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WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 21st, 1900.
W. DE GRAY BIRCH, Esq., LL.D., F.S.A., V.-P., IN THE CHAIR. The following member was duly elected :Walter W. Folkard, Esq., Gwydir House, Charity Commission,
Whitehall, and 13, Blomefield Street, Upper Westbourne Park.
At the meeting on February 21st, Dr. W. de Gray Birch, F.S.A., V.-P., in the Chair, a Paper was read by Dr. Brushfield, F.S.A., on “Norman Tympana, with especial reference to those of Derbyshire.” There are many Nornian tympana still remaining in the churches of this county, some of which were inspected by the members of this Association during the recent Congress at Buxton. The principal doorways of perhaps the majority of the later Anglo-Saxon churches had heads of semicircular form, which feature was also continued into and to the end of the Norman period; but the architects of the twelfth century filled up the space between the arch and the square head of the door with a stone slab, or Tympanum. This tympanum was often left quite plain, but in very many instances it was carved with devices of extremely varied character. Some bore patterns of geometric figures, chequers, etc. The number of these, however, was comparatively few, the majority being sculptured with representations of the human form, of animals—real or fabulous—and with attendant scrollwork. Scriptural scenes were also represented, both symbolically and literally. The whole was usually surrounded by a border, generally of a simple kind, but occasionally richly decorated. In cases where the tympanum does not occupy the whole space between the arch and the doorhead, a separate lintel is fixed, generally on a level with the capitals of the shafts supporting the arch ; and this lintel is generally carved with a subject quite different from that on the upper stone, as at Little Langford, Wilts, and Dinton, in Bucks. Occasionally, however, the sculpture of the tympanum proper is continued into the lintel, as in the Prior's door at Ely Cathedral. There is very considerable difference in the character of the sculptures on the tympana of the south and north doors respectively, although not many churches
possess both at the present time. The north door is traditionally known in many churches as the “Devil's door,” from its being the entrance set apart for the use of lepers, cagots, and other proscribed races; and the sculpture on the tympanum of each door was intended to demonstrate the different kind of lesson each was intended to convey to the worshippers. In the Derbyshire churches, there is a preponderance of ordinary animals represented over the fabulous ones represented elsewhere ; which, it seems reasonable to suppose, is owing to so many of the churches being situated either within or upon the borders of the great Midland forest of early times, which were full of wild animals, like the boar and the wolf, much feared by the sparse inhabitants of the district for their ferocity, and therefore represented over church doors either as types of evil, or as showing, by their adoration, the power of the Cross. In both cases, they would appeal to the eyes of the ordinary worshippers from the originals being so well known to and feared by them. It may be noted that no examples of tympana in Derbyshire refer to the Patron Saint of the church.
An interesting discussion followed the Paper (which will be published), in which Mr. Gould, Mr. C. R. B. Barrett, Rev. H. J. D. Astley, and others took part.
Mr. C. R. B. Barrett pointed out that St. George of Cappadocia, represented on some of the tympana mentioned, was not the same saint as St. George of Merrie England.
The Rev. H. J. D. Astley, referring to the difference in the symbolisms depicted on the north and south doors of churches, and to the fact that the north door was, in some places, known as the Devil's door, said that we have here a curious illustration of the alteration in feeling produced by Christianity. In pre-Christian times, the north was conceived of as the Divine dwelling-place. Among the Accadians and Babylonians, “the Holy Mountain of the Gods was situated in the north. Mount Olympus is on the north of Greece ; and even among the Hebrews the same idea is found, as, e.g., we read of “the sides of the north, the City of the Great King ”— Yahwè; but the early teachers of Christianity felt that this idea must be rooted out: the more so that, to them, the gods of the heathen had an objective existence as devils or demons. Accordingly, the south, the abode of light and warmth and sunshine, became the symbol of God's presence, and Christian emblems are found on the south doors of churches; while the north, the abode of cold and darkness, became the symbol of heathenism, and the north doors of churches became the Devil's doors. The same symbolism is found in the Ritual of the Church, the Epistle--the message to Christians--being read on the south side of the altar ; the Gospel—the message to the world-on the north.
The Chairman remarked that a good service would be rendered to archæology by arranging an index to all sculpture, tympana, and details of architecture, other than technical lines and areas. He also dwelt on the universality of animal symbolism in connection with religion, referring to the Winged Bulls of Nineveh, the Egyptian Bull, Apis, the Serpent, the Agnus Dei, etc. He suggested that when, as in some instances, the signs of the Zodiac are depicted on tympana, e.g., the Centaur or Sagittarius, it may be intended to note the month of dedication of the Church.
The Rev. H. T. Owen, M.A., read a Paper upon “Recent Discoveries at Valle Orucis Abbey,” in which he described the various works undertaken during the last six years, and the results obtained. Several of the buttresses at the east end of the Abbey, the central window of the Chapter-house, and the Abbots' throne, all of which were in ruinous condition, have recently been restored at the expense of Sir Theodore Martin. In July last some further excavations were commenced, under Mr. Owen's supervision, in the cloister, where a building had stood which had for many years been used as a stable. After clearing away about three feet of earth and débris, the ancient walls of a bath were discovered ; and at a lower depth much water was met with, which stopped the work for a week or two. A pump was obtained, and kept going all day to keep down the water; and at length, at a further depth of about 4 ft., what is believed to be a Roman bath was met with. The bath measures about 21 ft. by 9 ft. A second fine bath was discovered to the west, and there is a third, which it is intended to excavate as soon as funds permit. Mr. Owen thinks the whole area of the cloisters was a Roman sanatorium. Some curious finds were met with in the course of these excavations, including a brass of Constantine, some silver pennies of the first two Edwards, and a token of the eighteenth century. In the first ages of Christianity the large bath may have been used as a baptistery, and at the bottom of this bath some embroidered hair was found; it is related that, in the early period, the newly-baptised had to cut off the plaited hair as a token that they were not again to go back into the world. In this bath also were discovered some ancient beads, probably belonging to a rosary. Roman pottery and oyster-shells were met with in the course of the excavations. Many of these articles discovered were exhibited, including a copy of the Koran in Arabic, which was found built up in a wall, and is thought likely to have been brought over by a Saracen prisoner during the Wars of the Crusades.
Mr. C. R. B. Barrett drew attention to the fact that this copy of the Koran was on paper, which would make Mr. Owen's suggestion utterly impossible, as paper was unknown to the Arabs or Saracens in the time of the Crusade. It was good paper, and the book well bound, while the handwriting was beautiful. It was probably lost or hidden in the wall by some former owner, perhaps not later than the last century.
Dr. Brushfield considered further evidence was required before the discoveries could be demonstrated; and Dr. Birch said archæologists should hold their opinions in abeyance, pending the result of further excavation and examination.
About £50 is still required to complete the excavations of these baths.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 7TH, 1900. W. DE GRAY BIRCH, Esq., LL.D., F.S.A., V.-P., IN THE CHAIR. Thanks were ordered by the Council to be returned to the donors of the following presents for the library : To the Cambrian Archäological Society for “ Archæologia Cam
brensis," 5th Ser. No. 65, January 1900.
Société d'Archäologie de Bruxelles for “ Annuaire,” 1900. The Hon. Secretary, Mr. Patrick, directed the attention of the meeting to a letter which had appeared in the Westminster Gazette respecting the castle of Launceston, said to be in danger of falling.
The meeting expressed the hope that steps would be taken without delay (either by the authorities of the Duchy of Cornwall, or by Lord Halsbury as Constable), to preserve this historical building from destruction.
The Rev. H. J. D. Astley drew attention to the fact that the recent gales had caused the fall of one of the two remaining arches in the banqueting-hall at Conway Castle; and the meeting expressed the hope that steps might be taken by those responsible for the preservation of that venerable relic of antiquity to avert further irreparable loss.
The Hon. Editorial Secretary also drew attention to a remarkable series of finds in the Central District of Ireland, consisting of some splendid specimens of weapons of the Bronze Age, in one of which the handle of wood still remains intact: a circumstance believed to be unique. There were also specimens of Neolithic arrow-heads and celts, and in the upper level mediæval remains, showing the continuity of occupation. These finds are now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
Mr. I. C. Gould exhibited a parchment dated 1604, which contained a curious clause with respect to the marriage of young men in relation to loans of money.
The Rev. H. J. D. Astley read a Paper entitled “Two Norfolk Villages,” being those of East and West Rudham, situated on the main road between Lynn and Fakenham. Much of the present church of St. Mary, East Rudham, is modern, but there are several exceedingly interesting features still remaining, including a beautiful pillar piscina, with an aumbry over it, in the thickness of the wall. The south porch has a fine groined roof, with Tudor roses at the intersections, and a central boss upon which is represented the Holy Trinity. The Father is shown seated, supporting between His knees the Son upon the cross, the arms of which are upheld by the hands of the Father. The representation of the Holy Spirit upon the head of the Father, in the shape of a dove, although very much worn away, is still discernible. When the church was restored after the fall of the tower in 1876, a discovery of an interesting nature was made in the north wall of the sacrarium at the level of the floor. This consisted of numerous fragments, mostly greatly defaced, of carved figures and other subjects in alabaster. They mainly constituted the remains of what must at one time have been a very beautiful reredos of fifteenthcentury date, together with some other portions of what may have been an altar frontal. Remains of colour and gilding still exist upon some of the pieces. The paper, which will be published, was illustrated by photographs and sketches, and some of the tiles from Coxford Priory.
Mr. Patrick exhibited and explained the drawings he had made of the remains of the reredos and other features of the church. The register of West Rudham, which commences in 1565, was exhibited, special attention being drawn to a page containing historical notes, written by the Rev. John Robotham, Vicar in 1626. Among other items of interest, there is mention of an inscription then existing in the chancel, recording its restoration in 1456 by the prior and monks of Coxford ; and of another inscription over the north door of the church recording the burial of Rev. Peter Stanclif, Vicar, who “in the days of Queen Mary was enforced to put away his wife, whereupon she married to another man; but (when Queen Elizabeth came to the crown), he took her again from her second husband."
An interesting discussion followed the Paper, the Chairman remarking that he believed the above entry in the register was a unique record of a fact which must have been not uncommon during the Reformation period. He also commented on the very unusual position of the Dove, representing the Third Person in the Holy Trinity, in the central boss in the south porch. It is generally found to one side of the cross.