The misericords are medieval choir stall seats designed to be raised during services, so that the occupants had to stand. If they became tired, they could rest their bottoms against the small ledges protruding from the bottom of the seats; a small mercy of the heart (or misericordia).
Misericords are a quite common feature of cathedrals and churches across Europe, especially in those with a monastic or collegiate history such as St Laurence's. In England, other parish churches acquired them at the Reformation when they obtained them from dissolved monastaries, including some in the Marches.
Traditionally the brackets supporting the ledge are carved with decorative, heraldic, religious or moralistic designs. These often have a local significance or flavour as well as a degree of humour or satire.
St Laurence's has one of the largest collections in a parish church. They date from two periods: the construction of the original choir stalls in about 1425, and from the remodelling of the stalls in 1447 when the Choir was extended.
The earlier series of 16 carvings commissioned by the Palmers' Guild probably dates to around 1425, on the basis of the styles of dress shown. Eight of them have a distinctive branch-like carver's mark. Twelve more misericords were added in 1447 when the choir was extended, but in the process the misericords were mixed together so they do not appear as two separate sets.
Originally two of the misericords were left plain. One of these (N14) was carved to commemorate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012.
Some of the individual meisericords are described in this tour. We intend to add descriptions of all of them in due course.