I went up the road ten miles to East Markham in Nottinghamshire, to record some rather lovely medieval glass. I’d last visited the church in the winter of 1999 and I knew the church also had a Comper window and a Comper English altar, which would be a welcome bonus on a cold day!
The Comper glass is truly wonderful. It is fairly early work, dating from 1896/7 – so is an example, as you would expect from this point in his career, of rich medieval revivalism. Figures of St Hugh, St John the Baptist, the Virgin and Child, St Paul and St Cuthbert are set under tall canopies that could easily have come out of a York church.
The English altar below is rather a different matter and that is what got my blood boiling. The riddel posts remain and are still surmounted by four gilded Nuremburg angels, but all the hangings have been removed. Instead of Comper’s rich textiles, the monumental stone altar is covered with a cheap and nasty white frontal, which looks like a dust sheet and is decorated with tacky appliqued cross.
With no dorsal or riddel curtains the riddel posts are in fact redundant and Comper’s intention of visually uniting the altar with the window (as is evident in the photograph below of the altar when new) is now disrupted. Visually his work is compromised.
What is more irritating is that I discovered that many of the original hangings do in fact still survive. They are dumped in a chest at the back of the church. Thankfully they are still in good condition, but for how long. I wonder though why are they not in use? How on earth did the church get permission to remove the frontal and replace them with something that is mean and unworthy? What DAC in their right mind would allow it? Needless to say I had a little bit of a rant to myself as I spent the next hour photographing the glass.
Two of the discarded hangings from the high altar. The top one, presumably a dorsal, is quite clearly by Comper, the fabrics are his own designs. The base fabric is a beautiful murrey van der Weyden and the orphreys are in a gold St Hubert. There was probably a set of vestments to match this, as a burse is also extant. The bottom frontal, is evidently post WWI later as it has a base of Randoll Blacking’s St Nicholas with red and gold St Hubert orphreys. There were other textiles in the chest, but I didn’t dare get them all out!!