Page images

tiers. This, however, formed no part of an original design ; but was gained by glazing the traceried apertures of the triforium, the roof of which was then settled to the vaulting of the aisles. Uninformed of this fact, the student has often gazed in astonishment on the two pointed lights of the round-headed arch, divided by a slender column, and ornamented with those sharp cusps,


are, in reality, shown from the more modern mullion behind.

The partial fall of the great tower, about 1459, occasioned ultimately the uniform re-decoration of the choir throughout; and nobly did the Canons accomplish their design. Elaborate lattice work of exceeding beauty screened it from its aisles, and thirty-two canopied stalls occupied the western extremity and the space of two intercolumniations on each side. When the roof was burst in by the shattered spire in 1660, the storied tabernacles of the damaged stalls on each side were repaired by an incongruous work; and subsequently, from time to time, the lattices have been carelessly and ignorantly mangled, to form the gallery fronts, and portions of the pews below. One portion in the north aisle, with singular and contemporary iron scutcheon, contains a fragment of the inscription recorded by Dodsworth, that was “cut in wood about St. Wilfrid's Quire,” and the date mecccolxrrro [b]ije. At the eastern extremity of the south range was the ancient throne of the Archbishop of York, still identified by a carved mitre behind. The space of two stalls was comprehended for this purpose in 1684 ; but the unseemly canopy was supplanted in 1812 by the present throne, which was executed by Archer of Oxford, at an expense of 2001., defrayed by Archbishop Markham. The shield on its ancient finial, bears three estoiles, the insignia of St. Wilfrid, supported by angels, and surmounted with a mitre ; the date below, Anno d'ni 1494, the latest on the woodwork of the stalls, indicating the time of their completion. The poppie above, fashioned as an elephant bearing a military tower, with its defenders, is one of the most singular of its class of ornament; and the fidelity with which the animal is detailed is very remarkable. The stall opposite to the Bishop's throne is occupied by the Mayor, as it probably was by the Wakeman, since it is larger and more adorned than the rest of the adjoining range. A shield charged with two keys in saltire, one of the armorial bearings of the See of York, adorns the finial on which the Mace has been supported since 1646. Of the western range, the Dean occupies the first stall on the south ; the Canon in residence that of the late Sub-Dean on the north; and the rest are assigned

[ocr errors]

to the Canons by labels over each. The Archdeacons of Richmond and Craven occupy lateral stalls, and the rest on the north are used by the members of the Municipal Corporation. The appurtenant subsellia display a number of curious and satirical conceits, in the majority of which more is meant than meets the eye, or I can now attempt to explain.

The ALTAR-SCREEN was erected in 1832, after a design by Mr. Blore ; a large painting by Streator, serjeant-painter to Charles II., representing an Ionic colonnade, having previously occupied its place. On removing it, a panelled screen of wood, rudely painted, was discovered, and behind it the original reredos of Melton's work, which should have been allowed to remain, though it was merely a continuation of the arcade, which may still be seen in the aisles. The altar-stone, with its five crosses, was found below the present table.

The original Piscina of the high altar was displaced by the erection of the present screen ; but that of a chantry at the adjoining end of the south aisle remains, in the shape of a basin resting on a cylindrical shaft. In this aisle, too, a remarkable Lavatory, near the Vestry door, must be noticed.

Three Sedilia, with a curtailed Piscina, occupy the whole of the second intercolumniation from the east, and have richly crocketed ogee heads, resting on square pillars, the surfaces of which are adorned with the Tudor rose. The grotesque capitals and quaintly devised cusps, are interesting specimens of our proficiency in sculpture at the close of the fifteenth century; though the general design betrays the decline of sound architectural principles. It will be needless to warn a practised eye that the upper portion is an unauthorised " restoration.”

From indications in the wall, it is evident that there was a chapel in each aisle of the Presbytery; that on the north side having contained, I apprehend, the Shrine of St. Wilfrid.*

The elegant wooden bosses of the Perpendicular VAULTING OF THE Choir, which was broken in by the fall of St. Wilfrid's spire in 1660, are replaced in the modern groining ; and viewing them from the west, thus appear: a King seated ; a Bishop seated; the Annunciation of the Virgin ; the good Samaritan ; a King and a Bishop seated; the angel expelling Adam and Eve from Paradise-a group where motion is wonderfully expressed; a King seated ; a Bishop,

• On the Northe Syde of the Quiere, s. Wilfridi reliquiæ sub arcu prope mag. altare sepultæ, nuper sublata.-Lel. Itin. v. 8, p. 22.

in exquisitely cast robes, giving the benediction; and an aged man conducting a female to the door of a church.


There is attached to the south aisle of the Choir a building, or rather a part of a building, which, being evidently of unusual antiquity, and unconnected either in style or plan with Roger's Church, has been long confidently supposed to be the original Church of Wilfrid, or, at least, the structure erected by Odo about the year 950. I should contentedly concur in this latter proposition, if each characteristic part of the building had not satisfied me that its age is subsequent to the Norman Conquest; and historical evidence concurred to warrant the supposition. I suggest, therefore, that it is the south aisle of a Collegiate Church which the devastation that ensued in these parts after the year 1069, demanded from Thomas, Archbishop of York, who was Lord of Ripon at the time when the Domesday Survey was made, and died here, on the 18th of November, 1100. The rest of that structure was doubtless destroyed by Archbishop Roger, when he commenced his “ Basilica,” this portion being retained, as convenient for the Chapter-House and Sacristy ;-the arcade by which it joined its original structure having been closed and flanked by the wall of the Choir. This arcade, which has no capitals to the square piers, and but a chamfered margin, is hid from a casual observer in the Chapter-House, and encumbered in the Vestry by two buttresses, formed in the Decorated period, to balance the intended vaulting of the Choir. The south and east sides of the building only are detached from Roger's Church, and present a peculiar appearance ; since the Crypt, which runs its whole length, has, in consequence of the favourable declivity of the ground, a tier of lights, which appear prominently in the elevation. During or very soon after Roger's time, the Chapter-House, and probably the Vestry, was vaulted with plain chamfered ribs, to cylindrical pillars, and the freestone buttresses applied to the southern wall ; but in the Vestry all traces of this work have disappeared, except some brackets, perhaps in consequence of the intrusion of the Decorated buttresses. The Vestry, however, presents a more interesting appearance in its apsidal termination ; where, on account of the contiguity of the Choir, the central window is accompanied only by a light on the south, below which is a square recess and a small round-headed piscina, with a projecting basin.

The altar does not appear to have been of stone, but its platform, a concrete mass, bounded by wrought stone, remains attached to the wall.

On the south side of the Vestry is a closet or small apartment, formed in the lateral apse, which has been, originally, a kind of Sacristy, and, subsequently, a receptacle for the valuables of the Church. On its west side is a recess, communicating with the churchyard, which has contained a sink or lavatory, and, from the trace of an arch in the exterior of the Norman wall,

appears to have been formed for that purpose.

From the Chapter-House, there is a descent to that portion of the Crypt now used as a sepulchral vault; but our survey of this interesting portion of the Church must be obtained from its continuation in the celebrated “BONE-House,” to which, since its division, an entrance has been formed from the churchyard ; whither the visitor must now proceed to complete his inspection of the exterior of the Church.

The head of the Saxon Cross now placed over the Bone-House door, was found in 1832, in taking down a wall of the time of Henry VIII., at the east end of the Choir. It has been supposed to be the head of one of those seen by Leland, in the garth of the Abbey; but the Minster-yard might, with equal probability, have furnished such an object.

From the vaulting of the Crypt, still unshrouded by the bones that have been amassed around, the age of the structure is definitely ascertained. It is supported by square pillars, each with a plain, concave capital, on which rest the semicircular arches, of nearly equal width. These rise from pillar to pillar and pier in a rectangular form, and have been strengthened in the Perpendicular period, when additional substance has been added to the pillars themselves. The windows, 3 ft. 7 in. high, and 9 in. wide, retai the double splay which has been supposed to characterise the Saxon style, and flange inward considerably; but all further examination of the Crypt is prevented by the piles of bones, that extend nearly half its width on the north side, and for three feet beneath our feet.

Above the Vestry and Chapter-House, a chapel, yet called the Lady Lort, was erected about 1482. It is reached by a flight of stairs from the south transept, which also served a Chantry chapel over the west end of the choir aisle. There were, formerly, two divisions of the Lady Loft, of which, the eastern was used as the

Collegiate Library; but the partition was removed in 1840, and the whole apartment is, at present, appropriated to that purpose.

The foundation of the LIBRARY dates only from 1624, when Dean Higgins bequeathed his collection of books to the Chapter, and laid the foundation of a design that has not received the attention it deserves. Such books as the Canons possessed before the Reformation were probably deposited in the Vestry, where Leland, a little while before, was shown the Life of St. Wilfrid, by Peter Blesensis, of which he has preserved some passages in his Collectanea. None of these books can be identified in the present collection; nor, indeed, can any be certainly ascertained to have belonged to the Chapter before the bequest of Higgins.

Before the Reformation, Leland observed" that the Prebendaries' Houses the sites of which may still be defined,“ be buildid in Places nere to the Minstre, and emong them the Archebishop hath a fair palace. And the Vicar's houses be by it in a fair quadrant of square stone buildid by Henry Bowet, Archebishop of York.” These six members of the church having been formed into a body corporate by King Henry V., had ordinances made for their government by the Archbishop, when he allotted them a part of his Manor Garth for the site of their house, in 1450. In the time of Queen Elizabeth, when a college was projected at Ripon, this house was to have formed part of the fabric, and was repaired for that purpose ; but before 1625, it was almost entirely destroyed, and a new house erected, which became the Deanery.

The Palace or Manor Hall, where the Archbishop of York had a residence-most probably from the Saxon, but, certainly, from the Norman times-stood on the north side of the nave of the Cathe. dral, in a site which retains its Saxon appellation of “ The Hallyard.” It was a fair Palace” at the time of the Reformation, but went so far to decay after that period, that at the request of the Corporation in 1629, Archbishop Harsnet offered “to bestowe his great howse, or some part thereof,” as a workhouse for the poor. It probably was not long used for this purpose; but became so dilapidated that, within recollection, little more than a portion sufficient for holding the Quarter Sessions and Manor Courts was left, and this was ruthlessly and wantonly destroyed in 1830—when the present Court House was erected on the site.

The Park appurtenant to the Palace, and in Leland's time


« PreviousContinue »