Medieval English Roodscreens
Williams, Michael Aufrère
Doctor of Philosophy in History, University of Exeter, (June 2008)
Roodscreens dividing church chancels and naves, topped with the image of Christ on the cross and often decorated with images of saints, were universal pieces of furnishing in English parish churches between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries. This thesis centres on such screens in Devon, while seeking to place them in the context of their history in England as a whole. It discusses their origins, the period of their flowering in the later middle ages, and their fate at the Reformation, which swept away their lofts and iconography but kept their basic structures. While the heart of the thesis lies in the period from 1300 to 1570, consideration is also given to their subsequent fate between about 1570 and about 1870, when many disappeared due to changing fashions in church layout and furnishing. It concludes by showing how modern conservation, since 1870, has preserved most of those that remained as well as studying and restoring them.
The thesis uses all the available primary and secondary sources for Devon, and major comparative ones for the rest of England. It discusses and criticises the evidence of churchwardens’ accounts, wills, the writings of the Protestant reformers of the mid-sixteenth century, royal and episcopal visitation articles, injunctions and orders for the period during and after the Reformation, antiquarian researches of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Church faculty records, and conservation reports made on screens in recent decades, as well as the major modern secondary works on the subject beginning with that of A. W. N. Pugin in 1851. Attention has also been given to the screens that survive, and to how they were constructed and decorated.