RATTLESDEN, Suffolk – St Nicholas.
Rood screen and loft; parclose screen 1909
St Nicholas, Rattlesden in Suffolk has what must be Fellowes Prynne’s most important wooden screen. It is of oak, and is the complete assemblage of screen, Rood loft and Rood group. The base of the screen echoes a mediaeval fragment seen elsewhere in the church, and it contains carvings of the instruments of the Passion, as well as the “IHS” symbol for Christ’s name, and the XP monogram.
The most unusual feature of the whole piece is the access to the original staircase linking the top of the parclose screen (at the side of the Lady Chapel) to the Rood loft. The top of the main screen, therefore, is accessible.
The photograph below shows the part of the parclose screen which houses the landing for the wooden and stone steps leading up to the main screen (which can be made out at the top left of the picture). This is a wonderful and unique piece of restoration; what a tragedy it would have been to leave the mediaeval steps in “mid-air” rather than, literally, restore them to their intended usage, as Fellowes Prynne had the foresight and insight to do.
The Building News and Engineering Journal of 25 September 1918 ran the following article, along with an illustration of the screen.
The church of S. Nicholas, Rattlesden, is amongst the finest and most beautiful of Suffolk churches, but being some miles away from the railway is not generally so well known as other churches of the county. It is chiefly noticeable for its excellent proportion, its charmingly designed and finely cut flint ornament, and carved oak work in the roof. Unfortunately, the original rood screen and lower screen surrounding the south chapel were destroyed in the seventeenth century, but from small portions of the base of the former the general character of the carved work was evident, while the doorways leading from the wall staircase to the top of the chapel screen and from there to the rood loft gave clear evidence as to the original levels. In the new rood screen the architect, Mr. Geo. H. Fellowes Prynne, F.R.I.B.A., has endeavoured to keep, in the main, to both the character and proportion of the original screens… The work was carried out from the architect’s design by Messrs. Martyn and Co., of Cheltenham. The screen is of oak, and the figures are in a lighter coloured wood, which makes them stand out most effectively.