A dissertation by James Bowler at the University of St Andrews has recently come to our notice which is titled ‘The Life and Afterlife of an English Reredos: A Contextual, Restorative and Aesthetic Analysis of the Great Screen of Milton Abbey, Dorset’.
This shows just how important this reredos is in the history of English church architecture. It is on a par with Winchester, New College Oxford, Southwark, Ottery St Mary and Christchurch, and is one of the finest high walled reredoses in England. All are missing their original niche sculptures although some have been replaced. The date of construction is confirmed stylistically, as the inscription reads 1492, and the design follows that of New College Oxford. This was an expensive undertaking and was probably financed by the then abbot Walter of Middleton.
The author concludes that James Wyatt’s refurbishment was carried out sensitively, leaving the features of the original visible. It would have once looked spectacular with the niches filled with painted and gilded statues, the figures can be deduced from the size of the niches and comparison with other layouts.
We are very much hoping that the other Milton Abbey features such as the pyx shrine, Apostle panels and Abbot’s Hall screen would be subject of more research and recording.