Category Archives: Norfolk medieval pew ends

Norfolk Medieval Angels. 2 in wood and stone.

There are innumerable angels in Norfolk’s medieval churches. The county is known for its angel roofs, mainly carved between 1400 and 1520. They can be easily missed if you don’t look up. There are also angels carved in doorways, on fonts and bench ends. I have used both black and white and colour and sometimes left the same photo there in both. Sometimes the angels portray images of Christ’s passion (as at West Walton and Kings Lynn, St Nicholas). There is a selection below. For more information and superb photos of angel roofs see also Michael Rimmer’s superb book, Angel Roofs of East Anglia: https://www.lutterworth.com/title/angel-roofs-of-east-anglia. For more on Norfolk carving see http://www.mascotmedia.co.uk/books/from-bears-to-bishops.html

 

My first book: From Bears to Bishops

Norfolk has the greatest concentration of medieval churches in the world – 659 in one county – and this wealth of history is open to everyone. From Bears to Bishops focuses on the medieval wood and stone carving on display in these churches, all of it about 500 years old or more. The size and splendour of the buildings themselves can sometimes distract from the detail revealed in this book.

The book contains 156 high quality black and white photos mainly of oak bench ends but also stone font panels and corbels. ‘Black and white enhances the detail and texture of the wood and stone in a graphic and often atmospheric way,’ says photographer Paul Harley. ‘It helps to reveal the skill and imagination of the anonymous craftsmen who present their world to us. The voices from long ago speak to us still, revealing our terrors, suspicions and desires in lumps of wood and stone.’

Dr Rebecca Pinner of UEA says in her foreword: ‘This is a beautiful, surprising and important volume that will stand for many years to come as a key point of departure for all who want to discover and explore the artistic gems preserved within the treasure hoards of Norfolk’s medieval churches.’

From Bears to Bishops contains a useful index of more than 60 featured churches and an historical essay by the photographer on the development of seating arrangements and carving in churches before the Reformation.

Available from mid September 2018 but you can order now from Mascot Media.

120 pages (220mmx 220mm), softback. ISBN: 978-1-9998457-6-6 UK price: £17.95 Published by Mascot Media Email: info@mascotmedia.co.uk

http://www.mascotmedia.co.uk/books/from-bears-to-bishops.html

www.mascotmedia.co.uk

 

From Bishops to Bears covers.indd

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More Norfolk carving in wood and stone

I’m thinking of reorganising the Norfolk carving posts into themes possibly mythical beasts, people and animals, but until I do here are the next set of photos.

More Norfolk medieval wood and stone carving

Most of these photos were taken in the last few months and there is a heavy bias towards the Marshland churches, especially the magnificent Walpole St Peter and Wiggenhall St Mary the Virgin, whose set of bench ends is second to none in Norfolk, although I find the latter’s atmosphere lacking compared to my favourite churches, perhaps because it is no longer used. Some of the carving is crude, some has been damaged by the ravages of time or perhaps the iconoclasm of the Reformation, and some is excellent. Most of all these photos provide an insight to the medieval world and imagination.

Exhibition at St Peter Hungate church, Norwich – September 3rd – October 30th 2016 (open Saturdays 10-4, Sundays 2-4)

I have enjoyed Norfolk churches for years, often stumbling on them on bike rides. Many sit lonely in fields, their villages having moved their focus over the centuries. Some are simple and humble, a few are grand and spectacular, but many reveal secrets forgotten or barely known except to a few experts, or individuals who help maintain them and keep them open.

This exhibition has given me the chance to combine two of my passions – photography and churches. The county has 659 medieval churches with a wealth of history on offer. My focus here is mainly on some of the medieval wood and stone carving, most of it 500 years old or more. I have chosen to represent this work in black and white. It enhances the detail and texture in a graphic and often atmospheric way, revealing the skill and imagination of anonymous craftsmen who present their world to us. There are mythical beasts, green men, wodehouses, animals and the faces of the people themselves – frozen in time, like photographs. Sometimes the carving is highly skilled; sometimes it is crude, basic and yet oddly powerful.

I have included a few colour photos – it’s hard to imagine stained glass without colour – but there was no space for the many rood screens or wall paintings and more general shots of interiors and exteriors. It was hard to make a choice. It was often difficult to take some of the photos in natural light. But just as photography ‘freezes a moment in time’, the carving and stonemasonry of the medieval period are also frozen moments from long ago.

All of these photos are of objects that predate the Reformation. They survived the extraordinary iconoclasm of the reign of Edward VI (1547-53), when stained glass was smashed, wall paintings were whitewashed, rood screens had their faces scratched out, pew ends were vandalised and images were stripped. It is surprising that so much survived.

One of the joys of visiting a church is seeing up to a thousand years of history in one building. There are additions made to churches through the centuries – round towers, perhaps topped centuries later by an octagon, Norman arches, different styles of window, medieval tombs, eighteenth century knights portrayed as Roman senators, Victorian stained glass, twenty first century furniture. Some have children’s play areas, and books for sale and remain centres of the community. More often than not these buildings are open. Some now have a kettle and coffee or tea bags and invite you sit down and drink and reflect. Others may be reached along a track in a field and yet are free and open for what may only be a rare and solitary visitor. Some churches are locked, but usually there is a number to call and that often leads to an interesting conversation with the key holder. Long may these churches, which are both examples of ancient folk art and still places of worship, remain so welcoming.

I have not visited them in any systematic way and can only admire the single mindedness and love shown by my guides to the churches I have visited: Simon Knott’s excellent Norfolk churches website: http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/mainpage.htm with his huge knowledge and finely written personal accounts and Mortlock and Roberts with their detailed, unembellished and thorough outlines. My thanks too to all the people, who have kept these buildings open.

Most of these photos will be in an exhibition at St Peter Hungate Museum of Medieval Art (http://www.hungate.org.uk/). The exhibition will 0pen September 3rd 2016 and end October 30th. The museum is open on Saturdays from 10-4 and Sundays 2-4. all the prints will be for sale. I will post details of the prices nearer the time.