CRAFTSMEN AND ARTISTS
AFTER one of the less circumstantial biographies in his Anecdotes of Painting in England Horace Walpole remarks : "The reader must excuse such brief or trifling articles. This work is but an essay towards the history of our arts : all kind of notices are inserted to lead to farther discoveries, and if a nobler compendium shall be formed, I willingly resign such minutiae to oblivion." An apology in similar terms is required by this chapter. Indeed, Walpole's very words might meet the case, but that to say that "all kind of notices" are to be found in what follows would be to claim too much.
Responsibility for a great deal of what we admire in the average Stuart or Georgian church rests not with the architect who designed the fabric, but with the craftsmen employed to furnish and ornament it. And as often as not, it must be realized, responsibility in the fullest possible sense; the exact relationship between architect and craftsman is always hard to determine, but it is probably safe to say that not until the second half of the eighteenth century did it become common for the same man to design both the building and its fittings and furniture. Yet how seldom do we find any record of these craftsmen's names! Or if the names have, by some chance, come down to us, how seldom do we know anything further about them! The irony of it is that this posthumous anonymity is due in large measure to the very excellence of their work. Their contemporaries were able to take fine craftsmanship for granted.
Of all the crafts that contribute to the internal effect of the churches we have glanced at in the course of this book, none, perhaps, is more important than that of the joiner and woodcarver. Grinling Gibbons is here the name everyone knows--but he quite certainly, whatever local rumour may say to the contrary, never executed a single piece of woodcarving for any church outside London. Nor did he, court artist that he was, do any of the work popularly attributed to him in the London City churches (St. James's, Piccadilly, of course, not being strictly speaking a City church). This was from the hand of other men, lesser men no doubt and yet of ponderable talents, the Creechers and Cleeres and Emmetts and Maines and Newmans. Here we have at least names because vestry minutes and churchwarden's accounts have come down to us. But in the churches of the provinces there is plenty of work well up to their standard--think of Honington (125) and Ingestre (124, 126) alone--with which we can connect no names at all. Even Willen, where with the aid of Hooke's diary we might surmise that the font- cover (132) was carved by the same Bates that carved the font-cover of