A Woodwose Under Your Seat.
Last year I went to a talk on Woodwoses. These shaggy wild men wielding clubs, and depicted in medieval artefacts as diverse as bed hangings and silver spoons, can still be found hiding in Churches. The talk, by Matt Salusbury, was mostly about those Woodwoses holding up fonts and above church porches in Suffolk and Norfolk. As the talk took place in the heart of Woodwose Font country you could have gone straight out after and found a Woodwose. I actually went out and found chips as I had a train to catch. You can find Matt’s article on Woodwoses here: (http://mattsalusbury.blogspot.com/2014/10/the-woodwoses-of-suffolk.html). Once I did get home though I did have a search around for more Woodwoses and found some under the seats.
Matt isn’t the only one to ponder on the fonty Woodwose. H.D. Ellis in “The Woodwose in East Anglian Church Decoration” thought there may be a Netherlands connection, just across the sea from East Anglia, or a base of church masons in Norwich. He also pointed out that a Wodehouse family in Norfolk went back to John Wodehouse, a very big cheese in Norfolk in the early 1400s (a family that also includes PG Wodehouse somewhere in its branches).
The Wild Men of church stonework and fonts seem to be East Anglian heavy but Medieval Wodewoses turn up everywhere, from the Apostle’s Gate of Avila Spain to under your butt in church. Misericords, the flip-up church choir seats, sometimes hide a wealth of art under the seat - everything from foliage to fables, religious to ribald, wyverns to woodwoses – these two often fighting each other.
The stone Woodwose versus wyvern conflict is also the staple for porches, while it is a single Woodwose up on the pinnacles outside by the church roof. On fonts the Woodwoses are usually joined by lions. The wooden art under misericords echoes this Woodwose, lion, wyvern (a sort of 2 legged dragon) connection: Woodwoses with Wyverns (often fighting). Woodwoses with Lions (sometimes fighting, sometimes riding a lion it holds by a chain). Wyverns with Lions (mostly fighting). Sometimes all three are together. There are misericord Woodwoses with clubs, shields and occasionally bows and arrows, sometimes they are fighting other monsters like griffins and a bear or pig. If the naked men depicted are also wild men then they are riding horses and camels or just lying nonchalantly with their thoughts. These misericords seem to mostly date from the mid C14 to mid C16.
The porch and font pictures are my own but all the misericord ones I've used here are from a great misericord archive/website put together by Dominic and others at http://www.misericords.co.uk/ If anyone else is a lover of misericords then check out the website. If you can help add to the archive there is a list of churches not yet catalogued. I think I have trawled through and found all the misericord wild men on there and easily findable on the internet but I'm sure there are others.
Below is a list of Woodwose misericords, mostly combining the mentions in the misericord archive and ‘Choir stalls and their Carvings’ by E Phipson. Where there is one I have added a link to pictures. I'll link to other pictures when I come across them. Befitting a fabulous being in medieval art and literature they can be catalogued with many names Woodwoses, Wodewoses, Wodwoses, Woudwoses, Wodehouses, Woud Men, Wild Men, Naked Men, Green Men to name but some. Just remember though, if you are sitting quietly and suddenly feel the urge to the run into the woods and live with the animals then check under your seat, you never know who or what you might be sitting on.
BEDFORD. St PAUL’S early C15
-A woodwose with a club and a pointed shield deviantart
BEVERLEY, YORKSHIRE. St MARY’S 1445
-Two with clubs holding each other’s hair, inside of 2 wyverns who are facing out. archive
-A scene from Valentine and Orson (a medieval romance of twins, one who lives in the woods)
-Between two lions , possibly stroking one; wyverns under their feet. archive
-Standing with bow in hand, having shot a fox with an arrow. The fox might be buying potion from a monkey? archive
BEVERLEY MINSTER, YORKSHIRE. 1520,
-With club and shield fighting a dragon archive
-With one foot up. A bird behind him. archive
-Fighting a wyvern archive
-One walking, one sitting and another sitting on a human archive
-Riding a lion with a chain as reigns. A griffin and a sphinx either side archive
-The centre piece has a lion fighting a wyvern, to the left a Woodwose fights a wyvern , to the right he is sitting on it. archive
-Riding a lion archive
-Fighting or cuddling up to a thing, could be a lion? medievalmosaic
FAVERSHAM, KENT. 1533 (or 1874?)
-With spear and large shield, attacking a griffin or basilisk. archive
-Peering out holding a branch archive
-Fighting a lion archive
-Reclining naked man archive
LINCOLN CATHEDRAL. middle or end of C14.
-In an oak forest beating down acorns (apparently I can't find one)
-Either chasing, running with or having sex with a lion GordonPlumb
-Fighting a lion GordonPlumb
-Riding a chained lion GordonPlumb
-Fighting a griffin. two either side seated GordonPlumb
(A number of misericords have similarities and the fight between a lion and wyvern in Lincoln looks very close to the one in Chester! - see GordonPlumb
MANCHESTER CATHEDRAL 1508
-Two naked figures one on a camel possibly with lance and shield the other on a horse archive
-With a shield and club fighting a wyvern archive
NORTON St Andrew C14
-A lion either lying on top or eating a Woodwose archive
NORTH WALSHAM St Nicholas
-Holding a club. Winged lion (?) to the side norfolkchurches
NORWICH Cathedral C15
-Two sitting on lions holding them by a lead. archive
-Two fighting each other with raised clubs, pulling each other’s hair and beard archive
-In foliage holding a club archive
WESTMINSTER ABBEY. HENRY VII. CHAPEL, C16
-In a jerkin, fighting two monsters. archive
-Two half naked men in a wood fighting each other with clubs, one is wearing a big floppy hat archive
-Naked man wrestling with a bear or pig (a bear-pig). archive
-Two naked men fighting. One is behind a shield the other aiming a bow and arrow at the first archive
-Two Woodwoses, the one on the left has a long sword, one has a helmet.
(plus one on a pew end) archive
WINDSOR. St GEORGE’S CHAPEL 1450,
-A Woodwose attacking an animal with a club.
-A Woodwose standing among vine leaves and grapes.
-A grotesque animal with his paw on a dog ; behind is a Woodwose, holding in one hand a club and with the other seizing the creature by the tail.
And in BARCELONA
-Four Woodwoses with clubs and shields. The 2 larger ones have shields that look like faces and some sort of clogs. archive