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The Progress of the Nation page 7

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The Chapter House, York, is of Early Decorated character. It is octagonal and groined, and is said by Rickman to be "by far the finest polygonal room without a central pillar in the kingdom, and the delicacy and variety of its ornaments are nearly unequalled." That it must, even at the time of its erection, have been considered " unequalled" is shown by the inscription at the entrance -

"As the rose is the flower of flowers,
So is this the house of houses."

The Chapter House, Wells, is another extremely beautiful building of the same period; but this is supported by a central pillar.

Many fine churches of this style are to be found in various parts of the kingdom, of which one of tho finest is Howden, Yorkshire; but many of them, though belonging to this period, are very plain in their details.

The monuments of this century are, both in composition and execution, the finest which exist. We have many fine bold compositions in Early English, and many very elaborate ones in the Perpendicular style, but none of them equal the Decorated in chasteness of design and delicacy of execution. The monument of Aymer de Valence in Westminster Abbey is a fine specimen of Early Decorated; the Percy shrine at Beverley Minster is another splendid example; and the effigy of Queen Eleanor in Westminster Abbey is one of the most elegant figures in this or any other country.

towers. - Many church towers in this style are finished with spires, which are frequently crocketed and have spire lights, and sometimes they are banded with quatrefoils.

Windows. - These are the most important features of the Decorated style, and will require the greatest attention. In its early period, or what is called Geometrical, the lancet window is still sometimes used; but it is foliated and not plain, as in Early English. The heads of two-lights windows are divided by arches springing from the mullions. The spaces are filled with triangles, trefoils, quatrefoils, circles, &c., all the forms being such as could easily be drawn with the compasses; but the ogee, or flowing curve, is never used. In larger windows the same filling up of the head with geometrical forms is used, and plain intersecting tracery is not uncommon. These forms are combined in many different manners, and great variety is produced. The window given from Meopham is an example of early tracery.

By an easy and natural process this stiff tracery gave way to the flowing line which succeeded it. One of the earliest modifications was to fill the head of the window with flowing quatrefoils. This was much used in the time of Edward II. The use of the flowing line gave such great facilities for design, that the varieties of tracery are almost innumerable; so much so, that they are difficult to describe, or even to classify, and in our small space it is impossible. They, however, all agree in one principle - that is, the mullions branching into tracery, and not being carried through to the head of the window, as in the next style. The one given from St. Mary's, Beverley, is a good example for showing the manner in which the lines of the mullions were earned up. There are many windows in this style which have ogee heads and canopies.

doorways. - In small churches the doorways have frequently but little, except the mouldings, to distinguish them. These are carried without interruption down to the ground. They are commonly quite plain, but have sometimes hollows filled with the ball-flower or foliage. In cathedrals and large buildings the doorways are usually of large dimensions, and are often very deeply recessed. They are richly moulded, and the hollows filled with a profusion of ornament and foliage, among which the four-leaved flower and ball-flower are conspicuous. They have generally shafts, with capitals and bases; these shafts are not detached, as in the Early English, but cut in the same stone as the mouldings. Sometimes a series of niches with figures is carried round the door.

The finest examples we have of decorated doors are those of the west front of York, and the south door of the choir, Lincoln. A canopy, either single or double, sometimes flowing and sometimes straight-lined and richly crocketed, is often carved over the door.

porches are not numerous, but of great variety of form, and can in general be only distinguished by their mouldings and details. They have frequently a considerable projection, with windows in their sides and groined roofs. There is a very curious one at Over, in Cambridgeshire, which has clustered shafts and pinnacles at the angles. Wooden porches with ornamental barge-boards are not uncommon.

The buttresses of this style are usually very rich, The earlier ones are in general finished with a small gable or canopy reaching as high as the parapet, as at Merton College, Oxford, where the pediment is filled with a trefoil, and the gargoyle, or water-spout, of grotesque design, passes through just under it. Below this is a panel of window tracery, and the lower stage of the buttress has another pedimented head. This kind of buttress, though commonly plainer, belongs to the Geometrical period. A much richer variety of the same kind occurs at the west front of Howden, where there is a canopied niche with a figure in it; and the buttress terminates in a turret pinnacle, with open-work, tracery, and a crocketed spire. In the later period of the style the buttresses are in many cases enriched with canopied niches, with or without figures, in both stages. Sometimes they have a plain set-off instead of a pediment; but in all cases they may be known by their peculiar mouldings. They are also repeatedly set on the angles of buildings diagonally, which is not the case with the preceding style,

The pinnacles are numerous, and very fine. They are in general square, and set on diagonally; the sides are frequently panelled, and terminate in crocketed canopies, or gablets, from which rises the spire, which is also crocketed at the angles, and terminates in a finial. The foliage of the crockets and finials is loose and free, and has not the square, stiff form so observable in the Perpendicular.

The pillars of this style in small churches are occasionally octagonal or plain round; but in large buildings they are very various in section. They have, at times, a number of small shafts surrounding a central pillar; but these shafts are, like those of the doors, cut out of the same block, and not detached, as in the Early English style. In some instances the central mass is a lozenge, and in others a square set diagonally. In some cases, as at Exeter, it consists of a number of equal-sized small shafts set round a lozenge body. The small shafts are repeatedly filleted.

The bases have not the rounds and deep hollows which we find in the Early English, but are generally made up of rounds or roll mouldings.

The capitals are important, and form one of the most valuable marks of the style. They are often without ornament, and can then be distinguished only by their mouldings. Sometimes they have the ball-flower, and occasionally heads or human figures; but the most usual design is a wreath or ball of foliage. In the Early English style we see the stems of the foliage rising from the neck mould, or astragal, and turning over under the abacus of the capital; but in the present style we have most commonly a stem with its leaves wrapped round the bell of the capital and filling up the space like a ball. The one here given from. Selby is an excellent example of the general appearance of a rich decorated capital; but the foliage is infinitely varied. Sometimes it is long and flowing, encircling the whole capital of a clustered column; but in general it is a faithful copy of natural forms, the oak, the ivy, the maple, and the vine being the plants most generally copied; and this is done with great delicacy and grace. Decorated foliage, whether of capitals, corbels, or cornices, is greatly superior to that of any other style; and nothing can exceed the skill with which it is drawn and carved.

Arches. - These are not so acute as those of the Early English. The equilateral is the one most frequently used, but sometimes it is still lower. They are generally moulded, but the mouldings are in many instances bold quarter rounds, or filleted rounds, and sometimes the arches are merely plainly chamfered. In a few instances the mouldings of the arch are carried down to the ground without the intervention either of capital or impost. In large buildings vaulting shafts are carried up the pillars to support the groining of the roof, which is much more complicated than in the Early English. Numerous extra ribs are introduced, and richly carved bosses placed at the intersections, which give it much richness and variety. Many beautiful open timber roofs of this style still remain, both in churches and houses. Stone groining is imitated in wood in cases where it would not be safe to place the weight of a stone roof on the walls.

The mouldings and ornaments are quite as important in this as any other period, as a means of distinguishing one style from another, and fixing the date of a building. The mouldings have lost the boldness of the Early English, but they have gained a greater neatness. The rounds are not so wide, and have frequently one, two, or sometimes three small fillets running along them. Another moulding, very peculiar to this style, is a round, the upper half of which projects over the lower; it is called the roll-moulding. There are also two ornaments which belong almost as exclusively to the Decorated as the zigzag to the Norman, or the tooth ornament to the Early English. These are called the ball-flower and the four-leaved flower, of which we give examples. They are used, particularly the ball-flower, in cornices, capitals, corbels, in the mouldings of doors and windows, and in every place where ornament can be used. The ball-flower is even used as crockets on the spire of Salisbury Cathedral; and the mullions and tracery of some of the windows in Gloucester Cathedral are completely filled with it.

diaper-work is very extensively used in this style in the backs of niches, on buttresses, and for covering spaces where other ornament could not well be used.

Towards the end of the reign of Edward III. a great revolution in architecture was in progress. The change was first indicated by the introduction of straight lines among the flowing tracery of the windows, by which the beautiful freedom of their design was much impaired. This was followed by the foliage and other ornamental parts becoming more stiff and formal, and losing their truthfulness to nature.

It is curious to see how this idea of the perpendicular line and of a tendency to general squareness of form seems to have taken possession of the minds of the architects of the period; and it can only be attributed to the inherent love of variety and a desire for novelty. All things showed the approach of a change, which certainly was not the work of one man, but the effect of a pervading idea, until William of Wykeham embodied and improved it, and brought out the new or Perpendicular style, which will be the subject of a future chapter. '

Of the domestic buildings of the fourteenth century many good specimens yet remain. They were almost all built more or less for defence; and the more exposed the situation, the more were the defences increased, until it is difficult in many cases to say whether a building should be considered a house or a castle. The saying that "An Englishman's house is his castle" was at this time literally true. They were mostly moated, and contained but few rooms, one of which was much larger than the rest - the hall.

Of the military strongholds, or castles, properly so called, many of the finest we possess were built during this period; among which may be mentioned Carnarvon, Chepstow, Kidwelly, Pembroke, Windsor, Clifford's Tower, York, Warwick, &c. The masonry of these is of the most perfect description; the courses, as at Clifford's Tower, York, being laid regularly through the whole extent of the building; thus showing that in castellated as well as in every other branch of architecture the Edwardian period stands pre-eminent.


The art of sculpture was necessarily inseparable from ecclesiastical architecture. In our churches of the feudal ages the sculptured canopies, chantries, tracery, and statues are of singular merit and great poetic beauty, in many instances, and in none more than in those of this period. They make a marked advance on the prior period. Both in the Early English and the Decorated orders we have exquisite specimens of sculpture, spite of the huge destruction of the Reformation and the ravages of time. At York, Ely, Lichfield, Durham, Wells, and Westminster Abbey we can yet admire the labour of the sculptors of the eras of Henry III. and Edward I. In the cathedrals of Glasgow and Aberdeen, as well as in the splendid remains of Elgin and Holyrood, we have yet traces of it. The foliage, the trefoils, and quatrefoils of this period are peculiarly free, natural, and simple. In the Decorated order, at decaying Croyland and Tintern, the nave at York, in the magnificent choir at Lincoln, at Beverley, Ripon, and Carlisle, as well as in the beautiful ruin of Melrose, and a few churches in Scotland, we ought not to pass over the sculpture. On many of these graceful works the monks themselves are said to have laboured, and Walter de Colchester, sacristan of the abbey of St. Alban's, is expressly celebrated by Matthew Paris as an admirable statuary.

We are assured, too, that painting was carried to a great extent in adorning our palaces and churches in this period, though we find scarcely any trace of it left. Henry III. kept several painters constantly at work, whose names are recorded, and who executed many beautiful paintings at his various palaces at Westminster, Winchester, Woodstock, Windsor, Kenilworth, &c. Bishop Langton painted the history of the wars and life of Edward I. on the walls of the episcopal palace at Lichfield. Edward III. collected by royal order painters from all quarters to decorate his palace at Westminster; and Fox, in his "Acts and Monuments," tells us that the principal churches and chapels had not only portraits of the Madonna and the saints, but the walls were extensively decorated with paintings. So that, whatever its merits, painting was much in demand in this period.

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