Friday, 4 April 2014

Blackmore Cresset Stone

Cresset Stone, Priory Church of St Laurence, Blackmore
Cresset Stone

74, Cannon Grove,
FETCHAM, Surrey.

28th July, 1973.

Dear Rev. Knott,

Having now returned from my expedition into Essex I would firstly like to thank you for your help and co-operation on the occasion of my visit to see your cresset stone at Blackmore. Secondly, I set out below my conclusions as promised, not forgetting that I promised you a copy of any future article.

I believe the cresset to be 14th century and not Norman. Although hitherto described as being of Norman capital form, the top surface, as viewed through your show case, suggested the later date, taking into account the overall design, the well pronounced rims to the cups, the tooling, and the handles. It closely resembles a 14th century cresset now in the City museum, Winchester.

It was then thought possible that the 14th century cresset maker had reused a redundant Norman capital from your original church. However, now that it has been possible to remove the stone from the case and actually see the underside, this belief can no longer be held.

The sculpture of the underside is undoubtedly of Gothic rather than Romanesque form. The outer four cups are scooped into the 'mouths of 'cones’ sculpted out from a central core of stone, tapering away from the cup to the base. Had this been in the Norman Romanesque style the cones or Scallops would have descended in a direct formal arrangement to the base, as is well seen on so many Norman capitals. The sculpture on your cresset, however, does no such thing. From the springing at the base, each scallop takes a beautiful sweeping form round to the right, so that all four spiral round the stone. This is a Gothic theme. In the 13th century the straight scallops of the Normans were twisted sideways and usually carved into "stiff leaf" foliage. In the 14th century this became much more pronounced. Such dates are of course only a rough guide. I believe the spiralling sculpture on your cresset dates from this time. Although well-carved, it is not especially fine, although it would seem to be the finest cresset stone in the country of this type. It is of interest that the carver chose this spiralling motif for an item to be seen so often in flickering flame light. This would be appropriate and also very effective.

I hope this information will be of interest to you. Please write if I can be of further assistance in any way. Should you write to Winchester I ought to point out that they have a second plain cresset also, and so do make it clear which one you are talking about!

Yours sincerely,

[Signed: Christopher Hawkins]

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