The decoration of the chancel screen is much richer than in those of the aisles, which, though still of great beauty, are less ornate, and comparatively quiet in tone. The whole of the wainscotting, Figs. 121 and 122, is filled with painted figures, drawn with a fine spirit and sense of decoration. Those on the principal part of the screen, representing the twelve apostles, are painted against a dado of beautifully modelled and gilt gesso diapers, the little patterns [being formed of the vine leaf and fruit in an ogee and diamond in alternate panels.
The cresting to the dado consists of delicate traceried forms of varying designs. The colouring of the panelled and pierced base is a combination of red blue, green and gold, arranged in beautiful and harmonious counterchange, a figure having a green or blue robe being against an upper background of red and vice versa (e.g. St. Philip has a red cloak, blue background behind nimbus, red behind tracery above and red at the base. The next panel is occupied by St. Matthew who wears a purple robe, with red behind the nimbus, dark blue behind the tracery above, and blue at the base). The gold under-robes of the figures, in the same manner as at Ranworth, are painted with rich designs in black and red, after the style of the elaborate fabrics of the period. These coloured robes are embroidered with patterned borders and are finished with decorated collars and gold and jewelled clasps.
Fig. 166. St. Peter Mancroft, Norwich, Font Cover. - Late fifteenth century.
Fig. 167. Swimbridge, Devon, Font Cover. - The paintings, as far as can be ascertained in their defaced condition, are as follows : North Side (Fig. 121.)
1. St. Philip, cross, staff and basket of loaves.
2. St. Matthew holding a sword.
3. St. James the Less, holding a club.
St. James the Less repeated in this illustration.
4. St. Thomas, holding spear and book.
5. St. Andrew, with cross (saltire) and book.
(The illustrations do not show the following.)
6. St. Peter with keys.
7. St. Paul, with sword and book.
8. St. John, holding chalice with dragon issuing from it.
9. St. James the Great, with staff.
10. St. Bartholomew, with knife and book.
11. St. Jude, boat in left hand ; in right, compass and square
12. St. Simon, spear and oar.
On the Screen across the N. aisle. The Heavenly Hierarchy.
On the Screen across the S. aisle.
David, Amos, Isaiah, Jonah, Ezekiel, Moses, Elias, Jeremiah, Nahum, Hosea, Baruch.
Of the enrichments of the mouldings the wave-design is again much in evidence, showing gold stencilled flowers on the black or dark green undulations, and the wild pink rose on the white. A barber's-pole pattern in a running chequer of red and black, a red member with a little flower at intervals in gold, and a gold bead decorated with a twisted gilt gesso pattern, are all introduced with beautiful effect. In the hollows surrounding the panels, on the sides of the buttresses, and running up the tracery, as at Ranworth, are little flower-forms upon a white ground; blue with warm brown and pink with green leaves, suggestive of the blue cornflower and the wild dog-rose, so abundant in the fields and hedgerows of the Eastern Counties.
Up the faces of the buttresses, which are richly encrusted with gesso, are the remains of Gothic forms, representations of cusped and traceried niches with minute figures painted in black upon gold, also tabernacle work and even "windows," some with their small pieces of glass still remaining amongst the rich patterning.
Fig. 168. St. Michael-At-Plea, Norwich, The Post-Reformation Type Of Font Cover.
The following extract from Dowsing's Journal, a.d. 1643, gives a terse account of the destruction which took place in this fine East Anglian Church.
"Southwold, April the 8th. We brake down one hundred and thirty superstitious pictures. St. Andrew and four crosses on the four corners of the vestry; and gave orders to take down thirteen cherubims, and to take down twenty angels, and to take down the cover of the font."1
Of beautiful examples of vaulted screens, perhaps that at Bramfield, Figs. 123 to 127, is one of the best preserved. It was originally designed with parochial altars to the two bays at the north and south as at Ranworth, but these have disappeared. Of the destroyed rood-loft there is no pictorial record, but this must have been of elegant pendentive design and exquisite proportions, and was probably enriched with paintings. The screen consists of ten bays, its mullions springing into a beautiful lierne vaulting, Fig. 126, and forming cruciform panels elaborately cusped. The predominating tone is a rich blue, relieved with white and gold. The little flowers painted in sprays along the mouldings and groining are exquisite in drawing and full of life, and in each panel of the vaulting is depicted, upon the blue background, a tiny angel in gold, with detail delicately drawn in black. Of the lower portion of the screen, the mouldings of the transom, Fig. 127, are especially rich, and are encrusted with fine gilt gesso decoration, painted with dainty floral forms upon dark red and white grounds, and a pattern of gold fleurs-de-lys on blue. The buttresses to the mullions are also adorned with beautiful tracery pattern in gold gesso. The panels of the wainscotting have suffered in places from purposed defacement, but the figures of the Evangelists and St. Mary, with their rich gesso background, which are in fair preservation, show the fine quality of the painting. On a dado behind the figures, the names of the saints are decoratively inscribed. The tracery is gilt on its fillets and crockettings, the hollows red and blue in alternate bays, and ornamented with tiny gilt flowers.