In its treatment of the Renaissance, Kent is much more individual than with the Gothic. At Biddenden, Figs. 71 and 72, is a pulpit which shows the characteristically Kentish treatment of the strap-and-jewel ornament which was imported from the outlying districts or suburbs of London.
Aldington, Fig. 70, has a fine and boldly carved pulpit, with the representation of the pelican feeding her young with blood from her breast, - styled, in heraldry, "a pelican in her piety," - but it is doubtful if this, and other woodwork with which the Church is over-furnished, is original to that edifice. This pulpit is evidently made up from old panelling. It is much more likely that it was removed from the ruined Aldington Priory, the refectory of which is now a part of the adjoining farm buildings. In the Church are fragments of screens both of late fourteenth and middle fifteenth-century dates, evidently from the same source. The present additional pulpit or reading desk (really the true pulpit of the Church), Figs. 73 and 74, and the very charming little font cover, Fig. 76, are no doubt original, although the font-cover is some fifty years later in date than the pulpit. In the latter, especially in the details given in Fig. 74, will be seen the Kentish manner of treating the arcaded and pilastered panel of which we have already illustrated examples from East Anglia. The coarse, yet vigorous flat cutting of Kentish ornament is shown, very clearly, in the case of the Mersham seats, Figs. 77 and 78.
Fig. 84. Oak Chest. - Late sixteenth century. Capt. The Hon. Richard Legh.
Fig. 79, again from Aldington, is unusual in treatment for this part of Kent, being more typical of Rye or Eastern Sussex, but this work may not be original to the Church. The oak panelling in the chapel, Fig. 80, shown in larger detail in Figs. 81 and 82, has certainly been transplanted from a secular source, probably local, as the treatment of tapered pilasters and arcading is in the manner of this part of Kent. This woodwork is not of high quality, and it is in a very decayed condition, many of the panels being almost powdered away with dry rot and worm. The chapel in which it is, is very dark, and gloom always favours the development of rot and the fostering of the larvae of the wood-beetle.
A difficult question arises, as to whether these pulpits were inspired from the chests of their time, or whether the ■ process was reversed. In the case of the very early examples there is little doubt that the pulpit is prior to the chest of which it is the type, but towards the close of the seventeenth century, secular woodwork leads the way for the Church to follow.
Many of the oak chests of the later sixteenth century are really forms of the credence, cut down and fitted with a lid, in place of the original doors which are fixed as part of the front framing. Fig. 83, from Lyme Park, in Cheshire, is one which has this appearance. No marks of hinges show, but the central door was probably pin-hinged at top and bottom. The front is, obviously, cut at the top and at the bottom of the legs. The Gothic tradition still lingers in the details of the ornament. Fig. 84 is an original chest from the same source, of about the same date, and both are of local origin, either from Cheshire or the Lancashire border.
Fig. 86. Carved Oak Box. - 1 ft. 10 3/4 ins. wide. I ft. 10 ins. deep, I ft. 4 1/4 ins. high. Early seventeenth century. - Capt. X. R. Colville, M.C.
Towards the end of the reign of Elizabeth, the buffet and the standing, or court-cupboard, with pillars of bulbous turning, come into fashion, and add to the variety in English furniture of that period. Generally speaking, however, these bulb-turned pieces are of seventeenth- rather than of sixteenth-century date, as the pattern did not develop very fully, either in wall-pieces or tables, until after James I occupied the throne of England. The later sixteenth-century pieces, however, especially those of eastern-county origin, have a peculiar richness of detail and conciseness of execution, which is unmistakable when once apprehended. Thus in Fig. 85, a walnut buffet of choice quality recently acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum, the cushion-sectioned middle frieze, the bulbs, and the egg-and-dart top moulding are all carved with care and precision, yet without the stereotyped manner of the later seventeenth-century pieces. The top frieze and the base rail are inlaid with a chequer pattern of holly and lignum, and the back uprights have a kind of fluted imbrication which is novel and effective. Walnut is, of course, a very rare wood at this date, and its use, in a buffet of this kind, is still more exceptional. There is every indication, however, in the selection of this wood, and the fine character of the workmanship, careful and yet not mannered, that this is an early piece of its type, probably dating from the last decade of the sixteenth century.
Fig. 87. The Carved Oak Box, Fig. 86. - Shown with lid open.
Fig. 88. Hanging Oak Dole Cupboard. - 2 ft. 9 ins. wide by 1 ft. 10 ins. high. First half of the seventeenth century. - St. Alban's Abbey.