I was working in Kimberley church in Norfolk this week, adding some lettering to a large marble plaque, and was very taken by this wonderful 17th century floor plaque……
HEARE LIETH ANN THE WIFE OF EDMVND WODEHOUSE OF EAST LEXHAM ESQ THE ONELY CHILD OF JOHN ANGVISH OF GRAT MELTON ESQ AN OBEDIENET DAVGHTER TENDERLY LOVING WIFE & MOTHER AND A DISRETT MISTRESE DYED THE 28 OF JULY ANNO DIMMIN 1685
There are several interesting elements to this – firstly the spelling stands out. Clearly, language has evolved in the last 333 years, but there may have been some ‘freedom’ or lack of clarity as to the correct spelling even then. I have seen some of these variants before (such as HEARE, ONELY) but GRAT (for Great) and OBEDIENET seem quite Chaucerian. I particularly like ANNO DIMMIN (for Domini) and DISRETT MISTRESE ~ is that a discreet mistress? I think it may be ‘District mistress’ some sort of role in society, but I can’t get any further than that by searching online. I welcome any comments on this.
As for the lettering style, I think it’s gorgeous. It is linear and mono-weight (no variation in weight such as you would see in brush-derived letterforms like Roman or calligraphic lettering). I particularly like the H in HEARE, the lush W’s, the X, the C in CHILD, the D in DYED, T in TENDERLY, the J in JULY, the 5 and those lovely little triangles above the (upper case!) I’s. Also the ligatures (where letters are joined as in the first THE) are delightful and the A’s are interesting – where they start the word they are embellished with a flourish, but within a word they’re simple.
We’re working away in Dewsbury this week, lettercutting some kerb stones for a garden of remembrance in Dalton Churchyard (see the main carving panels here). We are using workshop space in Calder Masonry stone yard, rather than transport everything twice. In the room we are in are some beautiful old stone lathes…………..just look at these, awesome. Made to withstand some serious pressure, and with lovely old paintwork and lettering. These are just like sculptures to my eye.
I recently travelled through Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire on my way back to Norfolk from Worcestershire and took the opportunity to visit the Vale of Belvoir (pronounced beaver). I have known for years that there were many slate memorials in the East Midlands and recently became interested (if not obsessed) with them, especially those from the late 17th and early 18th century. There are many ornate and beautifully carved examples and due to the longevity of slate they are amazingly well preserved.
There are bascially two different kinds to my eye, some more crudely carved and “naive” in appearance, and others that are beautifully executed and show the carver/designer’s knowledge of different typefaces, and the masons use of type sample books. I think both these kinds are beautiful but I am more drawn to the cruder ones which include angel carvings known as “The Vale of Belvoir Angels”. There’s a great book studying these memorials written by Pauline and Bernard Heathcote (available at amazon). It lists the memorials and locations and has many photographs.
What I find particularly interesting is that these stones were not set out or drawn up before the carver started work and you can see this by the way some words are truncated or split and some letters carved really small above the line to fit in. What seems really odd to me is that some of the lettering is raised and therefore the background is being carved away leaving them proud, and even the carving of these was just started on the left hand edge and made to fit, one way or another. It is worth having a close look at some of these. Below is a detail from one.
following a comment on my last post, which featured a plaque from Holt Church, I am posting some useful links for those who are wondering why a lot of 17-18th century inscriptions and earlier manuscripts have the different forms of the s – known as the long s “ſ” and short s “s”.
I came across this plaque yesterday in St Andrew’s church in Holt.
I haven’t seen anything quite like this before, it is stunning. The inscription states at the top that “This table is erected in memory of William Briggs”. I am not sure exactly what this refers to but perhaps an altar table that is no longer there. At the top there is an iron fixing lug which has nothing attached to it. I’ll try and find out more……
I think this is a beautiful and impressive piece of design and carving.