Saturday, 2 January 2010

Kempe (?) (no in fact a WalterTapper) altar frontal at Grantham

Grantham, St Wulfram
Click through for high resolution photos

I took these photos in the summer on a trip to St Wulfram's Grantham, Lincolnshire with Gordon Plumb, but have only just got round to uploading them to Flickr. They show details of a really splendid altar frontal on the lady chapel altar. It has a backing of blue silk decorated with glorious embroideries. The theme of the iconography is Marian. The first line of the Magnificat is embroidered on the frontlet.

Grantham, St Wulfram

The main frontal continues the theme, making use of various titles and attributes given to Our Lady. Out of a hortus conclusus (enclosed garden), grow two branches of conjoined stems both flowering with red roses and and lily flowers. The stems trail out over the rest of the frontal. Between them other Marian titles are depicted. Sedes sapientiae (Seat of Wisdom), Foederis Acca (Ark of the Covenant), Fons Hortorum (fount of the garden), Torris Davidica (Tower of David), Porta Coeli (gate of heaven), Regina Angelorum (Queen of Angels), Oliva Speciosa (fair olive tree), Stella Matutina (morning star). The artist has included two seraphim standing on wheels, which are evidently derived from medieval examples, probably from Mary Barber's drawings.

Grantham, St Wulfram

All in all it is a glorious piece, but who is it by? Well I don't know. The altar is surrounded by some rather fine Kempe windows and Gordon and I suspect that it came out of Kempe's studios. Perhaps it was made by the Clewer sisters, who are known to have produced some fine work for Kempe. Very little of their work can be attributed firmly, but I can't help thinking that the colouring of the silkwork on the Grantham frontal has parallels with the red Kempe frontal at St Marks' Philadelphia. I David d'Ambly doesn't mind me using his photo to illustrate it.

Kempe Red Frontal St Mark's Philadelphia

Addendum.  Well it turns out I was a little off beam with my musings.  Gordon has made some enquiries and apparently the frontal was designed by the architect Walter Tapper and made by Watts and Co. It was given by Emma Sedgwick in 1928.  Tapper was one of the last Gothic revivalists, but he came out of the same stable as Kempe, both learning their trade in Bodley's drawing office.     

Friday, 1 January 2010

Hailes, Gloucestershire - post-Reformation liturgical arrangements

Hailes, Gloucesteshire

I'm very grateful to Roger Mortimer for his fascinating comment on Elizabethan table carpets, which he has posted on my Buckland vestments article. In his post he mentioned in passing the Elizabethan liturgical arrangements, that until the mid twentieth century, were still extant at Hailes church in Gloucestershire.

Hailes, Gloucestershire

This is a view of the west end of the chancel at Hailes, that I took in 2007. Until fifty years ago, the east end of the chancel was a mirror-image of the west end. The double tier of seats that you see here, continued right across the east end of the chancel, as the diagram below shows.



This arrangement of seating prevented the holy table being placed at the east end of the chancel where the medieval altar would of been. Rather, as this photograph below shows, the holy table was placed in the very centre of the chancel, with its short ends facing east and west. A table carpet would have been thrown over the table during the time of communion and the priest would have stood on the north side, facing south across the table as he celebrated communion in the midst of the people. This liturgical arrangement was intended to create an intentional visual statement. It was intended to visually divorce the reformed communion service from the perceived supersition of the medieval mass.



Hailes, Gloucestershire

Sadly this rare and interesting liturgical arrangement at Hailes has now been swept away. This is the east end of the chancel today. The eastern seating has been removed and steps have been introduced to support a freestanding altar at which the priest presides facing the people.