Geoffrey Lane reports.
Work is under way to restore St Mary’s Church at Ickworth, Suffolk, including its fine collection of Netherlandish roundels. The church stands in the grounds of Ickworth Hall, ancestral home of the Hervey family, but unlike the Hall itself, St Mary’s is not in the care of the National Trust. The Church Commissioners sold the church to the family in 1986, after which it suffered neglect and vandalism, and was closed and boarded up for many years, to the dismay of visitors and locals alike. A turning point came in 2006 with the founding of the Ickworth Church Conservation Trust, created and now chaired by Frederick, 8th Marquess of Bristol, the present head of the family. The Trust has attracted generous grants from both English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the church is currently undergoing extensive refurbishment. It is expected to re-open later this year.
Among the church’s treasures were eighteen roundels, numbered 967–984 in William Cole’s Catalogue of Netherlandish and North European Roundels in Britain (CVMA (GB), Summary Catalogue 1, Oxford, 1993, pp. 118–21). Sadly not all of these survive, but those that do are currently being restored by Terry Devlin, of the Norfolk-based firm Devlin Plummer Stained Glass. We are grateful to Mr Devlin for his photographs, which show the varied conditions of the three windows in which the roundels were displayed.
The nine panels in window nIV [Fig. 1, Cole 970–978] have remained largely intact, apart from a hole in the on the lower left side of the roundel in 3c, Judith with the Head of Holofernes [Fig. 2, Cole 978].
The condition of window sII [Fig. 3, formerly Cole 979–984] was far worse, and only one roundel, a mid-16th century allegorical depiction of the Triumph of the World, survives intact (Cole 983). The casualties here include a remarkable oval panel of The Trojan Horse (Cole 981), attributed by Dutch glass historian Kees Berserik to the Crabeth workshop, its elongated figures pointing to Wouter Crabeth rather than his better-known brother Dirck. Only a small portion of the roundel remains, showing the backside of the horse, but it is hoped that a colour photograph taken by the late Karel Boon will enable Terry Devlin to give it some sort of context [Fig. 4].
Vandalism seems to be the main culprit, but theft cannot be ruled out, as in the case of the lower right panel in the same window, where both glass and frame have completely vanished. The missing roundel showed Susanna being led to Judgment (Cole 980), which dated to c.1525 and was in the style of the Pseudo-Ortkens. We can at least get a clear impression of it, both from William Cole’s own snapshot [Fig. 5] and from a very similar roundel at the Victoria & Albert Museum.
The single-light window nII [Fig. 6, Cole 967–69] fared a little better, retaining two of its three panels on the life of Christ – a Baptism probably of German origin (Cole 968), and Christ on the Cold Stone (Cole 969), which includes a Dominican donor figure. But the third, Christ Shown Forth (Fig. 7, Cole 967), has also disappeared without trace, and like the lost Susanna, could one day re-appear on the antiques market.