Last week I posted about my discovery of a beautiful example of Tudor woodwork, the Parham fire surround. I found the detailed carving inspirational and have developed a motif from one of the pheasants lurking in the carved vegetation.
Here is more of the process shown in a few photos as the design is first outlined and then painted with dye, pink, old gold and moss green, on a handkerchief-sized piece of silk.
I was not convinced about the old gold so it was dropped when I expanded and transferred the design to a larger, 90 x 90 cm square silk twill scarf.
As I recently mentioned June is the month of roses and I do love a classic pink rose – I think that’s why I have been working with pink all this month.
And, the pieces are now ready to be rolled in paper and steamed for a couple of hours to fix the dyes.
Always on the lookout for captivating visual imagery with which to work, a trip to an exhibition often yields a good collection of useful photographs. Mind you it is surprising how often I go thinking I know what I need to photograph and find something else entirely different awash with fascinating and inspirational details just waiting to be worked up into designs for my scarves.
This was certainly the case when I saw the Parham Fire Surround. It is an impressive piece of Tudor woodwork intricately carved with monkeys, birds, foliage and fruit.
This beautiful yet functional example of early sixteenth-century carpentry was on display as part of the Thomas Wolsey Exhibition held at Christchurch Mansion earlier this year. The fire surround came from a superior house in Parham near Woodbridge in Suffolk and would have been installed in one of the principal rooms. The elegant detailed carving indicates the status, wealth and taste of the homeowner.
It also features the specific detail of pomegranates, a visual reference to Henry VIII’s first wife, Katherine of Aragon. The exotic quality of the pomegranate motif signifying Katherine’s Spanish origin as well as being a symbol of fertility. By the time of the Tudor period the pomegranate, with its many seeds, already had a long history associated with fecundity. It is poignant that this particular symbol should be associated with a queen whose paucity of viable offspring became her downfall when she failed to provide a male heir for Henry and the English throne.
However, the detail that especially caught my attention was the berry eating pheasants. Pheasants were most likely brought to England by the Romans, but it isn’t until the eleventh century that there is mention of pheasants in the historical record. They were a bird for the nobleman’s table and as the Normans spread their power and influence across England so pheasants became part of the English countryside.
By the fourteenth and fifteenth century they were a common sight and are mentioned as part of ecclesiastical celebration feasts too. At the time the Parham pheasants were carved the records indicate that Henry VIII appeared to have kept a French priest as a “fesaunt breeder”.
Nowadays driving round the lanes of Suffolk it is not a rarity to have to take action to avoid a cock pheasant confidently strolling across the road.
Enough of Suffolk lanes and wildlife and back to the silk which I trialled on a small square of silk, before translating the whole design to a 90 x 90 cm silk twill . . . to be continued in Part II.
Oxburgh Hall is a moated manor house in the depths of rural Norfolk. It has been ‘owned’ by the National Trust since it was donated by the Bedingfeld family in 1952. The donation of this interesting building to the National Trust has allowed it to be saved and maintained for the nation. In that quaint, slightly snobbish English way, the terms of the donation also allows for two generations of the Bedingfeld family to reside in half of the property. Apparently, maintaining the continuity of the family’s presence is . . . . . no, not sure what it is, but that’s the deal.
The well-maintained manor house we see today is mostly a Victorian interpretation of medieval Gothic. The only substantially originally medieval part is the magnificent gatehouse that comprises both the King’s Room and the Queen’s Room, and a noteworthy Priest’s Hole.
Detail of late-15th century gatehouse at Oxburgh Hall
Superb late medieval/Tudor brickwork. Oxburgh Hall gatehouse
Imposing brick gatehouse at Oxburgh Hall.
In 1482, with royal permission for crenellations (originally a licence to construct a fortified property), Sir Edmund Bedingfeld oversaw the building of a brick manor house including a crenellated gatehouse. This combination of gatehouse and moat gives Oxburgh Hall an overall impression of a fortified building, but during the late-fifteenth century moats and gatehouses were more about the conspicuous display of wealth and status than defending the family against bombardments.
As with any site that has been occupied by a substantial building for over 500 years there have been many changes, additions and improvements as different architectural ideas, together with the family’s fortunes, waxed and waned over the centuries. As was traditionally the custom for any notable medieval house, Oxburgh Hall once had a Great Hall, but, unfortunately that was pulled down by the 4th Baronet, Sir Richard Bedingfeld, in 1775.
It is difficult to make more than a cursory summary of the broader, social circumstances of the many different lives lived over the centuries at Oxburgh Hall without making a detailed, in depth study of the historical record. As usual we only get the faintest hint of the many hands that built, maintained, worked and served at Oxburgh Hall. Of the Bedingfeld family we learn more. They remained a Catholic family after the English Reformation and as such fell from royal favour, but 100 years later found themselves back enjoying comfortable times with the Restoration and the arrival of King Charles II to the English throne.
Oxburgh Hall south-east tower remodelled Victorian Gothic.
Remodelled in 1860 family accommodation at Oxburgh Hall.
A private bay within a National Trust manor house. Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk
Oddly, the National Trust’s guide to Oxburgh Hall has a somewhat one-sided, almost hagiographic approach when discussing the role of the family as though by simply being born a Bedingfeld one had achieved something of note. Their medieval beginnings featuring the acquisition of land and status is a familiar story of fighting, scheming and beneficial marriage alliances. And, apart from being Royalists during the Civil War, the Bedingfeld’s main claim to fame is that they have remained resolutely Roman Catholic. From the heritage point of view, rather disappointingly, we don’t find any of them were renowned patrons of the arts or great collectors or even sponsors of some of Norfolk’s distinguished artists such as John Crome or John Sell Cotman.
Furthermore the only truly exceptional art works of national interest at Oxburgh Hall – the Oxburgh Hangings – were brought to the hall by Mary Browne of Cowdray Park on her marriage to Sir Richard Bedingfeld in 1761. These captivating Elizabethan needlework pieces consist of many embroidered panels sewn by Mary, Queen of Scots and Bess of Hardwick (full post on the Oxburgh Hangings).
Detail of Tudor-style chimneys
Romantic moat? Also used to receive foul water from the latrines!
However, if you are interested in experiencing the cool, lofty space of The King’s Room within the gatehouse, or undergoing confinement in a priest’s hole, or simply the pleasure of wandering through a ‘time capsule’ Victorian library, then Oxburgh Hall is worth a visit.
Earlier this year I visited Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, where some of my work had been displayed as part of an exhibition at Smiths Row. Whilst there I took the opportunity to photograph some of the outstanding stained glass that fills the windows of St Edmundsbury Cathedral. It was the Tudor bows detail decorating part of the ‘Susannah and the Elders’ window that caught my eye.
Tudor bows – a blue version, Hetty blue.
Hetty blue hand painted silk twill scarf.
Close up of Hetty blue.
A green and pink version.
And, the double steamed blue and peach – which I think in the end has turned out the best.
Recently I’ve been working on a slightly different way of painting silk. Taking a leaf out of my approach to gardening which categorically states ‘patience is a virtue’ I have applied this to my silk work.
This means doubling the time and work. Each design is drawn out, painted with mostly paler colours and then steamed. With the first layer fixed another design and more colour is applied over the first and then steamed again. The finished pieces have a deeper more complex and subtle appearance and look as if they have been made of layers.
The initial design is based on my Tudor bows series and then I’ve added some favourite motifs from my Ranworth scarves.
Stained glass is more than just beautiful jewel-like windows flooding interiors with shimmering dappled patches of colour. Many stained glass windows particularly those found in churches are a combination of pieces of coloured glass cut and leaded together to form an image, and parts of the window lights where sections of the glass have been painted. In addition to painting people and animals often vegetal motifs and ornate architectural designs were painted into the backgrounds and borders of the main images.
Part of the ‘Susannah and the Elders’ window, St Edmundsbury Cathedral, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.
Part of the ‘Susannah and the Elders’ window showing painted architectural detail.
I noticed an interesting bow motif used by the makers of ‘The Susannah and the Elders’ window in St Edmundsbury Cathedral in Bury St Edmunds. The artisans who painted this window lived during the first half of the sixteenth century and were either Flemish or French.
Portrait of a Man by the Flemish artist Quintin Massys. 1520
In one of the lights you can see the style of dress worn by the Elders and it is typical of the first half of the sixteenth century as compared with oil paintings such as the 1520 painting ‘Portrait of a Man’ by the Flemish artist Quintin Massys. These images immediately made me think of Thomas Cromwell in his legal guise flexing his power and working his charm round Henry VIII’s court. Although, I can’t imagine he wore any flamboyant bows himself!
Bow detail part of the ‘Susannah and the Elders’ window, St Edmundsbury Cathedral
Currently, I’m working the ‘Tudor bow’ motif with a blue palette.
As Hilary Mantel’s historical fiction novels ‘Wolf Hall’ and ‘Bring up the Bodies’ receive the much lauded BBC period drama conversion to a television series, a new portrayal of Thomas Howard, the third Duke of Norfolk (1473-1554) will appear on our screens. This time the Duke is played by Bernard Hill and as in Mantel’s books he is loud, angry and ferociously ambitious. During the reign of King Henry VIII, the Duke of Norfolk was one of England’s most powerful nobles whose first wife, Anne, was sister to Henry’s mother, Elizabeth of York.
Heraldic shields held by lions at each corner of the chest-tomb of the third Duke of Norfolk.
Tudor chimney at Framlingham Castle. One of the residences of Thomas Howard, third Duke of Norfolk.
Despite the Duke of Norfolk being one of the most prominent courtiers, he remained a Catholic throughout the violence and upheavals of the Reformation during the latter part of Henry’s reign and the reign of Henry’s son, Edward VI. However, towards the end of the Henry’s reign both Norfolk and his son, Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey, ended up in the Tower of London. The pair had been found guilty of treason and in January 1547 Henry Howard was beheaded at the Tower. His father’s execution date was set for 29 January 1547 but King Henry died the day before. Following the death of Henry VIII the old Duke of Norfolk was not executed, but instead spent the next six years in the Tower. As a Catholic he was finally released on the accession to the throne of Queen Mary. He died a year later aged 80 years old at his Kenninghall residence, but before his death he had commissioned England’s finest early Renaissance tomb.
The chest-tomb is exquisitely carved from alabaster depicting the twelve Apostles plus St Paul and Aaron carved round the four sides with effigies of the Duke and his first wife, Anne, lying along the top.
The representation of the twelve Apostles was a traditional Catholic theme that was found in churches across the country often painted on the rood screen. However, the interpretation of this popular medieval choice is created here in an early Renaissance European idiom, possibly carved sometime in the mid-sixteenth century. The sculptor is unnamed, but the work is regarded as Italianate in style, but also displaying French influences.
The individual saints stand in shell-headed narrow niches, four along the north and south sides, and three at the east and west ends of the tomb. The design of the tomb suggests it was intended to be viewed from all four sides, but this is no longer possible.
The tomb is just to the south of the high altar under the East Window.
Detail of the tomb which can be seen close to the east wall.
Instead, the tomb-chest is positioned up close to the east wall of the chancel. The Duke of Norfolk had been overseeing the partial rebuilding of St Michael’s Church when he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. The rebuilt and enlarged chancel was to provide space to accommodate the tombs that were removed from Thetford Priory with the dissolution of the monasteries. Of course, this tomb may originally have been destined for Thetford Priory where traditionally the Norfolks had been interred.
According to a visiting Venetian ambassador, the Duke of Norfolk was described as ‘small and spare in person’ and here he is displayed as stern, thin and angular. The effigy wears full armour, it has a long, pointed beard and around the collar the inscription reads ‘Gracia Dei sum quod sum’ – ‘By the Grace of God I am what I am’.
Mary Tudor was the fifth child of seven born to King Henry VII and his wife Elizabeth of York. Mary Tudor’s first marriage was to King Louis XII of France and she was his third wife.
Mottled and faded print of a copy of an oil painted for King Louis XII. Attributed to Jean Perréal c. 1514
Print of a Victorian copy of an oil of the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk. Original oil possibly by Jan Gossaert c. 1516
These two pictures were displayed near Mary’s tomb. The image on the left is Mary Tudor (c.1514) painted for Louis XII. The original is attributed to Jean Perréal of Paris, Royal Painter at the French Court. The portrait was painted before Mary left England for France. The image on the right is a copy from a portrait of Mary (c.1516) painted with her husband the Duke of Suffolk. The original oil is attributed to Jan Gossaert.
The marriage to the King of France only lasted two years and upon the death of Louis, Mary scandalously married Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk, in a secret ceremony in Paris.
The Duke and Duchess of Suffolk. Attributed to Jan Gossaert. c. 1516 The Woburn version.
The Duke and Duchess of Suffolk. Attributed to Jan Gossaert. c. 1516 The Lincolnshire version.
It was a secret wedding as the couple had not gained approval from the English King Henry VIII, her brother. For a royal sister to marry without permission was considered treason and both Mary and Charles could have been executed. Fortunately, following a defence of their marriage by senior advisers such as Cardinal Wolsey, the King decided to level a large fine instead. The Duke and Duchess were then formally married in public at Greenwich Hall in London.
Mary Tudor may have been a King’s sister and a King’s wife, but as the Duchess of Suffolk she was buried in the Abbey at Bury St Edmund’s in Suffolk. It is possible she had a stone tomb within the Abbey in the Tudor style, but following the Dissolution of the Monasteries the Abbey was spoiled and she was reburied in St Mary’s Parish Church. A space next to the altar, as her royal rank dictates, is marked as her resting place, but without a formal funereal structure.
These plaques hang above the area of Mary’s tomb.
Sacred to the Memory of Mary Tudor, Third Daugther of Henry the 7th King of England, and Queen of France; Who was first married in 1514 to Lewis the 12th King of France, and afterwards in 1517, to Charles Brandon Duke of Suffolk. She died in His Life Time in 1533, at the Manor of Westhorp in this County and was interred in the same Year in the Monastery of St Edmund’s Bury, and was removed into this Church, after the Dissolution of the Abbey.
Interestingly, the aristocratic, but not royal Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, is buried in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.