We bring you the second part of our Restoration, Redesign, Renovation exhibition series, as part of the Museum Association’s national #MuseumFromHome #CultureInQuarantine event today. Part two centres on the cathedral’s grand Neville Screen.
The Neville Screen
Paid for by Lord John Neville of Raby, the Neville Screen stands between the Quire and the Shrine of St. Cuthbert. Made out of Caen limestone from Normandy, funding for the project began in 1372 and was completed around 1380. This was the same year that a new High Altar was dedicated. The limestone was carved in London by Henry Yevele, a master mason employed by Edward III. Other buildings Yevele helped craft include Windsor Castle, Westminster Abbey and Westminster Hall. Once the stone for the Screen was carved it was shipped to Durham via Newcastle.
When first built it contained over 100 gilded statues. A figure of the Virgin Mary stood in the centre with St. Cuthbert and St. Oswald on each side of her. The statues were removed shortly before Henry VIII sent his commissioners to Durham as part of the Dissolution of the monasteries. There were likely buried for safe keeping and retrieval at a later date, however to this date they have never been recovered.
James Wyatt proposed removing the Neville Screen during his time as a consultant architect to the cathedral in 1795. His replacement would have been a much smaller structure with a simplified design which made no attempt to replace the statues that were in the original.
Finally in 1885 they were plans put in place to create replacement statues for the Neville Screen. This plan doesn’t seem to have gotten beyond the literal drawing board. This document from our archives shows some of the designs that were in consideration. These included Christ in Majesty, the Virgin Mary, St. Cuthbert, St. Bede, St. Oswald and St. James. You might be able to see that there are two drawings that were never completed. The names underneath them tell us they were to be St. Hild and St. Margaret of Scotland.
We don’t know why they never actually created these new statues but the Screen remains empty. Would you like to have seen them restored or replaced with something different? Or are these missing elements an important part of the story?
Read the next instalment of our Restoration, Redesign, Renovation blog series here.
One thought on “A VIRTUAL COLLECTION-RESTORATION, REDESIGN, RENOVATION: DURHAM CATHEDRAL IN THE 19TH CENTURY- PT.2”