He IS the Reader!!!

He IS the Reader!!!


Pencil and ink sketch of a man wearing clerical robes with curly hair and large nose, seen in profile reading from a large book on an ornate lectern, with a pencil caption above 'I AM the Reader!!!'
I AM the Reader!!! SGC F.6.

This undated drawing shows a member of the clergy at the lectern. From the angle, it is possible that this was drawn by one of the lay clerks; we know several had artistic inclinations (like Josiah French and the Glee Club).

This extremely heavy-looking lectern is still in use. Lectern Bibles, several of which survive in the Chapter Library, needed a very sturdy stand with a heavy base to keep them upright. Unfortunately, the maker and even the date of the lectern are unknown.

The earliest secure reference we have to it is an account of its restoration in the 1840s by Thomas Willement:

‘The brass lectern, which had been long disused and had been kept in its imperfect state within the Chapter Library, has had all its deficient parts supplied and the whole thoroughly cleaned and repolished, at the expense of the Hon. & Rev. Henry Cockayne Cust, canon. It now forms a conspicuous and satisfactory object in the centre of the choir.’

The reference to it having been ‘long disused’ indicates that the drawing dates from after the 1840s. Since then, although subsidiary lecterns have been given for use in other areas of the Chapel, the large brass one has remained central to services.

At the time of Willement’s restoration, it was suggested that it might be the same one which was mentioned in an inventory of 1642 by Elias Ashmole. He recorded seeing a ‘great Brass Desk in the middle of the Chapel with the Bible in two volumes’. Ashmole’s description of it is not sufficiently detailed to identify whether this is the same lectern. Many of the other items on it were sold by the Parliamentarians after they occupied the Castle under Colonel Venn in 1642.

An engraving of the Quire from the 1660s shows a lectern which looks similar to the current one. If it is the same one, it may date from the Restoration of the Monarchy. Charles II and some of the Knights of the Garter gave pieces of altar plate to the Chapel to replace the ones which had been sold during the Commonwealth. Other plate dating from this time are chalices, flagons and dishes.

Anne Courtney, Assistant Archivist

The King's Free Chapel. The Chapel of the Most Honourable and Noble Order of the Garter. The Chapel of the College of St George.