Find Gisleham on a map
If this is so, then he is very likely to be St. Walstan of Bawburgh, a saint whose cult was once thought to be confined almost exclusively to Norfolk, not Suffolk¹, although according to his legend, Walstan was born in Suffolk, the son of a prince at Blythburgh. Walstan embraced poverty, and sought work as a farm labourer, becoming in due course renowned for his prayers for sick people and cattle alike. Two calves are said to have drawn his body on a cart to burial, passing through a solid wall in the process. Despite his acquired humble station, East Anglian screens² show him crowned and with a sceptre, and the painter here seems to have taken the same line, giving Walstan aristocratic robes as well as his scythe... [original version of this page]It should be stressed that Walstan is still a possibility, but revision and minute scrutiny of all the available photographs has suggested another candidate, and I now suspect that this might in fact be St. Edmund of East Anglia, holding several arrows (detail, right). If this is true, then the scythe or sickle is nothing of the kind, and might be, rather, part of a looping scroll with a long-vanished inscription, which once curved around the saints arm and continued lower down his torso. Or it might even simply be the border of his cloak
It is impossible to be sure, and likely to remain so. A (wingless) St. Michael Weighing Souls can be ruled out, I think, but this could of course be another male saint entirely.
The painting below at the right, further east on the north wall and therefore nearer the altar, is probably the Annunciation. In this case, the figure in the clouds is the Archangel Gabriel, crowned as a saint. He holds a broad scroll, the inscription on it unfortunately no longer decipherable. Below, the Virgin wears a flower-wreath on her head (the dark flowers were almost certainly once red or blue) and the object to the right of her is probably a lectern with a book, thus showing her in the act of reading as at nearby Barnby. Again, there is no certainty here, but the attention-demanding breadth of the angels scroll is testimony to the importance of the message on it.
The paintings - the only ones now remaining at Gisleham - are of high quality, and the very striking rays of light are comparable on this site only with those marking the ascent of St. Erasmuss soul to heaven at Chippenham. They also have an un-English look about them that is hard to define but detectable. It seems to me very likely that French or Flemish painters were working in this corner of East Anglia, and nearby Beltons Three Living & Three Dead, unfortunately now represented only by a modern copy, is also a strong candidate for ascription to a Continental painter.
¹The only known wall painting of Walstan is at Cavenham in West Suffolk, and he appears on a screen at Foxearth in Essex. As far afield as Clwyd (formerly Denbighshire) in Wales a stone figure with a scythe at All Saints, Gresford, is said to be the saint. The likelihood is that other representations of him will be found elsewhere. [Carol Twinch, In Search of St. Walstan : East Anglias Enduring Legend, Media Associates, Norwich, 1995. (New edition in preparation).
²e.g. Barnham Broom, Ludham, Sparham (all Norfolk)
|St. Andrew Martyred, Stoke Dry, Rutland||St. Anne teaching the Virgin to read-Corby Glen, Lincolnshire||St. Antony and the Pig, Barton, Cambridgeshire||St. Barbara : Hessett, Suffolk||St. Bartholomew : Selling, Kent||St.Catherine of Alexandria, life of : Castor, Cambs||St Catherine of Alexandria, Cold Overton, Leicestershire NEW||St.Catherine of Alexandria : Hardley Street, Norfolk|
|St.Catherine of Alexandria : Old Weston, Northants||St.Catherine of Alexandria : Pickering, N. Yorks||St.Catherine of Alexandria, life of : Sporle, Norfolk||St. Catherine of Alexandria, Martyrdom of: Burton Latimer, Northants NEW||St. Catherine of Alexandria or another female saint : Ashley, Hampshire NEW||St. Clement : South Leigh, Oxon.||Scenes from the life of St. Cuthbert : Pittington, Co. Durham NEW||St. Dunstan holding the Devil by the nose : Barton, Cambs|
|St.Edmund : Boxford, Suffolk||St. Edmund : Lakenheath, Suffolk||St. Edmund, Martyrdom of : Bishopsbourne, Kent||St.Edmund, Martyrdom of : Fritton, Norfolk||St. Edmund (or St. Walstan) : Gisleham, Norfolk||St. Edmund, Martyrdom of : Pickering, N.Yorks||St. Edmund, Martyrdom of : Stoke Dry, Rutland||St. Edmund, Martyrdom of : Troston, Suffolk|
|St. Edmund, Martyrdom of : Weare Giffard, Devon||St.Eloi, Broughton, Bucks||St. Eloi and the possessed horse, Slapton, Northants||St. Eloi, as bishop & blacksmith, Wensley, N.Yorks||St.Erasmus, Martyrdom of : Chippenham, Cambs||St. Etheldreda : Willingham, Cambs||St. Francis Preaching to the Birds : Little Kimble, Bucks||St.Francis Preaching to the Birds : Wissington, Suffolk|
|St. Francis Receiving the Stigmata, Slapton, Northants||St. George & Dragon : Banningham, Norfolk||St. George & Dragon : Broughton, Bucks||St. George & Dragon : Earl Stonham, Suffolk||St. George & Dragon : Fritton, Norfolk||St. George & Dragon : Hornton, Oxon||St. George dedicating himself to the Virgin : Astbury, Cheshire||St. George, with the princess : Little Kimble, Bucks|
|St. George & the Dragon : Kirtlington, Oxon NEW||St.Helena, Broughton, Bucks||St.James the Great : Hales, Norfolk||Life of St. James, Stoke Orchard, Gloucestershire||St. James the Great, meeting pilgrims : Wisborough Green, Sussex||St. James the Great, Yelden (or Yielden), Beds NEW||St. John the Baptist, Martyrdom of : Chalfont St. Giles, Bucks||St. John the Baptist, Martyrdom of : Heydon, Norfolk|
|St. John the Baptist, Martyrdom of : Idsworth, Hampshire||St. John the Baptist, Martyrdom of : Old Weston, Northants||St. John the Baptist, Martyrdom of : Pickering, N. Yorks||Life of St. John the Baptist : Cerne Abbas, Dorset||St. John the Evangelist, Selling, Kent||St. John the Evangelist, Weston Longville, Norfolk||St. Margaret of Antioch : Old Weston, Northants||St. Margaret and the dragon : South Newington, Oxfordshire|
|St. Margaret of Antioch Martyred, Stoke Dry, Rutland||St. Margaret of Antioch, Life of : Charlwood, Surrey||Life of St. Margaret, Wendens Ambo, Essex||Martyrdom of St. Margaret, Duxford, Cambridgeshire||Martyrdom of St. Margaret, Ashby St Ledgers, Northamptonshire NEW||St. Martin dividing his cloak, Chalgrave, Beds||St. Martin dividing his cloak, Wareham, Dorset||St Michael, with kneeling donor, South Newington, Oxfordshire|
|St.Nicholas of Myra, life of : Little Horwood, Bucks||St. Nicholas of Myra, two miracles of : Wissington, Suffolk||St. Nicholas of Myra & the Boys in the Barrel, Padworth, Berkshire||St. Nicholas of Myra & the Boys in the barrel, Bishopsbourne, Kent NEW||St.Paul : Black Bourton, Oxon||St. Paul : Beckley, Oxon||St. Paul : Selling, Kent||St. Peter : Beckley, Oxon|
|St.Peter : Black Bourton, Oxon||St. Peter, Martyrdom of : Chacombe, Northants||St. Peter : Selling, Kent||SS. Peter & Paul, Old Idsworth, Hampshire NEW||St. Roch : Pinvin, Worcs||St. Sexburga? : Willingham, Cambs||S. Stephen, Martyrdom of, North Stoke, Oxon||St. Stephen, Stoning of: Black Bourton, Oxon|
|St. Stephen, Stoning of: Catfield, Norfolk||St.Swithun (?) enthroned : Old Weston, Northants||Scenes from the life of St. Swithun : Corhampton, Hampshire||St. Thomas Becket, blessing, Hauxton, Cambs.||Archbishop, possibly Thomas Becket, blessing, Shorthampton, Oxfordshire NEW||St. Thomas Becket, Murder of, Marston Magna, Somerset||St. Thomas Becket, Murder of, North Stoke, Oxfordshire||St.Thomas Becket, Murder of : South Burlingham, Norfolk|
|St. Thomas Becket, Murder of : South Newington, Oxfordshire||St. Walstan of Bawburgh? or St. Edmund : Gisleham, Norfolk||St. Zita : Horley, Oxon||St. Zita : Shorthampton, Oxon||Unidentified female saint : Heydon|
Original page created 20/2/01
Page revised 11/3/03
© Anne Marshall 2001