Monday, 18 November 2013

Two rare undocumented mediaeval finds in Suffolk

crucifix side of C15 cross head
Heads are generally missing from mediaeval churchyard crosses, as they were all smashed during the Reformation. Occasionally they have been found later, used as rubble or hidden under floors, but they remain rare indeed. Hence I was fairly gobsmacked to almost literally trip over this in the dark the other night. Probably C15th, made of a grey shelly stone, perhaps a coralline crag, a local stone here in Suffolk.
 lamb of god on C15 cross head

 side of C15 cross head

With Christ on a cross on one side, and the lamb of god on the other, short stub cross arms are carved on the ends with crosses, with feathery foliage up the sides.

I know of only one other such cross head in the area, a very worn one at Woolpit, making this a very uncommon object for East Anglia indeed.

The second object is a heater shaped shield, with fine trefoil decoration along both curved sides and along the top. It is carved from a shelly grey limestone.
 C13 shield
 Obviously C13th, where this would have been originally is a mystery. Shields of a similar size are found along the sides of later chest tombs, but they do not require carving underneath the sides, and if this was from a spandrel on high, it would not need carving on top.Too few tombs of the date remain to truly compare this, making it an object of equal interest. Perhaps if someone can put a name to the family whose arms are shown, there would be a possibility of tracing its original home and usage.
 edge of C13 shield showing trefoil detail

 trefoils decorate all sides of the C13 shield

(edit: Whilst not an exact match, the arms may be those of Mortimer ancient, difficult to portray without tinctures as having ten counter-coloured fleurs-de-lys with the bars passing through them. This branch of the family were based in Attleborough, where the chancel of the church that they pretty much built was demolished for the lead after the Reformation, illegally really, as it was not part and parcel of their nearby college. the stone - which would have included any tombs - went to build the road to New Buckenham, from where this may have come.)
The other two carvings are just bits of mediaeval fun, one the top of a gargoyle made of surprisingly of clunch, the other an oolitic limestone beast on the corner of two lengths of coved stone. Both are probably C15th, though owe a lot to earlier styles of carved beast. Neither has a lengthy provenance, but both come from  East Anglia.
C15 gargoyle

C15 corner beastie

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