Saturdays, when the hour is seven. There are Sanctus bells at Tideswell, Hathersage, Beeley, Ashover, and other Derbyshire churches. All Saints’ Church, at Derby (“All Saints,” i.e., “the unknown good”), has a melodious set of chimes. They play the following tunes: Sunday, “Old One Hundred and Fourth” (Hanover); Monday, “The Lass of Patie’s Mill”; Tuesday, “The Highland Lassie”; Wednesday, “The Shady Bowers”; Thursday, “The National Anthem”; Friday, Handel’s “March in Scipio”; Saturday, “The Silken Garter.” They all date from the last century.
Church bells have the subtle charm of sentiment. When they swing in the hoary village tower, and send their mellifluous message across the country side and down the deep and devious valley, or when they make musical with mellow carillon the dreamy atmosphere of moss grown cathedral closes, they have a poetical influence. How pleasant it is to listen to the chimes which ring out from time to time from the towers of [p 131] Notre Dame, in the city of Rubens, and from the Campanile at Venice!
Church bells in large towns, where one section of the community are night workers and seek their rest in the day-time, are by no means invested with sentiment. We have in our mind a church which is set in a dense population of railwaymen, engine drivers, stokers, guards, porters, &c. It possesses a particularly noisy peal of bells. They begin their brazen tintinnabulations at breakfast time, and ring on, at intervals, until past the supper hour. Sometimes the sound is a dismal monotone, as if the bellman had no heart for his work. At other times a number of stark mad Quasimodos seem to be pulling at the ropes to frighten the gilded cock on the vane into flapping flight. Sunday only brings an increase of the din, distracting all thought, destroying all conversation, defying all study, turning the blessed sense of hearing into a [p 132] curse, and making you envy the deaf. It is well known that upon many persons in health the clangour of bells has a very depressing effect; but at night, when narcotics are given and the sick are wearied out, it is very easy to imagine how irritating these bells must be both to the invalids and their attendants. One is inclined to exclaim with the Frenchman—
How very wise those Spanish innkeepers were who, in the olden time, used to make “ruido” an item in their bills, charging their guests with the noise they made!
On the eve of the feast of Corpus Christi the choristers of Durham Cathedral ascend the tower, and, clad in their fluttering robes of white, sing the Te Deum. This custom is performed to commemorate the miraculous extinguishing of a conflagration on that night in the year 1429. The legend goes that, whilst the monks were engaged in prayer at midnight, the belfry was struck by the electric current and set on fire. Though the flames continued to rage until the middle of the next day, the tower escaped serious damage, and the bells were uninjured—an escape which was imputed to the special interference of the incorruptible S. Cuthbert, who was enshrined in that cathedral. These are not the bells which now reverberate among the housetops on the steep banks of the Wear, they having been cast by Thomas Bartlett during the summer of 1631.
The fine peal of bells in Limerick Cathedral were originally brought from Italy, having been [p 134] manufactured by a young native, who devoted himself enthusiastically to the work, and who, after the toil of many years, succeeded in finishing a splendid peal, which answered all the critical requirements of his own musical ear. Upon these bells the artist greatly prided himself, and they were at length bought by the prior of a neighbouring convent at a very liberal price. With the proceeds of that sale the young Italian purchased a little villa, where, in the stillness of the evening, he could enjoy the sound of his own melodious bells from the convent cliff. Here he grew old in the bosom of his family and of domestic happiness. At length, in one of those feuds common to the period, the Italian became a sufferer amongst many others. He lost his all. After the passing of the storm, he found himself preserved alone amid the wreck of fortune, friends, family, and home. The bells too—his favourite bells—were carried off from the convent, and finally removed to Ireland. For a time their artificer became a wanderer over Europe; and at last, in the hope of soothing his troubled spirit, he formed the resolution of seeking the land to which those treasures of his memory had been conveyed. He sailed for Ireland. Proceeding [p 135] up the Shannon one beautiful evening, which reminded him of his native Italy, his own bells suddenly struck upon his ear! Home, and all its loving ties, happiness, early recollections, all—all were in the sound, and went to his heart. His face was turned towards the cathedral in the attitude of intently listening. When the vessel reached its destination the Italian bellfounder was found to be a corpse!
Odoceus, Bishop of Llandaff, removed the bells from his cathedral during a time of excommunication. Earlier still they are assumed to have been in use in Ireland as early as the time of S. Patrick, who died in 493. In those days much superstitious feeling, as in later ages, hung around the bells, and many sweetly pretty and very curious legends are known respecting them. Thus it is said S. Odoceus, of Llandaff, being thirsty after undergoing labour, and more accustomed to drink water than anything else, came to a fountain in the vale of Llandaff, not far from the church, that he might drink. Here he found women washing butter after the manner of the country. Sending to them his messengers and disciples they requested that they would accommodate them with a vessel that their [p 136] pastor might drink therefrom. These mischievous girls replied, “We have no other cup besides that which we hold in our hands,” namely, the butter. The man of blessed memory taking it, formed one piece into the shape of a small bell, and drank from it. The story goes that it permanently remained in that form, so that it appeared to those who beheld it to consist altogether of the purest gold. It is preserved in the church at Llandaff, and it is said that, by touching it, health is given to the diseased.
The bell of S. Mura was formerly regarded with superstitious reverence in Ireland, and any liquid drunk from it was believed to have peculiar properties in alleviating human suffering; hence the peasant women of the district in which it was long preserved particularly used it in cases of child-birth, and a serious disturbance was excited on a former attempt to sell it by its owner. Its legendary history relates that it descended from the sky ringing loudly, but as it approached the concourse of people who had assembled at the miraculous warning, the tongue detached itself and returned towards the skies; hence it was concluded that the bell was never to be profaned by sounding on earth, but was to be kept for [p 137] purposes more holy and beneficent. This is said to have happened on the spot where once stood the famous Abbey of Fahan, near Innishowen, in county Donegal, founded in the seventh century by S. Mura, or Muranus.
Mr. Robert Hunt, F.R.S., tells us that, in days long ago, the inhabitants of the parish of Forrabury—which does not cover a square mile, but which now includes the chief part of the town of Bocastle and its harbour—resolved to have a peal of bells which should rival those of the neighbouring church of Tintagel, which are said to have rung merrily at the marriage, and tolled solemnly at the death of Arthur. The bells were cast. The bells were blessed. The bells were shipped for Forrabury. Few voyages were more favourable. The ship glided, with a fair wind, along the northern shores of Cornwall, waiting for the tide to carry her safely into the harbour of Bottreaux. The vesper bells rang out at Tintagel. When he heard the blessed bell, the pilot devoutly crossed himself, and bending his knee, thanked God for the safe and quick voyage which they had made. The captain laughed at the superstition, as he called it, of the pilot, and swore that they had only to thank themselves for [p 138] the speedy voyage, and that, with his own arm at the helm, and his judgment to guide them, they would soon have a happy landing. The pilot checked this profane speech. The wicked captain—and he swore more impiously than ever, that all was due to himself and his men—laughed to scorn the pilot’s prayer. “May God forgive you,” was the pilot’s reply. Those who are familiar with the northern shores of Cornwall will know that sometimes a huge wave, generated by some mysterious power in the wide Atlantic, will roll on, overpowering everything by its weight and force. While yet the captain’s oaths were heard, and while the inhabitants on the shore were looking out from the cliffs, expecting within an hour to see the vessel charged with their bells safe in their harbour, one of those vast swellings of the ocean was seen. Onward came the grand billow in all the terror of its might! The ship rose not upon the waters as it came onward! She was overwhelmed, and sank in an instant close to the land. As the vessel sank, the bells were heard tolling with a muffled sound, as if ringing the death knell of the ship and sailors, of whom the good pilot alone escaped with life. When storms are coming, and only [p 139] then, the bells of Forrabury, with their dull muffled sound, are heard from beneath the heaving sea, a warning to the wicked. The tower has remained silent to this day.
Passing through Massingham, in Lincolnshire, a long time ago, a traveller noticed three men sitting on a stile in the churchyard, and saying, “Come to church, Thompson!” “Come to church, Brown!” and so on. Surprised at this, the traveller asked what it meant. He was told that, having no bells, this was how they called folk to church. The traveller, remarking that it was a pity so fine a church should have no bells, asked the men if they could make three for the church, promising to pay for them himself. This they undertook to do. They were a tinker, a carpenter, and a shoemaker respectively. When the visitor came round that way again, he found the three men ringing three bells, which said “Ting, Tong, Pluff,” being made respectively of tin, wood, and leather.
There is a tradition that John Barton, the donor of the third bell at Brigstock, Northamptonshire, was one of several plaintiffs against Sir John Gouch to recover their rights of common upon certain lands in the neighbouring parish of [p 140] Benefield, and that Sir John threatened to ruin him if he persisted in claiming his right. John Barton replied that he would leave a cow which, being pulled by the tail, would low three times a day, and would be heard all over the common when he (Sir John) and his heirs would have nothing to do there. Hence the gift of the bell, which was formerly rung at four in the morning, and at eleven at morning and at night. He is also said to have left means for paying for this daily ringing.
One Christmas Eve the ringers of Witham-on-the-Hill left the bells standing for the purpose of partaking of refreshments at a tavern that stood opposite the church. One of their number, a little more thirsty than the rest, insisted that before going back to ring they should have another pitcher of ale. This being at length agreed to by his brother bell-ringers, the party remained to duly drain the last draught. Whilst they were drinking, the steeple fell. Whether this is merely a tapster’s tale, or the sober statement of a remarkable fact, we are not in a position to state.
From a curious and rare pamphlet on “Catholic Miracles,” published in 1825, we [p 141] learn that a band of sacrilegious robbers, having broken into a monastery, proceeded out of bravado to ring a peal of bells, when, through prayers offered up by the “holy fathers,” a miracle was wrought, and the robbers were unable to leave their hold on the ropes. This state of affairs was depicted by the inimitable George Cruikshank in a woodcut, impressions of which are given in our “Curiosities of the Belfry,” (Hamilton).
In the village of Tunstall, a few miles distant from Yarmouth, there is a clump of alder trees, familiarly known as “Hell Carr.” Not far from these trees there is a pool of water having a boggy bottom, that goes by the name of “Hell Hole.” A succession of bubbles are frequently seen floating on the surface of the water in summer time, a circumstance (as Mr. Glyde, the Norfolk antiquarian author, truly states) that can be accounted for very naturally; but the natives of the district maintain that these bubbles are the result of supernatural action, the cause of which is thus described. The tower of the church is in ruins. Tradition says that it was destroyed by fire, but that the bells were not injured by the calamity. The parson and the [p 142] churchwarden each claimed the bells. While they were quarrelling, his Satanic Majesty carried out the disputed booty. The clergyman, however, not desiring to lose the booty, pursued and overtook the devil, who, in order to evade his clerical opponent, dived through the earth to his appointed dwelling-place, taking the bells with him. Tradition points to “Hell Hole” as the spot where this hurried departure took place. The villagers believe that the bubbles on the surface of the pool are caused by the continuous descent of the waters to the bottomless pit.
In 1778 there was a bell belonging to the chapel of S. Fillan, which was in high reputation among the votaries of that saint in olden times. It was of an oblong shape, about a foot high, and was usually laid on a gravestone in the churchyard. Mad people were brought to it to effect a cure. They were first dipped into the “Saint’s Pool,” where certain ceremonies were performed, which partook of the character of Druidism and Roman Catholicism. The bell was placed in the chapel, where it remained, bound with ropes, all night. Next day it was placed upon the heads of the lunatics with great solemnity, but with what results “deponent sayeth not.” It was the [p 143] popular opinion that, if stolen, this bell would extricate itself from the hands of the thief and return home ringing all the way! The bell had ultimately to be kept under lock and key to prevent its being used for superstitious purposes. This old time relic is now in the National Museum, Edinburgh, of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, and it is described as follows in the catalogue: “The ‘Bell of S. Fillan,’ of cast bronze, square shaped, and with double-headed, dragonesque handle. It lay on a gravestone in the old churchyard at Strathfillan, Perthshire, where it was superstitiously used for the cure of insanity and other diseases till 1798, when it was removed by a traveller to England. It was returned to Scotland in 1869, and deposited in the Museum by Lord Crawford and the Bishop of Brechin, with the consent of the [p 144] Heritors and Kirk-Session of S. Fillans.” Near Raleigh there is a valley which is said to have been caused by an earthquake several hundred years ago, which convulsion of nature swallowed up a whole village, together with the church. Formerly it was the custom of the people to assemble in this valley every Christmas Day morning to listen to the ringing of the bells of the church beneath them. This, it was positively asserted, might be heard by placing the ear to the ground and listening attentively. As late as 1827 it was usual on this morning for old men and women to tell their children and young friends to go to the valley, stoop down, and hear the bells ring merrily. The villagers really heard the ringing of the bells of a neighbouring church, the sound of which was communicated by the surface of the ground, the cause being misconstrued through the ignorance and credulity of the listeners.
When those sermons in stone—the beautiful fonts of the Decorated and Perpendicular periods, which preached to a bygone age—come to be translated into modern English on an extensive and systematic scale, they will be found to be not only sermons theological, but treatises on hagiology, music, contemporary history, symbolism, and art of the highest order. One of the richest fields in font-lore is to be found in East Anglia, and Norfolk alone contains examples of sufficient importance and of vivid interest, to fill a whole volume on this particular subject. Only to mention a few, that will rapidly occur to a Norfolk antiquary, is to conjure up a varied and rich archæological vision, which can be extended indefinitely at will.
Of canopied fonts perhaps that of S. Peter (Mancroft), Norwich, takes the palm. The carved oak canopy is supported by four massive posts, giving great dignity to the stone font [p 146] which it overshadows. The canopy at Sall is of a more graceful type, being in the form of a crocketed spire, suspended by a pulley from an ancient beam projecting from the belfry platform. Elsing, Merton, and Worstead also possess font covers of great interest.
Seven Sacrament fonts are numerous, that of New Walsingham being one of the finest of its kind in England. It belongs to the Perpendicular period, and is richly carved. On seven of its eight panels are sculptured figures representing the Seven Sacraments, the eighth exhibiting the Crucifixion. The stem carries figures of the four Evangelists and other saints, and rests on an elaborately-carved plinth, the upper part of which is in the form of a Maltese cross. A copy of this magnificent structure has been erected in the Mediæval Court of the Crystal Palace. A counterpart of the Walsingham font (more or less exact, though perhaps not so rich in carving) is to be seen at Loddon, with similar Maltese cross base, but the Vandal’s hand has nearly obliterated the figuring of the Sacramental panels. Other instances of Seven Sacrament fonts are to be seen in Norwich Cathedral, at Blofield, Martham, and elsewhere.
Fonts bearing the date of their erection are found at Acle and Sall, the former having the following inscription upon the top step: “Orate pro diabus qui hūc fontem in honore dei fecerunt fecit anno dni millo cccc decimo.” An instance of a Posy font with date (sixteenth century) occurs in one of the Marshland churches, the Posy being:—
Thynk and Thank.
The leaden font at Brundall is believed to be one of three only of its kind remaining in England; a fourth, somewhat damaged, existed at Great Plumstead until a few years ago, when alas! it perished in a disastrous fire which practically destroyed the church. Lion fonts are numerous, those of Acle and Strumpshaw being excellent examples.
Remarkable examples of carved fonts are those at Toftrees, Blofield, Wymondham, Bergh Apton, Aylsham, Ketteringham, Sculthorpe, Walpole (S. Peter), etc. At Hemblington, dedicated to All Saints, there is a perfect little hagiology around the font-pedestal and upon seven of the panels of the basin, the eighth panel shewing the mediæval presentment of the Holy Trinity, the Almighty Father being somewhat [p 148] blasphemously represented as an old man, while the Crucifix rests upon an orb, and (what is perhaps somewhat unusual) the Holy Dove appears about to alight on the Cross.
Of Decorated Fonts in the county of Norfolk, that of Upton must be accounted facile princeps. In beauty of design, in fulness of symbolism, in richness of detail, it is a faithful type of the elaborate art of the Decorated Period. It was originally coloured, fragments of red and blue [p 149] paint being still visible. A massive base is formed by three octagonal steps rising tier upon tier, the upper step divided from the second by eight sets of quatrefoils, flanked at the corners by sitting dogs with open mouths. Upon the stem of the font there are eight figures in bas relief, standing upon pediments beneath overhanging canopies exquisitely carved. These canopies are adorned with crocketed pinnacles, and the interior of each has a groined roof, with rose boss in the centre. Some of the pediments are garnished with foliage, others exhibit quaint animals, e.g., a double dragon with but one head connecting the two bodies, two lions linked by their tails, and two dogs in the act of biting each other; all, of course, highly symbolical of various types of sin. The canopied figures around the pedestal represent the two Sacraments, an indication that even in the fourteenth century the two Sacraments of the Gospel were esteemed as of the first importance. Holy Communion is symbolised by five figures. A bishop in eucharistic vestments, his right hand raised in blessing, his left holding the pastoral staff, while the double dragon is beneath his feet. It is not unlikely that this ecclesiastic was de Spenser, the [p 150] contemporary Bishop of Norwich, of military fame. The bishop is supported to right and left by angels robed and girded, circlets and crosses on their heads, each holding a candle in a somewhat massive candlestick. The graceful lines of the wings suggest the probability of the artist having belonged to a continental guild of stone carvers. The next two figures are priests, each vested in dalmatic, maniple, stole, and alb, acting as deacon and sub-deacon, the first holding an open service book, the second the chalice and pyx.
The three remaining figures portray Holy Baptism. Of the two godmothers and the godfather in the lay dress of the fourteenth century, the first holds a babe in her arms in swaddling clothes, the swathing band being crossed again and again. The other sponsors carry each a rosary.
To digress for a moment; here is an interesting deduction. The infant is a girl—witness the two godmothers. The font cannot have been made later than about 1380, at which time the Decorated merged into the Perpendicular. Now the lord of the manor of Upton from 1358 onwards, for many years, was one [p 151] John Buttetourt, or Botetourt, who, with his wife Matilda, had an only daughter and heiress, to whom was given the baptismal name Jocosa. It appears highly probable that the lord of Upton, rejoicing at the birth of his little heiress, caused the font to be designed and built as a memorial of her baptism. But it would seem that he did not live to see her settled in life, for in 1399 she had grown to early womanhood, had won the affection of Sir Hugh Burnell, who made her his wife, and by the following year, if not before, she had inherited the manor in her own right.
To return to the description of the font. Resting on the canopies above described, and supported by eight half-angels with musical instruments, etc., is the large and handsome laver. The principal panels are occupied by reliefs of the four living creatures of the Revelation—the historic emblems of the four Evangelists—the flying lion, the flying bull, the man, and the eagle, the last named with scroll facing east. The four alternative panels represent angels, two holding instruments of music, two with heraldic shields. The panels are separated from each other by crocketed buttresses. The musical [p 152] instruments shewn upon the font are of great interest. A kind of rebeck or lute twice occurs, and once a curious pair of cymbals. One half-angel is playing on a crowth, an early form of the fiddle, consisting of an oblong box, a couple of strings, a short straight and round handle, and a bow. Another of the half-angels holds an open music book, containing the ancient four-line score.
The font has suffered some amount of mutilation in the five centuries of its existence; three or four heads have disappeared, also the right hand of the bishop, and the top of the pastoral staff; the chalice has been broken off, and the flying lion is fractured. And as a reminder of the iconoclastic century which was most likely responsible for the damage, these dates are roughly cut into the leaden lining of the bowl: 1641, 1662, 1696.
The smallest acquaintance with the inventories, or the ceremonial, of our mediæval churches is sufficient to show anyone a glimpse of the extraordinary wealth of which the larger churches especially were possessed in those days. Vestments of velvet and silk and cloth of gold, adorned with jewels and the precious metals; crosses and candlesticks of gold, studded with gems; reliquaries that were ablaze with gorgeousness and beauty; and sometimes shrines and altars that were a complete mass of invaluable treasure; such were the contents of the choirs and sacristies of our cathedrals and abbey churches. This being the case, it is obvious that the greatest care had to be taken of such places. Then, even as now, there were desperadoes from whom the sanctity of the shrine could not protect it, if they could get a chance of fingering its jewels; men who would exclaim, with Falconbridge in the play of “King John” (Act III., Sc. 3)—
To protect the wealthier churches from desecration and loss, therefore, bands of watchers were organized, who throughout the night should be ever on the alert against the attacks of thieves; who would also, moreover, be able to raise, if need were, the alarm of fire. At Lincoln these guardians patrolled the Minster at nightfall, to assure themselves that all was safe. To facilitate the inspection of the whole building occasionally squints were made; as at the Cathedral of S. David’s, where the cross pierced in the east wall behind, and just above, the high altar, is supposed by some to have been for this purpose, a view being thus obtained of the choir from the Chapel of the Holy Trinity, or vice versâ.
In several instances, however, it was found both more convenient and more effective to erect a special chamber, so placed and so elevated as to command a good view of the church, or of the portion of the church to be watched; and here a constant succession of watchers kept guard. One of our most interesting examples of this is at S. Albans. Near the [p 157] site of the shrine of the patron saint (on which the fragments of the shattered shrine have been skilfully built up once more) is a structure, in two storeys, of carved timber. The lower stage is fitted with cupboards, in which were probably preserved relics, or such jewels and ornaments as were not kept permanently upon the shrine. A doorway in this storey admits to a staircase leading to the gallery above. This is the watchers’ chamber; the side fronting the shrine being filled with perpendicular tracery, whence the monks in charge could easily keep the treasures around them under observation. A somewhat similar structure is still seen at Christ Church, Oxford, and is sometimes spoken of as the shrine of S. Frideswide. It is really the watching-chamber for that shrine; and was erected in the fourteenth century upon an ancient tomb, supposed to be that of the founder of the feretrum of the saint, though popular report describes it as the resting-place of the bodies of her parents.
In not a few cases, both in England and abroad, these chambers were built in a yet more durable fashion. At Bourges may be seen a stone loft on the left side of the altar; at [p 158] Nuremberg also is one. In addition to the wooden chamber, already described, S. Alban’s Abbey (now the cathedral) has a small one of stone in the transept. Lichfield has a gallery over the sacristy door, which served the same purpose; and at Worcester an oriel was probably used by the watchers. Westminster Abbey has such a chamber over the chantry of King Henry VI., and Worcester Cathedral has one in the north aisle; and there are several other instances. Many churches had rooms over the north porch, as the cathedrals of Exeter and Hereford, the churches of Christchurch (Hampshire), Alford (Lincolnshire), and many others; and these in some cases, as at Boston, had openings commanding a view of the interior.
Another explanation of the existence of a few watching lofts is sometimes given, besides the need of guarding the Church’s treasures. It is held by some that in the face of the deterioration of monastic simplicity and devotion in the later times before the Dissolution in England, the abbots felt the need of keeping a stricter eye upon their community; and these rooms were consequently constructed to enable them to [p 159] look, unobserved themselves, into their abbey church, and to see that all whose duty called for their presence were there, and properly occupied. This theory is perhaps supported by the traditional name of “the abbot’s pew,” by which a very simple and substantial watching-chamber in the triforium of Malmesbury Abbey is called. With this may be compared another example in the priory church of S. Bartholomew, Smithfield. In these, and most of the other instances, the watching-chamber is an addition to the original structure, dating often considerably later than the rest. This is quoted by the believers in the rapid spread of monastic depravity in later ages in support of the theory just noticed; as is also the fact, that the “pew” is often near what formerly constituted the abbot’s private apartments within the adjoining monastery. It is probable that both explanations are true; some of these lofts forming “abbot’s pews,” as others certainly were for the guardian watchers of the shrines. In a large community it would certainly be wise for the head to be able at times to survey quietly and unobserved the actions of the rest; but this admission no more implies that the lives of all [p 160] monks were scandalous, than does the presence of watchers by the shrines prove that all worshippers were thieves.
We have noticed in this paper the chief watching-chambers in this country, but no doubt other examples occur which may have special points of interest.
An interesting article of Church furniture which has scarcely received the amount of notice which it deserves, is the Church Chest, the receptacle for the registers and records of the parish, and sometimes also for the office books, vestments, and other valuables belonging to the Church. In recent years attention has frequently been directed to the interesting character of our ancient parochial documents, but the useful cases which for so many years have shielded them, more or less securely, from damage or loss, have been largely overlooked.
The present authority for the provision in every English church of a proper repository for its records is the seventieth canon, the latter part of which runs in the following words, from which it will be seen that some of its details have been suffered to become obsolete: “For the safe keeping of the said book (the register of baptisms, weddings, and burials), the churchwardens, at the charge of the parish, shall [p 162] provide one sure coffer, and three locks and keys; whereof one to remain with the minister, and the other two with the churchwardens severally; so that neither the minister without the two churchwardens, nor the churchwardens without the minister, shall at any time take that book out of the said coffer. And henceforth upon every Sabbath day immediately after morning or evening prayer, the minister and the churchwardens shall take the said parchment book out of the said coffer, and the minister in the presence of the churchwardens shall write and record in the said book the names of all persons christened, together with the names and surnames of their parents, and also the names of all persons married and buried in that parish in the week before, and the day and year of every such christening, marriage, and burial; and that done, they shall lay up the book in the coffer as before.” This Canon, made with others in 1603, was a natural sequence to the Act passed in 1538, which enjoined the due keeping of parish registers of the kind above described. It is, in fact, obvious that the canon only gave additional sanction to a practice enforced some years earlier; for Grindal, in his “Metropolitical [p 163] Visitation of the Province of York in 1571,” uses almost identical terms, requiring, amongst many other things, “That the churchwardens in every parish shall, at the costs and charges of the parish, provide ... a sure coffer with two locks and keys for keeping the register book, and a strong chest or box for the almose of the poor, with three locks and keys to the same:” the same demand was made, also by Grindal, on the province of Canterbury in 1576.
Church chests did not, however, come into use in consequence of the introduction of the regular keeping of registers. The Synod of Exeter, held in 1287, ordered that every parish should provide “a chest for the books and the vestments,” and the convenience and even necessity of some such article of furniture, doubtless led to its use in many places from yet earlier times.
We have in England several excellent examples of “hutches,” or chests, which date from the thirteenth, or even from the close of the twelfth century. Some there are for which a much earlier date has been claimed. These latter are rough coffers formed usually of a single log of wood, hollowed out, and fitted with a massive [p 164] lid, the whole being bound with iron bands. Chests of this kind may be seen at Newdigate, Surrey, at Hales Owen, Shropshire, and elsewhere; and on the strength of the rudeness of the carpentry displayed, it has been asserted that they are of Norman, or even of Saxon, workmanship. Roughness of design and work are scarcely, however, in themselves sufficient evidence of great antiquity; many local causes, especially in small country places, may have led the priests and people to be content with a very rude article of home manufacture, at a time when far more elaborate ones were procurable in return for a little more enterprise or considerably more money. The date of these rough coffers must therefore be considered doubtful.
Of Early English chests, we have examples at Clymping, Sussex, at Saltwood and Graveney, Kent, at Earl Stonham, Suffolk, at Stoke D’Abernon, Surrey, and at Newport, Essex. The Decorated Period is represented by chests at Brancepeth, Durham, at Huttoft and Haconby, Lincolnshire, at Faversham and Withersham, Kent, and at S. Mary Magdalene’s, Oxford. The workmanship of the Perpendicular Period has numerous illustrations among our church [p 165] chests, such as those at S. Michael’s, Coventry, S. Mary’s, Cambridge, the Chapter House of Christchurch Cathedral, Oxford, and others at Frettenham, Norfolk, at Guestling, Sussex, at Harty Chapel, Kent, at Southwold, Suffolk, and at Stonham Aspel, Suffolk.
In the making of all these coffers, strength was naturally the great characteristic which was most obviously aimed at; strength of structure, so as to secure durability, and strength of locks and bolts, so as to ensure the contents from theft. But in addition to this, artistic beauty was not lost sight of, and many chests are excellent illustrations of the wood-carvers’ taste and skill, and several were originally enriched with colour.
A good example of those in which security has been almost exclusively sought, is provided by a chest at S. Peter’s, Upton, Northamptonshire. The dimensions of this hutch are six feet three inches in length, two feet six inches in height, and two feet in width. Its only adornment is provided by the wrought iron bands which are attached to it. Four of these are laid laterally across each end, and four more, running perpendicularly, divide the front into five unequal panels; the bands on the front correspond with an equal number laid across the lid, where, however, two more are placed at the extreme ends. Each of the panels in front and top is filled with a device in beaten iron roughly resembling an eight-pointed star, the lowest point of which runs to the bottom of the chest. Yet simpler is the chest at S. Mary’s, West Horsley, which is a long, narrow, oaken box, strengthened by flat iron bands crossing the ends and doubled well round the front and back, while six others are fastened perpendicularly to the front; there are two large locks, and three hinges terminating in long strips of iron running almost the complete breadth of the lid. The church of S. Botolph, Church Brampton, has [p 169] a chest equally plain in itself, but the iron bands are in this case of a richer character. Elegant scroll-work originally covered the front and ends, much still remaining to this day. S. Lawrence’s, in the Isle of Thanet, possesses an exceedingly rough example, with a curved top; seven broad iron bands strengthen the lid, and several perpendicular ones, crossed by a lateral one, are affixed to the front, the whole being studded with large square-headed nails; a huge lock is placed in the middle, with hasps for padlocks to the right and left of it. It is raised slightly from the ground by wooden “feet.”
For security and strength, however, the palm must be awarded to a coffer at Stonham Aspel. The following description of this remarkable chest was given in the “Journal of the British Archæological Society” in September, 1872: “This curious example is of chestnut wood, 8 feet in length, 2 feet 3 inches in height, and 2 feet 7 inches from front to back; and is entirely covered on the outer surface with sheets of iron 4½ inches in width, the joinings being hid by straps. The two lids are secured by fourteen hasps; the second from the left locks the first, and the hasp simply covers the keyhole; the fourth locks the third, etc. After this process is finished, a bar from each angle passes over them, and is secured by a curious lock in the centre, which fastens them both. The interior of this gigantic chest is divided into two equal compartments by a central partition of wood, the one to the left being painted red; the other is plain. Each division can be opened separately; the rector holding four of the keys, and the churchwardens the others, all being of different patterns.” The writer of this description (Mr. H. Syer Cuming, F.S.A., Scot., V.P.) assigns the chest to the fifteenth century.
Turning now to those chests, whose makers, while not forgetting the needful solidity and strength, aimed also at greater decoration, the handsome hutch at S. Michael’s, Coventry, claims our notice. The front of this is carved with a double row of panels having traceried heads, the upper row being half the width of the lower one. In the centre are two crowned figures, popularly (and not improbably) described as Leofric and his wife, the Lady Godiva. At each end of the front is a long panel decorated with lozenges enclosing Tudor roses, foliage, and conventional animals; while two dragons adorn the bottom, which is cut away so as to leave a triangular space beneath the chest. At S. John’s, Glastonbury, is another fine example, measuring six feet two inches in length, and at present lidless. Within six vesica-shaped panels are placed quatrefoil ornaments, each divided by a horizontal bar. Above these are five shields, three charged with S. George’s Cross, and the others, one with three lozenges in fess, and the other with three roundles, two and one, and a label. The ends, or legs, are elaborately carved with dog-tooth figures in squares and circles. Saltwood, Kent, has an ornately carved chest, [p 174] divided (like that of Stonham Aspel) into two parts, the lid being correspondingly formed, and opening in sections. One half is secured by three locks, and the other by one. The front is carved with five geometrical “windows” of four lights each; and the ends of the front have three carved square panels, divided by bands of dancette ornament. The base has a long narrow panel, with a simple wavy design. There is some bold carving on a chest at S. George’s, South Acre, in Norfolk; a row of cusped arches fills rather more than half the height of the front, the rest being taken up with four panels containing roses and stars, similar designs on a smaller scale being repeated at the ends. The front is cut away at the bottom in a series of curves.
At Alnwick is a massive coffer, over seven feet long, bearing on its front a number of figures of dragons, and heads of birds and beasts, amid foliage; above which are two hunting scenes, in which appear men with horns, dogs, and deer, amid trees. These two scenes are separated by the lock, and are precisely alike, save that the quarry in one is a stag, and a hind in the other. Empingham, near Stamford, has a fine chest of cedar wood, adorned with incised figures. At [p 177] S. Mary’s, Mortlake, is one of walnut, inlaid with boxwood and ebony, and ornamented with designs in metal work; the under side of the lid has some delicate iron-wrought tracery, which was originally set off with red velvet. The Huttoft chest is enriched with traceried arches, which were apparently at one time picked out in colour; that of Stoke D’Abernon is raised on four substantial legs, and is decorated with three circles on the front filled with a kind of tracery; there are other interesting specimens at Winchester and at Ewerby. In the old castle at Newcastle-on-Tyne is preserved an old church coffer, which was probably removed there for safety during the troublous days of the Civil War. At Harty Chapel, Kent, we find the figures of two knights in full armour, tilting at each other, carved on the front of a chest; the legend of S. George and the dragon is illustrated in a similar way at Southwold Church, Suffolk, and yet more fully on a chest in the treasury of York Minster.
Probably, however, the handsomest example of a carved church chest now preserved in England is at Brancepeth, in the county of Durham. This beautiful piece of work, which [p 178] rests in the south chapel of the church, has its front completely covered with elaborate carving. At either end are three oblong panels, one above another, on each of which is a conventional bird or beast; at the base is a series of diamonds filled, as are the intervals between them, with tracery; and above this is an arcade of six pointed arches, each enclosing three lights surmounted by a circle, the six being divided by tall lancets, the crockets of the arches and a wealth of foliage filling up the intervening spaces. This fine chest dates from the fourteenth century.
The Rev. Francis E. Powell, M.A., in his pleasantly-written work entitled “The Story of a Cheshire Parish,” gives particulars of the parish chest of Over. “The chest,” says Mr. Powell, was “the gift of Bishop Samuel Peploe to Joseph Maddock, Clerk, April 30th, 1750.” It probably was an old chest even then. The donor was Bishop of Chester from 1726 to 1752. He was a Whig in politics, and a latitudinarian in religion, as so many bishops of that time were. That he was a man of determined courage may be seen by his loyalty to the House of Hanover, even under adverse [p 179] circumstances. One day, in the year 1715, he was reading Morning Prayer at the parish church at Preston. The town was occupied by Jacobite troops, some of whom burst into the church during the service. Approaching the prayer-desk, with drawn sword, a trooper demanded that Peploe should substitute James for George in the prayer for the King’s Majesty. Peploe merely paused to say, “Soldier, I am doing my duty; do you do yours;” and went on with the prayers, whereupon the soldiers at once proceeded to eject him from the church. The illustration of the chest is kindly lent to us by the Rev. Francis E. Powell, vicar of Over.
In the vestry of Lambeth Palace is a curiously painted chest; several of an early date are preserved in the triforium of Westminster Abbey; there is one at Salisbury Cathedral, and another in the Record Office, having been removed from the Pix Chapel.
One of the original uses of these coffers, as we have seen, was to preserve the vestments of the church. The copes, however, being larger than the other vestments, and in the cathedrals and other important churches, being very numerous, frequently had a special receptacle provided. [p 180] At York, Salisbury, Westminster, and Gloucester, ancient cope-chests are still preserved. These are triangular in shape, the cope being most easily folded into that form.
In not a few instances these large coffers, or sections of them, were used as alms boxes, for which a very ancient precedent can be found. At the restoration of the Jewish Temple under King Joash, we are told (2 Kings xii., 9, 10) that “Jehoiada the priest took a chest, and bored a hole in the lid of it, and set it beside the altar, on the right side as one cometh into the house of the Lord: and the priests that kept the door put therein all the money that was brought into the house of the Lord: and it was so, when they saw that there was much money in the chest, that the King’s scribe and the high priest came up, and they put up in bags, and told the money that was found in the house of the Lord.”
At Llanaber, near Barmouth in North Wales, is a chest hewn from a single block of wood, and pierced to receive coins. At Hatfield, Yorkshire, is an ancient example of a similar kind; and others may be seen at S. Peter’s-in-the-East, Oxford, at Drayton in Berkshire, at Meare [p 181] Church, Somersetshire, at Irchester and Mears Ashby, in Northamptonshire, at Hartland, in Devonshire, and in the Isle of Wight at Carisbrooke. An interesting chest, with provision for the reception of alms, is preserved at Combs Church, Suffolk, where there is also another plain hutch, iron-bound and treble-locked. The chest in question is strongly, but simply, made, the front being divided into four plain panels, with some very slight attempt at decoration in the form of small disks and diamonds along the top; and the lid being quite flat and plain, and secured by two locks. At one end, however, a long slit has been cut in this lid, and beneath it is a till, or trough, to receive the money, very similar to the little locker often inserted at one end of an old oak chest intended for domestic use, save that in this case the compartment has, of course, no second lid of its own. This chest has the date 1599 carved upon it, but is supposed to be some half a century older, the date perhaps marking the time of some repairs or alterations made in it.
Hutches of the kind that we have been considering are not peculiar to England, some fine and well-preserved examples being found in [p 182] several of the ancient churches in France. Among ourselves it is obvious that great numbers must have disappeared; many doubtless were rough and scarcely worthy of long preservation; others by the very beauty of their workmanship probably roused the cupidity, or the iconoclastic prejudice, of the spoiler. Near Brinkburn Priory a handsome fourteenth century chest was found, used for domestic purposes, in a neighbouring farm-house; a Tudor chest, belonging to S. Mary’s, Newington, lay for years in the old rectory house, and subsequently disappeared; and these are doubtless typical of many another case. When the strictness at first enforced as to the care of the parish registers became culpably relaxed, and parish clerks and sextons were left in practically sole charge of them, it is but too probable that these men, often illiterate and otherwise unsuited to such a trust, were in many instances as careless, or as criminal, in regard to the coffers, as we unfortunately know they frequently were with respect to their contents.
Few church chests of any interest date from the Jacobean, or any subsequent period. Plain deal boxes were then held good enough for the purpose of a “church hutch.”
These windows were called by Parker and other writers of the Gothic Revival, “Lychnoscopes;” and then by the ecclesiologists, “Low-side Windows.” But the name given by the late G. E. Street has now become so generally accepted that it seems necessary to look a little further into the evidence of the fitness or unfitness of this designation for them.
Behind some stalls in the Royal Chapel were discovered some remains of a mural painting, apparently to represent the communicating of a leper through some such window, and he at once concluded that it was for this very purpose so many of them were introduced into the chancels of our mediæval churches. There seemed, however, nothing to indicate that it was at one of these special windows at all that this function was performed. And the very fact of the representation itself would seem to indicate rather an exceptional instance, or special circumstance, such as the communicating of some knight or [p 184] person of note who might, for instance, have brought leprosy in his own person from the Holy Land, from whence probably in the first instance it came; and who would not be admitted within the church. But the records of the existence of lepers would seem to show their numbers to have been very limited, and confined to few localities. And in any case this would be no sufficient cause for the introduction of these windows as of universal occurrence throughout the land, for these windows are found almost everywhere, and in very many instances on both sides of the chancel. Moreover, in many cases the act of administration through these windows would be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, on account of the position, or the arrangement, of the window itself.
To my mind a very much more practical and reasonable supposition would be that they were introduced, and used, for burial purposes. At a period when the body would not be brought into the church, except in the case of some ecclesiastic or other notable person, the priest would here be able, from his stall, to see the funeral cortége come into the churchyard, and then say the first part of the office through this window; which was always shuttered and without [p 185] glass. In some cases there is a book-ledge corbelled out on the east jamb of the window inside, which has puzzled antiquaries, but which has not otherwise received a satisfactory explanation. In immediate proximity to the window, at the end of the stalls (and sometimes in the earlier churches through them), was the priest’s door, out of which he would then proceed to the grave to commit the body to the earth. The grave itself needs not necessarily be within sight of the window. But in a number of instances the churchyard cross was so; and this may have served as the recognised place for the mourners, with the body, to assemble.
In the case of Foxton, Leicestershire, the “Lych Window,” as I would call it, is on the north side. Here the burials are chiefly on the north side; a steep slope down towards the church on the south side rendering it very difficult and unsuitable for them. At Addisham, Kent, the priest’s door is, contrary to the usual custom, on the north side, where is also a principal portion of the churchyard, and, so far as my own observations go, the position of the window would greatly depend upon the arrangement of the churchyard, whether north or south.
Something concerning the construction of labyrinths, or mazes, is known even to the most general reader; it needs but a slight acquaintance with classical literature to learn of the famous example formed at Crete by Dædalus; the legend of the concealment of “fair Rosamond,” within a maze at Woodstock, is familiar enough; and the existing labyrinth at Hampton Court, the work of William III. is well known. But probably few who have not looked somewhat into the matter, have any idea of the number of such mazes which still exist, or of the yet greater number of which we have authentic records. A learned French antiquary, Mons. Bonnin, of Evreux, collected two hundred examples, gathered from many lands, and stretching in history from classical to modern times.
Of the most ancient labyrinths it will be enough to indicate the localities. One is said to have been constructed in Egypt by King Minos, [p 187] and to have served as a model for the one raised by Dædalus at Cnossus, in Crete, as a prison for the Minataur. Another Egyptian example, which has been noticed by several authors, was near Lake Mœris. Lemnos contained a famous labyrinth; and Lar Porsena built one at Clusium, in Etruria. These mazes consisted either of a series of connected caverns, as it has been supposed was the case in Crete; or, as in the [p 188] other instances, were formed of courts enclosed by walls and colonnades.
The use of the labyrinth in mediæval times, has, however, greater interest for us in this paper, especially from the fact that such was distinctly ecclesiastical. Several continental churches have labyrinths, either cut in stone or inlaid in coloured marbles, figured upon their walls or elsewhere. At Lucca Cathedral is an example incised upon one of the piers of the porch; and others may be seen at Pavia, Aix in Provence, and at Poitiers. These are all small, the diameter of the Lucca labyrinth being 1 foot 7½ inches, which is the dimension also of one in an ancient pavement in the church of S. Maria in Aquiro, in Rome. That the suggestion for the construction of these arose from the mythological legends concerning those of pagan days is proved by the fact that in several of them the figures of Theseus and the Minataur were placed in the centre. Probably from the first, the Church, in her use of the figure, spiritualized the meaning of the heathen story, as we know was her wont in other cases; and a labyrinth formed in mosaic on the floor of an ancient basilica at Orleansville, Algeria, shows [p 189] that presently the mythological symbols gave place entirely to obviously Christian ones. In this last-named instance, the centre is occupied by the words Sancta Ecclesia.
About the twelfth century these curious figures became very popular, and a considerable number dating from that period still exist. They have for the most part been constructed in parti-coloured marbles on some portion of the floor of the church. One was laid down in 1189 at S. Maria in Trastevere, in Rome; S. Vitale, Ravenna, contains another; and the parish church of S. Quentin has a third. Others formerly existed at Amiens Cathedral (made in 1288 and destroyed in 1825), at Rheims (made about 1240 and destroyed in 1779), and at Arras (destroyed at the Revolution). These are much larger than the examples before noticed; the two Italian examples are each about 11 feet across, but the French ones greatly exceed this. Those of S. Quentin and Arras were each over 34 feet in diameter, and the others were somewhat larger; Amiens possessed the largest, measuring 42 feet. France had another example of a similar kind at Chartres.
The Christian meaning which was read into [p 190] these complicated designs was more emphatically expressed in these twelfth-century instances. The centre is usually occupied by a cross, round which, in some cases, were arranged figures of bishops, angels, and others.
The introduction of these large labyrinths, together with the name which came at this time to be applied to them in France, namely, Chemins de Jerusalem, suggests the new use to which such arrangements now began to be put. It is well known that in some cases substitutes for the great pilgrimage to Jerusalem were allowed to be counted as of almost equal merit. Thus the Spaniards, so long as they had not expelled the infidel from their own territory, were forbidden to join the Crusades to the Holy Land; and were permitted to substitute a journey to the shrine of S. Jago, at Compostella, for one to the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. By an extension of the same principle, especially when the zeal of Christendom for pilgrimages began to cool, easy substitutes for the more exacting devotion were found in many ways. The introduction of the Stations of the Cross is ascribed to this cause, the devout following in imagination of the footsteps of the Saviour in His last sufferings, [p 191] being accounted equivalent to visiting the holy places; and somewhat similarly, the maze, or labyrinth, is said to have been pressed into the service of religion, the following out (probably upon the knees) of its long and tortuous path- way, being reckoned as a simple substitute for a longer pilgrimage.
From such a use as this, it was no great step to the employment of the maze as a means of penance in other cases. The whole of the intricate pathway was intended to remind the penitent of the difficulties which beset the Christian course; and the centre, which could only be reached by surmounting them, was often called heaven (Ciel). Nor could such a penance be deemed a light one. Though occupying so small a space of ground, the mazy path was so involved as to reach a considerable length, whence it was sometimes named the League (La lièue). The pathway at Chartres measures 668 feet; at Sens was a maze which required some 2,000 steps to gain the centre. An hour is said to have been often needed to accomplish the journey, due allowance being made for the prayers which had to be recited at certain fixed stations of it, or throughout its whole course.
At S. Omer are one or two examples of the labyrinth. One at the Church of Notre Dame has figures of towns, mountains, rivers, and wild beasts depicted along the pathway, to give, no doubt, greater realism to the pilgrimage. The existing drawing of another, which has been destroyed, is inscribed, “The way of the road to Jerusalem at one time marked on the floor of the Church of S. Bertin.” Many of these designs are not only ingenious, but beautiful. In the Chapterhouse at Bayeux is one enriched with heraldic figures; that at Chartres has its central circle relieved with six cusps, while an engrailed border encloses the whole work. A circular shape was apparently the most popular; the maze at S. Quentin, with some others, however, is octagonal. The pathway is usually marked by coloured marbles, sometimes the darker, sometimes the lighter shades in the design being used for the purpose; at Sens, lead has been employed to indicate it.
The Revolution, as we have seen, led to the destruction of several ecclesiastical labyrinths; some, however, became a source of annoyance to the worshippers, from children attempting to trace the true pathway during the time of [p 193] service, and they were removed in consequence. Labyrinths of this kind do not appear to have been introduced into England, the only instance known to the present writer being quite a modern one. This is in the church porch at Alkborough, in Lincolnshire, where, at the recent restoration, the design of a local maze (to be noticed further hereafter) was reproduced.
If England, however, has not imitated the continent in this respect, she has struck out a line no less interesting, which has remained almost exclusively her own; namely, in the mazes cut in the green turf of her meadows. Shakespeare has an allusion to these in the “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” (Act iii., 3) where Titania says,
Some twenty of these rustic labyrinths have been noted as still existing, or as recorded by a sound tradition, in England; and no doubt there have been others which have disappeared, leaving no trace behind.
Among those which have been preserved, the following may be noticed. At Alkborough, in [p 194] Lincolnshire, near the confluence of the Trent and the Ouse, is a maze, the diameter of which is 44 feet; by a happy suggestion, the design of this has been repeated, as was above remarked, in the porch of the Parish Church, so that should the original unfortunately be destroyed, a permanent record has been provided. Hilton, in Huntingdonshire has a maze of exactly the [p 195] same plan, in the centre of which is a stone pillar, bearing an inscription in Latin and English, to the effect that the work was constructed in 1660, by William Sparrow. Comberton, in Cambridgeshire, possesses a maze, locally known as the “Mazles,” which is fifty feet in diameter. The pathway is two feet wide, and is defined by small trenches, the whole surface being gradually hollowed towards [p 196] the centre. Northamptonshire is represented by Boughton Green, which has a labyrinth 37 feet in diameter; and Rutland has one at Wing, which measures 40 feet.
At Asenby, in the parish of Topcliffe, Yorkshire, is a maze measuring 51 feet across, which has been carefully preserved by the local authorities. At Chilcombe, near Winchester, a maze is cut in the turf of S. Catherine’s Hill; it is square in outline, each side being 86 feet. It is locally known as the “Mize-maze.” One much larger than any yet noticed is found near Saffron Waldon, in Essex, its diameter being 110 feet. There are local records which prove the great antiquity of a maze at this place. The design is peculiar, being properly a circle, save that at four equal distances along the circumference the pathway sweeps out into a horseshoe projection.
A similar plan was followed in cutting a maze, once of some celebrity, near S. Anne’s Well, at Sneinton, Nottingham. The projections in this case are bolder, and within the spaces enclosed by the triple pathway which swept around them were cut cross-crosslets. The popular names for this maze in the district were the “Shepherd’s [p 199] Maze,” and “Robin Hood’s Race.” This was, unfortunately, ploughed up in 1797, at the enclosure of the lordship of Sneinton. Nottinghamshire has, however, another example in the small square one at Clifton.
Many of these turf-cut labyrinths were destroyed during the Commonwealth, before which [p 200] period, according to Aubrey in his history of Surrey, there were many in England. Not a few, however, which survived that time of wanton destruction, have been obliterated since.
In 1827 one which was on Ripon Common was ploughed up. Its diameter was 60 feet. Another existed till comparatively recent times at Hillbury, between Farnham and Guildford. At Pimpern, in Dorset, there was formerly a maze of a unique design. The outline was roughly a triangle, which enclosed nearly an acre of ground; the pathway was marked out by ridges of earth about a foot in height, and followed a singularly intricate course. The plough destroyed this also in 1730.
The names locally applied to these structures often imply very erroneous ideas as to their origin and purpose. In some instances they are ascribed to the shepherds, as if cut by them as pastime in their idle moments; a suggestion, which a glance at the mazes themselves, with their intricate designs and correctly formed curves, will prove to be hardly tenable. Two other names of frequent occurrence in England are “Troy Town,” and “Julian’s Bower”; the latter being connected with the former, Julius, [p 201] son of Æneas being the person alluded to. Some have from these titles sought to trace a connection with a very ancient sport known as the Troy Game, which arose in classic times, and survived down to the Middle Ages. It consisted probably in the rhythmic performance of certain evolutions, much after the fashion of the “Musical Rides” executed by our cavalry. The origin of the idea is to be sought in a passage in Virgil’s Æneid (Bk. V., v. 583 et seq.), which has been thus translated by Kennett:—
Tresco, Scilly, has a maze known as Troy-town; and it would seem that such were once common in Cornwall, since any intricate arrangement is often locally called by that name.
It has, however, been pointed out that [p 202] most of these mazes date from a time when classical knowledge was not widely spread in England; that, in fact, the name has probably been given in most instances long after the date of the construction of the work.
It would seem rather that the original use of these quaint figures was, as with those continental examples before noted, ecclesiastical. No one who has had the opportunity of comparing the designs of the English and the foreign mazes can fail to be struck with the great similarity between them; suggesting, at least, a common origin and purpose. And this suggestion is greatly strengthened when we notice that, although the English mazes are never (with one modern instance only excepted) within churches, as are the continental instances, yet they are almost invariably close to a church, or the ancient site of a church. The Alkborough and Wing mazes, for instance, are hard by the parish churches; and those at Sneinton, Winchester, and Boughton Green are beside spots once consecrated by chapels dedicated in honour of St. Anne, St. Catherine, and St. John. The most probable conjecture is that these were originally formed, and for long years were used, [p 203] for purposes of devotion and penance. Doubtless in later times the children often trod those mazy ways in sport and emulation, which had been slowly measured countless times before in silent meditation or in penitential tears.
A word or two may be added in conclusion on mazes of the more modern sort, formed for amusement rather than for use, as a curious feature in a scheme of landscape gardening. These topiary mazes, as they are called, usually have their paths defined by walls of well-cut box, yew, or other suitable shrubs; and they differ from the turf mazes in that they are often made purposely puzzling and misleading. In the ecclesiastical maze, it is always the patience, not the ingenuity, which is tested; there is but one road to follow, and though that one wanders in and out with tantalizing curves and coils, yet it leads him who follows it unerringly to the centre.
From Tudor times this form of decoration for a large garden has been more or less popular. Burleigh formed one at the old palace at Theobald’s, Hertfordshire, about 1560; and the Maze in Southwark, near a spot once occupied by the residence of Queen Mary before coming [p 204] to the throne, and Maze Hill at Greenwich, no doubt mark the sites of labyrinths now otherwise forgotten. Lord Fauconbergh had a maze at Sutton Court in 1691; and William III. so highly approved of them that, having left one behind him at the Palace of the Loo, he had another constructed at Hampton Court.
Literature and art have not disdained to interest themselves in this somewhat formal method of gardening; for in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries more than one treatise on their construction was published; while Holbein and Tintoretto have left behind them designs for topiary labyrinths.
The oldest and most famous maze in our history is “Fair Rosamond’s Bower,” already mentioned. Of what kind this was, if indeed it was at all, it is difficult to say; authorities disagreeing as to whether it was a matter of architectural arrangement, of connected caves, or of some other kind. The trend of modern historical criticism in this, as in so many other romantic stories from our annals, is to deny its genuineness altogether.
Fortunately although so many of our ancient mazes have disappeared, the designs of their [p 205] construction has, in not a few cases, been preserved to us by means of contemporary drawings; so that a fairly accurate idea of the type most commonly followed may still be obtained.
We have to thank Mr. J. Potter Briscoe, F.R.H.S., editor of “Old Nottinghamshire,” for kindly placing at our disposal the two illustrations relating to the St. Anne’s Well Maze.
Among all classes of English people there are mixed feelings relating to our churchyards. They are either places of reverence on the one hand, or superstition on the other. The sacred plot surrounding the old Parish Church carries with it such a host of memories and associations, that to the learned and thoughtful it has always been God’s Acre, hallowed with a tender hush of silent contemplation of the many sad rifts and partings among us. We almost vie with each other in proclaiming that deep reverence for this one sacred spot, so dear to our family life, and affections, by those mementos of love which we raise over the resting-places of our lost ones gone before. This is strangely apparent in the stately monument, where the carver’s art declares the virtues of the dead, either by sculptured figure, or verse engraven, as well as in the ofttimes more pathetic, and perhaps more beautiful, tribute of the floral cross or wreath culled by loving hands, and borne in silence, by our poorer brethren, as [p 207] the only offering, or tribute, their slender means allows them to make. Be sure of this one fact, that our English Churchyards are better kept—more worthy of the name of God’s Acre than in the times past, for what is a more beautiful sight, than to see the kneeling children around the garden grave of a parent, or a child companion, adorning the little mound with flowers for the Eastertide festival. Here we have a living illustration of the truth of the concluding words of our Great Creed: “I look for the Resurrection of the Dead and the Life of the World to come.”
On the other hand, to the ignorant, and unlearned in these things, the Churchyard often becomes a place of dread, and it may be, some of the strange behaviour sometimes seen there arises from this inner feeling of awe, which in their ignorant superstition they are wont to carry off in the spirit of daring bravado.
From a close study of the subject, I am led to conclude that the common unchristian idea, that the churchyard is ‘haunted,’ whatever that may mean to a weak or ignorant person, has much to do with it. The evil report, once circulated, will be handed on to generations yet [p 208] unborn, until the simple origin, which at first might have been easily explained, becomes clouded in mystery as time goes on, and the deep rooted feeling of horror spreads around us, until even the more strong-minded among us, feel at times, somewhat doubtful as to whether there may not be some truth where the popular testimony is so strong.
In country districts, more than in towns, superstition is rife with regard to our Churchyards. The variety and form of this superstition is well nigh ‘Legion,’ and though many of my readers may enjoy an Ingoldsby experience when read in a well-lighted room, surrounded by smiling companions, few of them, after such an experience would care to pay a visit alone to some neighbouring churchyard, renowned for its tale of ghostly appearances. This will, I think enable me to show that by far the larger number of churchyard superstitions are purely chimerous fancies of the brain, and do not owe their origin, or existence, to any other source, be that source a wilful fraud, or imposition, designed to produce fear, or merely the imaginative delusion of some overstrained, or weak brain, which called first it into existence.
Yet there are prevalent ideas or notions, about the churchyard and its sleepers, as deep-rooted as any wild superstition, and perhaps as difficult to solve, or to trace to any rational source. I would here mention one of the most strange, and probably one of the most prejudiced notions to be met with relating to burial in the churchyard. I refer to the East Anglian prejudice of being buried on the north side of the church. That this prejudice is a strong one, among the country people in certain parts of England, is proved by the scarcity of graves, nay, in many instances the total absence of graves, on the north side of our churches.
Some seventeen years ago, shortly after taking charge of a parish in Norfolk, I was called upon to select a suitable spot for the burial of a poor man, who had been killed by an accident. After several places had been suggested by me to the sexton, who claimed for them either a family right, or some similar objection; I noticed for the first time, that there were no graves upon the north side of the church, and I, in my innocence, suggested that there would be plenty of space there; whereupon my companion’s face at once assumed the most serious expression, and I [p 210] immediately saw that fear had taken hold of his mind, as he answered with a somewhat shaky voice, “No, Sir! No, that cannot be!” My curiosity was immediately aroused, and I sought for an explanation, which I found not from my good and loyal friend, who would not trust himself to answer further than “No, Sir! No, that cannot be!” The sexton’s manner puzzled me greatly, for the man was an upright, straightforward, open-hearted, servant of the Church—but I at once saw that it would be fruitless to push the matter further with him, so after marking out a suitable resting place for the poor unfortunate man, who not being a parishoner of long standing, had no family burial place awaiting him, I made my way home to think over the whole occurrence.
The cause for non-burial on the north side of the Church was indeed a mystery, yet that my parishoners had some valid reason for not being laid to rest there, was apparent; so I set about the task of unravelling the superstition, if so it may be called.
My library shelves seemed to be the most natural place of research, but here after consultation with several volumes of Archæology, Ecclesiology, [p 211] and Folk Lore, I could find nothing bearing upon the subject, beyond that in certain instances relating to Churchyard Parishes on the sea-coast, the north side by reason of its exposure to wind and storm, and being the sunless quarter of the burying ground, was less used than other parts; but here the reason given was in consideration of the living mourners at the time of the interment, and not the body sleeping in its last resting place of earth.
After some considerable correspondence with friends likely to be interested in such a matter, I was rewarded with information that, in some instances, the northern portion of the churchyard was left unconsecrated, and only thus occasionally used for the burial of suicides, vagrants, highwaymen (after the four cross road graves had been discontinued), or for nondescripts and unbaptised persons, for whom no religious service was considered necessary. Even this I did not accept as a solution of my problem. That there was something more than local feeling underlying this superstition, I was certain, but how to get to the root of the subject perplexed me.
The Editor of “Notes and Queries” could not satisfy me. His general suggestions and [p 212] kind desire to aid me were well-nigh fruitless, so that there remained for me the course of watching and waiting, as none of my neighbours could, or would, go beyond the conclusive statement of the sexton, “It must not be!” or what was even more indefinite, “I have never heard of such a thing.”
The subject was a fruitful source of thought for some months, and in vain I tried to connect some religious custom of other days, or to find some Text of Scripture, which might have given rise to the idea, if mistranslated, or twisted by human ingenuity, to serve such a purpose, but none occurred to me that in the least would bear of such a contortion.
In my intercourse with my older parishoners I sought in vain to test the unbaptized or suicidal burying place theory as suggested above, but this was entirely foreign to them. At length, the truth of the old saying, “All things come to those who wait” brought its due reward. I was called in to visit an aged parishoner, who was nearing the end of life’s journey, and among other subjects naturally came the thoughts, and wishes, of this old saintly man’s last hours on earth. He had been a shepherd for well nigh sixty [p 213] years, and a widower for the past fifteen years, and in consequence he had lived and worked much alone. This had produced a thoughtful spirit, and a certain slowness of speech, so that he was quite the last man I should have consulted for a solution of my mystery. Yet, here the secret was unfolded, or to my mind more satisfactorily explained, than by any previous consultation with either men or books. The grand old labourer, or faithful shepherd, as he was laid helpless on his bed, with his life work symbol—the shepherd’s crook, standing idle in the corner, and his trusty dog, restless and perplexed, roaming from room to room, was a wonderful picture of a Christian death-bed.
There I learned many a solemn life-lesson never to be forgotten. The calm voice, the monosyllabic answers given in response to my questions are still fresh to me; and there I learned the source of my Churchyard Superstition in the following manner:—
With a strange, weird, unnatural light in the aged man’s eyes, which portrayed much anxiety of mind, he spoke about his burial-place, and particularly emphasising the words “On the south side, sir, near by the wife.” When I ventured to [p 214] inquire if he knew why such a strong objection was held to burial on the north side of the church. He started suddenly, and I shall never forget his reproachful, sad look as he more readily than usual gave the answer:—“The left side of Christ, sir: we don’t like to be counted among the goats.”
As a flash of lightning illuminates the whole darkness of the country side, and reveals for the moment every object in clear outline, so this quaint saying of my dying friend dispelled in a moment the mists of the past which clouded the truth of my strange superstition.
Here was the best answer to the mystery, pointing with no uncertain words to the glorious Resurrection Day, this aged, earthly shepherd at the end of his years of toil recognised his Great Master, Jesus, as the True Shepherd of mankind, meeting His flock as they arose from their long sleep of death, with their faces turned eastward, awaiting His appearing.
Then when all had been called and recognised He turned to lead them onward, still their True Shepherd and Guide, with the sheep on His right hand, and the goats on His left hand, so wonderfully foretold in the Gospel story: [p 215] “When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory; And before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.”—S. Matt, xxv., 31, 32, 33.
Surely, the above simple illustration explains much that is difficult and mysterious to us in the way of religious superstition. Undoubtedly, we have here a good example of how superstitions have arisen, probably from a good source, it may be the words of some teacher long since passed away. The circumstance has long been forgotten, yet the lesson remains, and being handed down by oral tradition only, every vestige of its religious nature disappears and but the feeling remains, which, in the minds of the ignorant populace, increases in mystery and enfolds itself in superstitious awe, without any desire from them to discover the origin, or source, of such a strange custom, or event.
Years ago announcements in churches were of a distinctly curious character, and the parish clerk in making the intimation seems to have been left completely to his own indiscretion. In country districts, where proper advertising would be quite impossible, the practical advantages of some classes of announcements would be great, but none of them accord with our modern sense of the fitness of things, and many can only be accounted for on the ground of extraordinary familiarity between clergyman, clerk, and congregation. A brief consideration of the subject furnishes a few side-lights into the general condition of the church, as well as into the laxity of church discipline, about fifty years and more ago, especially away from large centres of population.
In certain parts, the custom of crying lost goods in church was undoubtedly prevalent, and did not then appear peculiar. The rector, who had lost his favourite dog and told the parish [p 217] clerk to do his best to ascertain its whereabouts, may have been astonished to hear him announce the loss in church, coupled with a statement that a reward of three pounds would be given to the person who should restore the animal to its owner. But such surprise was hardly natural when an announcement like the following was possible:—“Mislaid on Sunday last! The gold-rimmed vicar’s spectacles of best glass, taken from his eyes in going into the poor box, or put down somewhere when going into the font to fetch the water after the christening.” What a shock this rare jumble produced by a country clerk must have been to the precise and classical vicar can only be imagined. The thought, however, of a gold-rimmed vicar diminutive enough to enter font or poor box is somewhat staggering! Quite as muddled, but much more ingenious, was the clerk who announced, in recent years, an accomplished D.Sc. and LL.D. as a Doctor of Schools and a Lord Lieutenant of Divinity!
“Lost, stolen, or strayed,” shouted the clerk in church one Sunday, with the strident voice of a town crier, and the manner of one not unaccustomed to the task, “lost, stolen, or strayed. [p 218] Four fat sheep and one lean cow. Whoever will return the same to Mr. ——’s farm will be suitably rewarded.” It is well that the name of the parish in which it was given, is missing from another specimen of this sort of announcement, for it seems to indicate that honesty there could be but the outcome of an inducement afforded by the promise of substantial reward. “Lost,” said the clerk, “on Sunday last, when the wearer was walking home from this church, and before she reached the Town Hall, a lady’s gold brooch, set with pearls and other precious stones. The one who has found it will consider it worth while to restore it, for the reward of a guinea is offered.”
It is not a little surprising that the clergyman in charge did not supervise more carefully the various announcements, especially when so many a contretemps occurred. Once a parish clerk announced in his rector’s hearing:—“There’ll be no service next Sunday as the rector’s going out grouse shooting.” The rector had injudiciously acquainted his clerk with the reason of his approaching absence, and this was the result. It happened, of course, a half century since, but it illustrates an interesting state of things as [p 219] existing at that period. With it two similar incidents may well be mentioned, the first of which occurred in Scotland, the second in the Principality. “Next Sawbath,” said a worthy Scotch beadle, “we shall have no Sawbath, for the meenister’s house is having spring cleaning, and as the weather is very bad the meenister’s wife wants the kirk to dry the things in.” “Next Sunday,” declared the unconsciously amusing Welshman, “there’ll be no Sunday, as we’re going to whitewash the church with yellow-ochre.” Sometimes the omission of a stop caused sore trouble to the clerk, while it hugely delighted the congregation. “A man having gone to see his wife desires the prayers of this church,” was the startling announcement. But had not the clerk been near-sighted and mistaken sea for see, and had a comma been supplied after sea, the notice would have been all right, for it was simply the request of a sailor’s wife on behalf of her husband.
Once the clerk made the announcement that a parish meeting would be held on a given date. “No, no,” interrupted the vicar. “D’ye think I’d attend to business on the audit day!” The audit days were recognised as times of hearty [p 220] feasting and convivial mirth, in which the vicar played no unimportant part. This freedom of speech between clergyman and clerk was not seldom fruitful of ill-restrained amusement when the announcements were made. A vicar informed his congregation one Sunday morning that he would hold the customary service for baptisms in the afternoon, and requested the parents to bring their children punctually, so that there might be no delay in commencing. Immediately he had said this, the old clerk, sleepy and deaf, thinking the parson’s announcement had to do with a new hymn-book which at that time was being introduced, arose, and graciously informed the people that for those who were still without them he had a stock in the vestry from which they could be supplied at the low charge of eighteenpence each. This is slightly similar:—“I publish the banns of marriage between ... between ...” announced a clergyman from the pulpit. But here for a moment he stopped, as the book in which were the notices was not to be seen. The clerk, seeing his vicar’s predicament, and catching sight of the whereabouts of the missing book, ejaculated:—“Between the cushion and the desk, sir.” The unique character of another [p 221] notice will fully justify its inclusion. “I am unwell, my friends, very unwell,” announced a preacher one Sunday evening, “and therefore I shall dispense with my usual gesticulation.” This happened not very long ago.
So disregarded, indeed, were the proprieties of worship a generation since, that the clergyman would sometimes pause during the delivery of his sermon and make an announcement which, to say the least of it, had no connection with the theme he was pursuing. Thus the Rev. Samuel Sherwen, a well-known cleric in Cumberland, announced one morning that he had just caught sight, through a window near the pulpit, of some cows in a cornfield, and requested that some one would go and drive them out. At another time he said there were some pigs in the churchyard which were not his, and his servant Peter would do well to expel the intruders. Very probably such announcements, though made from a pulpit, would be excused because they resulted in a certain benefit. The same plea could undoubtedly be put forward for the following trio, each of which hails from beyond the Severn. “Take notice!” exclaimed the clerk. “A thief is going through the Vale of Glamorgan selling tin ware, [p 222] false gold, trinkets, and rings, and other domestic implements and instruments, and robbing houses of hens, chickens, eggs, butter, and other portable animals, making all sorts of pretences to get money!” Again, “Beware! beware! of a man with one eye, talking like a preacher, and a wooden leg, given to begging and stealing!” And once more, “Take notice! take notice! there’s a mad dog going the round of the parish with two crop ears and a very long tail!” Surely the intention of such announcements was good, even though the literary form was bad. The last, as might be inferred, was made at a time when rabies were prevalent.
The Rev. Samuel Sherwen, already alluded to, was surpassed in this direction by another Cumbrian clergyman, the Rev. William Sewell, of Troutbeck. One Sunday morning the latter entered the pulpit of the little church at Wythburn to preach. The pulpit sadly needed repair, and, in leaning out from the wall, left an undesirable opening behind it. Into this chink the parson’s sermon fell, and the pulpit was so ricketty in its broken-down condition that the preacher feared the consequences of turning in it. Moreover, the manuscript had fallen so far [p 223] that it could not be reached. Mr. Sewell, bereft of his sermon, announced to his congregation in broad dialect: “T’ sarmont’s slipt down i’ t’ neuk, and I can’t git it out; but I’ll tell ye what—I’se read ye a chapter i’ t’ Bible ’at’s worth three on’t.” A similar story is told in connection with the Rev. Mr. Alcock, who in the middle of the last century was rector of Burnsal, near Skipton, in Yorkshire. Of this clergyman another story is given which well illustrates the excessive familiarity indulged in by occupants of the pulpit in bygone days. One of his friends, at whose house he was wont to call previous to entering the church on Sundays, seized a chance to unfasten and then misplace the leaves of his sermon. In the service the parson had not read far before he discovered the trick. “Will,” cried he, “thou rascal! what’s thou been doing with my sermon?” Then turning to his people, he continued: “Brethren, Will Thornton’s been misplacing the leaves of my sermon; I have not time to put them right; I shall read on as I find it, and you must make the best of it that you can.” He accordingly read to the close of the confused mass to the utter astonishment of his congregation.
Of such familiarity Scottish churches furnish well-nigh innumerable instances. One or two will, however, be sufficient for my purpose. The clergyman who was expected to conduct the morning service had not made his appearance at the appointed time. After a dreadful suspense of some fifteen minutes the beadle, that much-privileged individual, entered the church, marched slowly along the accustomed passage, and mounted the pulpit-stair. When half-way up he stopped, turned to the congregation, and thus addressed them: “There was one Alexander to hae preached here the day, but he’s neither come hissel; nor has he sent the scrape o’ a pen to say what’s come owre him. Ye’d better keep your seats for anither ten meenits to see whether the body turns up or no. If he disna come, there’s naething for ’t but for ye a’ to gang hame again an’ say naething mair aboot it. The like o’ this hasna happened here syne I hae been conneckit wi’ the place, an’ that’s mair than four-and-thirty year now.” As an announcement to the point, and for the purpose, that could not easily be beaten. A clergyman of Crossmichael, in Galloway, would even intersperse his lessons or sermon with any announcement that might [p 225] at the moment occur to him, or with allusions to the behaviour of his hearers. Once, because of this method, a verse from Exodus was hardly recognisable. The version given was as follows: “And the Lord said unto Moses—shut that door; I’m thinkin’ if ye had to sit beside that door yersel’, ye wadna be sae ready leavin’ it open; it was just beside that door that Yedam Tamson, the bellman, gat his death o’ cauld, an’ I’m sure, honest man, he didna lat it stey muckle open.—And the Lord said unto Moses—put oot that dog; wha is’t that brings dogs to the kirk, yaff-yaffin’? Lat me never see ye bring yer dogs here ony mair, for, if ye do, tak notice, I’ll put you an’ them baith oot.—And the Lord said unto Moses—I see a man aneeth that wast laft wi’ his hat on; I’m sure ye’re cleen oot o’ the souch o’ the door; keep aff yer bonnet, Tammas, an’ if yer bare pow be cauld, ye maun jist get a grey worset wig like mysel’; they’re no sae dear; plenty o’ them at Bob Gillespie’s for tenpence.” At last, however, the preacher informed his hearers what was said to Moses in a manner at once more accurate and becoming.
It was, indeed, a usual custom for the clergyman publicly to rebuke offenders, as when it [p 226] happened that a young man, sitting in a prominent position in the church, pulled out his handkerchief and brought with it a bundle of playing cards, which flew in every direction. He had, so it turned out, been up late the previous night, and had stuffed the cards with which he had been gambling into his pocket, where they had remained forgotten. The people were amazed and horrified, but the clergyman simply looked at the offender and remarked with quiet, yet most withering sarcasm, “Sir, that prayer book of yours has been badly bound!” But some times the rebuke was deftly thrust back upon the preacher. “You’re sleepy, John,” said the clergyman, pausing in the middle of a drowsy discourse, and looking hard at the man he thus addressed. “Take some snuff, John.” “Put the snuff in the sermon,” ejaculated John; and the faces of the audience showed that the retort was fully appreciated.
In fact, such was the freedom tolerated, that this incident in Eskdale might be taken as an example. Someone walked noisily up the aisle during divine service. “Whaa’s tat?” asked the clergyman in a tone quite loud enough to rebuke the offender. “It’s aad Sharp o’ Laa [p 227] Birker,” responded the clerk. “Afooat or o’ horseback?” was the significant query. “Nay,” was the answer, “nobbet afooat, wi’ cokert shun” (calkered shoes). Frequently the clerk would interrupt the clergyman, and the interruption would not enhance the devotional character of the service. In a rural parish church a new pitch-pipe was provided, but the clerk had not tested it before entering his desk on the Sunday, and when he should have given the key-note the instrument could not be adjusted. The clerk tugged at it, thrust it in, gave it several thumps, made sundry grimaces, but the pipe was obdurate. “My friends,” announced the impatient parson, “the pitch-pipe will not work, so let us pray.” “Pray!” snorted the aggrieved official, “pray! no, no, we’ll pray none till I put this thing aright.” And members of the congregation would even stand up in their pews to contradict the parson or clerk when making the announcement. “There will be a service here as usual on Thursday evening next,” announced the clerk one Sunday morning. “No, there won’t,” declared the churchwarden as he rose from his seat. “We be going to carry hay all day Thursday.” “But the service will be held [p 228] as usual,” asserted the clerk. But the churchwarden was not to be thwarted. “Then there’ll be nobody here,” said he. “D’ye think we’re coming to church and leave the hay in the fields? No, no, p’r’aps it’ll rain Friday.”
But of all amusing instances of curious announcements in church those given by the Rev. Cuthbert Bede in All the Year Round, November 1880, may take the palm and fittingly conclude this chapter. “An old rector of a small country parish,” so runs the story, “had sent his set of false teeth to be repaired, on the understanding that they should be returned “by Saturday” as there was no Sunday post, and the village was nine miles from the post town. The old rector tried to brave out the difficulty, but after he had incoherently mumbled through the prayers, he decided not to address his congregation on that day. While the hymn was being sung, he summoned the clerk to the vestry, and then said to him: “It is quite useless for me to attempt to go on. The fact is, that my dentist has not sent me back my artificial teeth, and it is impossible for me to make myself understood. You must tell the congregation that the service is ended for this morning, [p 229] and that there will be no service this afternoon.” The old clerk went back to his desk; the singing of the hymn was brought to an end; and the rector, from the vestry, heard the clerk address the congregation thus: “This is to give notice! as there won’t be no sarmon nor no more sarvice this mornin’, so you’ better all go whum (home); and there won’t be no sarvice this aternoon, as the rector ain’t got his artful teeth back from the dentist!”
In a lovely and secluded valley in Montgomeryshire is situated the interesting old church of Pennant Melangell, of whose foundation a charming legend is told. The romantic glen was in the first instance the retreat of a beautiful Irish maiden, Monacella (in Welsh, Melangell), who had fled from her father’s court rather than wed a noble to whom he had promised her hand, that here she might alone “serve God and the spotless virgin.” Brochwell Yscythrog, Prince of Powys, being one day hare-hunting in the locality, pursued his game till he came to a thicket, where to his amazement he found a lady of surpassing beauty, with the hare he was chasing safely sheltered beneath her robe. Notwithstanding all the efforts of the sportsman to make them seize their prey, the dogs had retired to a distance, howling as though in fear, and even when the huntsman essayed to blow his horn, it stuck to his lips. The Prince, learning the lady’s story, right royally assigned to her the [p 231] spot as a sanctuary for ever to all who fled there. It afterwards became a safe asylum for the oppressed, and an institution for the training of female devotees. But how long it so continued cannot be said. Monacella’s hard bed used to be shown in the cleft of a neighbouring rock, while her tomb was in a little oratory adjoining the church.
In the church is to be found carved woodwork, which doubtless once formed part of the rood-loft, representing the legend of Saint Melangell. The protection afforded by the saint to the hare gave such animals the name of Wyn Melangell—St. Monacella’s lambs—and the superstition was so fully credited that no person would kill a hare in the parish, while it was also believed that if anyone cried “God and St. Monacella be with thee” after a hunted hare, it would surely escape.
The church contains another interesting item in the shape of a large bone, more than four feet long, which has been described as the bone of the patron saint. Southey visited the church, and in an amusing rhyming letter addressed to his daughter, thus refers to it: “’Tis a church in a vale, whereby hangs a tale, how a hare being pressed by the dogs was much distressed, the [p 232] hunters coming nigh and the dogs in full cry, looked about for someone to defend her, and saw just in time, as it now comes pat in rhyme, a saint of the feminine gender. The saint was buried there, and a figure carved with care, in the churchyard is shown, as being her own; but ’tis used for a whetstone (like a stone at our back door), till the pity is the more (I should say the more’s the pity, if it suited with my ditty), it is whetted half away—lack-a-day, lack-a-day! They show a mammoth rib (was there ever such a fib?) as belonging to the saint Melangell. It was no use to wrangle, and tell the simple people that if this had been her bone, she must certainly have grown to be three times as tall as the steeple!”
In Lewis’s “Topographical Dictionary of Wales” (1843), we are told that on the mountain between Bala and Pennant Melangell was found a large bone named the Giant’s Rib, perhaps the bone of some fish, now kept in the church. But where the bone came from it is quite impossible to say. Old superstitions have clung to it, and beyond what tradition furnishes there is practically nothing for our guidance.
It is somewhat strange that in the same [p 233] county, in connection with the church at Mallwyd, other bones are exhibited. Of this church, surrounded by romantic scenery, the Dr. Davies, who rendered into Welsh the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, and assisted Bishop Perry in the translation of the Bible, was for many years incumbent. The sacred edifice was far-famed for its magnificent yew trees, and for the position of the communion table in the centre. Archbishop Laud issued orders that it should be placed at the east end, but Dr. Davies defied the prelate, and restored it to its old position, where, according to Hemmingway’s “Panorama of North Wales,” in which the church was described as a “humble Gothic structure, the floor covered with rushes,” it remained till 1848. It is not, however, so placed now. Over the porch of this church some bones are suspended, but no palæontologist has yet decided as to their origin. It has been said that they are the rib and part of the spine of a whale caught in the Dovey in bygone days! Whatever may be the truth, however, it is not now to be ascertained, but must remain shrouded in mystery with that concerning the bones at Pennant Melangell. The bones were in their present [p 234] position in 1816, for they are then mentioned by Pugh in his Cambria Depicta.
England has several instances of big bones preserved in churches, and one story seems to be told regarding almost all. A most interesting example is to be found over one of the altar tombs in the Foljambe Chapel, Chesterfield Church. This bone, supposed to be the jawbone of a small whale, is seven feet four inches in length, and about thirteen inches, on an average, in circumference. Near one end is engraved, in old English characters, the name “Thomas Fletcher.” The Foljambes disposed of their manor in 1633 to the Ingrams, who in turn sold it to the Fletchers, and thus the name on the bone is accounted for. A generally-accepted explanation about this bone—not even disbelieved entirely at the present day—was that it formed a rib of the celebrated Dun Cow of Dunsmore Heath, killed by the doughty Guy of Warwick, with whom local tradition identified the warrior whose marble effigy lies beneath the bone, sent to Chesterfield to celebrate the much-appreciated victory.
It is interesting to remember here the legendary story of the foundation of Durham Cathedral, [p 237] which explains certain carving on the north front of that majestic pile. While the final resting-place of St. Cuthbert was still undetermined, “it was revealed to Eadmer, a virtuous man, that he should be carried to Dunholme, where he should find a place of rest. His followers were in distress, not knowing where Dunholme lay; but as they proceeded, a woman, wanting her cow, called aloud to her companion to know if she had seen her, when the other answered that she was in Dunholme. This was happy news to the distressed monks, who thereby knew that their journey’s end was at hand, and the saint’s body near its resting-place.” It has been said that the after riches of the See of Durham gave rise to the proverb, “The dun cow’s milk makes the prebend’s wives go in silk.”
But to return to the dun cow slain by Guy. That the champion was credited of old with having overcome some such animal is evident from the matter-of-fact fashion in which it is recorded by ancient chroniclers. In Percy’s “Reliques of Antient Poetry,” occur the following verses in a black-letter ballad which sings the exploits of Guy:—
A circumstantial account is given in the “Noble and Renowned History of Guy, Earl of Warwick,” as translated from the curious old French black-letter volume in Warwick Castle, and of this a somewhat modernised version may be submitted. “Fame made known in every corner of the land that a dun cow of enormous size, ‘at least four yards in height, and six in length, and a head proportionable,’ was making dreadful devastations, and destroying man and beast. The king was at York when he heard of the havoc and slaughter which this monstrous animal had made. He offered knighthood to anyone who would destroy her, and many lamented the absence in Normandy of Guy, who, hearing of the beast, went privately to give it battle. With bow and sword and axe he came, and found every village desolate, every cottage empty. His heart filled with compassion, and [p 239] he waited for the encounter. The furious beast glared at him with her eyes of fire. His arrows flew from her sides as from adamant itself. Like the wind from the mountain side the beast came on. Her horns pierced his armour of proof, though his mighty battle-axe struck her in the forehead. He wheeled his gallant steed about and struck her again. He wounded her behind the ear. The monster roared and snorted as she felt the anguish of the wound. At last she fell, and Guy, alighting, hewed at her until she expired, deluged with her blood. He then rode to the next town, and made known the monster’s death, and then went to his ship, hoping to sail before the king could know of the deed. Fame was swifter than Guy. The king sent for him, gave him the honour of knighthood, and caused one of the ribs of the cow to be hung up in Warwick Castle, where it remains until this day.” Old Dr. Caius, of Cambridge, writes of having seen an enormous head at Warwick Castle in 1552, and also “a vertebra of the neck of the same animal, of such great size that its circumference is not less than three Roman feet seven inches and a half.” He thinks also that “the blade-bone, which is to be seen hung [p 240] up by chains form the north gate of Coventry, belongs to the same animal. The circumference of the whole bone is not less than eleven feet four inches and a half.” The same authority further states that “in the chapel of the great Guy, Earl of Warwick, which is situated rather more than a mile from the town of Warwick (Guy’s Cliff), there is hung up a rib of the same animal, as I suppose, the girth of which in the smallest part is nine inches, the length six feet and a half,” and he inclines to a half-belief, at any rate, in the Dun-Cow story.
In connection with the legend it should be mentioned that in the north-west of Shropshire is the Staple Hill, which has a ring of upright stones, about ninety feet in diameter, of the rude pre-historic type. “Here the voice of fiction declares there formerly dwelt a giant who guarded his cow within this inclosure, like another Apis among the ancient Egyptians, a cow who yielded her milk as miraculously as the bear Œdumla, whom we read of in Icelandic mythology, filling every vessel that could be brought to her, until at length an old crone attempted to catch her milk in a sieve, when, furious at the insult, she broke out of the magical inclosure and wandered [p 241] into Warwickshire, where her subsequent history and fate are well known under that of the Dun Cow, whose death added another wreath of laurel to the immortal Guy, Earl of Warwick.” The presence of bones at Chesterfield and elsewhere is, of course, accounted for by the fact (?) that they were distributed over the country so that in various places Guy’s marvellous feat might be commemorated.
In Queen Elizabeth’s “fairest and most famous parish church in England,” St. Mary Redcliff, Bristol, is preserved a bone said to have belonged to a monster cow which once supplied the whole city with milk. Bristolians, proud of their connection with the great discoverer, Cabot, assert that it is a whalebone brought to the city by the illustrious voyager on his return from Newfoundland. But here the story of Guy of Warwick and the cow has also been introduced. The bone, which is now fixed not far from the stair leading to the chamber containing the muniment chest where Chatterton pretended to have found the Rowley poems, was formerly hung within the church, while near to it was suspended a grimy old picture now banished to a position on a staircase just where the room in [p 242] which the vestry meetings are held is entered. The picture, so far as it can be made out, contains a big figure of a man on the right hand side, while in the foreground lies a prostrate man, behind whom stands a cow. To the left of the picture are certain human figures in attitudes expressive of surprise. This ancient painting was said to refer to Guy’s exploit, and the rib was pointed out as a positive proof that the daring deed was done.
It may be presumed that all, or nearly all, these bones preserved in churches are those of whales, though in some instances they have been supposed to be those of the wild BONASUS or URUS and most are associated in some way or other with the legend of Guy and the Dun-Cow. Indeed, it seems almost strange that the story has not been connected even with the bone at Pennant Melangell, especially as on the mountain between Llanwddyn and the parish is a circular inclosure surrounded by a wall called Hên Eglwys, and supposed to be a Druidical relic, which would have been just the spot to have lent itself to the statement that there the animal was confined.
The late Frank Buckland, in his entertaining chapter on “A Hunt on the Sea-Shore,” in his [p 243] second volume of “Curiosities of Natural History,” says: “Whale-bones get to odd places,” and writes of having seen them used for a grotto in Abingdon, and a garden chair in Clapham. Not far from Chesterfield there were, until recently, some whale-jaw gate posts which formed an arch, and in North Lincolnshire such bones, tall and curved, are still to be seen serving similar purposes. But the presence of such bones, carefully preserved in churches, though it may occasion considerable conjecture, cannot, it seems, be properly explained. As yet, at any rate, the riddle remains unsolved.
The Diary of Samuel Pepys, from 1659 to 1669, presents us with a picture of London in the days of Charles II. that has perhaps not been equalled in any other work dealing with the manners, customs, and the social life of the period. We get a good idea from it how Sunday was spent in an age largely given to pleasure. Samuel Pepys had strong leanings towards the Presbyterians, but was a churchman, and seldom missed going to a place of worship on Sunday, and did not neglect to have family prayers in his own home. He generally attended his own church in the morning, and after dinner in the afternoon would roam about the city, and visit more than one place of worship. Take for an example an account of one Sunday. After being present at his own church in the forenoon, and dining, he says: “I went and ranged and ranged about to many churches, among the rest to the Temple, where I heard Dr. Wilkins a little.”
It is to be feared pretty faces and not powerful preachers often induced him to go to the house [p 245] of prayer. Writing on August 11th, 1661, he says: “To our own church in the forenoon, and in the afternoon to Clerkenwell Church, only to see the two fair Botelers.” He managed to obtain a seat where he could have a good view of them, but they did not charm him, for he says: “I am now out of conceit with them.” Another Sunday he writes: “By coach to Greenwich Church, where a good sermon, a fine church, and a good company of handsome women.” At another church he visited he says that his pretty black girl was present.
Pepys has much to say about the sermons he heard, and when they were dull he went to sleep. Judging from his frequent records of slumbering in church, prosy preachers were by no means rare in his day.
Writing on the 4th August, 1662, he gives us a glimpse of the manners of a rustic church. His cousin Roger himself attended the service, and says Pepys: “At our coming in, the country people all rose with so much reverence; and when the parson begins, he begins, ‘Right worshipful and dearly beloved’ to us.”
Conversation appears to have been freely carried on in city churches. “In my pew,” says [p 246] Pepys, “both Sir Williams and I had much talk about the death of Sir Robert.” Laughter was by no means unusual. “Before sermon,” writes Pepys, “I laughed at the reader, who, in his prayer, desired God that he would imprint his Word on the thumbs of our right hands and on the right toes of our right feet.”
When Pepys remained at home on Sunday he frequently cast up his accounts, and there are in his Diary several allusions to this subject.
“No student of Mr. Andrews’ books can be a dull after-dinner speaker, for his writings are full of curious out-of-the-way information and good stories.”—Birmingham Daily Gazette.
This volume is one of unusual interest and value to the lover of olden days and ways, and can hardly fail to interest and instruct the reader. It recalls many forgotten episodes, scenes, characters, manners, customs, etc., in the social and domestic life of England.
Contents:—When Wigs were Worn—Powdering the Hair—Men Wearing Muffs—Concerning Corporation Customs—Bribes for the Palate—Rebel Heads on City Gates—Burial at Cross Roads—Detaining the Dead for Debt—A Nobleman’s Household in Tudor Times—Bread and Baking in Bygone Days—Arise, Mistress, Arise!—The Turnspit—A Gossip about the Goose—Bells as Time-Tellers—The Age of Snuffing—State Lotteries—Bear-Baiting—Morris Dancers—The Folk-Lore of Midsummer Eve—Harvest Home—Curious Charities—An Old-Time Chronicler.
List of Illustrations:—The House of Commons in the time of Sir Robert Walpole—Egyptian Wig—The Earl of Albemarle—Campaign Wig—Periwig with Tail—Ramillie-Wig—Pig-tail Wig—Bag-Wig—Archbishop Tilotson—Heart-Breakers—A Barber’s Shop in the time of Queen Elizabeth—With and Without a Wig—Stealing a Wig—Man with Muff, 1693—Burying the Mace at Nottingham—The Lord Mayor of York escorting Princess Margaret—The Mayor of Wycombe going to the Guildhall—Woman wearing a Scold’s Bridle—The Brank—Andrew Marvell—Old London Bridge, shewing heads of rebels on the gate—Axe, Block, and Executioner’s Mask—Margaret Roper taking leave of her father, Sir Thomas More—Rebel Heads, from a print published in 1746—Temple Bar in Dr. Johnson’s time—Micklegate Bar, York—Clock, Hampton Court Palace—Drawing a Lottery in the Guildhall, 1751—Advertising the Last State Lottery—Partaking of the Pungent Pinch—Morris Dance, from a painted window at Betley—Morris Dance, temp. James I.—A Whitsun Morris Dance—Bear Garden, or Hope Theatre, 1647—The Globe Theatre, temp. Elizabeth—Plan of Bankside early in the Seventeenth Century—John Stow’s Monument.
A carefully prepared Index enables the reader to refer to the varied and interesting contents of the book.
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In this series the following volumes ate included, and issued at 7s. 6d. each. Demy 8vo, cloth gilt.
These books have been favourably reviewed in the leading critical journals of England and America.
Carefully written articles by recognised authorities are included on history, castles, abbeys, biography, romantic episodes, legendary lore, traditional stories, curious customs, folk-lore, etc., etc.
The works are illustrated by eminent artists, and by the reproduction of quaint pictures of the olden time.
Contents:—Hanging—Hanging in Chains—Hanging, Drawing, and Quartering—Pressing to Death—Drowning—Burning to Death—Boiling to Death—Beheading—The Halifax Gibbet—The Scottish Maiden—Mutilation—Branding—The Pillory—Punishing Authors and Burning Books—Finger Pillory—The Jougs—The Stocks—The Drunkard’s Cloak—Whipping and Whipping-Posts—Public Penance—The Repentance Stool—The Ducking Stool—The Brank, or Scold’s Bridle—Riding the Stang—Index.
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“Crowded with extraordinary facts.”—Birmingham Daily Gazette.
“Contains much that is curious and interesting both to the student of history and social reformer.”—Lancashire Daily Express.
“Full of curious lore, sought out and arranged with much industry.”—The Scotsman.
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“Those who wish to obtain a good general idea on the subject of criminal punishment in days long past, will obtain it in this well-printed and stoutly-bound volume.”—Daily Mail.
“Mr. William Andrews, of Hull, is an indefatigable searcher amongst the byways of ancient English history, and it would be difficult to name an antiquary who, along his chosen lines, has made so thoroughly interesting and instructive the mass of facts a painstaking industry has brought to light. For twenty-five years he has been delving into the subject of Bygone Punishments, and is now one of the best authorities upon obsolete systems of jurisdiction and torture, for torture was, in various forms, the main characteristic of punishment in the good old times. The reformation of the person punished was a far more remote object of retribution than it is with us, and even with us reform is very much a matter of sentiment. Punishment was intended to be punishment to the individual in the first place, and in the second a warning to the rest. It is a gruesome study, but Mr Andrews nowhere writes for mere effect. As an antiquary ought to do, he has made the collection of facts and their preservation for modern students of history in a clear, straightforward narrative his main object, and in this volume he keeps to it consistently. Every page is therefore full of curious, out-of-the-way facts, with authorities and references amply quoted.”—Yorkshire Post.
Contents:—Stave-Kirks—Curious Churches of Cornwall—Holy Wells—Hermits and Hermit Cells—Church Wakes—Fortified Church Towers—The Knight Templars: their Churches and their Privileges—English Medieval Pilgrimages—Pilgrims’ Signs—Human Skin on Church Doors—Animals of the Church in Wood, Stone, and Bronze—Queries in Stones—Pictures in Churches—Flowers and the Rites of the Church—Ghost Layers and Ghost Laying—Church Walks—Westminster Waxworks—Index. Numerous Illustrations.
“It is a work that will prove interesting to the clergy and churchmen generally, and to all others who have an antiquarian turn of mind, or like to be regaled occasionally by reading old-world customs and anecdotes.”—Church Family Newspaper.
“Mr. Andrews has given us some excellent volumes of Church lore, but none quite so good as this. The subjects are well chosen. They are treated brightly and with considerable detail, and they are well illustrated. ... Mr. Andrews is himself responsible for some of the most interesting papers, but all his helpers have caught his own spirit, and the result is a volume full of information well and pleasantly put.”—London Quarterly Review.
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The work contains thirty-three illustrations from ancient monuments, rare manuscripts, and other sources.
“A very painstaking and very valuable volume on a subject which is just now attracting much attention. Mr. Tyack has collected a large amount of information from sources not available to the unlearned, and has put together his materials in an attractive way. The book deserves and is sure to meet with a wide circulation.”—Daily Chronicle.
“This book is written with great care, and with an evident knowledge of history. It is well worth the study of all who wish to be better informed upon a subject which the author states in his preface gives evident signs of a lively and growing interest.”—Manchester Courier.
“Those who are interested in the Dress of the Clergy will find full information gathered together here, and set forth in a lucid and scholarly way.”—Glasgow Herald.
“We are glad to welcome yet another volume from the author of ‘The Cross in Ritual, Architecture, and Art.’ His subject, chosen widely and carried out comprehensively, makes this a valuable book of reference for all classes. It is only the antiquary and the ecclesiologist who can devote time and talents to research of this kind, and Mr. Tyack has done a real and lasting service to the Church of England by collecting so much useful and reliable information upon the dress of the clergy in all ages, and offering it to the public in such a popular form. We do not hesitate to recommend this volume as the most reliable and the most comprehensive illustrated guide to the history and origin of the canonical vestments and other dress worn by the clergy, whether ecclesiastical, academical, or general, while the excellent work in typography and binding make it a beautiful gift-book.”—Church Bells.
“A very lucid history of ecclesiastical vestments from Levitical times to the present day.”—Pall Mall Gazette.
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In view of the multiple authors represented, inconsistent spelling and hyphenation have been retained.
Illustrations that occurred mid-paragraph in the original book have here been moved between paragraphs: as a result, page numbers may appear out of sequence. Page numbers corresponding to the blank reverse of full-page illustrations and plates have been suppressed.
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