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Midsomer Norton Society

Researching and appreciating our history

Influencing the present and future development of our town

Midsomer Norton Society

Researching and appreciating our history

Influencing the present and future development of our town

Contact us

History Tour

Diary & Events

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Midsomer Norton Society

Researching and appreciating our history

Influencing the present and future development of our town

Midsomer Norton Knight

The return of a medieval knight

 

 

The Midsomer Norton Knight is a very rare tomb effigy made in Bristol between 1300 and 1350. The Society has worked in partnership with Bristol Museum to conserve and bring home to St John the Baptist Church.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Possibly representing a member of the Gourney who held lands in Midsomer Norton after the conquest, the tomb on which the effigy lay was demolished when the church was remodelled in the 18th century and the poor knight ended up in the vicarage garden. He was then used at lent to depict Judas and thereafter became labelled as the Jack o’ Lent and Nortonians threw eggs and rocks at him – resulting in his poor state of preservation today.

 

Then in December 1975, whilst research was being done for a local inn sign, the then sexton produced the carving out of some plastic fertiliser bags in the church tower.

 

The resulting publicity surrounding the Knight resulted in him being taken to Bristol Museum for identification. Thanks to the care the Museum has given the Knight over the last 36 years he has survived for us to enjoy today and to this end we are forever indebted to Bristol Museum.

 

For the past four years we have worked in partnership with the Museum to look at how best to have the Knight conserved to enable him to return to St Johns church in Midsomer Norton. Currently we are working to raise the necessary funds to commission a report by a professional conservator.

 

An article from the Somerset Archaeological Society (1916 vol. LXII) states:

 

"The effigy at Midsomer Norton is the only wooden figure we possess in this series of chain-mail knights, and it is probable that it was made in the workshops in Bristol... We can picture the medieval artist selecting a piece of oak, sound at the heart, in good condition, and sufficiently wide for him  to carve the figure of a knight in armour lying on a board or bed. The portion of the board with the effigy on it, as well as the cushions on which the head rested, and the animal at the feet, were hollowed out and filled with charcoal to absorb the moisture. Having carved the figure and fastened with wooden pins such parts as lay beyond the size of the block it was ready for decoration. The effigy would then be sized and pieces of linen would be glued over the cracks and irregularities. The decorator would then give the figure a thin coat of so called gresso, with a still thicker coating for those portions he desired to be gilded or silvered. Before the gresso hardened, the decorator impressed it with various matrices or stamps of diverse patterns; some for mail of various sizes and others for decorative purposes. To give depth or richness to the gold or silver leaf, they were first treated with bole Armenian applied with white or egg, or left dead or burnished with an agate. All the painting of the effigy was done in distemper (tempera). Finally the figure was covered with a  coat of tinted or oleaginous varnish, which was needful but alas! it did not prove to be a sufficient protection. The reason of the failure of the painting upon wooden effigies was the constant changes of temperature causing contraction and expansion of the wood, and the consequent fretting of the surface on which the colouring was laid. This mutilated fragment of a wooden effigy at Midsomer Norton was once a beautiful work of art, for the Bristol imagers were skilled in the work they produced, and it is probable that our English effigies in wood are some of the finest existing in Europe".

 

Most recently the "Midsomer Norton Knight” project team with members drawn from the church and the Society secured a grant from B&NES Tourism Team to fund emergency conservation work and the construction of a travelling case to enable the Knight to be returned to the Church for the Civic Day Service on Friday 24th June 2011.

 

Image of the Jack o Lent Inn sign

painted by local artist David Fisher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Reproduced by kind permission of David Fisher

 

 

 Our Projects

River Somer Project

Streetscape Plan

Midsomer Norton Knight

Video Memories

St Chad's Well

Jubilee Lamp & Fountain

Vicarage Tunnel

Midsomer Norton Fair Day

 

“  At the corner of the south side stands the wooden effigy of a man in armour. Which formerly lay under the singers’ gallery on a raised tomb, long since demolished. It is vulgarly called by the inhabitants “Jack o’Lent, but tradition says it belonged to one of the name of Warknell”.