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Mere Church, Wiltshire.
Mere, Dec. 1831.
I SEND you a drawing of the screen, and some engravings, which I have made in wood, of panelling and carving in Mere Church.
This church, of which Sir R. C. Hoare has given a view and description in his valuable History of Wilts, is more regular, in its outline than in its style; consisting of a nave, two aisles, and a choir, with a chancel or chantry on each side of it some of which members, however, having been built at different times, are in different styles of architecture. The tower, which is about 90 feet high, has octagonal turrets at the corners, ending in lofty pyramidal pinnacles, and is embattled at the top, and surrounded by a deep border of close quatrefoil work. The nave is divided from each aile by four pillars of a light pattern; and above these are, rather were, as many clerestory windows; for those on the north side have their lights walled up, but their mullions and tracery are left, while the opposite ones, which are open, have lost their mullions, and are simple pigeonhole openings in the wall.
The screen is of oak, wrought in the richest and lightest style of church carving, and having from its size and proportions a fine effect, The lower part (which is unfortunately hidden by pews, though I have drawn it as visible) is filled up with panelling carved with finial work in high relief; and in the middle is a line of trefoils with the spandril spaces above, them occupied by open quatrefoiled circles and trefoils beneath. The arches are richly carved in trefoil work, and the little columns that support the gallery open into fan-work groins, above which rises the cornice, adorned with two lines of carved and gilt vineleaves.
The panelling of the gallery is newer than the screen; as it appears by the churchwardens' book, which goes back to the time of Philip and Mary, that at the accession of Queen Elizabeth they defaced "the images of the xii apostles, whych were paynted on the face of the Rodelofte," a proof that there were then twelve panels, though there are now only nine; and that on the following year they took down the rodelofte by the commandement by the Bysshop." GENT. MAG. April, 1832.
It seems also that they took down the rood and altars, by command of "The Queen's Maties vysytors," whom they met three times at Sarum; and defaced" the seates or tabernacles of the images through all the church.'
Just behind the roodloft, where the workhouse poor now sit, was the or gan; the item for playing which ceases about the year 1613, and in 1636 it is mentioned in an inventory of the church goods, as old decayed organs in the loft over the north isle," after which it is no more noticed; and little attention seems to have been given to the screen from the accession of Elizabeth to 1720, when it was coloured.
In 1558 the parishioners purchased a copy of the English Bible, which cost 16s. 8d., of course a great sum at that time; and in 1635 a copy of Bishop Jewell's works was bought for 40s. and, as was then common, fastened with an iron chain in the chancel.
In 1584, among other vessels in the church, are named four dozen trenchers and four stone cups. In 1638 an almanack was set up in the church, and an hour-glass was bought; and the next year a half-hour-glass; perhaps to regulate the length of the sermon.
In 1589, about the time of the Spanish invasion, they bought a barrel of gunpowder, probably for defence; as in 1620 it was ordered to be sold; but in 1628, when the difficulties of the unfortunate Charles the First began to thicken, seven barrels of gunpowder are written in the account of the church stock.
At the beginning of the 17th century, the money collected for the poor was so much more than the outlay, that the churchwardens put out a considerable sum of money in loans of four or five pounds to different tradesmen ; but in 1638 they recalled it, and expended it in building an almshouse.
The yew-tree, which is now in vigour, was planted in 1636; and some lime trees, which are trained in a canopy over the church-yard paths, in 1732.
Some of the chief renovations about
1616. Two new bells.
1636. Tower loft and south leads.
laid, and about 1000 feet of paving done.
1685. New clock and chimes, and reading desk.
1705. Singers' gallery erected; à pinnacle blown down and restored.
1713. South side of the church re-built by a Mr. Stoakes for 1241. This was a regular job, in which saving was the object of the parish officers, and gain that of the builder, who has lighted a badly built aile by windows with ugly mullions without tracery. 1748. Tenor bell cast. 1807. Organ put up.
The specimen of panelling, No. 1, is that of the front of a gallery containing eight panels in the north aile. The large middle quatrefoils are occupied by shields described by Sir R. C. Hoare. There are ten panels of the pattern, No. 2, in the gallery of the
ARCHERY IN FINSBURY FIELDS.-(Concluded from p. 213.)
THE Commission issued by Charles 1. for the encouragement of Archery has been mentioned in the earlier part of these notes. It is said that that Monarch was himself a practical lover of the art, and we have here, as has been generally considered,* a representation of him, accoutred as an archer, and in the act of drawing the longbow. He is shooting at rovers, and draws his arrow to the breast, the position naturally assumed for attaining a distant mark. A bracer is attached to his left arm. He draws with three fingers, and the fore and middle finger of his shooting glove are fortified with what is called by archers a tab, attached to the wrist. The points of his arrows are received in a sort of pouch, which also might contain spare strings and wax for the string on the bow. I imagine that the little circular appendage to the pouch is a small open box containing grease. It is the practice
with archers to grease the finger ends of the shooting glove, to facilitate the loose. The small triangular figure on the pouch I cannot explain. In the back-ground are two of those archers" stakes or pillars, which, as we have already shown by the plan, were so numerous in Finsbury-fields. Indeed, it is probable that the King is intended to be depicted as shooting on this celebrated ground. Thus the old balladt: "The King is into Finsbury feild
Marching in battle ray,
And after follows bold Robin hood
And all his yeomen gay."
The pillars represented in the engraving are each surmounted by a sort of target, most probably also of wood, and permanently fixed; in the centre of these targets is a circlet, or bull's eye, and on the top of one is the figure of some flying animal, placed to distinguish the mark. A mark thus decorated will be observed in the plan,
* See Moseley's Essay on Archery, p. 229.
bearing the name of "Sea Griphon." Among the list of Finsbury marks we have worms (i. e. serpents), swans, lions, choughs, bee-hives, hares, &c. all probably sculptures to distinguish the respective pillars. In a letter of a modern continental tourist, and writer of historical romance, we have the following passage:
"Tell my brother that we have, for his satisfaction, made enquiries respecting the state of archery in this country; unluckily, we arrived at Gendt a little too late to witness the annual distribution of its prizes. Here are two bands of archers, called the Kuights of St. George and of St. Sebastian; the former wear a scarlet, the latter a green cloth dress. Besides frequent exercises in this their favourite sport, there is one day in the year appointed for the great assembly of all the archers of Gendt, Bruges, and the neighbouring towns, each band produces a bird carved in wood, and these generally amount to one hundred in number; they are suspended upon long poles, and one bird, the chief prize, is by some contrivance elevated to a height equal to that of the steeple of the Cathedral. To transfix this bird is the great object of emulation with the masters of the cross-bow, which is still in use in Flanders."*
This is the shooting at the popinjay to which we have previously made some allusion. To return to the subject of the wood engraving; the rank of the archer is marked as superior to the yeomanry order, by his spurs. The print itself forms the frontispiece to a rare tract, preserved in the library of the British Museum, intituled,†
"The Art of Archerie, shewing how it is most necessary in these times for this Kingdom, both in peace and war, and how it may be done without charge to the country, trouble to the people, or any hinderance to
necessary occasions. Also of the Discipline,
the Postures, and whatsoever else is necessarie for the attaining of the Art.
"London, printed by B. A. and F. F. for Ben. Fisher, and are to be sold at his shop at the signe of the Talbot without Aldersgate. 1634."
The author of this little book was Gervase Markham, one of the earliest of those literary fags, called hackneywriters. The whole treatise itself is little more than a plagiarism from Ascham's Toxophilus, entire passages from which are incorporated piece
*Letter from Mrs. Bray to Mrs. Kempe, sen., dated Gendt, Sept. 26, 1820.-Memoirs of C. A. Stothard, F. S. A. p. 375.
At the sale of the library of Richard Howarth, esq. by Mr. Sotheby in 1826, a copy was sold for 14, 8s.
meal in Markham's text, altered only when, as he erroneously supposed, the language might be improved. The decline of the bow at the period when Markham wrote, induces him to apologise for his performance, by telling his readers he wishes not to derogate from other weapons, and thus be called a King Harry Captain.
It will be foreign to the object of these notes, which are intended rather to present the reader with something supplementary on the subject of archery, than to recapitulate what has been already said by others, to enter minutely into the history of the bow, and to dwell upon the victories of Crecy, Poitiers, Âzincourt, and Flodden, all mainly achieved by the trusty yew, and the nervous arm of the English yeoman. The bow used by the nations of antiquity, and represented on Greek and Roman sculptures and coins, was undoubtedly the Asiatic bow of horn; which, when unstrung, collapsed nearly into a circle, and which when strung presented in the reverse direction of this circle two curves, divided by the centre or holdhorn bow of Pandarus, as beautifully ing portion of the bow. Such was the described by Homer, in the fourth book of the Iliad.
It is not wonderful that in climates where a wood possessing such high elasticity as the yew, was plentiful, that their inhabitants should apply it to the formation of a weapon, to which such a quality was so essential. The yew bow was therefore probably well known to the Britons and the Saxons, though it does not appear to have been extensively introduced in England, as a military weapon, until after the Norman conquest, for the Normans are said to owe their success at the battle of Hastings to their peculiar weapon, the long-bow. We may therefore, perhaps, conclude that while the bow had long been known to the hunter, and was sometimes used by individuals as an offensive weapon, that large bodies of archers shooting, so to express it, in concert, or simultaneously, had their origin in our English tactics from the Norman people, and that superiority of arrows to all other missiles, became so evident, that the bow for centuries remained one of the two principal weapons of the English infantry. The simple peasant took his trusty yew bow from the rafters of his hut, and placed his