A fine finial

On the first day of the second week at Berkeley, we uncovered a fragment of a decorative finial. Its decorative style and the location of the find suggest that it belonged to the period between the 13th and 14th century. It resembles the Perpendicular Gothic style seen in churches, where bold straight lines and elaborate designs were widely used.

Figure 1. Finial with scale
Surviving finials with similar designs can also be found today, and quite nearby too! The arch of the Berkeley burial chapel in the neighbouring church of St Mary features a row of finials. This chapel was constructed by James I. Berkeley c.1450, which places it firmly in the period when the Perpendicular Gothic style was popular.

Figure 2. The Tomb of King Edward II (photo credit: http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2798797)

Another example with a similar style can be found in Gloucester Cathedral, decorating the tomb of King Edward II, who was also murdered at Berkeley Castle. This tomb dates to the early 14th century.

We have a few possible explanations for the presence of the finial in the pit. It may once have been a part of the d├ęcor of St Mary Church until it was damaged and then discarded. The current decoration we can see today may be a reconstruction of the original. Another explanation is that there might have been an additional chamber for two tombs, which can currently be found in the nave of the church, that later would have been demolished. This finial might have been included in its decoration and, with the destruction of this chamber, it ended up in the pit, forgotten until today. Or it might have been a part featured in a tomb decoration and was snapped off during the moving of this tomb and was discarded.

Berkeley Castle Finial by bristoldigberkeley on Sketchfab
Authors: Alex Birkett and Rose Britton.