After the bloody Wars of the Roses, which tore England apart and paralysed its government in the latter half of the 15th century, the country desperately needed a period of peace and stability. The pragmatic Henry VII, who united the warring Houses of Lancaster and York by taking Elizabeth of York as his queen, provided that stability, ably assisted by Sir Reginald Bray.
After the ravages of war, Sir Reginald radically restructured the King's finances, ensuring Henry had enough money to tackle threats both at home and abroad. He died in 1503 at the age of 63. His was a life well-lived – and he, like so many of his successful contemporaries, wanted to be remembered after his death. His principal legacy was the splendid Bray Chantry in St George’s Chapel, Windsor which has undergone significant cleaning and refurbishment in recent years. But his generosity was not confined to his own chantry; a substantial legacy ensured that the iconic St George’s Chapel, started by Edward IV in 1475, could be completed. 175 depictions of his hemp-brake badge (a machine for crushing hemp) in stone, iron, wood and glass adorn the Chapel in his memory and a plaque records his interment in the chantry chapel that bears his name.
The renovation of the chantry, which forms part of the multi-million pound restoration of St George’s, began in 2007, when the walls, ceiling and sculpture of the chantry were carefully cleaned.
A key ingredient of the new-look Bray Chantry is the stunning church furniture, designed and manufactured by Treske of Thirsk in spalted beech and walnut. This furniture features the Bray badge in its design and includes an altar, credence table, chairs, coffin stools, kneelers, a display cabinet, St Nicholas Folding Chairs and, last but not least, ten carving Bray insignia. This brings the total of Bray badges in the chapel to 185.
It was essential that the new furniture in the chantry should be elegant, comfortable and unobtrusive, preserving the still and peaceful ambience, yet not being bland. Treske, following that proud tradition of fine Yorkshire craftsmanship, have achieved this complex balance. The incorporation of the Bray insignia is a masterstroke and a deserved thank you to the generosity of the Bray Fellowship.
The Bray Chantry is an exquisite space, one of the loveliest in all St George’s Chapel. Full of light and symmetry, and enriched by its recent renovation, the predominantly late Gothic chantry is now approaching its original splendour. It is loved again.
Martin Ashley, Martin Ashley Architects, Surveyor of the Fabric of St George’s Chapel