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Removal of the Screen at York Minster. [Feb. which they report that the water ran their priests that in former ages the after the Deluge of Deucalion. Every Atlantic Isle surpassed in magnitude year into this chasm they throw a cake Libya or Asia, and existed as a great made of honey and flour.”
and fourishing kingdom; but that in Of all heathen nations of antiquity, process of time, having been overthe Egyptians professed the most ac- whelmed by the storms of the ocean, curate knowledge of the real history of it presented nothing but a vast sea mankind. Solon was informed by abounding in rocks and shoals. MR. URBAN,
investigation, joined with the acute I HAVE watched with intense anx. reasoning, which marked the writings iety the proceedings relative to the re- of Dr.Milner : it is, I believe, the work moval or rather the destruction of the of one of the soundest antiquaries of magnificent and unrivalled choir screen the day, resident at York. Another of York Minster, and that I have not by the Rev. W. V. Vernon, Canon earlier added my feeble exertions to Residentiary of the Cathedral, is writavert the threatened calamity was not ten in defence of the alteration. The the effect of lukewarmness or a want third is a replication by the “ Subof feeling on the subject, the delay scriber;" and the last a rejoinder by arose from the hope that the good Mr. Vernon. The pamphlets all dis. sense of the advocates of the measure play a considerable degree of research, would have prevailed over the false and contain many valuable and inteideas of taste which have been in- resting particulars relative to the his. stilled into them, to the prejudice of tory of the cathedral. their sound judgment.
The arguments of the “Subscriber" At present, then, the screen has are first directed to show that the screen not been touched ; the united voices of occupies its original and appropriate antiquaries, artists, and men of taste, situation, and secondly that it is not an are exerted for its preservation. The excrescence of a period subsequent to names of Britton and Wellbeloved, of the choir, but was finished when that Etty, Stothard, and Savage, all men part of the church was completed. To eminent for their writings and in their avoid the errors which a reliance on anprofessions, added to a host of others, tient documents, without the assistance less conspicuous, but equally valuable of other evidence, often produces, it is as individuals whose views on a ques- necessary that the historian should be tion of taste deserve the utmost regard assisted by the antiquary; and how and respect, with the assistance of the often are erroneous conclusions arrived most strenuous exertions of the Morn- at, if the historian proceeds without ing Herald, appear as the opposers of this co-operation! How frequently the scheme. What, then, is arrayed are difficulties removed and contrarieagainst this phalanx of talent? The ties reconciled, by taking such assis. fiat of arbitrary power, and the caprice tance! If Mr. Vernon had followed of affected improvement. Shall argu- this train of research, he would not, I ment, then, sink before force, or truth think, have come so confidently to the be driven from the field by numerical conclusion, as to the age of the choir strength ? I should blush for the en- and the screen, as he has done. lightened state of the age, if such was The most sure method of arriving at the result of this controversy. I would the age of any building, is to take its that a Gough, a Milner, and a Carter architecture as a guide ; by this means were living to confound with nervous any one well acquainted with the peargument the advocates of a measure culiarities of the ancient styles will, so derogatory to antiquarian taste, and without any further assistance, be able so fraught with mischief to every va- to point out with certainty the dates luable relic of former times.
of the different parts of a building. He There are four pamphlets on the may and will meet considerable diffiquestion, which are worthy of great culty in reconciling the actual appearattention, and which are doubtless well ance of the structure with its history, known to such of your readers as have but in the end this mode of research interested themselves in the question. will prove the surest road to truth. The first, “ A Letter addressed to the Among the opposers of the change, Subscribers, on the removal of the Mr. Savage, best known as the archiAltar-screen, by a Subscriber;" dis- tect of Chelsea Church, has pursued
vs the accurate knowledge and deep this course; he considers that the
1831.] Removal of the Screen at York Minster.
127 doorway of the screen, and the lateral ter him another artist is to be called niches are not coeval ; that the former in, to render the building appropriate is earlier than other ornamental por- for the service for which it is detions. Presuming Mr. Savage to be signed; he knows that a screen will correct, (and I must say he adduces be built from column to column; that good argument for the idea) he com- the sculptor will be employed, to raise pletely answers Mr. Vernon's suppo- what Mr. Smirke somewhat contempsition of the screen being an excres- tuously designates a stone wall; but
This latter gentleman advo- he will not have to build a mere dead cates the removal, on the ground that wall, not a mass of plain ashlaring it is not coeval with the choir; with naked mouldings, like some Mr. Savage shows that it is. Both buildings I could name, but a rich Mr. Savage and the “ Subscriber" piece of sculpture, in which the utmost advocate the preservation of the site of skill of his hand would be displayed. the screen, on the idea that it is origi. The architect, I say, knows this, he nal. Now whether, in point of date, also knows that it must cover some either is right or wrong, matters but portion of his columns, but how much little ; they both proceed on the sup- of the columns will be actually conposition that the choir screen is coeval cealed he is not aware; perhaps all with the first opening of the choir, the bases may be seen, or at least a and whether that dedication took part of some of them; how then can place in Thoresby's time or a century he say what part is to be finished, and later, it helps Mr. Vernon but little; what left plain? And, at a period when as he must now convince his new op- the labour of the mason was cheap, ponent that the screen is not of the would he trouble himself to consider age to which Mr. Savage has assigned whether a few inches of moulding it, and which he can only do by an might be dispensed with? No; he examination of its architecture, for by saw his own work finished, and he internal evidence alone, and not by the left the sculptor to perform his. The quotation of written documents, can entire design was under the eye of a the point be settled.
master, who viewed it rather with the Mr. Savage has moreover called in exalted vision of a poet than the eye the assistance of Mr. Cottingham, a of a mere architect; he sought to make gentleman who has had great facilities a grand and surprising structure. in the inspection of Rochester Cathe. Inviting, by the magnificence of the dral, and from this additional evidence whole, an inspection of the parts, we find that a screen, certainly not he determined that the detail should coeval in all its ornaments with the not disappoint the idea which rechoir, bears internal evidence of its oc- sulted from the entire composition ; cupying the original and appropriate and he did not stop to consider site.
whether half a dozen bases out of Need I repeat what has been so of. some hundreds might be concealed. ten said, that, in perfect Cathedral, But, granting the correctness of Mr. the screen is always in the situation Smirke's position, that the bases ought which that at York occupies. The ad- to be exposed, it follows the screen vocates for the alteration know this must be totally or partially destroyed; but they answer there are exceptions to for, if removed to another pillar, the every general rule; York is one, and Ely same objection will equally apply, and is another : and the only support this another lamentation will be made over hypothesis receives is derived from the other buried bases, and so the screen fact that at York the columns of the will be sent from post to pillar, until piers, against which the screen abuts, at last it may only be thought worthy are finished to the ground. Mr. Smirke to macadamize some of the streets in says, that “ those who built such York. But from Mr. Savage I demagnificent objects as the great pil. rive a direct confutation of Mr. lars, and moulded them to their bases Smirke's argument drawn from the with so much care, intended that they bases : he says the screen is coeval should be seen, and never contem with the choir (and the observations plated their interment in a stone wall.” of an architect so eminent as Mr. SaHow is this position of Mr. Smirke's vage are not to be slighted); it foltenable? The architect finishes his lows, then, that the original architect building, and of course completes all did entomb these bases; and even if the mouldings; but he knows that af- he did at first intend them to be
Removal of the Screen at York Minster. - (Feb. wholly or partially seen, he afterwards every quarter of the kingdom, we expressed considered them of so little value, that, an opinion that the promoters of the indoif he was himself the designer of the
vation in the Minster had undervalued the screen, he hid them with something far
veneration which that noble building unisurpassing them in beauty. Here, then, versally inspires, and which is felt in the the question is narrowed to a simple very highest degree in the city whicli pos
sesses that estimable and perfect specimen issue; it is bases against screen, a few
of our ecclesiastical architecture. We conformal mouldings opposed to a splen- tinue in this opinion ; because otherwise we did piece of sculpture, which has ne
do not helieve that the agitators, bold as ver been rivalled, and never will ; and they are, would have proposed or defended a which, if destroyed, as it is very scheme so injurious to the grandest Cathe. likely to be if its removal is attempted) dral in the kingilom, to their own fame as a matchless piece of workmanship will lovers of the Church (Church walls as well be lost; and a few bases, which any as Churchmen), as persons setting a just stone-cutter can equal, will be obtained value ou the works of their forefathers, and in lieu of it. Let us hope, then, that
as the authors of reports and pledges dia. this useless act of innovation will not metrically opposed to all that they have be carried into effect; if it is, and the lately said or done, or persist in trying to do. screen is mutilated, who will prove
These attempts, we venture to afirm, would
not have been made, if au almost universal the greatest enemy to the Cathedral,
opposition to the scheme had been anticithe miserable fanatic who endeavoured pated by its abettors. It should be rememto destroy it, the Dean and Chap- bered that when the despoiler, for such he ter, which completed the work that
was, entered Ely Minster-notwithstanding the incendiary had left unfinished ? the cominendations he has received from the
I have already trespassed so long on unthinking or uninformed there was vot a your pages, that I have not space for Morritt or a Mark ham, a Wellbeloved or a a few words I intended to have added Scrickland, to avert his purpose ; and when on the works, as they are reported still later, the sacrilegious hand of Wyatt to be finishing, the American wood, ham Cathedrals, the public took very little
was laid upon Salisbury, Lichfield, and Dure the bosses nailed in, and the other
or no interest in the preservation of those expedients which cheapness or im.
buildings from spoliation ; and Eaglefield provement have dictated. From the
and Milner, Gough and Carter, wrote in first, I entertained a suspicion of the vain--at least it was not till two of the three literal performance of the pledge that Cathedrals just named, were irretrievably muthe Cathedral should be restored ; and tilated, and that of the third was commenced, when we see inferior wood substituted that the waruing voice of Carter, conveyed for oak, it may be received as a sam- to the public through the pages of our Maple of what the party who direct these gazine, was listened to, and the work of derepairs are likely to propose, if entirely struction was at length terminated before the left to their own guidance.
destructive plans of the architect were more In conclusion, then, Mr. Urban,
than half accomplished. It is our wish to allow me to suggest that if public opi; equal magnitude in York Minster. If it be
prevent the commencement of barbarities of nion is disregarded, and the removal
an argument against the Screen that it is less of the screen should be persisted in,
ancient than the walls of the choir- what, a WRITTEN PROTEST should be drawn
we ask, is to become of the lantern tower, up, and signed by all the men of genius which is of subsequent date to the arches and talent opposed to the measure, that it stands upon ; of the tops of the western posterity may learn how far ignorance towers, which alsu are less ancient than the and vanity, backed by numbers, tri- gorgeous façade to whose beauty they conumphed over truth.
tribute? The style of the nave differs from Yours, &c.
E. I. C. that of the transepts, and the choir from P. S. Mr. Etty's exertions in the
both. The chapter-house is less ancient cause are deserving of great praise. than the choir. All these, and many more
than the north transept, and more ancient Let his example stimulate others, and
minute varieties, embellish the architecture I still hope for success.
which constitutes the design of York Minster.
a great Church from its Norman original, IN our former remarks on this interest- through several ages, in a system of archiing subject, which still engrosses a very con- tecture which admitted of many varieties, siderable portion of attention, not merely in varieties not produced at stated intervals, or the county and city of York, but in almost uniformly in particular features ; and these
ON THE REMOVAL OF THE SCREEN AT
1831.] Removal of the Screen at York Minster.
129 circumstances have generally been considered The manifest want of knowledge of the hisus augmenting the interest of the building tory of our ancient architecture, betrayed by in which the diversity appears. But even the the innovators,-for who that possessed any beauty and splendour of the screen at York correct knowledge of the subject would behas been assailed (Smirke, Report i. p. 7)— come an innovator or his advocate ? --would a hiut doubtless that we shall not only see it have secured them from our censure on that removed, but brought to the perfection account, had not a powerful writer, one of which the original architect intended. the ablest defenders of antiquity, evidently
It is worth while to offer a few more re- ubacquainted with the modern part of the marks ou the internal arrangement of our history of Ely Cathedral, granted to Mr. great Churches, for on this depended the Veruon almost all he had said respecting situation of the choir, and consequently the Ely it it therefore becomes worth while to position of its entrance screen. Mr. Wilkins point out the innovation which has been says, “ these varieties are fatal to any hy. unwarily praised hy Mr. Gough. Ely, as a pothesis which seeks to establish a principle Norman Cathedral, had its choir under the of construction with regard to the position of lantern tower, and its screen in the navethe choir screen, and furnish examples of de- an arrangement which, so far from being parture from constant rule or general practice. disturbed on the rebuilding and enlargement The charge of innovation therefore falls to the of the eastern member of the cross, was reground, and there can be no impropriety in tained, and the splendour of the choir inchoosing any situation for a choir screen, creased beyond that of any other in the when we find it, in so many instances, de- kingdom, by the magnificent octagonal lantermined by convenience or caprice, and not tern, which shed a refulgence of light on the by principle."* These remarks are fatal to high altar placed towards the east of it. Mr. Wilkins's pretension to knowledge on Beyond the altar-screen was the feretory, the subject of our ancient architecture. and from thence the space to the east end There is, we assert, a principle of construc- constituted the Lady Chapel. The subdition with regard to the position of the choir visions here named were by low screens, and screen, and no examples of departure from oftea by a distinction in the side pillars, it, except of modern date. These principles which the commonest observer would not we have before explained. The charge of in- overlook, so as to let into the view of the novation therefore against the mnemoclasts choir the whole height, breadth, and beauty of York, is fully established, and there is a of the entire space between the lantern and glaring impropriety in choosing any other si- the east end, exactly similar to York, whose tuation for a choir'screen, than that in which extent and grandeur Mr. Vernon is so dewe find the original. “ Caprice” applies to sirous to curtail. meddling modern architects, “principle” to These ancient boundaries, so interesting the architects of antiquity. Mr. Sinirke, in the history of Ely Minster, and so essenon the same subject, p. 5, says, “ The only tial to its beauty, were demolished by Mr. conclusion which an examination of the Essex about 60 years ago, and the blaze of plans of all the Cathedrals can really suggest light which had been prepared for the altar, to an unliassed mind, seems to be, that has been made to shed its brightness on a peither the position of the screen, vor the vacant space.
The present altar lacks limits of the choir, are fixed by any general lustre and distinction under the eastern rule or custom whatever." These remarks wall, which is rich in elegant architecare fully as valuable and correct as the pre- ture; and the side monuments and chapels ceding; they, like chose, are the result of have lost their propriety of situation. The observations on prints, and not on the build modern Improver of the ancient Cathedral ings themselves, (for what Architect would found the space too long for the new choir, tour a thousand miles to become acquainted and he did what the innovators at York wish with the merits of the architectural monu- to do, he left in the space between the lanments of his own country ?) and it is easily tern and the porch of the choir, the “folly," discoverable that they are intended to justify which has beeu commended and set up as an the proposed innovation, since no true or example for imitation. candid argument can by any ingenuity be Wyatt displayed equal folly at Salisbury, advanced to justify a position altogether new but it was of a different kind; he kept the for the Mioster screen. But to correct all position of the screen under the eastern arch the mistakes and misstatements which have of the tower, but removed the screen itself, been made on this subject, and those in the which was coeval with the Church, namely, pamphlet before us are many and great, the thirteenth century, and built up one comwould require more space than we can afford. posed of ornaments of the fifteenth century! We will now only correct the error respecte He threw down all the monuments which ing Ely, namely, that the alteration of the surrounded and dignified the altar, removed choir of that cathedral was an improvement.
+ A Subscriber's Letter to Mr. Vernon, Report, p. 29. Gent. Mag. February, 1831.
Removal of the Screen at York Minster. [Feb. its screen, and by numberless other acts of concoction and prosecution of this plan has sacrilege and impiety, cleared the way to never yet been told. the utmost eastern limit of the Cathedral ; “It was assigned, as Lord Harewood so that the choir of Salisbury Cathedral told to Mr. Smirke's report, which my Dow consists of two buildings, namely, the own conversation with the late Archdeacon ancient choir, a broad and lofty space, and Eyre proved to be impossible ; with whom the Lady Chapel, scarcely half its height or then did it originate? half its length, and of a totally different “Was that eminent architect's' plan character, thus forming so great an extent suggested to the guardians of the Minster of room, that the strongest voice is scarcely by him, or did one of the Chapter or more, audible from one extremity to the other. suggest its execution to the Architect ? These are the boasted improvements of "Was the discovery of an old cross wall, modern architects !- these the models for which was, I believe, alleged to Lord HareYork,-for the removal, the dilapidation, wood as the ground of alteration, prior to the destruction of the choir screen!
the determination of proposing such an alMr. Canon Veruon still flounders in the teration ? difficulties he has brought upon himself; “While doubts rest on these points, maevery effort he makes to get clear of his terial to those who argue as you do on the toil, sinks him deeper into the vortex. He deference due to an eminent architect's' attempts to combat Mr. Morritt, and what judgment, it was still more unfortunate for he uses for argument is quite worthy of the the peace and good-humour of the subsacrilege he advocates in York Minster. scribers, that you, and my friend the Dean, Mr. Morritt observes :
understood and explained the pledge given 6. The date and construction of the pre- to the subscribers in a sense very differeut sent screen is not the only question, but the from theirs, and in one which has been displan of Mr. Smirke is to remove it into a avowed by Lord Harewood, and other insituation where no screen has ever yet been fluential supporters of your plan, as displaced in any similar building; bis only tioctly as by all those who oppose it. It reason yet assigned is, that in his opinion, was unfortunate that the objections to the and yours, and in that of many professional decision in July did not occur till after its and influential persons, it will look betler. decision was apparent. It was unfortunate
“Mr. Smirke's choir will be behind a that after repeated professions of a desire to nameless and irregular recess, divided by a ascertain the opinion, and be guided by the partition nol corresponding with the roof, direction of the subscribers, an active canfrom that recess; and secluded behind pil- vass should take place, not to ascertain their Jars from the building in which the nave opinion, but to solicit their votes on the and transepts will form the principal objects, ground of personal favour, and that clergyand a public architectural promenade will men, personally obliged to the promoters of seem the chief design of a Cathedral.
the scheme, should, perhaps, without your "I wish, dear Sir, to call your attention authority, have scoured the country to proto these conclusive and inherent objections cure them. Such, however, are the facts, to your plan, and to solicit from your ar- and surely those who adopt the principle of chitectural advisers, some instances of a electioneering cannot wonder, or even justly choir superior to that of Archbishop Thores- complain, of the irritation which it most by's, or some reason for the alteration of its naturally excites. As I have never admired original and architectural proportions, be- that principle when thus applied, I certainly yond what they or you bave been pleased to took the liberty to laugh, both at the zeal assign; which is as yet reducible to the sin- which adopted such a test of good taste, and gle allegation, that in your opinion and at the violence with which it was repelled. theirs, the two great pillars and the church It proved to me, however, that in your eawill look better.
gerness for conversion you were impenetrable “ You have, however, again recourse to to conviction, and I grieved for the probable the argument ad verecundiam, and assail our fate of the Minster.' modesty, when you fail to couvince our rea- Mr. Browne has published a very interestson. In common with the eminent archi- ing“ Letter," with twoengravings, to prove, tect from whose decision we appeal, you which he does most satisfactorily against produce Sir Jeff. Wyatville, my friend Mr. the opinions of Mr. Vernon and Mr. SaWilkins, and Mr. Chantrey !!! as advocates vage, that the whole screen and its eorichfor your plan, in addition, I suppose, to the ments are of coeval date, and has not, as the dignified and influential approvers of whom former wishes us to believe, been wrought up we have heard so much. To all these gen- to its present bulk at different periods; or as llemen I oppose the single authority of the latter imagines, for want of personal inARCHBISHOP THORESBY, and the architects, spection, that the niches and canopies in who, under his direction, designed and di- the front were subsequently added to the vided the choir of York Minster from the originally plain wall. body of the church.
We will now direct our readers' attention " The whole truth conuected with the to the “ Second Letter of a Subscriber," a