This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
Avery interesting paper on " West Country Screens and Rood-Lofts," illustrated by a fine collection of lantern slides, was read before the Society of Arts, on March 21st, by Mr. F. Bligh Bond, F.R.I.B.A. The chair was taken by Mr. G. F. Bodley, R.A.
The speaker remarked that in spite of the ravages of time, fire, iconoclastic zeal, " improvements,"
Panel Carved by Marie Jefferson.
(See "Some Oak Carvings in a Country Hall.")
"restorations," there yet remain some two thousand screens or parts of screens in our churches, and of these the West Country furnishes a large proportion, Devonshire and Somerset alone contributing nearly three hundred (some, of course, mere fragments). Those which survive are chiefly of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the two chief causes which have operated to reduce the amount of earlier work being (1) natural decay, and (2) the removal of the earlier screens for the more extensive and complex structures of later times.
Wood detail begins as an imitation of stone, and in its earlier period is extremely massive, comparatively coarse in execution, though sometimes wonderfully undercut after the manner of freestone, but gradually we find it exhibiting more refinement of character and skill in execution, the design becoming more easy and natural, and the proportions lighter and more closely adapted to the nature of the material, and expressive of its qualities.
Most of the wood screens of the fourteenth century would appear to have supported a loft or gallery to the westward, or centrally over the screen. The screens themselves have horizontal framed heads, and the loft would have had a flat soffit.
Mr. Bond reproduced, among many other beautiful photographs, the cornice enrichments from the screens at Atherington, North Devon, and the fire screen which stood in the church of St. Audries', West Quantoxhead, Somerset, before the rebuilding fifty years ago, and the fragments of which are now in the possession of Sir Alexander Acland Hood. He pointed out that the screens in the West Country are usually of great width, frequently being continued across nave and aisles from north wall to south wall, whilst there is every evidence that the rood-lofts ran the whole length of the same. The screens generally exhibit a series of fenestrations with arched heads, subdivided by moulded standards supporting a close reticulated head of "perpendicular" tracery, and between these spring groinings of hexagonal section, with moulded ribs and embossed or traceried fillings. Above these comes the beam which carried three or four tiers of vignette enrichment, divided by plain or twisted beads, and enriched by crestings at top and bottom, a choice and often highly ingenious design.
The types ruling in the different localities in the West Country exhibit some totally distinct schools of design. Of those of Devonshire there are several leading types of work purely English in character, of which those of Kenton, Kentisbeare,
Panel Carved by Gertrude Culley.
(See "Some Oak Carvings in a Country Hall.") and Hartland may be singled out as representative specimens; whilst at Swymbridge and Bridford are found a highly enriched variety, literally encrusted with carving, and differing widely in detail from the usual type. Somerset gives a series of great