Beautiful carvings of

 bench ends in

East Anglian






























































































































Two churches
SOME GREEN MEN encountered in
East Anglian






D LOCATIONS. More will be added as they are discovered.




Exterior of St. Mary's Church

Interior of St. Mary's Church


   The church of St. Mary, Dennington, is said to have some of the finest 15th century benches in Suffolk. Their bench ends are carved with mythological creatures and crowned with intricate poppyheads, usually in the shape of a fleur de lys. 



Carved bench end

Carved bench end  



The picture at the left is an excellent example, with the ornate poppyhead and the carved animal on the arm rest (see enlargement right) and, further, it also has the sciapod on the bench end itself (see below).










The sciapod


   The sciapod was a strange character living in the desert. It had only one foot but that was of such unusual size that it could be held over the creature to shield it from the sun's heat. However, the carver seems to have decided that it should conform, giving it a second foot. St. Mary's can boast that it has the only carving of a sciapod in England. (D.P. Mortlock in his Popular Guide to Suffolk Churches, No. 3).


  Bench end carvingArm rest carving. Possibly a giraffe.




















D.P. Mortlock suggests - possibly a giraffe.




Mutilation on bench end carvingClose-up of mutilation


   Note the mutilation clearly seen in the picture on the right. The damage portrayed there and in some of the following pictures could perhaps be attributed to Dowsing yet the Journal extract reproduced below from the website of Trevor Cooper, editor of the new edition of The Journal of William Dowsing, does not mention the bench ends. So was that defacement, which occurs on other bench end figures in St. Mary's, done during the earlier iconoclasm, or even independantly by local Puritans?


270. Dinnington [Dennington], Sept. 26, 1644. 10 angels in S[i]r John Rouse his ile, and 2 holy water fonts; and in Bacon’s isle, 9 pictures of angels and crosses, and a holy water font; and 10 superstitious pictures in the chancel, and a holy water font, and 2 superstitious inscriptions of Christ; the spear and nayles, on two stools, on the lower end of the church; and a cherubim in S[i]r John Rouse his stool.

Extracted from Trevor Cooper (ed.), The Journal of William Dowsing: iconoclasm in East Anglia during the English Civil War, Woodbridge, 2001



Arm rest carving Possibly Pegasus


I think this might be Pegasus



Arm rest carving. MermaidAnother view of photo at left. Mermaid with grin?


I could not resist that second shot - I'm sure that's a grin on her face.



Arm rest carving. Fierce looking dog with collar.

Arm rest carving. Another dog.








Ready for the hunt,
















Beautifully carved and painted 17th century box pew


Agreed, no bench end, but too lovely to be omitted.

A 17th century box pew.



Arm rest carving. Bird - eagle?

Arm rest carving. Bird preening. Eagle?







Before and after















Far end of previous bench. Slightly mutilated arm rest carving

Very defaced arm rest carving






Here, the carving on the near arm rest has been almost completely destroyed, but that on the far end is only slightly damaged - see photo at the right.










Carving of angel on the arm restCarving of pelican with young on the arm rest























Carving on arm rest. Fierce looking big cat.


I don't know what to make of this one. The rounded ear suggests a big cat, the cuts on its muzzle may represent stripes, so is it a tiger? Either way, a pretty fearsome beast.



Carving on arm rest. TortoiseCarving of two headed eagle on arm rest
















   The church guide says "... look for an angel, a mermaid, a pelican with her young, a lion, a tortoise, a two-headed eagle and a host of fine hounds." Reading the guide more thoroughly at home I thought "tortoise"? So this entailed yet one more visit to search for the creature and I realised that initially I must have mistaken it for the remains of a badly mutilated larger animal. Close scrutiny revealed the unmistakable marking of its shell, however, so here it is.




Below is an excellent Green Man carved at the head of the left hand column in the 14th century south chancel window. A fine example and looking as clearcut as if done only yesterday.


14th century south chancel windowCarving of a Green Man in the south chancel window







               Did Dowsing and his men not look up?






And finally, back outside the church, a look at the porch

and close-up of the base of a sanctuary ring.


Dennington Church porch


 Close-up of base of the sanctuary ring























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Copyright Ivy Collins 2009