Boxford Church has one of these iron-bound chests, Fig. 5, of a crude form, made from deal. The front and back are carried over the ends and spiked to them. The wood, generally, is about 1 1/2 inches in thickness.
All Saints' Church, at Stansfield in Suffolk, has one of these primitive oak chests, Fig. 6, with heavy iron clamps, vertical on the front and horizontal on the sides. This has the appearance of being of the late thirteenth century, but, if so, the ironwork is a subsequent addition, probably from the next century. The feet date from Jacobean times.
It is extremely rare to find these plain chests of the fourteenth century enriched with heraldic or other paintings. One of these exceptional examples is shown in Figs. 7 and 8. This oak chest dates from the early fourteenth century. It measures 6 ft. 4 1/2 ins. in length, 2 ft. 1 in. in height and 1 ft. 4 ins. in depth from back to front. It is constructed, in the primitive manner of its period, of wide oak boards cut into solid thick ends and strapped with iron. At each end are iron handles, made with a double link, so that the chest could be slung between two horses or mules during its carriage from place to place. These long chests were nearly always intended for monastic or ecclesiastic use, to contain vestments, deeds or other treasures. Both the ends and the top are slightly domed, and on the inside of the latter, in the centre, is depicted a conflict between a dragon and a figure, half man and half leopard; the figure wears a coif of the period and what may be a hauberk or brigandine of chain mail. At the extreme left hand of the top is a representation of the English lion rampant, and at the other is a gryphon, or one of those unnamable beasts which were very popular from the fourteenth to the early sixteenth century, as supporters in heraldry. Henry VII was the last to indulge in this unknown beast, and in some of his coats the supporters strongly resemble greyhounds. Of the four shields, - allowance being made for the yellowing of the tinctures, - one is that of Sir John Daungerville or d'Aungerville of County Leicester, temp. Edward I, a name also spelt Angervile or Angervill. The latter is the form which is used by Richard de Bury, Bishop of Durham. The coat is gules a cinquefoil or ermine pierced within a bordure sable charged with bezants.
Fig. 3. Poplar Chest. Groton Church, Suffolk. - 4 ft. 6 ins. long by 2 ft. 5 ins. total height by 1 ft. 91/2 ins. back to front. Late fourteenth century.
Fig. 4. Poplar Chest. Chelsworth Church, Suffolk. - 4 ft. 5 ins. long over lid by 2 ft. 3 ins. high by 1 ft. 8 ins. back to front. Late fourteenth century.
The second shield from the left, gules a cross or between four cinquefoils ermine pierced, is not an English coat at all. It may be that either of the abbot of an associated monastery, probably in France, or of a foreign benefactor of Durham Cathedral. That this chest was once the property of the Cathedral is almost certain.
The third is the form, novel at that date, of England quartering France, which may account for the error of the heraldic luminer in placing the lions of England in the wrong quarter. This form was not adopted until 1340, which in a way fixes the maximum age of this chest. There are several instances, at this date, of similar mistakes in emblazoning, where England is given the preference, in quartering, over France.
Fourth, gules a saltire or1 (should be argent). This is the coat of Nevill, Earl of Westmorland.
This chest was originally either the property of Durham Cathedral or of a large monastery close by. The emblazoning is sufficient to indicate that it was made not earlier than 1340 and during the time when Richard de Bury (himself a d'Aungerville) was Bishop. As he died on August 13th, 1345, the period of this chest is narrowed down to one of five years.
Representations of tilting, in lists, or on the field, may have a definite significance in coffers of this date. Sometimes these tilting scenes were painted, but more often they were carved on the chest-front. We know, at this date, that armour of plate was the usual wear, not only of the knights and nobles, but often of the bishops themselves.
1 Due to the yellowing of the tinctures by later varnishing.
Fig. 5. Deal Chest. Boxford Church, Suffolk. - 5 ft. long by 1 ft. 6 3/4 ins. high by 1 ft. 10 ins. front to back.
Odo of Bayeux, although of earlier date, was a good example of a fighting bishop. It is reasonable to suppose that armour, which was a highly valued possession at all periods, may have been kept, for safe custody, in these chests, and that the significance of the contents may have been indicated by the tilting figures on the front. How highly prized armour was, may be gathered from the fact that the victor despoiled the vanquished of his armour only, Leaving his other possessions often intact. It is not ted that this is an armour chest, as the painted scene in the centre of the inside of the lid is not properly a tilting scene at all, but the length is suggestive, as armour, if placed in a chest, would not be thrown in carelessly, as the edges would scratch, not only the surface, but also the damascening or the engraving. It would be laid out, in proper order, and the length of this chest would allow of the display of the complete suit from sollerets to bassinet. The original lock, which is now missing, was probably a very ornate and cumbrous affair, but its type would indicate that the contents of this chest were highly prized, and were to be secured against theft by the best possible means.