Aumbry door

Many of our churches still retain the evidence of aumbries, the secure lockers that served as the repository for valuables before the invention of the safe.  They are a common feature let into the side walls beside both high and side altars and many were uncovered from behind plasterwork in the restorations of the nineteenth century.  Many of them still have evidence of the door that once covered them, but very few of the original doors remain.  However, at Begbroke, just north of Oxford, the chancel aumbry still retains its original door, here beautifully captured by Eric Hardy

Begbroke, Oxfordshire, St Michael’s Church

The door, which is very probably early sixteenth century, is decorated with carving.  An elaborate and foliated fleur-de-lys is surrounded lucious foliage, pomegranates and berries.  Above the door, to fit into the space created by the shouldered arch, is a fillet of pierced vine.  It is a wonderful example of florid, if slightly stilted, late Gothic carving.  Of course the door had to be secured and there is a lock plate on it, but it’s a later addition that interrupts the carving.  However, that is of no matter, for all told this aumbry door is a remarkable and attractive thing.

Begbroke, Oxfordshire, St Michael’s Church

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