Common Time 2019

Fromond's Chantry

Fromond's Chantry from the Chapel roof - looking SE
 Fromond's Chantry: Fourteenth century glass in the east end
 Fromond's Chantry: ceiling vaulting
John Fromond’s chantry chapel stands in the garth of the cloisters and is now commonly known as Chantry. It was built above the graves of John Fromond and his wife Maud. Fromond was a prosperous gentleman from Sparsholt and was appointed to look after the College estates in the position of Steward of the Manors. At his death in 1420 he left money in his will for the creation of a chantry chapel and for the endowment of a priest to say masses for the Fromond family. The person most responsible for its construction was Warden Thurbern – one of Fromond’s executors. Building began in 1425 and was more or less completed by 1446.

The exterior of this two storey jewel-like building reveals a multitude of carvings – in spandrels, on hood mouldings, on cornices and although many of them show their age, it is worth pointing out a few. On the east end the hood moulding of the window immediately above the west door reveals the figures of Fromond and his wife – albeit quite disfigured in the case of Maud. Fromond holds his (College?) account books and his shield and Maud a book to show that she had had a good education.  In the upper section a capped and bearded man, a lion and a long-tailed beast of dubious parentage can be found. The more richly decorated south and north sides reveal over fifty carvings. It is the east end which appears to have weathered best as the hood moulding carvings of a bearded king and a bishop are easily identified.

The building, constructed of Bere stone, measures 39 feet by 20 feet. The upper floor has four two-light windows on the north and south sides and one three-light at east and west ends whereas the lower floor has on its north and south sides two three-light windows and at the east and west ends one five-light. The chapel occupied the ground floor and the upper room was intended as a library.

The interior today has some fine fourteenth century glass in the east window (from parts of Chapel) and a new (1950) west window in grisaille style. This window, based on the Marian symbols of the lily and the rose, was installed in honour of former Warden Simpkin. The north and south windows are centred upon the symbolism of Christ’s Passion. The reredos, by George Frampton, is late nineteenth century and has as its central panel, the Virgin and Child above the Song of Solomon quotation “I am the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys” (II, 1). On the near sides are the Magi and on the outer panels, the left depicts the initial sighting of the star and on the right the baptism of Christ and the revelation of Christ as “the bright and morning star”.
There is also a fine chamber organ donated by Graham Hill (Coll, 1940-45) in 2007, in memory of Sydney Watson.

The practice of saying masses for the dead was brought to an end by a Chantry Act of Edward VI in 1547 and although Mary re-introduced them they were stopped finally by Elizabeth although not immediately, as there is a disapproving reference to Latin prayers being said in Chantry by the Quiristers in 1571. The Chantry has had many incarnations in its long life – most notably the use of the upper floor as a grain store in the 1560s - but today functions as a sometime Chapel for the Scholars, a weekday communion chapel and a recital venue for small groups. The upper room (accessed by the spiral staircase in the SW corner) is used by Archives as a store for Wiccamical books and objects.

Apart from the glass and the general serenity (if such can be said) of the interior its main artistic interest is in the carved ceiling bosses, the date of which is unknown but can be roughly given as 1445. Most are heraldic and although many of the holders of these arms were directly concerned with the College, for example Henry VI’s crowned royal arms of France and England quarterly supported by angels, others appear not to be. Henry visited the College many times between 1441 and 1452, was a benefactor and of course used Wykeham’s model as the basis for his College at Eton. Non-heraldic bosses are sometimes related to the College and its foundation (Richard II in whose reign the College was founded, and his badge of the White Hart) whilst others are works of contemporary art which can be fanciful (a cat riding in triumph on a hound after a successful rat hunt) or satirical (the fox offering the stolen goose to the parson whose clerk is an ape in the process of eating the drumstick of a previously offered goose), or just decorative.

The statues of Gabriel and St George – on either sides of the reredos – are nineteenth century replacements for what may have stood in their place before the Reformation.