Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Bury St Edmunds p2

St Edmudsbury Cathedral was, until 1914, St James and has effectively been re-built in this century. The nave was begun in 1503, the chancel was re-built between 1860 and 1870 but the west porch, cloisters, quire, lady chapel, St Edmund's chapel and the crossing were all added between 1960 and 1970, as late as 1999 work was undertaken on the north transept whilst the tower was completed, as part of a Millenium project, in 2005.

All this work could, potentially, have had a detrimental effect but in fact it is all so sympathetic that the result is a delight.

ST JAMES, since 1914 the CATHEDRAL. 195 ft long and without a tower, as the Norman tower stands immediately S of the church. The church is essentially Perp. It was built chiefly in c. 1510-30, but completed only under Edward VI, who gave £200 towards it. The designer may well have been John Wastell, who designed the vaults and upper parts of King’s College Chapel at Cambridge, lived at Bury, and died in 1515. The chancel of St James’s was rebuilt by Scott in 1865-9. The Perp church is nine bays long in one even composition. For the purposes of a cathedral it is however not big enough, and S. E. Dykes Bower has prepared plans for a new chancel, five bays long, transepts, and a crossing tower with a concave-sided pyramid roof, which will look odd at Bury. Inside, the W arch of the crossing tower will receive the strange enrichment of a traceried strainer arch, a balustrade on it, and a further tripartite arch on top of that. On the N side of the chancel a chapter house, vestries, and a new Lady Chapel are to be built.* They will be connected with the church by a cloister, which is to run all along the N aisle as well and end at the W end in a new NW porch, flush with the original W front. This is stone-faced with embattled aisles and a new gable by Scott. Original transomed seven-light window below, original transomed five-light aisle W windows. Decorated base, decorated buttresses, tall niches l. and r. of the doorway. The sides all have three-light transomed windows, and the clerestory windows are double in number. The S side is stone-faced. Very tall arcades inside, the piers of lozenge shape with four thin shafts and four broad hollows in the diagonals. The shafts towards the nave rise right up to the roof, a roof unfortunately by Scott, and not original**. Only the shafts to the arch openings have capitals.

FURNISHINGS. PULPIT. Designed by Scott and made by Kett. - MOSAIC in the chancel, made for Scott by Salviati. - PAINTINGS. In the S chapel a German ‘Selbdritt’ of c. 1500, with two small demi-figures in the predella. - STAINED GLASS. S aisle, first window from the W. Good Flemish early C16 glass, e.g. Story of Susanna, Tree of Jesse. - Most of the C19 glass is by Clayton & Bell. - Chancel side windows by Kempe, very early: SE 1867, SW 1870. - S aisle w by Kempe, 1898. - E and W windows by Hardman (E c. 1869). - S chapel E, c. 1852 by Wailes. - S chapel S, c. 1847 by Warrington. - PLATE. Two Flagons and Almsdish 1685; Cup and two Patens 1686; Cup 1729; Almsdish 1807. - MONUMENTS. Against the w wall, S of the doorway, James Reynolds, Chief Justice of the Exchequer, d. 1738. White and black marble. Seated frontally in robe and wig. Two putti l. and r. No columns. Pediment on brackets. - Against the W wall N of the doorway Mrs Reynolds d. 1736. No figure. Sarcophagus with obelisk background and l. and r. two urns on pedestals.

* At the time of going to press it seems likely that the plans will be revised so as to delete the transepts and the crossing tower.
** Mr Dickinson praises the recent recolouring of the roof.

St Edmundsbury Cathedral (2)

Nave (3)

James Reynolds 1738 (4)

St Edmundsbury Cathedral (7)

St James’s comes from our three great building centuries, begun in the 13th and finished in the 15th, its chancel having been twice made new. It has a rich west front with fine medieval moulding and panelling, and a sundial on a buttress which says to passers by, Go about your Business. The nave is filled with slender piers which carry the arcades of nine bays to a great height, and the effect of a cathedral interior comes from its marvellous array of windows, 27 below and 36 filled with cathedral glass in the clerestory.

The great nave is nearly 140 feet long and half was wide, newly roofed last century by Sir Gilbert Scott when he rebuilt the chancel. The roofs of the aisles are 15th century. The chancel has mosaics of the Evangelists and frescoes of musical angels, and richly carved stone seats designed from the ancient pattern. Its chief possession is the handsome Bishop’s Throne, a superb piece of modern craftsmanship 25 feet high. It is all in oak, with fine canopies and delicate pinnacles, and with a boss in the vaulting of the crown and arrows of St Edmund, whose head is guarded by wolves. On the desk-ends are a griffin and an antelope. This throne has a font cover matching it, both the work of Mr F. E. Howard, an Oxford master of his craft. The font bowl stands on an ancient shaft; the bowl, like the cover, is new. The cover rises over 20 feet high, its rich canopy work adorned with emblems, its vaulted canopy with a central boss of a holy dove. Round the base are painted shields reminding us that this superb piece of woodwork is a memorial to those who did not come home from the Great War, many of them having been christened here.

The church is rich in possessions. On the high altar is a memorial cross in memory of an only child, with an inscription that life is eternal, love immortal, and death only the horizon, the limit of our sight; and there is a beautiful processional cross with crystals and enamels. The oldest treasure of the church is the chalice veil, a piece of Italian embroidery made about 1650. It has floral designs and emblems of the Passion worked in gold and other colours, and a raised figure of Our Lord. The gilded bronze candlesticks in the lady chapel are copies of those in the cathedral at Ghent, and the reredos in this chapel was carved by the lady it commemorates, Miss Lucy Giradot. Close by it is a painting by an unknown German artist.

The chief sculpture in St James’s is a remarkable monument by the west door on which James Reynolds sits in his judge’s robes, with wig and chain as he would sit 200 years ago, as Chief Baron of the Court of Exchequer. Cherubs are drawing back the curtains that we may see him, one holding a torch and one weeping, and a little cherub is set aloft blowing a trumpet. Near the font are two marble portraits, a Chantrey medallion of the Revd E. V. Blomfield, and a marble of Benjamin Malkin copied from a bust by Chantrey; he was headmaster of King Edward’s School and had Edward FitzGerald among his scholars.

As for the glory of these great windows, enriching this church with colour and light, they are all modern but one, mostly the work of Clayton and Bell. The great west window shows the Last Judgment, and the east window the Transfiguration with scenes in the Life of St James. The north aisle windows have Old Testament scenes, the south aisle New Testament, and by the west doorway is the best of all, the Story of Creation. The oldest window is in the aisle at the south-west corner, and is called the Susanna window because it has her story in the lower lights. All the glass in this window has been collected and is old, some from the 14th century. It shows parts of a Jesse Tree, some kings and a bishop, Joachim carrying a lamb, two figures perhaps Cain and Abel, St Catherine, and kneeling angels with green wings. It is the general effect of the windows that is their great merit; they give the church a splendour not to be forgotten.


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