The vast expanse of a Cathedral carries off superabundant ornament in stone or wood by overpowering it by sheer height and size. It becomes mere lacework in comparison, and one does not expect lace to possess constructional stability, such as will satisfy eye and mind. Thus at Chester the stall canopies possess a delicacy in comparison with the size of the choir itself which would atone for many constructional faults even were they present. At Westminster, on the other hand, the effect is purely that of the work of a pastry cook rather than of a woodworker. It may be worth while to turn back to the grand stall canopies of Winchester, Fig. 93, and to compare them with those of Westminster Abbey, Fig. 159. The latter are truly wonderful, as examples of what was - and should not have been done, - in wood.

In offering a criticism of much of this abnormally delicate woodwork of the later fifteenth century, considerable allowance must be made for the absence of the gilding and colouring where such originally existed. This is very necessary in the case of such works as the great font cover of Ufford, Figs. 160 and 161, one of the most remarkable examples of the later Gothic woodwork in England, and certainly the largest and the most ornate of the wooden font covers made at this period. It is octagonal on plan, and with its amazing intricacy of pinnacles and niches, it rich carving of vaulted base and cornice, is a magnificent production of the fifteenth-century woodworker. It has lost its decorative painting and has been much restored. With its original colour and gilding it must have been a superb ornament to the churck. The painted roof above it is shown, in better detail, in Fig. 162. even more evident in the Spring Pew than in other work of the same date. There is no doubt as to the material of which the early fifteenth-century Gothic is constructed. It is unmistakably of stone or wood. Even in the earlier examples, where the woodworker is just emancipating himself from the stonemason's traditions, there is a sturdy vigour in his conceptions, even when accompanied by an absence of refinement in his details and construction. Unfortunately, it is rare to find an artistic tendency stopping short at the logical. If proportions become refined, they do not rest until they reach such a stage of fragility as to be inartistic. An erection, whether of wood or stone may be of ample strength, but if it appear inadequate neither the eye nor the mind is satisfied. The material must also be equally frank. Construct a bridge of steel and grain it to look like wood, and it will appear unsafe, and its appearance will be false to the eye. Similarly, the early Gothic woodwork, apart from its massive dignity and even grandeur, is not wholly satisfactory; it is too much like stonework, which has, by accident, been made from timber. It is the Gothic woodwork of the late fourteenth and early fifteenth century which fulfils best, both artistic and constructional demands. It is a style which can become debased very easily, especially in wood. Tracery is only pierced fretwork, but when cut by the carver it offers, in many cases, a suggestion of construction which it does not really possess. This Lavenham Spring Pew is, perhaps, one of the most ornate expressions of the later Gothic, yet one has the feeling that it is not woodwork but confectionery. The screens which we have just considered are marred by the absence of their lofts. The result is that vaulting which must suggest the carrying of a superimposed mass, is now inoperative and useless. That, however, is not a defect of the screens, but of the vandals who broke down their lofts and mutilated the artistic effect which they formerly possessed. In the Spring Pew, there is vaulting which carries nothing and never has, and tracery which is mere tortured filigree work. The same may be said of the Oxford Pew, of about the same date, where posts support nothing and where Renaissance ornament is employed to masquerade as tracery.

Warkleigh, Devon, Renaissance Screen.

Fig. 175. Warkleigh, Devon, Renaissance Screen. - Mr. Fredk. Sumner, Photo.

The vast expanse of a Cathedral carries off superabundant ornament in stone or wood by overpowering it by sheer height and size. It becomes mere lacework in comparison, and one does not expect lace to possess constructional stability, such as will satisfy eye and mind. Thus at Chester the stall canopies possess a delicacy in comparison with the size of the choir itself which would atone for many constructional faults even were they present. At Westminster, on the other hand, the effect is purely that of the work of a pastry cook rather than of a woodworker. It may be worth while to turn back to the grand stall canopies of Winchester, Fig. 93, and to compare them with those of Westminster Abbey, Fig. 159. The latter are truly wonderful, as examples of what was - and should not have been done, - in wood.

In offering a criticism of much of this abnormally delicate woodwork of the later fifteenth century, considerable allowance must be made for the absence of the gilding and colouring where such originally existed. This is very necessary in the case of such works as the great font cover of Ufford, Figs. 160 and 161, one of the most remarkable examples of the later Gothic woodwork in England, and certainly the largest and the most ornate of the wooden font covers made at this period. It is octagonal on plan, and with its amazing intricacy of pinnacles and niches, it rich carving of vaulted base and cornice, is a magnificent production of the fifteenth-century woodworker. It has lost its decorative painting and has been much restored. With its original colour and gilding it must have been a superb ornament to the churcly. The painted roof above it is shown, in better detail, in Fig. 162.

Warkleigh, Devon, Renaissance Screen.

Fig. 175. Warkleigh, Devon, Renaissance Screen. - Mr. Fredk. Sumner, Photo.