In his will of 1489, John Townsende left 12d to the ‘new candlebeam’ of Wenhaston church, meaning the rood screen. A few years later the screen was complete, topped by rood and loft, with a painted tympanic filling behind the rood, filling the apex of the chancel arch.
At the Reformation, a coat of whitewash descended, and it was forgotten. When the church was being restored in 1892, the workmen threw the old tympanic filling into the churchyard, to be burned. Rain in the night dissolved the whitewash, so next morning the workmen got the shock of their lives, w h e n Our Lady and St John the Baptist stared back atthem (1). At the top, Christ on the rainbow shows His Five Wounds and presides over the Last Judgement; the Virgin and John the Baptist kneel to intercede; below, naked souls rise from the grave.
On the right, the damned (bound in red-hot chains of their sins) are fed to the jaws of Hell (2), a dreadful Leviathan; a majestic St Michael, wielding a large sword, weighs the souls before a lurking two-faced devil (3).
On the left, St Peter addresses a bishop, cardinal, king and queen, naked apart from their insignia, while two souls are welcomed to the celestial mansions via a narrow gate (4).