Following on from the blog entry on 3 September 2009 I’ve managed to find another one, from Oakley in Buckinghamshire. Rather than the Weymouth leafmask however, this is the head of “a male bearded figure issuing from two sprigs of foliage” as the Treasure Annual Report for 2005-2006 puts it. You can view the Finds Document here (Item 508). It is silver gilt – hence the impressive golden colour! – and dated to the late C14 orC15.
If anyone can make it, this lovely wee thing, only 27mm * 27mm, is currently part of an exhibition Legends of the Wildwood at the Buckinghamshire County Museum in Aylesbury. You can view details of the Legends of the Wildwood Exhibition here. The exhibition closes on 9 May 2010 and Archaeology Curator Brett Thorn says that even when that display is ended, anyone who wishes to see it in person is more than welcome to make an appointment to visit the stores to do so.
One reason that these small pieces are important is that they give us possible examples of the Green Man being used outwith an ecclesiastical context. Admittedly they need not be secular but there is that possibility! In this they are akin to the beautiful knife handle found in excavations in Perth.
I wonder if it is complete as it is, or if the stem of the leaves show signs of breakage? The photo, which we include with permission from the Portable Antiquities scheme (further details at www.finds.org.uk ) seems to show that the top is silver gilt too, which would mean that the foliage didn’t originally extend further. Contemporary images of the Tree of Jesse usually have the trunk springing from a reclining figure’s loins or body rather than the head but…
Thanks go to Brett Thorn and the Buckinghamshire County Museum http://www.buckscc.gov.uk/ for help in assembling data for this entry. The Portable Antiquities scheme encourages people to register their finds and so make them available to others (like us!). Finds without context lose so much of their real value.
Kath StoneDog is creating a fantastic Scottish Gazetteer at http://www.wunderkabinett.co.uk/emporium/index.php?topic=1520.msg25282#msg25282 and has sent us a response to Vanessa’s query:
My first thought was a rededication at the Abbey but I think it’s firmly St Andrew’s. Does have some lovely misericords with some fine GM though. There’s a good web reference to them at http://www.greydragon.org/trips/Durham%20County/index3.html
Looking at the postcode (NE46 2EB) for the later RC St Mary’s Vanessa points out on the OS map shows how close it is to the Abbey/Priory grounds. Could we be looking at an oral confusion of the two sites now perpetuated in the Newsletter? There’s an interesting looking field just south of St Mary’s on the satellite aerial photograph too.http://home.btconnect.com/stmaryshexham/History.html is the site for the late RC church
“For the period 1721 until 1827, Hexham had two Catholic chapels, a Dominican chapel on Battle Hill and a secular chapel in Cockshaw. In
1827, it was agreed that there would be only one church to serve the town.” So there are two earlier sites, either of which could have had carvings – “chapel” doesn’t necessarily mean simple or unadorned – especially if they were traditional sites (re)adopted by the Catholics as the
political and social situation eased. 1827 is a suitable date for “new” church GM too, although I’m not sure if the RC used them in the same profusion as the Episcopalians.
“In 1858, the Sisters of Mercy arrived in Hexham from Oaklea, Sunderland. Their convent was built behind the church. The nuns taught
in St Mary’s school, visited the sick and helped in the parish in many ways. A new school was built beside the church in 1930.”This is another interesting possibility: depending on the Rule and the resources could a cloister be included in this complex? It says that their convent was built behind the church so it maybe that the 1830 building that Vanessa has highlighted actually /is/ the site we
are looking for?
“In 1979, the school was again used for mass while the church was completely renovated. The sanctuary was re-ordered to comply with the
needs of the liturgy of the post-Vatican II era. Where possible, the materials of the former altar were re-used to retain the character of the original church… [snip]…The old convent was also given a new lease of life when it was refurbished for use as the presbytery.”
After all that I think my theory is that Vanessa has found the right place, at the least it needs to be shaken hard before we can dismiss it.