In Britain most misericords are pre-Reformation. The oldest set, at Exeter cathedral, dates back to the 14th century. The oldest individual seat, at Ripon Minster, is 13th century. Many are still remarkably well preserved, perhaps in part because of their concealed location. They represent a unique survival and treasure house of medieval art and craftsmanship.
The subjects chosen for misericord carvings are wide ranging and vigorous. A few are carved only with abstract foliate designs but most portray men and women, birds and beasts in great variety.