The Medieval Records of A London City Church St Mary At Hill, 1420-1559. Originally published by Trübner, London, 1905.
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CHAPTER V. THE PRE-REFORMATION FURNITURE OF THE CHURCH. (fn. 1)
The following pages do not profess to give every reference in the Records to the articles of furniture in St. Mary's church. Where several references occur only those have been mentioned where the use or description of the article is more or less clearly specified.
Altar hangings.—The various 'haninges' mentioned in the Inventory on pp. 52–3 probably refer to the curtains at the sides of each altar, the curtain hanging above each altar at its back, and that hanging immediately in front of each altar. The curtains of the high altar are mentioned on p. 234. An altar frontal of St. Stephen's chapel was ornamented 'withe the wavys of gold,' p. 316.
The use of these basins is perhaps explained by the following
extract from a Will of 1456:—
"I begueth ij basins with ij Eures, of Syluer and parcel gilt . . . . not only for to serue vpon the high autier of the same chirch in high principal festis and other festiual daies, But also to wassh in the handes of godfadres and godmoders at cristenying of childern within the same chirch."—Somerset House Wills, Stokton, 60 b.
Bedstead.—The bedstead was apparently for use somewhere in
the church, and probably for the Morrowmas priest, whose duty it
would be to say the first mass:—
"[a] Bedsted for the preistes chamber þat kepith þe first mas," p. 340.
The Bells.—There were six large bells in the church. In the
Inventory of 1553, p. 54, we read—
"in the steple v gret belles & one Santes bell," and almost the same words occur in the Inventory of 1496–7, p. 33, where, however, it is added that—
"the iiijth great bell' was clere of þe gyfte of Ioh'n Duklyng, ffysshmonger, as is graved vppon þe bell."
At p. 273 is the record of a payment 'to the skryvener for makyng of þe Indentures betwixt William Smyth, bell founder, and the parissh.' Only the year previously William Smyth had been arrested and the bells had been the subject of a law-suit, p. 270.
At the 'halowyng' of the bells in 1520–1 'two burdens of rushes' were strewn beneath them, possibly for those present to stand on, p. 310. But Canon Wordsworth writes:— "Is it not more probable that they were strewn under the bell to receive the washings of holy water, oil and salt with which the bell was smeared all over?" Cp. Maskell Mon. Rit., i. 186.
In 1511–12 long boards were purchased to keep the bell ropes from fraying against the walls of the steeple, p. 277. At p. 274 we find many details respecting the bells. On pages 273, 274, we read, too, of money being paid a man for his 'labur & his brekefast,' in going from Ludgate to Aldgate 'to here þe iiijth bell in Tewne,' and of expenses for wine and pears at Aldgate when several parishioners went to see if 'Smythes bell were Tewneabill or nat.'
|Breviary (portos)||" 173.|
|Epistle book||" 27.|
|Gospel book||" 54.|
|Mass books||" 27.|
|Sequence book||" 314.|
The church books were sometimes written in full by a priest, p. 133; sometimes bought of a stationer, p. 101; sometimes words and music added, and the book mended and rebound by a clerk of a neighbouring parish, p. 131. In 1496 a stationer set the new feasts in the books and repaired them generally, p. 226. Sometimes one of the chantry priests repaired the books, p. 173; and sometimes the repairs were executed by layfolk, p. 140; 'mowth glewe' appears to have been used sometimes for the repairs, 350; some of the books had clasps, p. 131; the mass book had two, p. 140. The 'organ books,' p. 226, may have been special volumes containing the music only of the services, but were more likely to have been copies of ordinary service books: we know that the neighbouring church of St. Margaret's in Fish street possessed a breviary for the organ. The 'Caroll books,' p. 54, would probably be books of Carols for Christmas time? The 'Song books,' p. 54, from the fact that some of them are specified to have been used in the mass, were probably parts of ordinary service books specially arranged for singing.
The 'boke of playnsong of the offices off Ihesus Mas and our ladys Massis for the children,' p. 349, would be only a selection from the common service books. Several books were chained in the chancel, p. 234.
In 1504–5 the wardens—
"payde to þe boke bynder at ledon halle, for coveryng, byndyng & pesyng of iiij Antyfyners, a Masse boke, a manewell, a legentt in ij foloms & iij graylys xlvj s viij d," p. 256.
The following reference at p. 378 is interesting, though what the
contents of the 'square bookes' may have been it is not easy to
"Paid to sir marke for carolles for cristmas and for v square bookes—iij s iiij d."
The books were sometimes mended by the parish clerk. Michael
Green was parish clerk in 1529–30:—
"paid to Mighell grene for a quayre of papur Ryall for þe prykked song boke and for mowth gleue," p. 350.
"paid to Mighell Grene for Mendyng of þe Antefoners that lye in the quere that [were] torn and broken," p. 350.
Branches.—Branches, apparently of iron or brass-work, were to be found in different parts of the church:—'the braunche of þe Trynite' is mentioned at p. 305; the branch of three flowers at p. 305; 'þe branche byfore þe rode,' p. 255; the branch before a figure of the Virgin in the choir, p. 264; that before the representation of the Salutation in St. Katherine's chapel, p. 264; a 'braunche of v,' p. 225.
Candelsticks: the Judas.—The explanation of the 'Iudas' is very
clearly given in the accounts:—
"the Ivdas of the Pascall [candle] þat is to sey, the Tymbre that the wax of þe pascall is drevyn vppon," p. 308.
But several 'Iudassis' are mentioned as in the rood loft on p. 309 Canon Wordsworth considers Judas to have been a generic term for holders or savealls. See Wordsworth's Medieval Services, pp. 168–72.
Before the Reformation there were but few candlesticks on the
altars. An Inventory tells us that in 1496 there were—
"on the high auter ij gret Candylstykes & iij small. And on sent Stephyns awter ij Candylstykes," p. 32.
Secondly, would be the more elaborate and ample canopy, supported on staves which would be used in bearing the Sacrament in procession. 'A canapye to bear ouer the Sacrament on corpus christi daye,' p. 150.
Thirdly, it is possible that a substantial projection extended
above the Sacrament from the east wall of the church; the following
note from p. 226 appears to refer to such:—
"the Iryn at the hye awter that beryth the canapye."
Canopy Crowns.—Crowns, apparently of latten, or mixture
largely of brass, were scoured in 1490–1, p. 163. The Inventory
on p. 31 refers to—
"a Canape for the pyx, of red velwett with iij Crownys of laton."
Cloths, Altar.—Pages 32 and 35 contain a long list of the altar cloths of St. Mary's. One appears to have been pictorial, several bore the initials of the donor. At p. 272 we see that money was paid for 'markyng' as well as 'makyng' altar cloths, the marking probably consisting of the initials of a donor or some form of decoration.
Cloth for the Holy Bread.—The holy bread was bread distributed in the church, but not that of the Communion. On p. 35 the holy bread cloth is described as having a fringe and marked with 'k' and 'v' in red silk. The letters were probably the initials of the donor.
Cloths, Housling.—With the exception of a reference to "ij sacrament clothes," on p. 369, the housling cloths are not directly mentioned
in our Records, but the long 'towelles' noted in the Inventory on
p. 33 were probably used as housling cloths, or long cloths suspended
before the communicants during the reception of the communion.
The following extract perhaps proves such:—
"I bequeth to the said chirch of seint Dunstone a dyapre towell of xv yardis in lenght to serue ther at the housling tyme of the parisshoners there."—Somerset House Wills, Milles, 265 a.
Cloths for Cross Staves.—In the Inventory of 1496–7 we meet
with the item—
"iij crosse stavys clothes, gyldyd, with Images of golde," p. 31. Possibly these cloths depended from transverse staves hanging from the tops of poles. We read of 'baner clothes of steyned werke,' p. 150.
Cloth for the Pyx.—The pyx cloth was that of the pyx or box containing the holy sacrament. The pyx commonly hung suspended above the high altar: 'the pix cloth ouer the alter,' p. 331. Two of great beauty are described in the Inventory at p. 31.
'Clothes of the Tower.'—Such cloths are mentioned at p. 381, and appear to have been in use on Palm Sunday. The context seems to indicate that these cloths formed some part of the scenery in connexion with the stage for the Prophets, but the matter is far from clear.
Crismatories.—A silver crismatory weighing fifteen ounces is mentioned in the Inventory on p. 51. In 1535–6, p. 369, xij d was "paid ffor burnysshyng of the Crysmatory." This little vessel contained the holy oils.
Easter Sepulchre.—As has been noticed elsewhere the Easter sepulchre was a wooden box to contain the holy Sacrament at Easter. The nails for it, and the payment to a carpenter to set it up are mentioned on p. 281. At p. 301, 'iiij Angelles,' belonging either to the box or its resting-place, are mentioned.
Figures and Images.—There were various figures in the church of St. Mary. One, of 'Our Lady of Pity,' namely, a figure of the Virgin with the dead Christ on her lap, is mentioned at p. 226. Other images were set up near the choir door, p. 359. Another figure of the Virgin stood in the choir, before which tapers were sometimes kept burning, p. 233. Somewhere on the south side of the church were the figures of St. Thomas Becket and St. Nicholas, p. 6.
Glass, painted.—Of the painted glass windows of the church the subjects of only three can be indicated, namely, that of St. John on the north side of the church, p. 313; that of the Seven Works of Mercy, p. 19; and that of the Trinity, p. 252. Both of the latter windows were in the south aisle. In 1525–6 the Trinity window was mended, p. 332.
Some, if not all, of the pieces of glass of the Trinity window were
of the well-known lozenge or diamond shape, for on p. 313 we have
the entry of money paid:—
"for settyng in of xxiij newe quarrelles in the wyndowe of the Trynyte, whiche was blown downe with the wynde."
Gloves.—The two following extracts are not only unusual, but in
conflict to some extent with each other. In the first it will be noticed
that the gloves were purchased for a churchwarden and parish
"paid for Glouys at Estur for the chirchwarden and þe clerk, vj d," p. 326.
But at the rendering of the accounts for the year the following
Memorandum was inserted:—
"Item, more, for that was paid at Estur for ij peyre of gloves for the chirchewardens, the Summa of vj d which shal not be for no presedent hereafter, vj d," p. 330.
Holy-water stoups.—The vessels containing holy water were
apparently of two kinds—stone and metal: that of stone, probably
situated at an entrance to the church, is referred to on p. 69:—
"Also payd to Appulby for heweng of þe haly water stop, iij s."
Lamp and its glasses.—Two "lampe glassis ffor the church," p. 340: 'a lampe with oyle in the quere & high Chauncell . . . to brenne alwey, as wele on Dayes as on nyghtes, before the blessed Sacrament,' p. 17.
Our Records contain no mention of a bier, neither, apparently, do any of the MSS. of other city churches contain any mention of a preReformation bier. And this is remarkable when we bear in mind the fact that in the Middle Ages the bier was a very important article of church furniture, when, as was commonly the case, the body was merely enshrouded and thus borne to the grave without a coffin.
Mats.—Mats were in use in different parts of the church. One
was in the confession pew, p. 198. On p. 81 we read of the expenditure of fourpence—
"for iij mattis of wikirs, boght for prestis and clerkis."
Monstrance.—The Monstrance or little metal altar cross, in the
centre of which the Host was placed for demonstration to the
congregation, is occasionally referred to in our accounts. For instance
on p. 233:—
"Item, for mendyng of the monstyr for the Sacrament, xvj d."
Oil pots.—On p. 101 mention is made of "a stone potte to put in oyle," and at p. 358, "ij pottes to fett oyle in, j d." Probably, Canon Wordsworth thinks, from the Maundy Thursday blessing of oils by the bishop.
The Organs.—There were apparently two organs in St. Mary's, though the term 'pair of organs' is the common medieval designation of one instrument. In our Inventory of 1553 one organ is mentioned as being larger than the other, p. 54; and on p. 278 we meet with a reference to 'the little organs in the choir.' In 1532–3 the organ was tuned, xij d being paid for 'tuenyng of ye pipis,' p. 361. On p. 373 the purchase of 'ij quylles ffor the organs' is recorded.
Patens.—Patens are mentioned on p. 53. The paten was a little circular dish or plate for the priest's bread used in the communion. Canon Wordsworth adds—"The Pyx or ciborium or a chalice was used for taking the hosts to the communicants."
The Pews.—It was customary for many years before the Reformation for parishioners to have pews allocated to them, though apparently nothing was then paid for the privilege. Mrs. Maskall and Mrs. Overay sat in a particular pew in 1496, p. 225; another lady, 'Mastres Atclyffe,' in another pew, p. 198; and later on the pews used by various people are more or less frequently alluded to:—The alderman's pew, p. 255; Mrs. Russell's maid's pew, p. 328; Mrs. Roche's maiden's pew, Mr. Roche's pew, etc., p. 323; Mrs. Potter's pew, p. 365. There were special pews for the poor people, p. 215, pews for men, p. 251, and for women, p. 252. One pew, containing a mat, was used for confessions, 'shrevyng,' p. 198; one was known as the 'great pew,' p. 252.
The pews were in various parts of the church,—at the west end, p. 264, next the pulpit, p. 266, in the south aisle, p. 252, in the body of the church, p. 219, at the north door, p. 215, and also in the chapels, pp. 252, 255. They had doors, p. 173, and perhaps were not unlike those of fifty years ago. They were in no sense mere benches, for the distinction between pews and benches is drawn clearly on p. 215. The pews had a wooden flooring, p. 252, and sometimes an elm board on which to kneel, p. 225. Rushes were strewn on the floors of the pews, p. 254.
Poles.—Iron poles for the lantern are mentioned at p. 290, and
a pole belonging to the cloth of a figure of the Assumption is
alluded to at p. 266. The 'poles for the Sacrament,' mentioned on
p. 347, were probably two of the four sustaining the canopy borne over
the Sacrament. The following reference is not particularly clear;
possibly the pole had a broom at the end of it:—
"a poole to swepe the chirch' Roffe, price iiij d," p. 148.
The Pulpit.—In 1503–4 a new pulpit was made. The complete account of its cost will be found at p. 251. The pulpit was of wood, was fixed to one of the pillars of the church, and was approached by a ladder, p. 277.
Rood.—The great Rood, or Crucifix with its attendant figures of Mary and John, will be found fully described in our text at pp. 224, 228. It appears to have been erected 1496–8, the old Rood being sold 1509–10, p. 271.
Settles.—There were several settles in the church, and they seem to have been very similar to the ordinary settle of to-day, with the lower part made to form a box or chest. On p. 53 we find that there were two in the choir, each with a locker, another before the choir, and two long ones in the southern part of the church, 'in the which we were wont to pvt our torchis,' that is, the torches were kept in the box under the seat.
Ships.—The ship was a little vessel which contained the incense from which the censer was filled. On p. 197 the pretty term 'saylyng pece' is used. Two silver ships are mentioned on p. 26. The term 'sauce boat' is in common use to-day.
Shovel.—Shovels of apparently three different kinds are mentioned in our accounts: a 'shode shovyll,' p. 243, for the church; a fire shovel for the vestry, p. 332; 'colys to brenne in the vestrye,' p. 225; and a paring shovel, p. 255, which, according to the Dictionary, was used in the churchyard.
Stalls in choir.—The stalls in the choir of St. Mary's were
probably somewhat more elaborate than ordinary seats. They were
newly built or repaired in 1427–8, in which year the accounts record
the expenditure of £12—
"for stalles in þe quere," p. 69.
Streamers.—In the Inventory on p. 31 "viij smale stremers"
are mentioned. They apparently belonged to a canopy borne over
the Sacrament in procession, for in the Inventory of 1553 mention
is made of—
"a canipi cloth of Red bodkin with viij stremars," p. 51.
Torches.—Torches are often mentioned. They appear to have been employed on special occasions, and were apparently kept in stock by the wardens and let out to burn at funerals, the hire being so much. See page 366, etc.
Copes.—Copes of various designs are described at p. 31; also six for children. On p. 51 eight children's copes are mentioned. Some of the copes, probably all connected with the Cambridge Chantry, were ornamented with the armorial bearings of William Cambridge, p. 256.
Mitre.—The mitre referred to at pp. 27, 31 was probably that
worn by a chorister on St. Nicholas's Day, at which time it
was customary in most churches for a child to be arrayed in
diminutive episcopal vestments:—
"a Myter for a bysshop at seint Nicholas tyde," p. 31.
Rochets.—Seven rochets for children are mentioned in the Inventory at p. 33; and nearly the same number on p. 238:—
"Item, to Margeret Sotton ffor the makyng off vj Rochettes ffor Chelderne to were in the quyre, xij d."
The surplice was similar to the ample garment in use in the English Church to-day, and was worn by the parson, p. 282; the parish priest, p. 266; the clerk, p. 173; the Sexton, p. 260; and the choirmen and boys, p. 321. The boy choristers, as has been noted, wore rochets in the choir, p. 238; and albs, 244.