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five lights; the side windows are more lofty, acutely pointed, and of three lights. The tracery of all is partly flowing and partly perpendicular, of admirable composition.
The roof is as nearly flat as possible, and consists within of polished oak, panelled in lozenges, more elaborately over the sanctuary, and with carved bosses at the intersections of the ribs, bearing these inscriptions: Sctus, sanctus, sctus;" "Non nobis Dne;""Gloria Deo in Excelsis;" "Sed Nomi tuo;" "Dnus Deus oiptns:" also shields bearing the crosses of S. George and S. Edward (?). It is possible, however, that the plain cross is that of S. Oswald, and the cross patonce, a later form of S. Cuthbert's cross.
The reredos is of oak, with panels and canopied niches, and a retable, or super-altar, continued to the side walls. The altar is a large, massive, and moveable oak slab or mensa, resting on a heavy framework, with debased details carved upon it, such as arabesques and cherubs. It is attributed to Cosin. The altar rails are ordinary oak balustres.
The whole of the chancel is covered with wainscot panels, niches, &c., a good height from the ground, so that if there be any sedilia or other ancient altar arrangements, they are concealed. Even the very
risers of the stone steps of the sacrarium are faced with open work of carved oak, a curious instance of the thorough way in which the work has been done. The chancel-screen consists of five elaborate canopies of tabernacle work, decreasing in size from the centre one, which is over the folding doors, those on either side being over returned stalls having misereres carved with foliage underneath.
The doors are pointed, and of open perpendicular tracery in their upper portions. The tabernacle work of the screen greatly resembles that of a similar screen at Sedgefield, and also that in the choir of Durham Cathedral. On each side of the chancel is a set of five stalls, under a general flat-topped canopy, crowned by an enriched battlement of a sort of Tudor flower, and supported by pillars rising from the elbows, and cinq-foil arches. In front of the stalls are subsellæ with quatrefoil panelling. All this woodwork appears to be referable to the Elizabethan period, being somewhat debased in character, though not so much so as Cosin's work. In the middle of the chancel floor are two recumbent effigies, in painted oak, representing Ralph Lord Neville and his lady, the former in a full suit of plate armour, the latter in a sort of high bonnet, and long flowing robe concealing the feet. Both have hounds at their feet, and figures sitting vis-à-vis at little double faldstools or desks, with open books on them. This last is a very odd feature, and confirms the impression given by the general character of the principal figures, that they are of rather late date, c.1484. They once rested on a high tomb with richly sculptured niches, &c., which has been destroyed, but representations of it are extant, one at the Heralds' College. The figures are now separated from the floor solely by the entablature of oak which originally surmounted the tomb, and by the bases of the tabernacle-work, which must also have been of wood. Wood effigies are not very uncommon in this district. Leland, referring to this, says: "In the quire is a high tombe of one
of them (the Nevilles) porturid with his wife. This Neville lakkid heires male, whereupon a great concertation rose betwixt the next heire male, and one of the Gascoynes." Near these are one or two ancient stones, with mortuary crosses on them, and also an altar-stone, which, having once been consecrated for and by the holiest of uses, is now "trodden underfoot of men.” Three of its crosses still remain to show what it is. Just east of the screen doors is the sepulchral brass of a priest, who probably ministered at this very altar. He is represented in his academical hood, &c., with the Evangelistic symbols at the corners of the slab, and the following inscription :-Hic jacet Ric'us drax cl'icus in utroq' jure Baculari' qu'nd'm Rector isti eccl'ie q obiit die Natalis d'ni anno mccccliii., cui' a'ï'e ppciet de'.
On the north wall is a plain oak tablet between two Corinthian columns, thought to have been intended by Cosin for his own monumental inscription. Supposing this to be the case, how little did he think, when he had it set up, that he would ever be driven from his peaceful rectory of Brancepeth, and, after beholding the triumph of the ungodly for a time, be called to the then princely episcopal throne of Durham, and, at last, lay his bones in the centre of the noble chapel of Auckland Castle. But, to return to Brancepeth, and be carried back again a couple of centuries. On each side of the chancel is a building which appears to have been a chantry chapel. It is not unlikely, however, that the one on the north side has been intended for a sacristy. It seems to have been built after the chancel, and close by the door into the latter (which, in that case, would have been at first an outer doorway), is a benatura. In the chancel wall is a hagioscope, through which the high altar would be seen from this sacristy or chapel. One side of the opening is formed by an incised sepulchral slab. The principal window is on the north side, and under it is a recess like an aumbrye or locker. The south chapel, which is commonly called the lady chapel, is now used as the vestry. It would seem to have been built at the same time as the chancel, being quite uniform with it in every respect. The Decorated east window of the south transept has been left, so as to have the effect of an open stone screen between the transept and the chapel. It is remarkable that the east window of the chapel is merely a plain square-headed one of two lights, while those on the south side are like the chancel windows. In the wall which divides it from the chancel, is a wide semicircular arch (probably of later date) and a small ogee-headed doorway. It contains two large high-tombs without figures or inscriptions, one of them under the archway, and another in the centre. Its walls are partly panelled with oak, some of the carving of which is exceedingly good, and apparently of Præ-Reformation date. The church chest is also ancient; the front of it is covered with very rich carving of foliage and grotesque figures, and gabled panels, with complicated tracery of the Decorated period, all deeply and boldly executed. There is one almost, if not exactly like it, at Wath, near Ripon.
Before leaving the chancel, we ought to notice, on the south side of the chancel arch, a recess which has probably been connected with the staircase to the rood-loft, and on the north side another hagioscope,
similar to the one already described. At S. Margaret's, Durham, there are two, one on each side of the arch; at Morpeth one on the south side; and they are not very uncommon, though in many places they are blocked up. At Brancepeth, however, a sort of window has been made in the wainscoting of the body of the church, evidently with a view to avoid concealing the aperture.
Entering the nave, the first thing that strikes the eye is the abundance of dark carved oak wood work of the pews, pulpit, &c., especially the long rows of poppy-heads at the ends of the pews, which give the interior a very quaint, characteristic, and perhaps unique effect. It is just the sort of place that one would expect to see peopled with ghosts on a moonlight night, especially if one were aware that the space under the flooring of the pews is stuffed full of dead men's bones, having apparently been made use of by successive sextons as a sort of charnel house or we might speculate, after the manner of Hamlet, how this skull had a tongue in it, and could sing once;" how this might be the pate of one of the "gentlemen of the four and twenty," who helped to " 'drink" three out of the six bells; how this once held itself up, adorned with the last new fashionable head-dress from York, in one of those grand pews in the transept; how this might be "my lord such-a-one, that praised my lord such-a-one's horse" at the churchyard gate, when he meant to beg it;" how this was poor Nicholas Cokke, who was not altogether "out of sight out of mind;" for on a rude slab in the north aisle, in characters uncouth and filled up with lead, evidently the work of an unpractised hand, is the following simple inscription :-" Pray for the soul of Nicholas Cokke, I. C. H.W." But leaving the "pleasures of imagination" for awhile, let us again pursue our examination of the fabric. The piers and arches are of noble proportions, although quite simple in character. The windows of the aisles and transept are of the Decorated period; but most of them have recently been supplied with new tracery. The lead roof of the clerestory is of very low pitch, and panelled in a similar manner to that of the chancel. Cosin seems to have repaired it. His curate in 1638 mentions that timber had been "sawne for sieling the roofe of the middle alley." (Ornsby's Durham, p. 184.) It is supported by a series of transverse trefoil arches, the spandrels of which are filled up and quite plain. There are good bosses at the tops of the arches and the intersections of the ribs, and it is probably the original roof. The transept and aisle roofs are of rough oak timbers and planks, covered with lead, as indeed are all the roofs about the church, with the exception of the porches. In the north transept is a colossal figure of a Neville, in full suit of mail, with surcoat, spurs, &c., of early character, perhaps about A.D. 1319, in which year Robert Neville, surnamed Pavo Septentrionis, on account of his pride, fell in battle with the Scotch at Berwick. He had, as Leland says, afore slain Richard Fitz Marmaduke at the Olde Bridge of Duresme, for despite who might rule moste." The label of cadency on the shield indicates this Neville. In the north aisle is the rough slab, with the letters filled up with lead, above mentioned. From the character of some of the letters, it would appear to be of Post-Reformation date. In the floor of the nave is
another slab, with one or two letters done in the same way; and in the south aisle is the matrix of a brass of a figure in armour, with the bascinet, or conical helmet, which came into use about 1320. But the woodwork already alluded to is the most characteristic feature. It is more debased in detail than that in the chancel (with the exception of the altar-frame), and it has been commonly attributed to Cosin. But, debased as it is, it is not nearly so bad as the font-cover and the north porch, which are known to be his, and it is probably to be referred to the reign of James the First. The pulpit and "readingdesk" face each other, being placed on the south and north sides of the nave respectively, with their backs against the piers at the junction of the transept. Both are square "tubs" of very contracted dimensions, ascended by flights of steps from adjacent pews, and elaborately carved and panelled. Both have back-boards and square sound-boards, surmounted by elaborate canopies, and, though the reading-pew is somewhat the smaller and less imposing looking structure of the two, they seem to have been devised on a principle of uniformity, for each has its little box in front for the "clerk," but far too small for any functionary of average substance to remain in long with any degree of comfort.
The pews are, for the most part, arranged stall-wise, and crammed into every available corner. All are furnished with panelled doors, having quaint old iron hinges and fasteners, and some (shall we confess it?) are provided with locks! But these were for the " man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel;" we fancy somehow that our friend Nicholas Cokke was one of the "rude forefathers of the hamlet," who wore "vile raiment," and worshipped amongst the publicans and sinners at the west end somewhere.
The bench-ends are carved, with debased details, and poppy-heads1 of similar character terminate them all, so that the interior, as we have seen above, fairly bristles with them. The front of each pew has its horizontal book-board. There are about half a dozen large square boxes still more enriched, one of which is the "Castle pew;" two have high oak framework, as if to support curtains.
The floors of the pews are raised about eighteen inches above the actual floor, and a step runs all along just under the door sills.
The aisles and transept are wainscoted about 2 ft. 6 in. above the pew tops, and the columns are all carefully encased in a similar manner, as were those at Houghton-le-Spring and Chester-le-Street, previous to the recent improvements.
The font is a large, plain, and apparently ancient basin of Frosterley marble, exactly like the one at S. Margaret's, Durham, and, like it, has been oiled, probably with the intention of bringing out more clearly the beautiful fossil remains in the marble, but with the unfortunate effect of making it look, after a time, about as unsightly as anything possibly could do. The brim is furnished with an octago
1 The origin of this term is involved in some obscurity. In its medieval form, poppaa, paupada, and the like, it seems to mean a bundle of rags tied up like a doll, but the pattern it generally assumes is that of the fleur-de-lis, carved well or ill according to prevailing taste.
nal entablature of oak, to make it fit the bottom of Cosin's elaborate cover, which is a very grand affair indeed, doubtless the best the good rector could procure, though certainly it would not now be chosen as a model by the "Ecclesiological, late Cambridge Camden Society." It is a sort of octagonal pyramidal canopy, with chain and balanceweight, which at present "won't act." In the lower part of it is a dove, with expanded wings, and at the top an angel. It is adorned with Corinthian columns, debased crockets, and finials, regal crowns, red-cheeked cherubs, &c., all painted and gilt very gorgeously, but now much faded. Around it is inscribed, in gilt letters, "Be baptised and ye shall receive the HOLY GHOST." Acts ii. 38.
Over the chancel arch is fixed up what appears to have been the ornamentation of the canopy of the ancient rood-loft. It consists of twenty-seven square compartments, of very elaborate geometrical tracery, no two of them being alike. A monograph on these designs, with full illustrations, was published some time ago by R. W. Billings, and was entitled, "The Geometric Tracery of Brancepeth Church." It is said to be carved in ivory or bone, and it shows traces of colour, though from the height at which it is placed it is not easily examined. An ingenious conjecture has been offered respecting it, that it once belonged to the JESUS altar in Durham cathedral, and was rescued from the general demolition, and placed here by George Cliffe, one of the last monks of Durham, who was also a prebendary, and afterwards rector of Brancepeth. From a description of the accompaniments of the above altar, written by an eye-witness, this appears not improbable. Over it is a portion of oak panelling, similar in form, perhaps, from the other side of the rood-loft, with the instruments of the Passion, and other devices, on bosses, coloured.1 It is now surmounted by the Royal arms, and by two other heraldic subjects, which cannot well be seen from below. Close by the north door is a plain alms-box, of the same date as the pews, &c., furnished, as the Canon directs, with a double lock for the two churchwardens, and a single lock for the minister-(Canon 84). In a frame on the south wall is set up, in accordance with Canon 82, a text, viz., " Holiness becometh Thine House, O LORD, for ever;" evidently very old, as are also the Commandments, &c. (Canon 82), which are now taken down and lying in a corner, where also lie the elaborate accompaniments of a clock, given by one of the Calverleys, and having their armorial bearings.
The following texts are done in stained glass, and surrounded with arabesque wreaths, &c., probably of Cosin's time :-" Dominus est Portio mea," " Gratia Dei sum quod sum." In the chancel is a mutilated remnant of fine ancient glass, the upper part of a figure holding
1 The devices are as follows:
1. Argent, a cross gules.
2. Gules, a cross patonce argent.
3. Gules, a saltire argent.
4. Per pale, sable and gules, a Stafford knot argent.
5. The Bull's Head of Nevil.
These last two are shields of peace, containing badges only.