We went to Great Chalfield Manor, Wiltshire, the other day, parts of which stood in for Thomas Cromwell’s home in the BBC Wolf Hall series. The grounds are very pleasant (complete with a kingfisher on the moat). The house is a medieval manor largely rebuilt by Thomas Tropnell (1405–88), not an inappropriate setting for the TV series. But what really stood out was the panelled organ case in the little church of All Saints. It’s quite beautiful, with painted religious scenes, half medieval chapel and half Victorian fairground.
It was apparently made early in the 20th century for an organ installed by the Reverend Edward Kingston (rector 1878–1900). A card says the case was made when the church was restored 1910–14 to a design by Mr Biddulph Pritchard, and was painted by Miss Maurice.
Wikipedia is wonderfully dismissive, saying simply, “The organ case is richly decorated and looks medieval but is modern.” I wanted to know more. Who were Mr Biddulph Pritchard and Miss Maurice?
To give him his full name, Arnold Theophilus Biddulph Pinchard (1859–1934) was secretary of the English Church Union and author of, among other tracts, Judgment unto Truth: A Course of Six Sermons, The Pope & the Conscience of Christendom, and the memorable Belts & Buckles in Birmingham.
There is a depiction of the case in the manor’s collection, which the National Trust has put online (above). The drawing is described there as one of a box of 169 drawings and plans of Great Chalfield Manor by Sir Harold Brakspear, c 1905–15. Brakspear (1870–1934) was a local architect and antiquarian who substantially but sensitively restored and extended the house for its owner, Robert Fuller.
Biddulph Pinchard restored the church itself. Most of the organ case’s scenes are based on paintings on a tremendous late 15th century rood screen in Ranworth church, Norfolk.
The 12 apostles are on the sides. Miss Maurice has not slavishly copied them and they are not ordered the same, but you can match them all.
On the front are the three Magi presenting to Mary, Jesus and Joseph, above St George about to behead his dragon and the Archangel Michael doing the same to a dragonesque Satan. The last two again are based on scenes at Ranworth.
And on the sides, between each group of apostles, are little vignetted scenes.
In one of these you can a man, said to be St James, being beheaded in front of the manor house, with the west end of the church at the left. On the front Caspar gives the whole church to Jesus in gold, as seen from the north:
It’s all very lovely and moving. But who was the talented Miss Maurice?