Misericords of St Laurence – Part I

The Parish Church in Ludlow is famous for its 15th century misericords in the chancel stalls. These ignored carvings are found underneath choir stall seats and are mostly found in areas of the country whose wealth came from the medieval wool trade. The largest collection is housed at Salisbury Cathedral (106) compared to Hereford Cathedral (40) and the 28 intricately carved designs here in Ludlow.

Finally I have managed to get some decent photos of them all, so let me introduce you to them:

North Side 1 – 5

N1: There are several interpretations of this one. A scold wearing an outrageous horned head-dress or hennin being ridiculed, though the woman does not wear the scold’s bridle so it may represent street entertainment. It may also be a warning against misplaced vanity.

N1

N2: The central corbel is the form of a Harpy, a young woman’s head being given the body and wings of a bat. Her supporters are bats – creatures of darkness and symbolic evil. This could be a cautionary tale about women using their charms to tempt a man aka Adam and Eve.

N2
N2

N3: This is Ludlow’s most famous one and shows a dishonest alewife who has given short measure and has been thrown over the shoulder of the devil. A demon, Tutivillus on the left reads a long list of her misdemeanours. Another devil  plays the bagpipes to serenade her journey to the gaping mouth of Hell shown on the right.

N3
N3

N4: My favourite. A mermaid holds a mirror in one hand and a now missing comb in her left. Two dolphins add to the theme. Yet another anti-feminine theme, the mermaid or siren being symbolic of the woman luring men away from the path of salvation.

N4
N4

N5: A scene of domestic discord involving three male figures. The one on the right is trying to restrain the other two, whilst a cauldron bubbles away on the hearth. The kite-shaped leaf on the right is typically found on the Ludlow misericords and a stylised foliage often used in court manuscripts. The whole of the carving represents one of the seven sins – Anger.

N5
N5

Source of text: Historic Ludlow ” The Misericords and Choir Stalls” by Peter Klein (1986)

X for XV century Misericords

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Woman with Coif
S4 – representing womanhood, possibly a mother and daughters

We are quite lucky in Ludlow to have a very impressive Parish Church – St Laurence, which is so big that it can be seen from miles around and is known as ‘The Cathedral of the Marches’. Now none of this has to do with the letter X, but inside the church you can find twenty eight misericords dating from the XV century.

Seated Man with Scroll
S13 – this could be a pupil or schoolmaster at the school run by the Palmers’ Guild in Ludlow.

Now I don’t propose to show you all 28, but here are a few of my favourites.

Owl with eagles
S5 – the owl in medieval times was a dark symbol. Here it is being mobbed by two birds looking inwards, possibly eagles.

St Laurence’s Church has twenty eight misericords in the choir stalls which are of a quality usually associated with great cathedrals such as Worcester or Gloucester.

Monster with female face
N2 – a Harpy (young woman’s head with the body and wings of a bat) with her supporters (bats) creatures of darkness and symbols of evil.

Carved on the underside of the hinged choir seats each misericord is fashioned from a piece of timber some 26 inches (660 mm) long, 12 inches (300 mm) deep and 6 inches (150 mm) thick.

falcon and scales
N13 – Falcon and Fetterlocks, the personal badge of Richard Duke of York (1411 – 1460)

The misericords have a wide variety of themes and with Ludlow then being a royal stronghold there is a royal influence shown in a number of misericords. Wikipedia

Prince of Wales Feathers
N8 – since the mid-16th century the three ostrich feathers have been the personal badge of the Prince of Wales.
S6 – Swan flanked by leaves, the badge of the Bohun family though without the crown collar.

The header misericord is N4 – a mermaid holding a mirror in her right hand, a comb missing from her left. Two dolphins flank her.