When to trust women

In a 15th century manuscript in the Archives of Balliol College, Oxford appears the following carol:

When these things following be done to our intent,
Then put women in trust and confident…

When sparrows build churches on a height
And wrens carry sacks unto the mill

This anonymous misogynistic carol details a whole list of seemingly impossible and unlikely events which must take place before a woman can be trusted. The above line is represented in the misericords of St George’s Chapel, showing the influence and familiarity of the poem. On seat 5 of the east side of the Quire, in the lower ranks, appears a carved image of what look like sparrows carrying sacks on their backs into a windmill.

The misericords were carved from oak between 1477 and 1484 to form part of the decoration in the newly constructed chapel of Edward IV. Aside from scenes like this taken from literature and proverbs, there are also representations of legends, games, animals and all aspects of human life. The carver could choose whatever he wanted to represent, which has led to the misericords in the choir being one of the richest collections of 15th century woodwork in the country.

Eleanor (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.