The Rood Screen at St Nicholas Salthouse
Above left: C.
L. S. Linnell's photograph of the screen in its
original position in
the 1930-40s published in his Church Guide
position of the screen since approximately 1960, where it was
never meant to be.
his Revised Church Guide, which he wrote in 1953, C. L. S. Linnell
says: 'Ten years after the fabric of the new church was complete,
it was embellished with the rood screen which, as can be seen from
the joints of the capitals of the columns on either side, extended
right across the body of the church with parcloses screening off
the chapels on the north and south. Some of the panels were put
back in approximately their original position in 1932.'
supplied this most interesting information about the screen:
rood screen of Salthouse St Nicholas, its great structure fragmented,
its panels greatly damaged, can now only hint at its former glory.
related a few of the details of its making, with their sources. Simon
Cotton ['Medieval Roodscreens in Norfolk-Their Construction and Painting
Dates', Norfolk Archaeology, vol.40 (1989)], dates it at 1513
and notes the legacies donated toward its building and painting. In 1510, Henry
Wright left 6s 8d 'to the new perke' [NRO, Norwich Archdeaconry
Court, Reg. Sparhawk f.26]. In the same year, Margaret Overey left
a princely 26s 8d 'to reparation of the new perke' [NRO, NCC, Reg. Spyltymber
f.279]. These are the only will references to its construction.
parishioners/donors contributed and oversaw the execution of their commissions
during their lifetime, and the few will references to such works as survive
often record what may have been the last in a series of payments. Hardly
ever do they detail the subject matter of their commissions, presumably because
this was already discussed and agreed as a scheme within the parish community. A
screen was usually accomplished piecemeal, over a number of years, as and
when the funding was available.
is very rare to find a single donor paying for a complete scheme, whatever
inscriptions painted on the screen may say! The sums bequeathed in wills
make it clear that they were only a contribution. A wide variation in painting
style and technique is often observed within a single screen, precisely
because the painted panels were done over the years. The rood screens of
the churches at Aylsham and Worstead demonstrate this very clearly, as
the old traditional gothic style is replaced by the Flemish style
arriving from the Low Countries. This was a time of transition for those
parishes able to afford the 'in thing', and often with trading contacts
abroad to inspire new ideas.
Salthouse, as at other Norfolk churches of the period, the records
show a busy time of building and renewal, notably in the late fifteenth
century. Paul Cattermole and Simon Cotton ['Medieval Parish Church Building
in Norfolk', Norfolk
Archaeology,vol.38 (1983)] note that Robert Makke left
12d to the bells in 1481 [Norwich Archdeaconry Court, Reg. Fuller f.26],
and William Grene left 4d to the tower
in 1483 [Reg. Fuller f.41]. In this same year Margaret Herward also
left 6d to the bells [Reg. Fuller f.49]. In 1491, John Zardesale left
a handsome 10s to the work [building] of the church [Reg. Fuller f.193],
and in 1503 the glazing of the east window of the chancel and south aisle
took place, which would have been a very costly project. This was recorded
by the rector, Thomas Dawnay, in 1636, in the registers. Finally, another
12d was donated to the bells by Robert Barrett in 1504
[Norfolk Archdeaconry Court, Reg. Bulwer f.57]. That is not to say that
these were the only gifts for these parish projects-- far from it--they
are the only ones of which records have survived. Money was collected
regularly, often in small individual amounts, throughout the parish,
until there was enough to do a job. Although these donations seem very
small to the modern eye, it probably indicates that everyone was giving
comparable amounts over a long period. Bear in mind, too, that 4d
represented a labourer's pay for a day, so was not quite the insubstantial
gift it might appear, and may be equivalent to a £40-£50
day rate that an
unskilled worker might earn today.
screen is, essentially, an Apostle screen with additional figures. W.W.Williamson,
in his survey in 1957, writes as though the screen was still in one piece,
and notes twenty figures and some saints' emblems as follows:
St Matthew or Matthias--carpenter's square
and 3) Prophets, probably
St John the Evangelist--cup and serpent
St Bartholemew--knife for flaying
St Andrew--cross saltire
Layman in early Tudor dress [could be a donor figure, but unlikely]
St James the Great--staff [but usually has a cockle shell]
Layman as before
St James the Less--fuller's club
Prophet, probably [he says]
St Matthias- halbert
Possibly a king, says Williamson. [I say probably Henry VI who
was venerated as a saint at this time.]
Above: a part of the parclose screen
today in the Lady Chapel, south aisle, in its original position.
The four figures are the last four of those listed on the left.
notes the sad state of mutilation. It would seem that in the forty-six
subsequent years a few of these panels have also been lost. I think the four 'laymen' are
highly improbable as subjects, and that these may be unidentified saints
or holy men. MasterJohn Schorne is a candidate for one. He was an uncanonised
but venerated rector of Marston in Buckinghamshire in the fourteenth
century, who was much supplicated for gout! He is depicted conjuring a
demon out of a boot on the screens at Cawston, Gately and Suffield, and
is not usually shown in priestly garb. The fact that a chapel was dedicated
to him at St George's chapel, Windsor, may have made him an aspirational
or even fashionable figure to choose. Certainly, many suffered from gout!
damage to the panels makes accuracy of identification very tenuous as the
emblems of martyrdom that identify the saints are not always intact. Some
speech ribbons are visible on some panels, if defaced, asking for intercessory
prayer. Part of the function of the screen was to remind worshippers attending
Mass to pray for their departed friends who had commissioned the works,
and whose names may then have been visibly inscribed on it. By choosing a
particular saint for a panel a patron was not only honouring that saint,
but, in a sense, 'commissioning' the saint to intercede for him/her in heaven,
an important investment when the flames of purgatory at best, and hell at
worst, were believed to await all, especially those dying without confession
and absolution. These were days of sudden death when endemic and famine-related
diseases could and did strike the population with devastating
of all the screen is a demonstration of the corporate activity of the the
medieval parishioners, who together discussed, no doubt argued, and, under
the guidance of their parish priest and churchwardens, decided what they
wanted to be represented on their screen. The iconography of the figures
chosen conveyed a language of religious symbolism and significance to
those for whom the written word was not yet freely available, a language
we have largely lost. The saints, after all, stood at the base of the
great rood itself, the life-sized cross where Christ crucified displayed
to all the wounds by which they were redeemed. The powerful message of the
entire design and construction (a tribute to the carpenters and carvers
of the time) and the impact of its fine polychrome splendour can now
only be imagined.
I was interested to receive the letter reproduced below concerning the last two Nos 19 and 20 on the above list:
From: Dr. Jeremy Dupertuis Bangs
Sent: Saturday, May 28, 2011 7:05 PM
Subject: identification of a couple of the Salthouse screen figures
Dear Val Fiddian,
I see you are the editor of the interesting website about Salthouse. A friend of mine visited St. Nicholas' Church at Salthouse and brought back a postcard published by the Friends of Salthouse Church. As I cannot find an address for them, I'm writing to you, in hopes you can pass on my comment.
The photograph on the card shows part of the former choir screen, with two of the painted figures. The text on the back of the note card is this:
"The figure holding the fish is either St. Simon or St. Thaddeus, the other figure is a layman in Tudor dress, probably a patron of the church. ..."
Looking at the photographs, I see that the figure on the left is depicted above an inscription that is: Sa. thadeus [Sanctus Thadeus].
The figure on the right is depicted above an inscription that is: dANIEL PPHA [Daniel Propheta].
As Daniel the prophet was not a saint, there is no halo. And while it is possible that this is simultaneously a depiction of a local layman, that would be unusual.
With best wishes,
Dr. Jeremy Dupertuis Bangs, Director
Leiden American Pilgrim Museum
p/a Mandenmakerssteeg 11
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