A Canonised Archbishop from Bolton Percy
This month’s featured panel is the figure of an archbishop now in the east window of All Saints’ church in Bolton Percy, Yorkshire. The window contains a mix of fifteenth-century glass, gathered from the church and placed at the east end in 1720, and modern glass inserted as part of a nineteenth-century restoration. A number of surviving antiquarian sources enable us to remark upon the changes made to the glazing of the chancel during the post-reformation period. The history of the medieval glass and its current iconographical arrangement provides evidence of the continued investment, by late-medieval and post-medieval rectors, in the church’s fabric.
The manor of Percy is mentioned in the Domesday Book and was held by a number of distinguished medieval families, including the De Percies, Beaumonts and Fairfaxes. Bolton Percy, as the parish is now known, is part of the Ainsty (a territory to the west of York geographically defined by three rivers) and home to All Saints’ Church. The present church building has a nave, north and south aisles, tower, vestry and chancel and was built in the first quarter of the fifteenth-century. [Fig. 1]
Present Iconography of the East Window
Bolton Percy’s east window is a large opening of five main lights under 27 tracery openings, with the two outer lights set under an arch enclosing the traceries above. [Fig. 2] The tracery lights are filled with angels and small figures. The main lights, each topped by a cinquefoil head, are split into two tiers; the upper tier contains life-size standing figures wearing haloes and white mantles with decorated borders. Left to right the figures are: St Peter with the keys to heaven; St Anne teaching the Virgin Mary to read; the Virgin Mary standing, nimbed and crowned supporting the Christ child; St Elizabeth; and St John Evangelist holding a chalice with serpent. [Fig. 3] All the figures stand on simple bases and are turned towards the central light, their heads tilted slightly downwards. The figures stand under canopies of the same design and size with three crocketed gables and pinnacles.
The lower tier follows the same arrangement but with simpler canopies, and the standing figures represent sainted prelates whose identities are difficult to determine. [Fig. 4] All wear rich vestments; a white robe with a red or blue chausable and a pallium decorated with a cross. Some wear gloves with jewels sewn into them. All are mitred with haloes but only two figures hold croziers, the other three bear cross-staffs. Our panel is the first figure along this row (beneath St Peter) standing against a red rinceaux ground dressed in a blue chausable with pallium decorated with a diaper pattern formed with stickwork. He wears a pair of white gloves and a ring on the middle finger of his right hand, which appears to be gesturing a sign of benediction. In his left hand he clutches a cross-staff.
Thomas Parker’s Patronage and links with York Minster
Thomas Parker, rector of Bolton Percy from 1411 until his death in 1423, is thought to have paid for the new chancel. Yet All Saints’ Church was not consecrated until 8th July 1424 and the style of the remaining medieval glass suggests that the perpendicular windows of the chancel were glazed much later, presumably by the executors of Parker’s will. An inscription on Parker’s tombstone, placed on the south side of the high altar, commemorated his patronage of All Saint’s church: ‘Orate Pro Anima Thomae Parker Quondam Rectoris Huius Ecclesiae Ac Husdem Fabricatoris’ (‘Pray for the soul of Thomas Parker, formerly Rector of this church and its builder’). The tombstone is now lost, but was recorded by antiquarian James Torre in 1692 (Tajima, 1993-94: 7).
Several historians have dated the surviving medieval glass in the east window to the latter quarter of the fifteenth century, although the glazing shares characteristics with glass-painting of the first half of the fifteenth century. Utako Tajima concluded a date of c.1474. Philip Nelson suggested a date of c.1478, but this is based entirely on the heraldic arms in the window, which may not be original. The shields beneath the archbishop figures in the present window are the arms of five successive archbishops of York: Archbishop Scrope (1398-1405), Bowett (1407-1423), Kemp (1425-1452), Booth (1452-1464) and Nevile (1465-1476). Yet these identities may not be correct; all the figures have haloes and therefore cannot be the archbishops of York. Only Archbishop Scrope was subject to popular canonization, and this was never officially recognised by the Pope (see McKenna, 1970). Alternatively John Bilson has suggested the lower figures were the five northern saints Paulinus, Chad, Wilfrid, John of Beverley and William of York (Bilson, 1915: 122). Relics of all these saints were held at York, but only William was archbishop. It is very likely that the archbishop figures did have local significance to the nearby ancient see of York. The fact that Archbishop Scrope presented the rectory of Bolton Percy to Thomas Parker may well suggest that our panel commemorates Scrope.
Thomas Parker was an important ecclesiastical figure; he was both a prebendary of the Benedictine abbey at Ampleforth (1410-1423) and residentiary canon of York. Parker’s benefaction to both his incumbency at Bolton Percy and the major ecclesiastical edifice of York Minster are recorded in the buildings’ fabric. In his lifetime Parker had contributed to the glazing of the new east end of York Minster, giving one of the three windows in the north aisle of the choir (window nIX), which have been dated c.1415-1420 [Fig. 5]. His name appears on a scroll in the border of the window which commemorates the canonised saints John of Beverley (bishop of York, 706-714), Thomas Becket (Archbishop of Canterbury, 1162-1170) and William Fitzherbert (twice Archbishop of York 1143-1147 and 1153-1154). Parker’s window therefore commemorates two of the Minster’s sainted bishops and his name saint, affirming clear political and devotional aims.
Just as the posthumous donor and patron of Bolton Percy had strong relations with York Minster, so the remains of the medieval glazing of Bolton Percy have visual and iconographic similarities with the Minster glazing. The windows along the north choir aisle (nVIII, nIX and nX) and choir clerestory (NVIII-NXI, SVIII-SXI) not only share a common iconography, but were perhaps even executed from the same cartoons. [compare Fig. 5 with Fig. 4] It appears that the executors of Parker’s will sought to emulate the Minster glazing in the large parish church at Bolton Percy. The well-preserved Minster windows give us a clearer idea of how the original fifteenth-glazing at Bolton Percy may have appeared, before the interventions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Thomas Lamplugh and early antiquarianism
In the early-eighteenth century the remains of the fifteenth-century glass of Bolton Percy was collected from various church windows and inserted into the chancel windows by Thomas Lamplugh (1687-1747). Lamplugh was another important ecclesiastic; a prebendary of Knaresborough and residentiary canon of York. He also descended from a family of clerics. His father, Thomas Davenant Lamplugh (1661-1703/7), was archdeacon of Richmond and his grandfather, Thomas Lamplugh (bap. 1615-1691), was Archbishop of York and is buried in York Minster. His monument can be seen on the south aisle of the choir.
Prior to Lamplugh’s collation of the glass, James Torre had observed in 1691 that ‘the windows in this Church have been miserably defaced and broken; and the arms and painted glass nearly destroyed’. Lamplugh’s actions as recorded in the second parish register in 1720: ‘Hoc Anno omnes Fenestrae Cancellorum de Novo, una cum Vitreo depict hinc inde collecto, et in ordinem digest, instructae fuerunt, sumptibus T.L Rectoris’ (In this year all the windows of the chancel were refurbished with the painted glass gathered there from various places and arranged in order, at the expense of T.L., Rector) (Bilson, 1915: 120) no doubt saved much of the glass from destruction. Moreover his interest in the preservation of the ancient glass is a rare example of early antiquarianism.
The account of Thomas Gent (1693-1778), who visited Bolton Percy and other parts of Yorkshire in the eighteenth century, enables us to identify where some of the figures now in the east window were placed after Lamplugh’s intervention:
‘As to the Painted Glass, which the Rev. Mr. Thomas Lamplugh has been at the Charge to preserve as appears by these Letters, T. L. 1720, it was moved from several Parts of the Church into the beautiful Choir before mention’d. In the first North window seems the Representation of our Blessed Saviour: Also a small Figure of Abraham offering up his Son Isaac. In the Second, is St. Elizabeth and St. John the Baptist. In the East Window are four Archbishops, and St. Andrew in the Middle. In the first South Window, next the Altar, is St. Peter; the second, the Virgin Mary and our Saviour; the third, a young Bishop, &c. Besides, there are several Coats of Arms. ‘(Gent, 1733. Quoted in Tajima, 1993-94, Appendix: 51.)
Of these figures, the Virgin Mary and St Elizabeth are now in the upper tier of the east window. Gent only recorded four archbishops in the lower tier because the fifth figure was converted to depict St Andrew, even though it was probably originally an archbishop.
Gent does not record any heraldic shields, although Sir William Dugdale made a note of 33 coats of arms in a book of drawings in the College of Arms in 1641. The arms included those of Percy and Lucy, Beaumont, the see of York impaling Rotherham and Bunney; the inclusion of the arms of Rotheram (Archbishop of York 1480-1500) and Bunney (who resigned the rectory in 1603) confirms that the glazing was carried out over a long period of time and that Thomas Parker did not pay the entire cost nor oversee the glazing project himself. It also continues the commemoration of ecclesiastics within the church through portraits and heraldic emblems in stained glass.
Victorian Restoration – the intervention of Rev. Creyke
The nineteenth-century restoration of the glass was extensive and funded entirely by Archdeacon Creyke, rector of Bolton Percy 1866-1870, Messrs. William Warrington of London were entrusted with the work; the glass was taken out in July 1866 and replaced in early November of the same year. Much of the medieval glass preserved by Lamplugh was considered ‘grotesque and unedifying’ and for these reasons was replaced by modern copies (Jackson, 1938: 9). Some of the original canopies were removed and placed in the hands of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society. An ancient head, believed to be from the church, is now in the possession of Yorkshire Museum. Part of an ermine collar and halo is visible; the shape of the fragment suggests that it was formerly attached to a mitre or other hat. The piece has suffered severe pitting on the exterior but is clearly the work of a skilled fifteenth-century glazier. [Fig. 6]
Much of what we see in the east window today is Warrington’s replacement glass. None of the glass in the tracery lights or pedestals is medieval and only parts of the standing figures retain medieval pieces of glass. Although the easternmost windows on either side of the chancel retain medieval tracery lights depicting the Nine orders of Angels. Other pieces of medieval glass were incorporated into canopies in the six chancel side windows, which were filled with modern subjects designed by Warrington and installed between 1865 and 1883. [Fig. 7]
Our archbishop figure, like the others, is a composite of medieval and modern pieces of glass [Fig. 8]. The halo and mitre is modern, although parts of the face and body are medieval. Thick mending leads have been used throughout the window. The overall arrangement is one of symmetry, reliant on the positioning of the figures and the extensive use of white glass balanced by carefully distributed tones of rich blue and ruby glass. Silver stain has been used for the hair, mitres, staffs and haloes as well as parts of vestments and mantles, canopies and side shafts.
After the restoration Rev. Creyke published a brief account of the work done. Although far from an extensive report, the account provides an insight into the aims of the restorative work and the window’s state both before and after 1866. Rather than retain as much medieval glass in situ as possible, the pieces were bought together to make a more congruent and less fragmented scheme. Whilst such an interventionist approach might not be taken by conservationists today, it is one which, despite the vibrant colours of Warrington’s additions, has maintained the window for us today. It is also the most recent phase in the glazing history of the church, which sheds light on the continued investment of ecclesiastics in their fabric of their church.
With thanks to Anna Eavis for her comments on the content of this article.
* J. Bilson, Yorks Archaeological Journal, 23, 1915, 105-23
* S. A., Creyke, A Brief Account of the East Window of All Saints’ Church, Bolton Percy. Restored 1866, York, 1866
* F. Drake, Eboracum, or, The History and Antiquities of the City of York, first published London, 1736; new edition, Wakefield 1978
* J. Fawcett, Churches of Yorkshire, Leeds, 1844
* T. Gent, The Antient and Modern History of the Loyal Town of Rippon, York, 1733
* M. J. Harrison, Four Ainsty Townships: The history of Bolton Percy, Appleton Roebuck, Colton and Steeton, 1066-1875, Appleton Roebuck, 2000
* M. J. Harrison, Tithes, Priest and People: Aspects of the Social History of the Parish of Bolton Percy 1580-1620, MA thesis, History Department, University of York, 1989
* A. Jackson, The Parish Church of All Saints, Bolton Percy; Historical and Descriptive Notes, York, 1938
* J. W. McKenna, ‘Popular Canonization as Political Propaganda: The Cult of Archbishop Scrope’, Speculum, 45: 4, pp. 608-623
* P. Nelson, Ancient Painted Glass in England, 1913
* U. Tajima, The East Window of Bolton Percy Church, MA Thesis, Medieval Studies Department, University of York, 1993-94
* J. Torre, The Antiquities of York Minster: Considered in its Fabric … [&] Ecclesiastical Government … also of the Collegiate-Chappell of St Mary & Holy Angels, as Appendant to it / Collected out of the Records of the sd Church and Some Other Authorities, 1690-91