Although small in size,Newton Abbot Museum has big ideas! The Sandford Orleigh Screen was donated to the museum in a very poor condition in 2008. The museum is now custodian of this remarkable Renaissance carved wooden screen and our aim, to restore the screen to its former glory for future generations, can now begin!

Dr Nicholas Riall was commissioned to research the origins and designs of the carvings.



Udate of the historical research by Nicholas Riall

The subjects depicted by the screens were origianally thought not to be of a religious nature - but more research by the commissioned historian,Dr Riall, has changed this opinion and the carvings do have a religious significance. Dr Riall states that "the Sandford Orleigh screen is filled with religious imagery and symbolism to such an extent that it can only originally have been created for a religious setting"

He goes on to say that the "vine trail, which now partly frames the panelling, corresponds to a similar trail in the Bradley Manor, (Newton Abbot) carved screen. That screen also features extensive religious symbolism and imagery, and similarly the extent of this also indicates an original religious setting. The Bradley Manor screen very closely resembles the workmanship and designs of the Sandford Orleigh screen. The two sets of work are so close that they both almost certainly come from the original setting."

Tree Ring Analysis of the Sandford orleigh Screen by Ian Tyers

Tree ring analysis of Sandford Orleigh Screen panels
Work carried out by Ian Tyers, April 2012

The Sandford Orleigh overmantle is made up of 20 carved wooden panels, 18-20mm thick. Some panels are made from one piece (whole panels) and some are made up from two pieces of wood (Part panels; Left (L) and Right (ER)).
The panels were made from timber reduced from a larger piece and so the full sequence from heart wood (oldest) to sap wood (youngest) was not available.
Four whole panels and four part panels were chosen for analysis.
The growth rings shown in the timber were measured and compared with known ages of other wooden artefacts to produce a date when it was known the tree was still growing and a date range of when the tree was felled.

Panel No./Side Span of age rings – still growing between these dates
Felling date

The combination of results shows the trees were still growing in 1517 and were felled between 1522 and 1534

5 1298-1506 After 1514
7 1340-1517 1519-1535
8 1257-1503 After 1511
9 L 1360-1502 After 1510
10 L 1424-1515 1518-1534
10 R 1419-1504 After 1512
12 1326-1514 1522-1538?
20 L 1263-1508 After 1516

The wood was oak which had been grown in the eastern Baltic area of Europe, probably Poland. It showed a straight grain produced from the slow growth of this area’s climate. The oak matched other oak objects made from wood known to have come from this area. There was a flourishing trade in timber from the Baltic in the 14th to mid 17th centuries (ref: Baltic Wharf in Totnes). English oak of this period did not have straight enough grain to take fine carvings.
The eight panels were cut from three3 trees and the carving was done whilst the wood was still fresh.

HOO Update day at Forde House 22nd March 2012

On 22nd March there was an opportunity for the public to catch up with Dr Riall's historic research. In his presentation he underlined the the similarities of design between the Sandford Orleigh Screen and the carved oak screen in Bradley Manor, and although he has made no conclusions yet, he is investigating the probablity that they both were created for a large religious house near by. His research continues!

Dendrochronology testing was carried out on the wood in March and the results show that Dr Riall's dating of the carvings were spot on! The results show they date from 1520-1530s and therefore are very early renaissance, and therefore of great interest.


What has been discovered and surmised so far-November 2012?

Dr Riall states that this is work in progress, until all the woodwork has been cleaned and conserved it is not possible to say when the individual components were created.

The Sandford Orleigh screen is full of religious imagery and symbolism, so much so, that he feels,at this moment,that it was created for a religious setting. It bears a very close resemblance to the carved screen in Bradley Manor, Newton Abbot.

"The style of the carving in the panels indicates they were carved in the in the later 1520s or 1530s but not any later. Separating some of the panels in their present configuration are several muntins (vertical posts); these exhibit later sixteenth-century carving that could be deemed to be in the Fontainbleau style. The large consoles or volutes (brackets) with lion's heads might conceivably be based on Serlio designs and also date from mid-sixteenth century. These pieces may not have formed part of the original screen or panelling work.

The all'antica (renaissance) work in the Sandford Orleigh Screen may be suggested as being a French-trained carver as the carvings reflect northern French work. No one has yet identified the maker of the original all'antica work in the Sandford Orleigh Screen.......only in exceptional or very unusual cases are carvers identified by name"

Dr Riall states that breaking up ecclesiastical wood work settings and scattering them is a pan-European problem.