Building Name

Reading Desk, St Bees, Cumberland

St Bees
Cumbria, England
New Build

PRESENT TO ST. BEES CHURCH, CUMBERLAND. A most beautiful, appropriate, and costly present has just been made the Rev. Canon Parkinson to the church of St. Bees, Cumberland, with which the college over which he so efficiently presides is connected. The gift is a reading desk of fine oak, admirably carved after an elaborate design, embracing varied and well selected details from the rich tracery of the style of Gothic architecture, known as late pointed or perpendicular English, and prevalent during the period embracing the 15th century. To minutely describe the desk, - the front elevation displays a centre, 3ft. 4in. in breadth, and 4ft. lin. in height, supported standards, measuring 5 feet 10 inches in height, and 1 foot 2 inches in breadth. The centre is divided into three compartments by ornamental buttresses of two stages, filled with sunk panel work, and each compartment is highly enriched at the base and head with elegant and flowing tracery of varied, but harmonious patterns, selected from specimens of the current style. Upon the standards a still greater amount of skill and resource in design have been expended, and the flowing lines which give the front lightness and beauty, by their florid breadth and boldness, transferred on a more minute scale give a gorgeous richness that must, when completed have repaid the designer for his toil and research. On each, by a happy thought, he has introduced a shield, suspended from beneath the point of an ogee arch, that forms one part of the decoration, and on the shield for the east standard are emblazoned the arms of Lord Lonsdale, the patron of the living, and on the west those of the rev. canon, as incumbent and donor. Beneath the tracery, the plain surface of the standard is divided into two by a mullion resting upon a base, pierced with two quatrefoils. Above the tracery, each is finished by well-executed poppy-heads. A graceful and novel deviation from the general rule has been made to relieve the bareness of appearance that unbroken line from the base of a standard to the curve for the head often presents, by the addition of a decorated octagon shaft front of the edge of each, rising with a light moulding, from the level of its base, and terminating with a crocketted finial the level of the book board that the standards support. The centre of one of these shafts is enriched with design taking the form leaves, and the other with diapered pattern. The standards sustaining the seat for the minister are also decorated with ornamental panelling, similar in detail to that on the others, but not so much filled in, and in place of poppy heads they are finished with a characteristic moulded capping, harmonizing with that which, we should have mentioned, is carried over the tracery in the centre compartments, and on which the book board seems to rest In the details there is great variety, a strict harmony of parts, and as rich whole produced as we have seen for a long time. The desk has been fixed in position it is permanently to occupy. It stands upon a platform that is in reality a double plinth, and to give lightness the upper part in front is pierced with a quatrefoil each division of the centre, and beneath the standards. The buttresses up the centre are based upon the lower part of the platform, but the bases for the shafts we have before named are fixed upon the floor of the church. This platform ascended at each end by three steps, and is about 1 foot 8 inches above the level of the floor. It only further remains to be said that the design was produced by Messrs. Holdens, architects, of St. James's Chambers, this town; the material oak, and the carving has been executed Mr. G. Holding, of this town, in such a manner as to enhance his already great fame in this department of art. The panels are deeply sunk, and the tracery has been cut to a great depth, each line being brought out sharp, distinct, and bold. If we mistake not, St. Bees church itself is of the decorated style said to have commenced in the latter part of the thirteenth century, or the reign of Edward 1, and to have prevailed about a century, but there is no incongruity placing work bearing marks of an advance in art in such a position. We have mentioned that the arms of the Earl of Lonsdale and the Rev. Canon Parkinson, are emblazoned upon the standards. The heraldic descriptions of these are as follow: Lord Lonsdale's- Or, six annulets sable, three, two, and one. The Rev. Canon Parkinson's—Gules, on a chevron between three ostrich feathers erect, argent, as many mullets sable As no expense has been spared, this handsome and appropriate donation must have cost considerable sum, and it will remain, we trust, for centuries a fitting memorial of their donor s connection with the college and church in which it is placed. [Manchester Courier 8 September 1849 page 9].

Reference    Manchester Courier 8 September 1849 page 9]
Reference    Carlisle Patriot 15 September 1849 page 3