Pulpits of the fifteenth century, of which comparatively few examples exist, were generally polygonal on plan, and constructed of two curbs, an upper and a lower, formed of several sections, tenoned or " fingered " together at points between the posts, and into these the angle-posts were tenoned, with the panels inserted in grooves. Where stems existed, these were formed of a post tenoned to the floor joist and braced by ribs to the curbs. The Western type as at Bovey Tracey and Cockington, Figs. 169 and 170, are heavier in design and construction than those found in the Eastern counties, and are decorated with an abundance of carved foliage, vine-trails and niche-work. At Cockington, which is the later of the two, the balusters and foliated groined heads are applied to the panels.
These Devonshire pulpits repeat the work of the screens in a great measure, which is to be expected, as in Bovey Tracey and Halberton, for example, the pulpits stand immediately in front of the screen and are almost a part of it. That these pulpits were originally painted in colours and gold is unquestionable. Bovey Tracey is bright with colour, but this is almost all of much later date. The niched figures are in plaster, but they may have been cast from lost originals. Cockington pulpit is later, of the early sixteenth century, with balusters and groined heads applied to the panels. It is peculiar in being a sept-sided polygon on plan, but with flat panels, and in being a painted pulpit at a date subsequent to the fashion for the decoration of woodwork with colours.
Fig. 177. Cartmel Priory, Lancs., Choir Stall Canopies, Detail.
At Kenton, Figs. 171 and 172, the pulpit, of late-fifteenth-century work, is flamboyant, but extremely rich. It is coloured, which adds further to its ornate character. The painting has a definite significance here, beyond mere decoration. This is, in effect, a stone pulpit copied in wood, and it demands painting, either in monochrome or in colours, to complete its effect. The enlarged detail, Fig. 172, shows this carved-stone character very clearly.
The South Burlingham pulpit, Fig. 173, is a very beautiful and complete example of East Anglian colour decoration of the fifteenth century. The general effect is simple, yet rich. The colours follow the heraldic system of counterchange. The panels, with their ogival tracery and crocketted pinnacles, are in red and gilt on a green background, with sprigs of flowers in gold. The central portion of the panel, immediately beneath the cusping, is in red, with a diapered pattern of the same gold flowers. The panels are reversed in rotation, in their colour-scheme, the next having crocketting in green and gold on red. A painted ribbon threads behind the styles, just below the crocketting, and on this are inscriptions in black letters, with red initials and foliated ornaments, on a ground of white. The mouldings, between the panels and the buttresses, are decorated with a wavy design in red and white, with gold flowers on the red, and green on the white bands, in one panel, and in the next the wave is green and white, with gold and red flowers. The buttresses, above the first recessing, are decorated with gilt gesso, in diaper patterns with tiny flowers. The spandrels and the faces of all the tracery are in gold. The base has a white hollow, with green blossoms, and mouldings in red and green. The cornice has small gilt flowers in relief in the cavetto, and the castellated cresting is gilt. This pulpit is remarkable as much for its beauty as for its state of preservation.
With the introduction of the Renaissance into clerical woodwork and the final extinguishing of the Gothic, this chapter may be concluded. Examples of where the two are assorted, sometimes with notably fine results, as at Atherington and Holbeton, more often with detriment to the character of both, as at Brushford and Coldridge, have already been given. It remains only to consider, in rapid review, some examples where the Gothic motives are comparatively negligible, and where the Renaissance has full sway. Thus in the charming gallery at Tawstock, Fig. 153, the Gothic is still present in the vine-trails which ornament the string. The fine font pedestal at East Down, Fig. 174, on the other hand, is pure Renaissance with the sumptuous carving of the West (unmistakable in its rich character) above the arches. Warkleigh, Fig. 175, has a fine screen of the same period, with elaborate carvings in the upper panels, and the alternate muntins of those below masked by ornate semi-balusters, very similar in style to the aisle-panellings in St. Vincent at Rouen, which will be illustrated in a later chapter. There is always a strong suggestion of French influence, if not of actual origin, in this later Church woodwork of the West, a character which is not nearly so evident in the secular work of the same date. Towards the close of the sixteenth century the Renaissance, where adopted for Church woodwork, loses much of this foreign element, as at Cartmel Priory, Figs. 176 and 177, where the stall canopies, superimposed on stalls of much earlier date, show how the Italian style changes in development, in the hands of the Church woodworker, in the early years of the seventeenth century. There is a strong concession to the Gothic in the vine-trails of the columns, but this became a favourite motive, even with secular work, during the earlier years of the seventeenth century, especially in Lancashire and Warwickshire. Examples will be found in the later pages of this volume.
Though carried beyond the proper scope of this chapter, which is concerned only with the Gothic, this incursion into the Renaissance period may be of service, if only in bridging from the last phase of the Gothic to the later work, and in preparing the way for the chapters which are to follow.