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Plates XIII-XIV: Three views of the Gate of St. Bennet’s Abbey in Norfolk, in two plates
Scholarly Commentary [Beginning of path]
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0
Transcriptions“The North West View of the ABBY GATEHOUSE of St. BENNETS in the Holme Norff.”
“Another View of the Gatehouse”
“The East side of the ABBEY GATE of St Bennets in Norfolk. Sumptibus Societatis Antiquariae”
The Monastic Gatehouse at St Benet’s Holme
Salhouse, Norwich, NorfolkRobert Collet’s [sic] monument” (SAL Minutes I.128). The original drawings from the North West view (now Norwich, Norfolk Record Office, MS Rye 17:6, p. 1) is signed by John Kirkpatrick, which provides authorship for the original drawing but not the engraving (Luxford 2014, pl. 5). Kirkpatrick’s drawing is not dated, but is likely to date to 1722 or 1723. It is possible that Kirkpatrick was hired to make the drawings in anticipation of the destruction of much of the gatehouse when a brick windmill tower was built on the site shortly thereafter.
The three views of the great monastic gatehouse of St Benet’s Holm provide important visual evidence of what was one of the most significant fourteenth-century gatehouses built in Britain. Although not securely dated, its construction is surely related to a license to crenellate granted by Edward III on 23 October 1327. It is one of a sequence of monumental Decorated gatehouses either added to or rebuilt for English monasteries during the early fourteenth century, such as Peterborough (1302-7); St Augustine’s, Canterbury (crenellated 1308); Kirkham Priory, Yorkshire (1300-15); the Ethelbert Gate at Norwich (1317-17); Butley Priory, Suffolk (c. 1320-30); and others. Like the gate at St Augustine’s, upon which the Holme gate is partially based, it was a rich, two-towered façade with octagonal towers and an embattled silhouette. Its central register comprises an elegant series of micro-architectural canopies, the center containing a two-light window and the lateral functioning as sculpture niches long lost by 1723. Based perhaps on the Ethelbert Gate in Norwich, the spandrels of Holme are decorated with relief carvings of hybrid creatures in combat, some of which is still visible in the Vetusta Monumenta engraving. At the same height of the sculptures are eight raised panels of flint attached to each turret. Although the period witnessed extensive use of flint flushwork in East Anglian Decorated architecture, these raised flint panels—which would originally have sparkled in the sunlight—are unique to the Holme gatehouse and may well have been intended to reference the hallowed description of the New Jerusalem (built of gold and precious stones) from Revelation 21: 11-22.
The gatehouse is now ruinous. Roofless by 1594, the gatehouse was subject to the elements for well over a century before it was captured in these 1723 views. Shortly afterwards (c. 1730) a brick windmill tower was created within the gatehouse that demanded further dismantling it. The Vetusta Monumenta drawings are thus of exceptional valuable and have ultimately functioned in the manner that the Society intended them to, since they formed the basis of a recent restoration (Luxford 2014). Cumulatively, the three images provide something like a panoramic survey of the gatehouse as it stood in the early 1720s. Plate 1 employs a collage style with the north-west and west perspectives side-by-side, and joining them a groundplan fictively pinned on to the two images and sagging under the weight, creating a trompe l’oeil effect. The west perspective (at right) features an expanded gallery of the heraldic blazons that ran across a cornice above the door head. Although the north-west view follows closely from Kirkpatrick’s original view in its basic details, the engraving completely omits his texts and suggests a rather more ordered, rectilinear view of the gatehouse than was provided by the sketch. The engraver has also added more shade and contouring than can be found in the original drawing. Here, between model and copy, we glean something fundamental about the antiquarian aesthetics of Vetusta Monumenta in the 1720s: occasionally strict accuracy was sacrificed to “correctness” and to the desired atmospheric effects of antiquarian images. Yet, circling the gatehouse and providing full elevations of it provided sufficient evidence for recent scholars to offer a full reconstruction (published 2014). The panorama format was explored in other architectural/ topographical entries at this time, notably in the views of Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire published in Vetusta Monumenta the previous year (1722).
Luxford, Julian. 2014. “Architecture and Environment: St Benet’s Holm and the Fashioning of the English Monastic Gatehouse.” Architectural History 57: 31-72.
Society of Antiquaries of London. 1718-. Minutes of the Society’s Proceedings.
Quick view of plates in Volume One
- Title page and Table of contents [page 3 and page 4] (scholarly commentary)
- Plate i: A bronze lamp excavated from St. Leonard's Hill near Windsor (scholarly commentary)
- Plate ii: Horn of Ulf (scholarly commentary)
- Plate iii: Baptismal Font, in St. James' Church, Westminster (scholarly commentary)
- Plate iv: Ancient image of Richard II, King of England (scholarly commentary)
- Plate v: Three ancient figures (scholarly commentary)
- Plate vi: Ruins of Walsingham Abbey in the county of Norfolk (scholarly commentary)
- Plate vii: Waltham Cross, in the county of Middlesex (scholarly commentary)
- Plate viii: The ruins of the walls and city of Verulamium [St. Alban's] in the county of Hertford (scholarly commentary)
- Plates ix, x, xi and xii: Fountains Abbey in the county of York (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xiii and xiv:Three views of the Gate of St. Bennet’s Abbey in Norfolk, in two plates (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xv: The Tomb of Robart Colles and Cecili, his wif (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xvi: The Tomb of St. Edward the Confessor, King of England (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xvii: The North Front of the Gate at Whitehall (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xviii: The North Front of King's Street Gate (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xix: Plans of the two proceeding Gates, in one Plate (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xx: Coins of Henry VIII, Elizabeth and James I, Kings of England: Likewise, and image of Elizabeth Expressed in encaustic work (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xxi: Excerpt from Edward Hall's Chronicle of Henry VIII (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xxii, xxiii, xxiv, xxv and xxvi: The Tournament of Henry VIII, February 12, 1510: Ingraved from an ancient roll in the Heralds Office, London in six plates. A-S (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xxvii: The present day appearance of Furness Abbey in the county of Lancashire (scholarly commentary)
- Plates xxviii, xxix, xxx, xxxi, xxxii and xxxiii: Letters from the English Barons to Boniface VIII (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xxxiv: Head gilded from bronze, of ancient work, excavated at Aquae Sulis (Bath) (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xxxv: Distant view of Colchester Castle, Essex
- Plate xxxvi: Ground plan, south and east prospects of Colchester Castle
- Plate xxxvii: A table of English silver coins
- Plate xxxviii: A table of English gold coins
- Plate xxxix: Tutbury Castle, Staffordshire (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xl: Melbourne Castle, Derbyshire (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xli: Lancaster Castle, Lancashire (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xlii: Pontefract Castle, Yorkshire (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xliii: Coins struck in France and Flanders relating to the History of England
- Plate xliv: Knaresborough Castle, Yorkshire
- Plate xlv: Image of the greatly revered Thomas Tanner, Bishop of St. Asaph's and not long ago a most worthy associate of this society
- Plate xlvi: Tickhill an old castle
- Plate xlvii: A plan of the Roman roads in Yorkshire (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xlviii: Coins struck in France and Flanders relating to the History of England (scholarly commentary)
- Plate xlix: Ancient chapel adjoining to the Bishops palace at Hereford
- Plates L, LI and LII : Roman mosaic peacock (scholarly commentary)
- Plate liii: Antient seals
- Plate liv: Antient seals
- Plate lv: Fronts and backs of medals and gold coins
- Plate lvi: Gold and silver coins annotated with weights and values
- Plate LVII: Hypocaustum Romanun Lincolniae (scholarly commentary)
- Plate lviii: Antient seals
- Plate lix: Antient seals
- Plate lx: Antient seals
- Plate lxi: Winchester Cross
- Plate lxii: Decree imposed against the papal jurisdiction in England in the year 1534
- Plate lxiii: True and exact draft of the Tower Liberties
- Plate lxiv: Chichester cross
- Plate lxv: Astianax vicit Kalendio
- Plate lxvi: Portrait of Robert Cotton
- Plate lxvii: "Bibliothecae Cognominiis conditoris, Effigies, Ad archetypum opera depictum accurate expressa "
- Plate lxviii: Codice Geneseos Cottoniano Dissertatio Historica (excerpt)
- Plate lxix: Codice Geneseos Cottoniano Dissertatio Historica (excerpt)
- Plate lxx: Fragmentorum codicis Cottoniani libri Geneseos Tabula I
- Plate lxx: Fragmentorum codicis Cottoniani libri Geneseos Tabula II
- Standard of weights and measures in the Exchequer
- "View of the Court of Wards and Liveries with the Officers, Servants and other Persons there Assembled"
- Brief account of the Court of Wards and Liveries [page 1]
- Brief account of the Court of Wards and Liveries [page 2]
- Brief account of the Court of Wards and Liveries [page 3]
Plate XV: The Tomb of Robart Colles and Cecili, his wif
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0
Transcription:Tomb at Folsham, Norff. / Robart Colles: cecili his wif. / Sumptibus Societatis Antiquariæ. Vertue in 1724 after a drawing by Edmund Prideaux (Minutes I.128). The “drawing of a Tombstone inscription in Foulsham Churchyard Norff.” was first presented by Peter Le Neve on 11 December 1723 with the drawings of the Monastic Gatehouse at St Benet’s Holme. William Stukeley included a rough copy of Prideaux’s drawing in his record of this meeting, making it one of the very few illustrated entries in the SAL Minutes (I.94).
Object:Plain, late fifteenth-or early sixteenth-century chest tomb with paneled sides around which runs the inscription “Robart Colles cecili his vif.” Over each letter of the inscription is a coronet. Below are quatrefoils containing lozenges, mouchette wheels, and other decorative shapes.
Provenance and Location:The churchyard of Holy Innocents, Foulsham, Norfolk
Commentary: [JP]As the December 11, 1723 minutes reveal, by deciding to engrave the drawing of Robert Colles’s chest tomb, the Society of Antiquaries intended to preserve an “inscription” (SAL Minutes I.94). The drawing imaginatively transposes the crowned letters of the inscription into an enlarged framework that surrounds the image of the tomb. The image of Robert Colles’s chest tomb makes this engraving the first of Vetusta Monumenta aimed primarily at preserving a text rather than a monument.
The prominence of the letters in the image reflects contemporary interest in the tomb inscription at Foulsham churchyard. In 1724, the year of the engraving’s publication, the anonymous authors of Magna Britannia Antiqua & Nova (1724) published a copy of the letters. They could not, however, decipher the inscription. This was work for a specialist, they thought: “We are not so much skilled in Antiquity as to expound [a translation of the letters]; but have thought fit to set them down, that the Learned that way might” (Magna Britannia 1724: 282). In his analysis of excavated Saxon coins, published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in 1686, Sir Philip Skippon had also transcribed the letters appearing on the Foulsham tomb and called for the help in decoding them: “In the Church-yard at Foultsham in Norfolk, there is a Tomb-stone with this Inscription, which some of the Learned in these Curiosities may perhaps explain” (Skippon 1686: 361). According to Thomas Quarles, Skippon was “the son and heir of General Skippon, the former owner of Foulsham Hall, Sir Philip Skippon, Knight” (Quarles 1842: 59).
The strange appearance and arrangement of the letters on the tomb seems to have made reading the inscription difficult for earlier antiquarians, or, at least, for Skippon, upon whose transcription Magna Britannia’s may have been based. Skippon and the authors of Magna Britannia record nearly identical transcriptions of the letters, beginning with the fourth letter—the “a” in “Robart”—and grouping the letters separately according to the sides upon which they were inscribed: “art col les. cec. ili his vif. rob” (Skippon 361; Magna 282). Moreover, some of the letters they illustrate look unlike the late medieval English letters inscribed on the tomb, a fact noted by later commentators like Richard Gough who wrote that Skippon’s transcription was “miserably given” and the Foulsham antiquarian Thomas Quarles who called it “rude characters, bearing little or no resemblance to those on the tomb, and which may well defy interpretation!” (Britannia 2:117; 59). Early copies of the inscription therefore suggest that early antiquarians mistook the English letters on the tomb for runes. Their quest to decipher the inscription and the Society’s response reveal a common interest in unearthing England’s Saxon past in country churchyards.
The Society of Antiquaries identified the letters on the tomb as English, yet still considered the inscription a piece of antiquity worth preserving. Later writers leave behind some clue as to why the Society engraved the inscription’s illustration. Norfolk historian Francis Blomefield believed the inscription was engraved for the “antiquity of the letters, order, and disposition of them” (4:378). John Britton and Edward Wedlake Brayley wrote that the tomb’s inscription had been noticed for the “singular disposition” of the letters (326). Similarly, John Chambers copied the inscription, noting how the letters are “fancifully divided” (1:222). By these accounts, the Society of Antiquaries seems to have been drawn to the very same formal qualities of this inscription that rendered it unreadable to many of its viewers. The generous spacing of the decorated letters and the fact that one has to circle the entire tomb to read them in some sense registered the inscription’s historic value. The importance of each letter’s physical place on the tomb is demonstrated in the engraving’s use of reverse lettering. The letters appearing on the furthest long side are copied upside down, and those appearing on the shorter sides are copied sideways as if the lettering had been lifted off the tomb and laid flat. This use of reverse lettering invites us to imagine ourselves walking around each side of the tomb, reading the inscription. By visually mapping the decorated letters on the tomb, the engraving of Robert Colles’s monument becomes the first in Vetusta Monumenta to rely upon the interface between text and image to convey a sense of the physical object’s history.
Members of the Society of Antiquaries may have considered the chest tomb noteworthy because it is inscribed with lettering similar to that of an early illuminated manuscript. The medieval dating of the tomb was not confirmed until 1775, when Blomefield discovered Robert Colles’s signature to a deed of 1505: “I find this Robert Colles witness to a deed of Ralph Bateman, of Folsham, and Alice his wife, living in the 20 year of Henry VII” (4:378). Quarles reported that during this period, Foulsham parishioners renovated the upper lights of the chancel, under which also runs a line of letters, each surmounted by a coronet, like those on the tomb inscription (58). In his History and Antiquities of Foulsham: In Norfolk (1842), Quarles discovered similar lettering in the engravings of manuscripts published in Henry Shaw's Illuminated Ornaments: Selected from Manuscripts and Early Printed Books from the Sixth to the Seventeenth Centuries (1833). Perhaps the alphabet of illuminated capitals—specifically “R,” “B,” “T,” and “L”—inscribed in a fifteenth-century Latin gradual (Plates 27-8) provided Quarles with evidence to date the tomb’s inscription to the late fifteenth century. Might members of the Society of Antiquaries, with their deeper knowledge of rare manuscripts, have noticed that each letter of the inscription is isolated and decorated like an illuminated capital? This otherwise plain tomb is indeed notable for being decorated with an ornate inscription comparable to the most adorned letters in a Psalter or Bible. Considered in this light, the lettered framework surrounding this image of Robert Colles’s tomb evokes the visual beauties of medieval reading and allows readers to participate in its design.
Alexander, David. 2008. “George Vertue as an Engraver.” The Annual Volume of the Walpole Society. 70: 207-517.
Blomefield, Francis. An Essay Towards a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk. 5 vols. Fersfield: 1739-75.
Britton, John, and Edward Wedlake Brayley. 1810. Topographical and Historical Description of Norfolk. London.
Chambers, John. A General History of the County of Norfolk. 2 vols. Norwich: 1829.
Gough, Richard, ed. Britannia: Or, a Chorographical Description of the Flourishing Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and the Islands Adjacent; from the Earliest Antiquity. By William Camden. 3 vols. London: 1789.
Magna Britannia et Hibernia, Antiqua & Nova: Or, a New, Exact, and Comprehensive Survey of the Ancient and Present State of Great-Britain. 1724. Vol. 3. London.
Quarles, Thomas. 1842. History and Antiquities of Foulsham: In Norfolk. London.
Shaw, Henry. 1833. Illuminated Ornaments: Selected from Manuscripts and Early Printed Books from the Sixth to the Seventeenth Centuries.
Skippon, Philip. 1686. “An Account of Some Saxon Coyns Found in Suffolk.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. 16: 156-366.
Society of Antiquaries of London. 1723-. Minutes of the Society’s Proceedings.