I took these photos in the summer on a trip to St Wulfram’s Grantham, Lincolnshire with Gordon Plumb, but have only just got round to uploading them to Flickr. They show details of a really splendid altar frontal on the lady chapel altar. It has a backing of blue silk decorated with glorious embroideries. The theme of the iconography is Marian. The first line of the Magnificat is embroidered on the frontlet.
The main frontal continues the theme, making use of various titles and attributes given to Our Lady. Out of a hortus conclusus (enclosed garden), grow two branches of conjoined stems both flowering with red roses and and lily flowers. The stems trail out over the rest of the frontal. Between them other Marian titles are depicted. Sedes sapientiae (Seat of Wisdom), Foederis Acca (Ark of the Covenant), Fons Hortorum (fount of the garden), Torris Davidica (Tower of David), Porta Coeli (gate of heaven), Regina Angelorum (Queen of Angels), Oliva Speciosa (fair olive tree), Stella Matutina (morning star). The artist has included two seraphim standing on wheels, which are evidently derived from medieval examples, probably from Mary Barber’s drawings.
All in all it is a glorious piece, but who is it by? Well I don’t know. The altar is surrounded by some rather fine Kempe windows and Gordon and I suspect that it came out of Kempe’s studios. Perhaps it was made by the Clewer sisters, who are known to have produced some fine work for Kempe. Very little of their work can be attributed firmly, but I can’t help thinking that the colouring of the silkwork on the Grantham frontal has parallels with the red Kempe frontal at St Marks’ Philadelphia. I David d’Ambly doesn’t mind me using his photo to illustrate it.
Addendum. Well it turns out I was a little off beam with my musings. Gordon has made some enquiries and apparently the frontal was designed by the architect Walter Tapper and made by Watts and Co. It was given by Emma Sedgwick in 1928. Tapper was one of the last Gothic revivalists, but he came out of the same stable as Kempe, both learning their trade in Bodley’s drawing office.