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1881.]

Removal of the Screen at York Minster.

tion of classical taste along with ex-
actness of critical knowledge. And
how far that object can be effected by
a long Poem which is allowed to
blend in one mass almost any thing
and every thing, from Theocritus to
Homer, it must be left to older and
higher Heads to determine."
Yours, &c.

Mr. URBAN,

R.S.Y.

YOUR learned correspondent Mr. Barker, in his account of the game of "Micatio Digitorum,' "" which was practised by the ancient Romans and Greeks, and by the modern Italians and Chinese, has omitted to state the instance of a similar pastime practised at this day among English youth, derived probably from the above. Though it is not very common, I have seen it pursued occasionally in schools after the manner I am about to describe. When two lads agree upon playing, the one mounts the back of the other, the latter generally resting his elbows on a bench, or some such supporter, while his hands cover his face and eyes. The one who is mounted holding up a number of fingers cries outButt, butt, how many fingers do I hold up?" If the under boy guesses

33

wrong, six we will say, when there
are eight held up, the other repeating
the following formula, is obliged im-
mediately to change the number of
them-six you say and eight there
are; butt, butt, how many fingers do
I hold up?" While the under one
continues to guess wrong, the process
is repeated until he hits upon the
right number, when they both change
places, and the other party becomes
"butt" in his turn. This game, it
would seem, then, depends entirely
upon the degree of confidence which
the parties mutually place in each
other's integrity;-whatever may have
taken place in that respect among the
Romans, whether according to the
commentator on Cicero, and perhaps
even Adams himself, they are supposed
to have played their game occasionally
in the dark, or whether, according to
Mr. Barker, they never did. That the
game I mention is in some manner
allied to the Italian, if not derived
from it, is rendered pretty evident, I
think, from the coincidence of some
words made use of with those of For-
cellinus, as quoted by Mr. B. "quod
nos Longobardi dicimus fare, o givo-
care, o BUTT are al tocco.'
Yours, &c.
T. GRIMES.

PROPOSED REMOVAL OF THE SCREEN AT YORK MINSTER.

THE meeting at York to decide the question of the removal of the organ Screen took place on the 28th of December; and notwithstanding all the ingenuity of the party opposed to good taste and the arrangement of antiquity, the advocates for its preservation in its ancient proportions and situation defeated their scheme, as at the former meeting in July; but to turn victory into a defeat, if possible, the prince of modern innovators advanced suddenly with a list of 623 proxies, collected, as Mr. Morritt observed, "from the last place in the world from which he should expect to look for a decision on Gothic architecture-the stand at Doncaster!" Ladies canvassed their partners at a ball; a vote to deface the Minster was the "result of a bet made at Doncaster as to the issue of that meeting;" and clergymen canvassed for votes in their respective parishes. These proxies outnumbered the above meeting, which consisted of 211, and which was called to decide the question. The unfairness of the removalists in this case is very strongly evinced. At the meeting in July Mr. Scott, a staunch advocate for the preservation of the Screen, produced two proxies, which the Dean, and afterwards GENT. MAG. January, 1831.

the Archbishop as chairman, refused to receive; but, at the last meeting, Mr. Vernon, finding himself in a minority, brings forward 623 proxies, thus attempting to quash the proceedings of the day; and after a discussion of six hours, tacitly admitting that the question was already settled before the chairman took the chair, by the overwhelming majority of proxies. Surely then, after so protracted a discussion, and after their own decision against proxies, it was rather too bad to contend for the admission of written opinions, obtained by means not the most likely to obtain the sense of the subscribers on a question of taste.*

At the meeting in York, in July, of 200 persons present, about twenty or thirty only voted for the measure; of fifty-eight letters read, fifty were for the Screen remaining as it now stands! The friends of antiquity, and of the Minster as it was, felt consoled and comforted that this was finally settled, and settled it certainly ought to have been to all intents and purposes; but, a few weeks after, to their great astonishment and grief, this matter

Yorkshire Gazette.

34

Removal of the Screen at York Minster.

was again brought forward oy a nobleman favourable to the new measure, at the conclusion of a county meeting called at York for the purpose of voting an address of condolence and congratulation to his present Majesty, and attempted to be brought forward ere the friends of the original design were aware of the matter. ("This," says Mr. Etty, "I confess, always appeared to me very much like a ruse; I may be mistaken, but others have thought so too.") The nobleman, who was chairman of the fund for its restoration, rose and said, "He certainly was one of those who thought that when the subscribers gave their money for the purpose of restoring the Minster, they meant the restoration to what it was at the time it was burnt." This was followed by loud applause. He said, "The right way to go to work was, in his opinion, to call a meeting in two or three months, and each subscriber to make up his mind; so that a second meeting is called, setting it afloat again, after it had been once fairly settled, because we are told it was nol satisfactory!' I, God knows, have no enmity against any man (except the incendiary), or body of men; on the contrary; but I am sorry to say that this sort of procedure does not seem to me quite fair and straightforward. On that ground I certainly do object to the matter being again agitated, or to any departure from the original pledge."

Lord Harewood took the chair, which he occupied at the first meeting, and his Lordship repeated what he had formerly stated, namely, that the meeting was held for the restoration of the Minster. After some remarks on the former meetings, his Lordship concluded: "The principal cause of the discontent was an idea that it was intended to use the money of the subscribers for a purpose not contemplated at the time of subscribing. That was the ground-work of the complaint; and he said, it was no ground-work at all. He cared not about the Screen; but he did care very much about this, that the subscribers should feel that there was no attempt in any party to do with their money what they disapproved of; that was the only subject in which he took an interest; he was no partizan in any other way."

W. F. L. Scott, Esq. moved the previous question; as a general meeting of subscribers was held on the 29th day of July, the decision of which ought to be final.

Mr. Morritt spoke at considerable length, and with great ability, defending the position of the Screen, and triumphantly exposing the sinister course of the opposing party in changing the final decision from one meeting to another, in the expectation of deciding the question their own way; the disgraceful method of collecting votes; the bad faith towards the subscribers; the circulation of a deceptive drawing not taken

[Jan

In

from the building, but made up from views
of portions of the Minster published or
sketched at different times; in short, Mr.
Morritt exposed so many instances of dis-
ingenuousness, which were not explicitly
denied, that we think the removalists will
not appear in a very favourable light to the
majority of the subscribers. Mr. Morritt
observed, "Much had been said about influ-
ential subscribers; but influence did not
imply a knowledge of either Grecian or Go-
thic architecture. Under the auspices of
influential subscribers much mischief had
been done to our ancient cathedrals.
fluential subscribers were led away, more
than any others, by the fashion of the day;
and every day had a fashionable architect of
its own. Under the fashionable architect Mr.
Wyatt, the cathedrals of Durham, Salisbury,
and Lichfield were mutilated and disfigured.
Mr. Smirke asserts that the position of the
Screen in English Cathedrals is not uniform.
He was aware the division of the choir from
the nave was sometimes placed to the west
of the pillars of the central tower; but this,
he contended, was done when, in conse-
quence of the number of the clergy, the
choir was found insufficient to accommodate
them. But in none of our Cathedrals, with
the exception of Ely, which was compara-
tively modern, was the Screen placed to the
eastward of the tower. He had a right
therefore, to conclude, that when the choir
was sufficient to accommodate the clergy, it
terminated at the lantern. The report, and
the opinion of Mr. Wilkins, had startled him
at first; but neither Mr. Wilkins, nor Mr.
Smirke, nor the Canon Residentiary himself
(Mr. Vernon), should tell him that the Screen
must be removed into another situation
because they liked it better. He would say,
that an architect, in repairing our ancient
cathedrals, was not to tell him of his taste,
but to produce his authority. He admitted
that the Canon Residentiary had pointed out
some defects which would be remedied were
the Screen removed, but other defects more
glaring would be exhibited by the removal.

:

Mr. Vernon, Canon Residentiary, attempted to defend himself and friends, particularly with respect to the deceptive drawing, and laboured, by producing Mr. Britton's plates of the Minster, to show that all prints and drawings were inaccurate; but this was only making bad worse, for in none of Mr. Britton's plates is the perspective distorted the views are fairly taken from different positions on the floor, and there are no tricks of light and shade; but in these respects, and in regard to perspective, nothing can be more faulty than the view published by the removalists. It is tricked out to ensure the approbation and vote of those who have no knowledge of plain architectural lines, and who are easily charmed with a pretty print. Mr. Vernon complained of the consequences of his own

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1831.]

Removal of the Screen at York Minster.

party's conduct, and charged the newspapers with exciting the irritation which existed throughout the county on the subject of the innovation. The Yorkshire Gazette has very ably refuted this unjust charge, and adds, with truth, that if it had not been for the newspapers, the subscribers would have heard nothing of the matter till the Screen had been taken down. Mr. Vernon quoted in favour of his opinion the names of several provincial architects, not celebrated for their knowledge of our ancient architecture, but known in their neighbourhood for their buildings in the Gothic style; which style, it is well known, contemns the authority of such models of excellence as are exhibited in York Minster. Their opinion, no doubt, is as good as that of the majority of contemporary architects, who have never studied the ancient architecture of England as they profess to have done that of Grecian and Roman origin. They should, however, be told that it requires even more industry to become thoroughly acquainted with its principles than any style which has fixed and certain rules. Stuart has supplied the majority of architects with the greater part of their knowledge of ancient models; but there is no folio of taste for the use of the office, consequently the Barrys* of the day are very few.

Mr. Vernon said: "With the drawings, fifteen hundred copies of Mr. Smirke's report had been circulated; and the opinion of the subscribers had been requested. A number of letters had, in consequence, been received; those in favour of the removal being upwards of 600; and those against it being something more than 100. A meeting was held in Leeds on the subject, where 68 persons were present; and 60 of them had set their names down in favour of the removal, and only three against it."

Mr. Vernon was followed by the venerable Archdeacon Markham, a name which will for ever be revered by the admirers of ancient English architecture, and of York Minster in particular. This gentleman is the brother of the late Dean, who set an example of care and regard for his cathedral, which, it is to be regretted, is already forgotten, or remembered only by those who cannot follow his admirable pattern. The Archdeacon reflected in strong terms on the proceedings subsequent to the meeting in July, which he argued ought to have been, as it was intended, final on the question. He read a letter from Lord Mansfield, declaring his opinion to be against the removal of the Screen; and that, if he even entertained a different opinion on the subject, he would have condemned the propriety of the present meeting. The Archdeacon pointed out, with peculiar skill, the

Charles Barry, Esq. an architect of elegant taste.

35

inaccuracies of the drawing which has occa-
sioned so much criticism, inaccuracies glar-
ing and perfectly indefensible. The model
was likewise incorrect. The scale upon
which it was executed was two inches to
ten feet. Consequently, a person standing
at the distance of four feet two inches from
the face of the model, was placed as far from
that Screen as the west door is from the
present Screen in the Minster. He had
often seen, however, people place themselves
as far as ten or twelve feet from the mo-
del; little thinking, that from the diminu-
tive scale of the model, they were standing
certainly far out of the Minster; probably
without Bootham-bar, or perhaps on the
Manor Shore. Mr. Smirke took it for
granted, that every subscriber agrees that
the Minster should be restored in the most
"perfect and enlarged sense of the term;"
surely then, he ought to have kept to re-
storation alone; and not have brought for-
ward dissertations from Mr. Wilkins on the
nature of innovations, which he had himself
distinctly declared he would avoid. (Ap-
plause.) It had been asserted that the inner
porch of the Screen is of a later date than
the ornamental Screen front. Now it was
only necessary to look at it, to be convinced
that this was not the case; as the two
porches, and the ornamental fronting to the
Screen, were banded in together, so as to
shew that the western Screen and the choir
front of the porch were built at the same time.
There were many reasons why this porch
should not be destroyed. In the recent
discoveries made of a Norman church below
the pavement of the choir, the antiquity of
the Minster had been raised to the time of
the conquest (applause)—so that they now
had a specimen of every change of Gothic
English architecture from that period to the
period of Henry VII. when cathedral Gothic
architecture sunk never to rise again. It
was a proud possession; and few cathedrals
could boast of such beautiful specimens as
they had. (Applause.) But the link of
this interesting series, which was now com-
plete, would be broken by the demolition of
nearly half the porch, where the only speci-
men of fan-tracery in the Minster now ex-
isted. (Hear, hear.) That porch, which
now threw a shade between the broad light
of the nave and the entrance of the choir,
creating that gloom so productive of reli-
gious feeling; and that mystic awe which,
on other occasions, Mr. Smirke knew so well
how to appreciate, that porch would now be
reduced to paltry dimensions! (Hear, hear.)
And why these innovations! It had been
discovered that the porch did not stand in
the centre of the nave. Wonderful dis-
covery! It was never intended it should do

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nor could it ever be placed by Mr. Smirke in the centre of the nave and of the choir. If irregularity in ancient buildings were an argument for altering, or rather

36

Removal of the Screen at York Minster.

destroying them, what would become of the
great pillars of the lantern tower themselves?
which were all of different shapes and di-
mensions; or of the leaning columns in the
transept, crushed by the superincumbent
weight? or of the leaning tower at Pisa?
or the Assinelli at Bologna? (Applause.)
But there was another reason for pulling it
down. Mr. Smirke says, "that a large
proportion of its enrichments are the work
of a plasterer now living.' Why not men-
tion the name of this plasterer? Bernas-
coni, a most ingenious artist, who had within
the last ten years erected an ornamental Altar
Screen in Westminster Abbey of this same
plaster, under the direction of Benjamin
W Vyatt; he believed there was also one in St..
George's Chapel, Windsor. "My brother,"
said the Rev. Speaker, "did introduce plaster
into the organ Screen, and he lived to see
his error.
No sooner did he see it than he
repented of it; and sincerely lamented that
which the poverty of the Minster funds
compelled him to do. If the meeting, then,
saw the error of removing the Screen, which
he hoped they would, let them imitate him,
not in what he did amiss, but in acknow-
ledging that they were wrong; and de-
pend upon it," added the Rev. Gent. much
affected, "if you never did more harm to
the Minster than Dean Markham did, it
will still continue to stand unrivalled among
the cathedrals of Europe." (Cheers.) No
he presumed, would deny that the pre-
sent Screen was built for the spot where it
now stood; and that the architect built it
in proportion to the situation it occupied.
The Screen, being 23 feet six inches high,
was in the proportion of about one-eighth
to the height of the tower, which was near
200 feet high now, when brought east-
ward to the first column in the choir, its
proportion would be about one-fourth to
the height of the canopy, which was not
100 feet high. This was, he supposed, one
of Mr. Smirke's substantial restorations;
any thing more contrary to architectural
rules he could not conceive. (Applause.) If
it was an innovation, in its day, to place the
Screen against the great pillars, it surely
must be equally an innovation now to place
it against a column in the choir, for which
it was never intended. (Applause.) The
argument, "that the pillars concealed by

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the Screen were constructed with a view to be seen on every side, and that their shafts and moulded bases were worked down to the level of the pavement," proved nothing. The same thing would be found in different parts of the Minster tabernacle-work itself; and was also recently found to be the case in removing an old screen in the cathedral at Norwich. It was a curious thing that, in all remarks that had been made in favour of the removal of the Screen, not one word had been said of its appearance when viewed from the cast end; but the great pillars of

[Jan.

the lantern had been extolled, and every
thing most beautiful in the Minster must
give way to the setting them off to the
greater advantage. No person admired that
part of the fabric more than himself; but
he must contend that it was not the finest
part of the cathedral. (Hear.) The choir
unquestionably had the pre-eminence, and
had always been considered as the finest
choir in Europe by all persons of taste in
this as well as in all other countries. (Ap-
plause.) It surprised him too, to see the
composure with which the removal of the
altar Screen was contemplated; as if that
were not, in itself, a glaring innovation.
That was deemed too trivial even to men-
tion, as the removal of it one arch further
east, was considered nothing; it made not
the slightest difference to the eye; as they
had before been told that the diminishing
the choir 30 feet in 220, would never be
perceived. Supposing, however, that, as
Mr. Smirke said, no one would miss 30
feet in 220, that is one arch out of nine,
they surely would be able to detect the
taking away of one arch out of three, be-
tween the altar Screen and the east window;
if not, it showed him what he had always
thought, how incompetent the generality of
people were to form correct opinions from
looking at a plan. He would contend that
it was the present situation of the altar
Screen which gave magnificence and gran-
deur to the whole choir. It was not the
space between the altar and organ Screen
which gave the grand effect, but the whole
length from the organ Screen to the east
window; that noble waste of room, that
disregard of space between the altar Screen
and the east window which was so striking,
and which constituted that sublime effect
which was so imposing.

The Reverend Mr. Landon, of Aberford,
followed in a speech expressive of his utter
contempt of the original design of the Min-
ster, and he called the Screen an "incum-
brance which disgraced the finest part of the
Minster,"-the same Screen which immedi-
ately after the fire was spoken of with admi-
ration, and its escape from injury regarded
with unfeigned and universal delight,

Rich. Bethell, Esq. then moved, "That the plan of Mr. Smirke for the removal of the organ Screen be adopted."

Mr. Fawkes seconded the resolution.

Mr. Scott moved as an amendment, that "It is the opinion of this meeting that the decision of the meeting held in this place on the 29th of July last, was, and ought to be

final."

Mr. Stapyllon was for the alteration, and made a long speech, in which he invoked disapprobation. He was frequently interrupted by coughing, and other symptoms of impatience and censure.

Lord Morpeth asserted that it had been proved that "the position of the Screen was

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1831.]

Removal of the Screen at York Minster.

not that which it originally occupied."(Mr. Morritt, "No, no.")-His Lordship owned, if it was made out that this was the original and constant position of the Screen, and if it was also proved that this was the position of screens in all existing cathedrals, still if it could be proved to him that neither the stability of the fabric, nor its utility for public worship, would be endangered-and it appeared they would nothe said if this could be shewn, and it could be shewn too that the general appearance would be improved, he should say let it be removed. (Applause, and cries of, No, no.) Mr. Morritt talked of the destruction of the Screen; but who thought of such a thing? It would merely be removed to a place where it would stand in ALMOST as good a light, and in BETTER PROPORTIONS. (Hear, and applause.) If the Screen was brought into competition with the general effect of the pillars and the great tower, its minuter beauties must give way, if it were even to be demolished entirely, instead of being removed further back 80 feet. He should say the same if the beauty of the Screen were ten times greater than it were, if its materials were ten times richer, if all its statues were the work of Phidias or of Chantrey. Take a stranger to the Minsterand, after all, first impressions were most decisive in questions of taste-and which would he have his attention rivetted by, the beautiful littleness of the Screen, or the bold and magnificent columns, the vast and springing arches of the lantern tower? For himself, he must always prefer the awfully vast to the elegantly little."-This is the kind of feeling and taste which is to decide the fate of an ancient cathedral!

George Strickland, Esq. combatted his Lordship's arguments. He grappled at once with the bad taste of the proposed alteration. He thought that the want of ornament and high finish in the interior of the Minster was obviated by the elaborate Screen which was placed in the centre, in the full blaze of light, and took away that feeling of voidness which must meet the eye, if it had nothing to rest upon but naked walls, and bare pillars. (Loud applause.) Then what constituted the charm of that magnificent choir, which was totally unequalled in any part of the world. (Hear.) What was it but, to use the language of the immortal Milton, "the long-drawn aisle," where was seen pillar after pillar, and arch after arch, in the vast perspective, till the eye rested upon magnificent and gorgeous east window? (Applause.) If this innovation be carried, what will be the effect? Can we then stand at the foot of the lantern tower and see at one view all the beauties of the choir? No, it will be broken; it will be two; it will not be one! (Applause.) He thought it impossible to pass over the question of pledges. was present at the first meeting in Lon

He

the

37

don. At that meeting strong disapprobation was expressed at the hasty manner in which Mr. Smirke had been placed over the heads of the admirable workmen who had hitherto conducted the repairs of York Minster with such credit, such immortal credit to themselves; so much so, that when other cathedrals wanted repairing, it was considered that they could not be properly done unless some of those workmen were sent for. (Hear.) At that meeting the Dean, and all who spoke on the part of the Chapter, spoke only of perfect restoration; and the meeting was particularly congratulated upon the fact that the Screen was so little in

jured, and that so small a part of the subscriptions would be required for its reparation. (Hear, hear.) Then came the meeting which was held in this room on the 5th of March, 1829; previous to which a report had been drawn up by Mr. Smirke, in which he says, "it appears to me on every. account most desirable, that the work should be re-constructed in every part with materials of the same durable quality as those employed in the original construction of the fabric; and that the same design, in all the ancient ornamental parts, should be strictly adhered to, as far as it can be ascertained." He hoped that the report which had gone abroad was totally false, that the ornamental parts of the roof were made of the cheap American pine, the softest, the cheapest, and the most worthless of all wood. This report was published in a pamphlet, and along with it a speech delivered by Mr. Vernon, in which he stated, that

the Dean and Chapter entirely concurred in the principles of absolute and perfect restoration which Mr. Smirke had recommended." There was an absolute feeling of delight at this second declaration; and at the reflection that the persons in whom the management of the money was vested, had now bound themselves by pledges which they could not depart from. The subscriptions poured in; and the munificent sum of between 50 and 60,000l. was soon raised. Now, although Mr. Vernon might not consider himself bound by this pledge, nor by the decision of the meeting, yet he would state what the law was on the subject. It was, that if money was subscribed for any particular object, and if the person into whose hands that money comes use it for any other object whatever, then the subscribers are entitled to recover their money back again. Or there was another mode. If a design was manifested to make use of money so subscribed in such an improper manner, the subscribers might apply for an injunction to prevent it being gone on with. (Hear.) No decision of a majority of the meeting in favour of a removal of the Screen could bind the minority in the face of those pledges; and himself, and the subscribers who thought with him, were bound not to give

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