Fig. 184. Detail Of The Pews, Fig. 183.
Two views of the benches in Wetherden Church, Suffolk, are given in Figs. 188 and 189. The ends are of the buttress type, capped with grotesque figures of animals. Wetherden illustrates the East-Anglian type of poppy-head (from poupee - a doll), a district which includes parts of Cambridge and Lincoln. The representation of animals carved in wood is also general in Norfolk and Suffolk. At Bradfield St. George, Fig. 190, the grotesque figure caps the bench end; at Hitcham, Fig. 191, it surmounts the buttress which forms the arm. At Stowlangtoft, Figs. 192, 193 and 194, each one of the richly-carved benches has this grotesque device on the arms, and the ends of the choir stalls, Figs. 195, 196, and 197, finish with beautifully carved figures, of which Fig. 195, a priest standing at a reading desk, will show the fine execution and conception. These stall-ends are late fifteenth-century East Anglian work at its best, and can be coupled, both in point of design and execution, with the chancel screens at Southwold, Ranworth, Bramfield or Ludham, or the font-cover at Ufford. Brandeston Church has also some interesting bench-ends, slightly earlier than at Stowlangtoft and not so fine in execution. Fig. 198 shows two of these. It must be remembered, in examining these ends, which, although they are not of the very finest, are still of high quality, that the church which contains them is situated in a Suffolk village with a population, in 1900, of only 347 persons. That Brandeston may have been larger in the fifteenth century is possible; it was undoubtedly richer, but there is no reason to believe that it was ever other than a sparsely populated village.
Fig. 185. Coldridge Church, Devon. - Bench Ends. - Date about 1500.
If the pew or choir-stall be the progenitor of the English chair, the type of the latter, known as miserere seats, illustrates the development, in a very marked degree, if they are removed from their surrounding woodwork or surmounting canopies. The practice of putting these stalls together in rows, where twelve seats, for example, have only eleven ends, destroys the chair-like appearance which they would exhibit were each seat a separate unit. In Figs. 199 and 200 accident has done that which custom denied. Here is one of these choir-stalls separated from its fellows, and its strong resemblance to an early chair will be noticed. Actually it is far less clerical in appearance, in this detached form, than are many early chairs which are almost wholly secular in character.
A bench from Rougham, Fig. 201, of the very late fifteenth century, with large and finely carved poppy-heads and solid-cut traceried ends, closes this series of the ecclesiastical progenitors of the English domestic chair. It must not be imagined, however, that the transition from the clerical stall to the secular chair marks any distinct change of type. Chairs at the end of the fifteenth century were much too rare to have established a fashion of their own. Apart from being highly exceptional at this period, they are so special in character, and obviously so inspired from clerical sources, that they may be styled rather as church stalls which are not in their proper habitat.
Fig. 186. Lapford Church, Devon. - Bench Ends. The Devonshire type of 1520-30.
Two examples are given here which would be typical, were others known to exist of which these could be regarded as the type. The first is the Coronation Chair from Westminster Abbey, Fig. 202, the second a chair from St. Mary's Hall at Coventry, Fig. 203. The former has a well-attested history, and can safely be assigned to the fourteenth century, and the latter, although not so well recorded, is equally unmistakable as an example of the fifteenth. Making due allowance for the inexactitude in the early records, the Coronation Chair appears to have been made to contain the " Stone of Destiny," which Edward I brought back from Scone in 1296. There is no reason to doubt this, but whether the chair was made at this date or many years later, is not certain. Apart from the fact that its style is that of the end, rather than the beginning of the fourteenth century, - to say nothing of the closing years of the thirteenth, - there are signs which indicate, beyond doubt, that the chair was, at one period, decorated and emblazoned with gold and colours, if not with raised and gilded gesso. The merest vestiges of this colour-decoration remain, as the chair is in a deplorable state, several generations of ignorant vandals having been allowed to carve their initials on it until every available inch of space has been covered. The pinnacles are missing; perhaps they were removed and taken away as keepsakes ! 150
Fig. 187. Atherington Church, Devon. - Rare crocketted type of pew-end. Late fifteenth century.
Figs. 188 and 189. Wetherden Church, Suffolk. - The East Anglian type of poppy-headed bench-end, buttress-type, of the late fifteenth century.
Fig. 190. Church Of Bradfield St. George, Suffolk. - Bench-ends surmounted by grotesques.
Fig. 191. Hitcham Church, Suffolk. - Buttress type with grotesques on arm. - The East Anglian late fifteenth-century bench-end with grotesqua figures.
Figs. 192 and 193. Stowlangtoft Church, Suffolk. - Pew ends carved with grotesques.