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Censer lamp

  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    1712-1713 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Fawdery, John (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silver

  • Museum number:

    M.19-1962

  • Gallery location:

    Sacred Silver & Stained Glass, Room 83, The Whiteley Galleries, case 4A

This was used in Roman Catholic worship to burn incense, a mixture of gum arabic (resin from an acacia tree) and fragrance. Incense has been used since ancient times to symbolise the prayers of the faithful rising to God. It is placed on hot charcoal in a censer and swung to and fro to create billows of sweet-smelling smoke.

The censer, notable for the fine pierced work of the cover, comes from the Bodenham family chapel at Rotherwas, near Hereford.

Physical description

Round bowl with original copper liner, on slightly moulded base. Domed cover, the lower part with three tubes for the chains separated by three panels pierced with foliage, the upper part in the form of a sexfoil lily pierced with a trefoil to take the four chains.

Place of Origin

London (made)

Date

1712-1713 (made)

Artist/maker

Fawdery, John (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Silver

Marks and inscriptions

London hallmarks for 1712-13

Mark of John Fawdery

Dimensions

Height: 16.5 cm, Diameter: 8.2 cm

Object history note

The censer was used in the Bodenham family chapel at Rotherwas near Hereford. Rotherwas means a gathering place for ratter, a breed of small cattle, and is mentioned in the Domesday book. This Catholic chapel was built by Roger Bodenham(1545-1623) in 1583 and extended in the 1730s by Charles Bodenham (1688-1762) with a square tower with a clock made by Thomas Hildeyard, who was the resident priest. In the 1730s the house at Rotherwas was rebuilt to the designs of the Catholic architect James Gibbs. Rotherwas chapel continued in use until 1914 after the death of the last descendant the Polish Count Louis Lubienski who had changed his name to Bodenham-Lubienski by deed poll in 1893. The house was demolished in 1926 but carvings and panelling were installed in the Rotherwas Room at Amherst College, Massachusetts, USA (information kindly communicated by Brenda Warde, August 2016).

The censer was bought from Russell Ward & Sons, Picture Restorers and Fine Art Dealers in Hereford in 1962. It was brought to the attention of Charles Oman, Keeper of Metalwork by Basil Bourne. Russell Ward had purchased the censer at a sale in Hereford of effects taken from store which were the property of the Bodenham family of Rotherwas. Russell Ward notes that the Chapel was used as a store until it was restored by English Heritage in 1961 and protected as an ancient monument. (Register papers 62/1605 nominal file). In a letter to Charles Oman dated 3 June 1962 Basil Bourne writes 'I hope Russell Ward sends the little iron pot containing bits of burnt incense'. Charles Oman's recommendation to the Director 6 June 1962 notes 'I think we should acquire this censer. After the foot has been repaired it would be a very decorative piece. We have no English Recusant censer and they are so rare that Christie's have not sold one for over fifty years. I think the price is not unreasonable in view of the above.'

Historical significance: Incense burnt in a swinging censer creates billows of sweet-smelling smoke which acts as an expression of prayer. This one is notable for the fine pierced work of the cover.

Historical context note

Secret Catholicism
After the Reformation, the Roman Catholic faith was severely restricted. Catholics who refused to attend Church of England services were known as recusants and until the late 17th century they had to worship in secret. However, the Dukes of Norfolk and aristocratic families such as the Arundells at Wardour Castle encouraged Catholic communities to use their private chapels and so kept the faith alive.

The Catholic plate that survives from before the 1660s is mainly limited to chalices, paxes and pyxes. These earlier pieces are rarely marked. After 1688, Catholic plate was more often hallmarked and the range of forms expanded to include sanctuary lamps, cruets and incense boats.

In London, Catholics could worship openly in foreign embassy chapels. The silver from the Sardinian Embassy chapel can be seen in the case to the right. During the reign of Charles II, Catholic courtiers could also attend the queen's private chapel and that of the Queen Mother, Henrietta Maria.

Descriptive line

Silver, London hallmarks for 1712-13, mark of John Fawdery

Labels and date

Censer
This was used in Roman Catholic worship to burn incense, a mixture of gum arabic (resin from an acacia tree) and fragrance. Incense has been used since ancient times to symbolise the prayers of the faithful rising to God. It is placed on hot charcoal in a censer and swung to and fro to create billows of sweet-smelling smoke.

The censer, notable for the fine pierced work of the cover, comes from the Bodenham family chapel at Rotherwas, near Hereford.

London, England, 1712–13; by John Fawdery
(active 1688–1724)
Silver with a copper liner
Museum no. M.19-1962 [10/12/2004]
CENSER LONDON Hallmark for 1712-13. Maker's mark of John Fawdery. The earliest recusant censers date only from the beginning of the 18th century. This example is by one of the leading goldsmiths of the period and is notable for the fine fretted work of the cover very much in the style of contemporary sugar castors.
From a private chapel at Rotherwas, near Hereford.
No. M.19-1962 [1970]

Materials

Silver; Copper

Techniques

Raising; Casting; Piercing

Categories

Metalwork; Religion; Christianity

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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