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Comments added May 2003

Important book on Puritan Iconoclasm

Dr Julie Spraggon's book on puritan iconoclasm has now been published. We refer to her PhD thesis on several occasions in the Dowsing book. Her published book is readable and important.Julie Spraggon, Puritan Iconoclasm during the English Civil War, Woodbridge, 2003, ISBN 0 85115 895 1. You can buy the book from Boydell and Brewer (click here)

Another plastered font

On page 445 we have a list of plastered fonts. To this add Gresham, Norfolk (Nichols, Seeable Signs, 7).

Scratched out prayer clause on screen in Norfolk

C b newham has drawn our attention to a screen at Edgefield, Norfolk, where the prayer clause has been deliberately mutilated. Click on the thumbnail to see this.

Comments added December 2002

Another example of service books being removed by soldiers

On page 179, note 244 we discuss cases where soldiers destroyed prayer books. Another example has come to light, at St Andrew's Rockland in Norfolk, where Thomas Watts was taken to task because he said that 'Robert Allen and the Troopers that took away the sevice books were sacrilegious thieves'. (Bod. Walker C6 fol. 46.)

Norfolk glass

In the book, we use several strands of evidence to suggest that north Norfolk may have suffered less from systematic iconoclasm than the south of the county. One piece of evidence supporting this was a map of surviving images of Mary in stained glass (page 11, map 8.4). In a review earlier this year, Ann Eljenholm Nichols raised questions about the validity of this evidence. Read more

Clare College

We overlooked one comment about Clare college in the 1641 Puritan report, namely that

    'This colledge had in it the first Altar in the University . . .'

The college may therefore have been more forward in the introduction of liturgical 'innnovations' than we appreciated in the book (page 171 and page 50). (Ref: BL Harl 7019 fol. 84)

Hewke brass at Trinity Hall

In the book (page 173) we mention the survival of the stunning Hewke brass at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. We hadn't spotted that the head is a replacement. But this doesn't detract from its surprise as a survival of iconoclasm, given the explicit imagery and wording on the body of the brass.

It is a long object, and it is puzzling that it was not noticed by Dowsing and his colleagues. John Blatchly has suggested a possible explanation - that it was positioned in the central aisle of the chapel, under a rug, which was itself under the communion table. A pretty explanation, if true.

May 2003: Clarification: in fact we do know that the brass originally lay 'about 8 feet from the altar step'. Also at Trinity Hall is a brass of c.1530 with the inscription missing, which might have been removed at the hands of Dowsing. (CUABC Trans 2, 272-3).

Comments added August 2002

Cosin and Peterhouse

The book had no picture of John Cosin (page 156 and passim) - click on the thumbnail to see a rather nice one from the 1630s, with the new Peterhouse chapel over his shoulder - probably the earliest image of this building.  The academic dress is indeterminate, but would be appropriate in his role as Chancellor of Cambridge University. (Aukland Castle, oil, 76 x 63cm)

Nor did the book have a picture of the crucifixion stained glass in the East window (see page 160). Here is a rather small one - we’ll try and find a better one (click on the thumbnail). The window shows the  crucifixion, based on Ruben's ‘Le coup de la Lance’ (1631). A nearly contemporary print, rather than the original painting, was the source for the window. (For the print, see S. O'Connell, The Popular Print in England, 1999, ill. 6.3.)

Weight of brass

The typical thickness of a medieval brass was 2.5mm to
6mm. The density of brass is some 8000 kg/m3 (can be a bit higher
- depends on the mix of metals). Thus the 40lb of brass sold by Walberswick churchwardens (page 297) would have been between half and one square metres (approximate) - that is, 5 to 10 square feet, which gives the impression of being several complete brasses, not just inscriptions. Similarly at Wetherden (page 241), the weight and the square footage would be about 50% more.

This adds weight to the suggestion on pages 101/2, that it was not untypical for the whole brass to be removed by Dowsing, not just inscriptions (or, more precisely, that the removal of the whole brass was often the result of his intervention, though he may perhaps have only required the inscription to be taken).

(For thickness of brasses, see H. K. Cameron, 'Technical Aspects of Medieval Brasses', Archaeological Journal 131, (1974), 235.)

Comments added March 2002

More on Boldero

A little more about Boldero - see previous entry below.

Surviving glass at Christ's College

The surviving medieval glass in the chapel north windows was originally in the windows of the vestries (RCHME City of Cambridge, vol I, p. 31). This is an alternative explanation why it is relatively undamaged.

Comments added February 2002

Another example of Moses and Aaron

On page 251 we discuss the few known examples of Moses and Aaron in pre-Restoration churches (after the Restoration they became common). Another example is at Chichester Cathedral, where it was reported by the Royalists that in 1642 'at the east end of the Quire did hang a very fair table, wherein were written the Ten Commandments, with the pictures of Moses and Aaron on each side of the table: Possessed with a zela, but not like that of Moses, they pull down the table, and break it into small shivers'.

Mercurius Rusticus, quoted without volume or page number in M. H. Bloxam, Companion to the Principles of Gothic Ecclesiastical Architecture, 1882, 126.

Holy Water Font

On page 304 we discuss Dowsing's use of the term 'holy water font'. We overlooked the fact that modern Roman Catholic usage applies the term to a 'stoup' at the entrance of the church to hold water with which to cross oneself. Was the term used in this way in the seventeenth century? - we have not yet explored this, but Dowsing's use of the term could sometimes apply to a stoup and probably sometimes to a piscina in the chancel. This raises the question of what is meant by the term in the Parliamentary Ordinance of 1644 (page 343).

Comments added January 2002

Torn prayer book at Great St Mary's

Fuller, writing in 1655, confirms that prayer books were torn at Great St Mary's, Cambridge in 1643 (page 200): 'Common-Prayer books yet legally in force, [were] torn in St Marye's'.

(Fuller, History of the University of Cambridge, p. 171; quoted in Payne, Sacred Music, 163).

Steeple crosses on the continent

It is argued (page 100) that the taking down of steeple crosses may be an identifying feature of 1640s iconoclasm in England. On the continent, this happened much earlier. Here are two continental pictures from the 1520s showing crosses being taken down (click on the thumbnail images.

The first picture is of 1522, published in Strasbourgh. In the lower half, reliquaries are being removed. Above, the cross is being knocked off the church. (Thomas Murner, Von dem grossen lutherischen Narren, Strasbourg, 1522, fol. L2v). The second picture is of 1525-7. (Eyn Warhafftig erschrocklich Histori von der Bewrischen uffrur so sich durch Martin Luthers leer inn Teutscher nation ....; Nuremberg, v. Scheurl-Bibliothek, pamphlet no. 160c.)


Snailwell (Journal entry 205)

At Snailwell (Jnl entry 205, page 282) the remains of what may be Dowsing's 'cross on the steeple' are embedded inside the church, above an arcade.

Ship money reference

Although making much use of the Suffolk Ship Money tax ratings as evidence of social status, I somehow neglected to put the reference in the book. It is The Ship-Money Returns for the County of Suffolk, 1639-40 from Harl MS 7540-42, transcribed and edited by V.B. Redstone, Ipswich for SIA, 1904.

Damaged inscription on a Norfolk eagle

The "orate pro anima" on the 15th century brass eagle at Oxborough (Norfolk) has been scratched out. See page 103-5 for a discussion of this type of damage to monumental brasses. At Christ's College, Cambridge (pages 188-9) Dowsing mentions an inscription on an eagle. Oxborough is within the area of south Norfolk covered iconoclastically by Captain Gilley (see map 8.2). (Thanks to Dr Digi for this information.)

South Norfolk different from north

In pages 117 and 408 we argue that whereas north Norfolk was 'visited' by one or more agents of iconoclasm (notably Captain Gilley) north Norfolk probably wasn't. Further support for a difference between the south and north of the county comes from an analysis of the ejections of ministers from their churches carried out by the Earl of Manchester in 1644.  Of 23 cases, all but two are within south Norfolk (more precisely, within the arc of territory covered by Captain Gilley, as shown in map 8.2). Of the remaining two cases, one is near King's Lynn, so only just outside the arc, and the other was a minister who had already attracted the attention of the House of Commons. (Source: A. G. Matthews, Walker Revised. Thanks to Matthew Reynolds for suggesting that this should be looked at.) Further note: it now seems possible that these results are due to a biassed survival of evidence, and should not perhaps be taken at face value.

Comments added during 2001

St Mary le Tower, Ipswich

A recent discovery suggests that at St Mary le Tower, Ipswich, the glass had been taken down some time before Dowsing's arrival, explaining why he mentions no pictures in his account (page 230).

Although the churchwardens’ accounts are defective for the period 1641-46 and then until 1652, there is another churchwardens' book  with elections of parish officers and miscellaneous things, including the following:

November 5th 1643

At A meetynge of the Parishioners of the parish of St Mary le Tower it is agreede by us whose hands are here under subscribed to pay soe much for and towards the mendynge of the Glasse windowes & other Reparations of our Church as is necisarii & every man doe promise to pay into the hands of the churchwardens so much in monnies as mounted equal to halfe a yeeres wages for the minister ... this former Rate of Fourty pounds p. annum

(Suffolk Record Office FB91/E1/1)5

Fabricator of forged Cromwell letters

In Appendix 15, we speculate that Caddy Thomas was the fabricator of a set of forged Cromwell letters, commenting that Walter Rye, the man who unmasked the deception, does not name the person whom he suspected of carrying out the deed. In fact, however, Rye does name his suspect in a later work, and it was not Caddy Thomas, but one Henry Harrod (1817-71).

Walter Rye, Songs, Stories and Sayings of Norfolk (1897), page 91. (Thanks to John Creasey for this reference.)

More about Boldero

At Pembroke, Dowsing argued with several fellows (see page 161). One of them was Edward Boldero. It seems that Dowsing may have known of him already. Boldero held a curacy in Ipswich, and in 1638 a major row erupted with one of his parishioners, Edward Bedwell, when Boldero refused him communion because he was kneeling in a pew near the communion table rather than at the rail.

J. Blatchly, The Topographers of Suffolk, (Suffolk County Council, 1988) page 27

More, March 2002: Boldero came from Bury St Edmunds, and received his education at Ipswich School. (DNB entry.)

More evidence for lack of crucifixes on tables

Footnote 104 on page 269 argues at some length that crucifixes were not found on communion tables at our period. An additional piece of evidence is the complete silence on the topic of the report on 'innovations' of the Committee of Divines in 1641.They did complain of 'advancing crucifixes and images upon the parafront, or altar-cloth, so called' but made no mention of crucifixes or crosses actually on the table.

Edward Cardwell, A History of Conferences, (1841), 272. 

The screen at Woodbridge

Further information on the screen at Woodbridge.

Correction about Hacheston church

A correction about the commentary on Hacheston church.

Plastering of fonts

Was the plastering of fonts common in the mid-1500s. Click on plastered fonts to find out more.

Survival of tracery lights

An interesting suggestion as to why the tracery-lights of windows should often be the place where medieval glass has survived. Click on tracery glass to find out more.





Corrections and new information

William Cosin. Click to see larger image.
Steeple cross being pulled down. Click to see larger image.
Steeple cross being pulled down. Click to see larger image.
Edgefield screen. Click to see larger image.
Peterhouse east window. Click to see larger image.