J C Dickinson, The Shrine of our Lady of Walsingham, 1956 Chapters 4-6 (‘Archaeological’)
Chapter 4 Chapter 5
Chapter 6 Miscellanea: Seals. Statue. Badges, etc
[Page 108] TWO seals of the priory have survived. The earlier is known from a unique and rather indistinct impression in the British Museum.1 It is assigned to the early thirteenth century in the catalogue but the design looks a little earlier. It is far from being large or attractive, contrasting most unfavourably, for example, with the handsome seal of West Acre Priory, Walsingham’s neighbour.2 In workmanship and general design it bears a very marked resemblance to a late twelfth-century seal from St Peter and St Paul’s, Ipswich.3 There are certain differences in architectural detail but the treatment of roofs, arcades and gable ends is very similar. A further striking resemblance—and a very unusual feature—is the insertion of signs of the house’s dedication in the space between the roof line and the top margin. In the case of the Ipswich seal these consist of medallions having half-length busts representing St Peter and St Paul whilst the Walsingham seal has the letters M and (probably) W, presumably for ‘Maria’ and ‘Walsingham’. The more elaborate belfry in the Ipswich seal and its more complex eastern limb (it has presbytery and sanctuary) show that we are not dealing with mass-produced wares, and suggest that it would be dangerous to take these representations as purely 1 B.M., Add. Ch. 19,275; W. de G. Birch, Catalogue of Seals in the British Museum (1887) I, no. 4247, p. 788. (See Plate 6(a).)2Ibid no. 4294, p. 798. 3Ibid. no. 3317. V.C.H. Suffolk, 108. [Page 109] SEALS OF THE PRIORY conventional, restricted as their design must inevitably be by the scantiness of space. The legend of this Walsingham seal has almost completely gone, the ‘SIG’ of SIGILLUM alone surviving. The second seal1 is much better known, having been frequently reproduced.2 It is a larger and much more elaborate piece of work, reflecting the increased importance of the priory and probably belonging to about the third quarter of the thirteenth century. The obverse shows a curious representation of the church. The cinquefoil and three openings with human heads set there-in must not be taken too seriously, as they were one of the odd artistic conventions of the seals of this periods and can, inter alfa, be paralleled on the seals of Walsingham’s neighbours, Bromholm4 and Norwich,5 though the workmanship of the Walsingham seal is notably less expert. It seems that the building portrayed is the cruciform priory church with its central tower. We cannot be certain from what angle it was taken, but it is worth noting that the projecting portions are of equal length, in sharp distinction to their opposite numbers in the earlier Walsingham seal and that of St Peter and St Paul’s, Ipswich. This suggests they are meant to represent the transepts of a cruciform church and that therefore the church is seen either from the east or the west; if the large arch in the centre is meant as a door it will be the west end portrayed, if a window, the east one. Mr John Harvey has pointed out to me that the 1 Catalogue of Seals in the Brit. Mus. no. 4248, pp. 788-9; see Plate 6 (c) and (d). 2 E.g. Arch. Journ. XIII, 127; a photograph of both obverse and reverse is given in V.C.H., Norfolk, II, 394 opp. 3 See, for example, G. Pedrick, Monastic Seals of the Thirteenth Century (1902), photos 1, 3, 4, 37, 58, 75, 76. 4 Ibid. no. 54. 5 Ibid. nos. 65, 66. [Page 110] MISCELLANEA transeptal pinnacles shown on the seal are found at Ely, Norwich, Gloucester and Wells and suggests that a realistic picture is intended. He makes the attractive suggestion that the seal represents a thirteenth-century church ‘sketched symmetrically from the west before the completion of the nave’. This would accord with the western tower being known to have been built c. 1300, as the seal is rather earlier and one would expect the building of the nave to precede that of the tower. The unlikelihood of the representation being the Holy House viewed from the north is supported by the position of the tower in the seal. The House itself is most unlikely to have had a tower, being too small for this and having no need of it, whilst a glance at the plan shows that the chapel does not lie directly in front of the crossing of the conventual church, so that it cannot well be argued that the seal shows the Holy House in the foreground with the tower of the church behind it. Round the margin of the obverse is the inscription ✝SIGILLUM ECCLESIE BEATE MARIE DE WALSINGHAM✝ (The seal of the church of Blessed Mary of Walsingham). This is one of the very few English seals which also has an inscription round its rim; this reads: VIRGO PIA GENETRIX SIT NOBIS (Tender Virgin be our Mother). The reverse side of the seal shows Our Lady seated on a chair-like throne with the Holy Child on her left knee. Both have a nimbus and are shown full face. In her right hand Our Lady holds a sceptre fleur-de-lis. Curtains over the throne undulate round either side of it. Around the border is rather crudely cut AVE MARIA GRATIA PLEDA1 DOMINUS TECUM. Is this a representation of the famous statue of Our Lady of Walsingham? To answer this question it is 1 Sic. top of page[Page 111] SEALS SHOWING OUR LADY necessary to discover what grounds, if any, there are for the alternative solution that it is merely a conventional picture. One need not study more than a small proportion of the magnificent collection of medieval ecclesiastical seals in the British Museum before two points become clear. First, it is quite certain that at no period was there a completely stereotyped statue of Our Lady. From the late twelfth century the seals show a pronounced difference on points of detail. A good number show Our Lady seated, but many show her standing. In the former class there are notable divergences on points of detail such as the shape of the seat, the position of the sceptre and of the Holy Child and the angle of Our Lady’s head. Thus there is no proof that the Walsingham representation is merely a stock piece; the con-temporary variety in design makes it entirely feasible that the version on the seal was chosen for some special reason, such as its resemblance to the statue. The second point to emerge is that, whilst the great proportion of seals of Our Lady examined differ significantly from that of Walsingham, there are a few which resemble it very closely. We must, of course, make all allowances for the fact that the Walsingham seal was designed in a good deal grander manner than was usual. The elaborate back to the chair and the complicated curtains have not been paralleled in any comparable English seals yet examined by the writer. But this should not prevent our recognizing that the essential details of the Walsingham representation of Our Lady and the Holy Child can be exactly matched elsewhere. Thus the small thirteenth-century seal of the Cistercian nunnery of Wykeham (Yorkshire)1 and that of the Gilbertine house of Alvingham of the same period 2 1 B.M. Catalogue, no. 4377. 2 Ibid. no. 2556. [Page 112] MISCELLANEA do not differ from it in any essential trait; the rather crude seal of Luffield1 resembles it quite closely in general design if not in treatment and that of Fineshade has also certain resemblances.2 But the most remarkable parallel that the writer has so far located comes, not from England, but from France. Amongst the British Museum collection of medieval pilgrim badges is one evidently copied from a handsome twelfth-century seal of the famous French pilgrimage centre of Our Lady of Rocamadour,3 and the Musée de Cluny at Paris has several similar examples. The likeness between this statue and that on the Walsingham seal is very remarkable, extending to every major detail except the chair which has no back in the Rocamadour badge.4 The English seals are all thirteenth-century, except the Rocamadour one which is somewhat earlier. In our present state of knowledge it would be unwise to dogmatize as to whether the connexion between the two was direct or indirect, though it does not seem unlikely that Walsingham should copy Rocamadour. The evidence so far has dealt with the similarity of seals and, in view of the paucity of English medieval statues of Our Lady, one cannot be certain whether in general a seal was of the same design as a monastery’s statue of Our Lady or whether the two were different or whether (as the writer believes) the similarity existed in some cases. But the case of Walsingham is further aided by the evidence of pilgrim brooches and ampouls from medieval England. So far as the writer has discovered these fall 1 B.M. Catalogue, no. 3584; V.C.H. Northants, II, 136 opp. 2 Ibid. 3 Plate 6 (b). 4 A similar high-backed chair is found in the statue of Notre-Dame Siège de la Sagesse at Ways (Belgium), orígínaIly at Mousty. [Page 113] WALSINGHAM BROOCHES into five classes,1 of which two are here relevant as portraying Our Lady. It is unfortunate that these badges have comparatively seldom got an inscription to identify their place of origin. But in the very interesting collection at King’s Lynn Museum are several which portray Our Lady in a very similar manner to that of the seal. Though it is not absolutely certain that these badges are to be connected with Walsingham, it is at least extremely likely, seeing that they almost all came from a town which was so near Walsingham and a major centre for pilgrims to it. Our Lady is shown seated with a sceptre in her right hand that falls back on her shoulder; the Holy Child is on her left knee, both figures being shown full face. Perhaps because of shortage of space, the back of the chair is not shown, but in every other major point of design these badges agree with the representation on the seal.2 It should be noted that several examples of this were also found at Lynn;3 there are one or two similar ones in a collection in the British Museum.4 Though the Walsingham provenance of these badges cannot be completely proved, it is much more likely than any other. We have no reason to think that any other statue of Our Lady in the south was important enough to warrant the manufacture of this sort of token on a big scale and, though the statue of Our Lady of Doncaster may have resembled that of Our Lady of Walsingham,5 it was of very much less importance and very much less likely to be visited from London (where most of the British Museum badges were found). Another type of brooch seems to the writer to clinch the matter—that already referred to as depicting a 1 See below, 117-21. 2 Plate 9. 3 Plate 9 (b) and (d). 4 Below, 119. 5 Below, 116. [Page 114] MISCELLANEA similar statue of Our Lady on the first floor of a gabled house.l Here again Our Lady is shown seated with the Holy Child on her left and a sceptre resting on her right shoulder, exactly as on the seal. And, in view of what we have seen of the history of the shrine, the conjunction of this with the representation of the House makes the conclusion all but inescapable, that this represents the chapel and statue of Our Lady of Walsingham. Thus there is, on the whole, adequate reason to believe that the picture of Our Lady and the Holy Child depicted elaborately on the later seal of Walsingham Priory and more simply on the brooches at King’s Lynn and London is meant to be a representation of the famous statue there. (It is perhaps significant of the importance of the statue in the eyes of the designer of the great Walsingham seal that he devoted almost all available space to it, eliminating the elaborate tracery and praying priors so often found in similar seals of the period.) A manuscript in the College of Arms of c. 1510 records the arms of the priory of Walsingham as Argent on a cross sable 5 lilies slipped argent, that is to say a silver ground with a black cross on which were five lilies,2 and these are the arms of the priory shown on a shield of glass impaling the arms of Prior Vowell, found in the Abbey House and now in the parish church.3 Taylor ascribes two other coats to the priory, (i) argent on a cross sable, five billets of the first, (ii) argent on a cross quarterly pierced sable, a tree erased vert.4 1 Above, 99-100. 2 MS. L. Lo, fo. 68; I am indebted to Mr A. R. Wagner, Richmond Herald, for this reference. 3 Harrod, op. cit. 155. 4 R. Taylor, Index Monasticus (1821), 26. top of page[Page 115] MANUSCRIPTS FROM THE PRIORY Four manuscripts from the priory are known to have survived, apart from the cartulary.l Much the finest is a volume of a twelfth-century Bible now MS. 22 in the Chester Beattie collection.2 It comprises the books from Genesis to Ruth and has attractive illuminations, some of which are reproduced in the Catalogue. At the front are three pages of quite minor rents which were privately printed by Sir Thomas Phillipps who once owned the manuscript ;3 on a fly-leaf, amongst small additions, is a drawing of a church tower with Chapel Sancte Crucis,4 written round it. MS. 59 in the library of Keble College, Oxford, is half a fine breviary5 from Walsingham; a very poor and inaccurate account of it is given in Norfolk Archaeology,6 where the writer makes misleading use of what he failed to recognize was the Rule of St Augustine. The manuscript belongs to the fifteenth century and opens with the Rule of St Augustine arranged for reading by the days of the week followed by half a breviary; it concludes with some small liturgical miscellanea amongst which are prayers to St Dorothy and part of an office of St Richard of Chichester. Some of the illumination is attractive, without being of the highest class. Sloane MS. 1933 in the British Museum is a collection of medical treatises, mostly of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, which came from Walsingham, and Mr W. A. Pantin of Oriel College, Oxford, owns a small collection of prayers once in the possession of Prior Vowell. John 1 N. R. Ker, Medieval Libraries of Great Britain (1941), 107. 2 See E. G. Millar, Catalogue of the Library of A. Chester Beattie, Collection of Western Manuscripts (Oxford Univ. Press, 1927), I, 84-8. 3 MS. 4769: Mr A. N. L. Munby has kindly pointed this out to me. 4 Sic. 5 I am obliged to Fr L. Boyle, O.P., for information regarding this manuscript. 6 VIII, 51-6. [Page 116] MISCELLANEA Leland notes that in the library of the priory were ‘Gervasius super Psalterium, Joannes Capgravus, frater Augustinensis de Lino, super libros regum ad Joannem, episcopum Assavensem. Quod in regnorum libris’.1 The badges connected with the medieval shrine of Walsingham fall into two classes, brooches (secured by a pin and clasp like their modern successors) and ampouls or small hollow flasks which evidently contained water and had normally two small perforated lugs by which they could be sewn on a hat or garment. Though some are of pewter or brass, normally both types were made of lead and for this reason have seldom survived undamaged. No systematic study of English medieval pilgrim badges has been made.2 The following paragraphs are based on the author’s examination of the London collections of the British Museum, London Museum and Guildhall, and the local collections at Cambridge, Dunwich, Ipswich, King’s Lynn, Norwich and Oxford, and make no claim to be exhaustive. The larger of the two classes are the BROOCHES. Most of these have no indication of their place of origin, only a very few being inscribed; and in view of the popularity of other shrines of Our Lady, such as those at Ipswich, Sudbury and Doncaster, it is clearly most unwise to assume that English badges depicting Our Lady must necessarily have come from Walsingham.3 Those which 1 Collectanea (ed. T. Hearne), IV, 29. 2 The best notice and bibliography of the English badges is that given by J. B. Ward-Perkins in the Medieval Catalogue of the London Museum (1940), 254-64. 3 For a damaged badge from Doncaster see Plate 9 (h). We have a reference to these brooches in a letter from one Elizabeth Newhouse who wrote to her son: ‘for a token, I send you a Walsynggam brooch’ (L. and P. Addenda (i), no. 29). [Page 117] WALSINGHAM BROOCHES we can assign to Walsingham with complete or reasonable confidence fall into three groups : TYPE 1. The Annunciation These all display Our Lady and the Archangel Gabriel with the usual lily-pot between. Four designs of this are certainly from Walsingham. (a) A circular brooch with the Annunciation set within a circle which in turn is within a six-pointed star having three dots on each space between the points. (Part of a mould for making these was found near the churchyard of Little Walsingham in the last century and is now in the Castle Museum, Norwich.l) (b) The same design set on a broad arrow. (A cast for this is on the reverse side of that just mentioned.) (c) An oblong brooch with the Annunciation enclosed in a frame that at the bottom is inscribed ‘ Walsingham’. (No original of this has been located but a cast of one has been described.2) Several others may provisionally be assigned to Walsingham. (d) An unpierced circular badge inscribed ‘Walsygham’ below the Annunciation scene (there is a replica in St Peter Hungate Museum, Norwich, no. 26/52, from an original (now lost) found in the church of St Michael at Pleas, Norwich). Among others possibly from here are : (e) A small square brooch, uninscribed (Cambridge Museum, 22.781, from Norfolk; and King’s Lynn) ;3 the 1 Described and illustrated in Norfolk Archaeology, IX (1884), 19-21. 2 Arch. Journ. XIII, 133. 3 Plate 9(g). It would appear that most of the pilgrim badges now in the King’s Lynn Museum were originally collected by Mr Thomas Pung of King’s Lynn who used to give boys coppers for procuring them in the (then open) Mill Fleet at Lynn. This collection was damaged in the 1939—45 war but a series of photographs of it had been taken in 1912. These are now in the possession of Mr H. L. Bradfer-Lawrence, F.S.A., who has kindly allowed me to utilize them and informed me of the history of the collection. The original collection is hereafter referred to as the Mill Fleet collection. [Page 118] MISCELLANEA Mill Fleet collection originally included several examples of this. (f) A larger version of the above (British Museum;1 one in the Mill Fleet collection, now lost, may have been from the same mould). (g) A small representation within a circle, from which radiate projecting knobs (Cambridge Museum, 22.781).2 (h) A very large representation in a frame with an ogee arch supported by shafts with crocketed pinnacles; on the scroll is crudely inscribed ECCE ANC(I)L AVE MARIA (London Museum).3 (i) A medium-sized rectangular brooch (London, Guildhall Museum)4 similar to (c) but uninscribed and having projecting points not unlike (g). top of page TYPE 2. The Virgin and Child All are uninscribed, but it seems to the writer that examples showing a substantial resemblance to the statue depicted on the thirteenth-century seal of Walsingham and found in southern England may reasonably be assigned to the priory. This assumption is strengthened by the fact that two of the four surviving examples which agree exactly with the seal in showing Our Lady seated with the sceptre fleur-de-lis on her right shoulder and the Holy Child to the left5 have been 1 Plate 8(a). 2 This is from Norfolk and may be identical with that illustrated in Norfolk Archaeology, IX, 24 opp. especially since a broken brooch in the same museum closely resembles that illustrated in the same plate. 3 Illustrated in London Museum, Medieval Catalogue, pl. LXIX, no. 14 (A 17216). 4 Plate 8 (b). 5 I have rejected a number of the badges of Our Lady in the London Museum, as not having these characteristics. [Page 119] WALSINGHAM BROOCHES found at King’s Lynn, the nearest port to Walsingham; only one of the following, however, shows the seat having a back, as on the seal. (a) A fine, large badge with the statue in a frame which has a three-sided canopy with ramparts and pinnacles (King’s Lynn).1 (b) A small circular brooch containing the statue (King’s Lynn). Several others have been noted which may possibly have originated from Walsingham: (c) A crude rectangular brooch with a border of chevrons and dots (British Museum).2 (d) A damaged, middle-sized brooch, perhaps originally of rectangular design, which depicts the (not unusual) bulges on the arms of the chair shown in the Walsingham seal3 so that it may belong to the priory (British Museum). (e) A brooch in London, Guildhall Museum,4 has a figure not unlike the Walsingham one. But brooches of this class cannot generally be assigned to a particular shrine with any degree of confidence. TYPE 3. The Holy House with a statue of Our Lady and the Holy Child similar to that of Type 2 (a) The House is shown as a gable end and has two storeys with the statue in the middle of the upper floor and a pointed door immediately below, on the ground-floor, with pierced quatrefoil panels on either side of it. (Two examples probably from the same mould in the King’s Lynn Museum5 and (b) and (c), two similar but 1 Plate 9(f ). 2 No. 56.7, 1.2060. 3 Ibid. no. 98, 7-20, 5 (? from Coventry). 4 No. 8693. 5 Plate 9 (c) and (d). The Mill Fleet collection had a third example. [Page 120] MISCELLANEA slightly different ones, formerly existed in the same collection.1) This design is technically unsatisfactory as the outer portions were not very strongly attached to the centre one and tended to break off. One side has done this in three of the examples noted above. In the British Museum are (d) and (e), what are almost certainly the right and left sides of two larger but closely allied versions of this design, essentially similar in general design to the King’s Lynn examples but differing from them and each other in detail.2 In the London Museum is an intriguing badge showing what appears to be the lengthwise view of a Romanesque building of two storeys; it is possible that this is a representation of the Holy House of Walsingham.3 The brooches cannot be dated with any certainty. They are unlikely to be earlier than the fourteenth century and such architectural details as they have look a century later. The AMPOULS or miniature flasks are a clearly distinct type of souvenir and have perforated lugs to enable them to be sewn on to clothing. As is well known they were early found at Compostella. The following types may probably be connected with Walsingham. TYPE I. Flasks marked with a capital W4 (a) One side of the body of the flask formed in the shape of a cockle shell, the other having a crowned W on a hatched background (found at Fincham and in 1922 ‘in the possession of Miss Barsham’; present 1 Plate 9 (a) and (b). 2 Plate 8 (c) and (e). 3 Illustrated in London Museum Medieval Catalogue, LXXII, no. 50 (A 20809). 4 No other English shrine of importance had this initial. [Page 121] WALSINGHAM AMPOULS whereabouts unknown).1 This corresponds except in minor details to the following (b). (b) One illustrated by Lee Warner,2 similar to (a), though here the letter has a plain background (Cirencester). (c) Another ‘marked with the crowned W found at Dunwich’.3 (d) One with a plain W at the bottom of one side, with a vertical ridge down the length of this side (Ipswich Museum, R 1920/74/47). (e) Similar to (d) but slightly smaller (Ipswich Museum, 81935/65/55 AI). TYPE 2. Flasks having a Crown The crown occurs in the later Middle Ages as an emblem of Our Lady, and is found above her monogram at Walsingham.4 (a) A flask having on one side a cross within a circle and on the other a crown surmounted by sets of three dots5 on a hatched background, similar to I (a) above, so a Walsingham origin is not unlikely (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, from Icklingham, Suffolk). (b) A simpler crown on a plain background set in a circle (Ipswich Museum, R 1935/65/55 A2). (c) Similar to (b) but larger and without a circle (Ipswich Museum, R 1935/65/98 B). In the British Museum is a fine ampoul bearing on one side a representation of Our Lady and the Holy Childs (very similar to that shown on the later seal of Walsingham’) and found in the river Somme, Picardy’. 1 Below, Plate 9 (e) (from a photograph given to the author by Rev. J. F. Williams). 2 Arch. Journ. XIII, 133. 3 Ibid. illustrated in T. Gardner, History of Dunwich (1754), 66. 4 Plate 7(d). 5 Plate 9 (i). 6 Plate 8(d). 7 Plate 6(d). [Page 122] MISCELLANEA As we have seen, this representation is similar to the seal of Our Lady of Rocamadour, so the ampoul may have come from there. But we have also seen that pilgrims from the Flanders area came to Walsingham, so that such a place of origin cannot be ruled out. The dates of these ampouls cannot be fixed but they are likely to be coeval with the brooches. The priory is found acquiring property near St George, Colegate, Norwich in 1298,1 evidently with the view to having a house in the town. The house itself has been demolished but a very fine door from it has survived.2 It was given to the Norwich Museums and at the time of writing is in Strangers’ Hall, Norwich. It is inscribed: MARIA PLENA GRACIE MATER MĨE / REMEMBYR WYLLYÃ and measures 6 feet 11 inches by 3 feet 2 inches. William Lowth occurs as the eighteenth prior in the cartulary list3 and ruled from 1504 to 1514. Fragments of alabaster carvings found built in a barn at East Barsham4 were said to have come from the priory but this is uncertain. In the church of St Mary the Virgin, Wiggenhall, is preserved a fine lectern inscribed: ORATE PRO ANIMA FRATRIS ROBERTI BARNARD, GARDIANI DE WALSINGHAM.5 This is said to have come from Walsingham, and the Norfolk Church Inventories for 1552 show that there were then two lecterns in the church of Little Walsingham.61 Calendar of Deeds relating to Norwich (ed. W. Rye, 1903), 64, 67. 2 Illustrated in Harrod, op. cit. 178. The door has resemblances to that of Thoresby College, King’s Lynn. 3 Below, Appendix II. 4 Norfolk Archaeology, XI, 257-8, where reproductions are given. 5 Ibid. XIX, 318; see also C. C. Oman, ‘Medieval brass lecterns in England’ in Arch. Journ. LXXXVII (1930), 118-49. 6 Norfolk Archaeology, XXVIII (1945), 225. [Page 123] THE WALSINGHAM LECTERN This brother Robert Barnard has not been identified, since his name does not occur in the list of canons of the priory. He is very much more likely to have been one of the Franciscans of the friary at Walsingham. Dr J. R. H. Moorman has drawn my attention to a Friar Bernard who was Warden of the Franciscan friary at Norwich in the late fifteenth century and had been at Cambridge in 1466-7.1 He may well be the donor of the lectern, especially since Gardianus was the word used for the head of a friary. 1 Cambridge University Grace Book A (ed. S. M. Leathes, Cambridge, 1897), 62, 72.