Church Monuments Society
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Archive of Monuments of the Month November 2010 to September 2011
The John Donne Monument (d. 1631) by Nicholas Stone
St Paul’s Cathedral, London.
Nicholas Stone’s effigy of the poet and preacher John Donne in St Paul’s Cathedral,
London, is a remarkable survival of seventeenth-
Donne was the incumbent Dean of St Paul’s, and his effigy is one of the very few
monumental figures to have survived, more or less intact, from the Norman cathedral
which perished in the Great Fire of 1666. It is hard to credit the old story that,
as flames consumed the old cathedral, the statue slid off its pedestal and torpedoed
its way into the safety of the crypt. Yet it was here, half-
The idea of the statue’s near pristine resurrection from the ashes of firey tribulation
is wholly appropriate to the statue’s iconography. In his Lives of 1658, Izaak Walton,
gave a remarkable account of the statue’s genesis: in his final days, the ailing
Donne sought to personally model for the statue, summoning an unnamed ‘choice painter’
to make a life-
[…] he thus stood, with his eyes shut, and with so much of the sheet turned aside
as might show his lean, pale and death-
Walton therefore implies that the intention was to show Donne newly regenerated and
emergent from the grave at the moment of the Last Judgement. It thus anticipated
a later vogue for ‘resurrection monuments’ in seventeenth-
A handful of scholars have questioned the reliability of Walton’s story: is it feasible
that a middle-
Walton’s account has a ring of authenticity in other ways too: Donne was generally interested in art and art theory, and the idea that he was eager to become intimately involved with the creative process is plausible. There are a number of surviving portraits that reveal his fondness for effigising himself in various affected guises and attitudes. He was also not a man intent on taking death (literally) lying down, and was especially keen to make something exhibitive and performative out of his death. He wrote to a friend that ‘it hath been my desire and God may be pleased to grant it, that I might die in the Pulpit’. It was an ambition he almost achieved when, on 25 February 1631, prior to modelling for his monument and only a month away from the grave, he preached his last sermon in front of the court at Whitehall. He was in a shocking state of emaciation. Walton says that his text, which took death as its theme, was ‘prophetically chosen’ and that ‘he presented himself not to preach mortification by a living voice: but, mortality by a decayed body and a dying face […] Donne had preach’t his own Funeral Sermon’.
Donne’s writings also reveal a persistent preoccupation with the mechanics of the dissolution of the body and it its regeneration on the day of Judgement. Yet at the same time, he severely criticised art’s ability to properly reflect the horrors of bodily putrefaction as a preface to its miraculous rejuvenation. As a result, it may also be reasonable to assume that he intended his statue to critique the shrouded, desiccated corpses of the traditional transi tomb (especially as the latter retained contentious associations with an outmoded Catholic belief in purgatory).With this in mind, the shroud and the funerary urn of Donne’s statue operate beyond their roles as generic symbols of death. They supply a nuanced context to the upright figure, emphasising the miraculous narrative of its resurrection.
Dr Philip Cottrell, University College Dublin
Walter Helyon (d. c. 1357) at Much Marcle (Herefordshire)
Wooden effigies were probably commonplace in medieval England, particularly from
the late thirteenth century to the third quarter of the fourteenth century, but only
93 are known to survive, with a further 27 documented but lost. They form a particularly
vulnerable type of monument, being liable to destruction by wood beetle, damp rot
and fire. The vast majority of wooden effigies are military figures and ladies, with
a handful of ecclesiastics and a few other categories. Wooden effigies of men in
civil dress are uncommon. Indeed only four survive, the most eye-
The wooden effigy depicts a franklin. His hood, which is worn around his shoulders,
is attached to a cape. Underneath is a supertunic with long tippets reaching almost
to his knees. A purse and dagger are attached to his hip belt. The supertunic is
so tight at his waist that realistic wrinkles are shown there, but the skirt section
is more generously cut from the hips to the knees to allow freedom of movement. This
garment as shown on this monument is of particular interest to costume historians
because of the relationship it displays between the circumference of the area to
be clothed, the tightness of the clothing and the size and spacing of the buttons.
The sleeves are the smallest area and have the smallest and most closely-
Walter is shown with his legs crossed, which is unusual for civilian figures. Contrary
The effigy commemorates Walter de Helyon, the son of Sir Hugh de Helyon who held land in nearby Ashperton in 1325. Walter was born about 1317 and acted as steward to William Grandison, Lord of Ashperton, and later his son Peter Grandison and his wife Blanche Mortimer, whose fine tomb we have seen in Much Marcle church. Walter inherited lands in Ashperton from his father Sir Hugh and later acquired lands in Much Marcle, including the mansion Helyons, now known as Hellens. He married Agnes, the daughter and heiress of Walter Welsh, about 1342, by whom he had a daughter and heiress, Johanna, who in turn married Richard Walwayne of Stoke Edith.
Walter de Helyon is last recorded in 1357 and probably died soon after. He was buried, not in Much Marcle, but in Ashperton and that was where his wooden effigy was originally set up. In Camden’s famous Britannia of 1607 he recorded that ‘Sir Waltar de Hellion ... lay cross legged in Ashperrton church, which was falling down a few years since ... and was removed to Hellion’ to preserve it from damage.
Hellion, now known as Hellens, is a fine manor house in Much Marcle. By 1301, it was the property of the family of Hugh Audley who was created the 1st Earl of Gloucester in 1337. Hugh Audley died in 1347, and the control of the manor passed to his nephew, Sir James Audley, a founding knight of the Order of the Garter and companion to Edward, the Black Prince. Sir James leased it to Walter Helyon, for whom the property is now named. His descendants have resided at the manor nearly continuously since first taking occupancy.
The effigy stayed at Hellens for several centuries, but was eventually moved to Much Marcle church. In the nineteenth century it received a coat of battleship grey paint. At this time there was a strange custom at Much Marcle of carrying the effigy into the church at the head of every funeral procession, much as if it had been a funeral effigy rather than a funerary monument. In between times it was kept on a damp window sill, which unsurprisingly did the effigy no good whatsoever.
Fortunately in 1972 the effigy was lent to an exhibition at the London Museum entitled
‘Chaucer’s London’. On its arrival it was discovered that the nineteenth century
repainting had been carried out to conceal very extensive restoration in plaster
and a surface honeycombed by beetle. Much of the face had been made up and other
parts crudely restored, the fingers being no more than whittled sticks roughly nailed
to the stumps of the hands, and the lion at the foot had been largely made up in
mortar. A large area of the torso was in small segments that fitted together like
a jigsaw puzzle, but were loose enough for any of the pieces to be taken out. As
well as consolidating the damaged woodwork, replacements were made for the missing
tip of the nose, the fingers and missing buttons on the supertunic. The replacement
of the missing forefoot was based on the complete foot and the fragmentary dagger-
The removal of the Victorian paint revealed traces of earlier, presumably original, polychromy. Flecks were found of three colours in four areas. The effigy was repainted on the basis of this evidence and subtleties of graduation and simulated wear applied to the colouring. All wooden effigies would originally have had a complete covering of paint. When the effigy was returned to the church a new plinth was provided, on which it is securely fixed and where it is safe from further deterioration.
Copyright: Sally Badham; photos of effigy: C B Newham
This freestone military effigy in the north aisle of Hungerford church reclines
on a low (modern) base. It is defaced and mutilated, and the lower legs and right
arm are missing. The figure is crossed-
This is the only surviving pre-
There is some confusion as to the identity of the effigy as there are no accompanying
heraldic devices, inscriptions or documentary evidence. The figure is currently
labelled ‘Sir Robert de Hungerford (d. 1352)’, and there is a general consensus among
antiquarians and modern-
However, the fact that the effigy has been dated to c.1300 (most recently by Mark
Downing), strongly suggests that it is not the tomb of Robert de Hungerford. This
Part of the reason for this case of mistaken identity is the existence of an incised indulgence slab, inviting viewers to pray for Robert de Hungerford in this life and the next. The slab is currently attached to the north wall of the north aisle (behind the effigy). Although it makes reference to Robert de Hungerford, there is no evidence to link it to the surviving effigy.
Downing, M., Military Effigies of England and Wales: Bedfordshire to Derbyshire, Vol. 1, Shrewsbury 2010.
Money, W., An Historical Sketch of the Town of Hungerford in the County of Berkshire, Newbury 1894.
Copyright: Dr Ellie Pridgeon (University of Leicester / Wiltshire Heritage Museum)
Photographs: Dr Ellie Pridgeon
The Schaw Monument
Dumfermline Abbey Church
William Schaw (c.1550-
The tomb is a freestone Classical wall monument consisting of short Composite pilasters flanking a long Latin inscription, in which Schaw is described as a 'most skillful architect', with a further inscribed panel on the top supported by heavy scrolled brackets. The monument finishes with a triangular pediment in which is a coat of arms, a star between three covered cups (a variant of azure, three covered cups or, for Schaw (Scotland)), and the initials W. S. William had the right to bear this arms through his family connection with the Schaws of Sauchie, who were keepers of the king's wine cellar, and lairds with lands near Stirling. It is not recorded that he was awarded the version shown here, and it must be assumed that he added the star as a mark of heraldic difference. The top inscription, also in Latin, records Schaw's friendship with Alexander Seton, Earl of Dunfermline, who must have been involved in commissioning the monument. Schaw died in 1602 but the monument probably dates from after 1605 when Seton became the first Earl of Dunfermline. In the centre of the entablature is William Schaw's name written twice, once spelled out in full, and also displayed on a white marble panel in a device in which all the letters of his name are placed on top of each other.
The tomb has two masons' marks repeatedly and prominently displayed on top of capitals, on the pilaster bases, and on the marble panel, but these are not Schaw's mark, they are those of the mason who created the tomb, and an assistant. The mason was David Scougal of Crail, named on the signed and dated tomb to James, 7th Earl of Glencairn, and his wife Margaret, in the Glencairn aisle of St Maurs in Kilmaurs, beneath the same mason’s mark; ‘WROGH BE DAVID SCWGAL MASSON BVRGES IN CAREL 1600’. The Glencairn tomb shares the same Classical format, but has figures of the Earl and his Countess in prayer, their elbows resting on books on the ledge of what appears to be a balcony, with their children shown on the front face. Details, such as the capitals, are similar and based on Composite originals although cruder, and include the whorl in the astragal that is also used on the Schaw tomb. Scougal may also have made the tomb to Kennedy of Bargany at Ballantrae which is similar.
Medieval tombs, with the notable exception of those made by cathedral works department for monuments erected within the building, are very rarely marked by the masons who made them. Tombs were either costed as single objects, or the different elements of more complex ones were provided by a series of contractors and these removed the need to identify work for a paymaster. Masons' marks have continued to be used for stone buildings up to the present day, although the marked faces have been invisible in the finished structures since the 18th century in most cases.
Signed, as opposed to marked, tombs occur first in the 16th century, and by the early
17th century masons’ signatures had gained popularity, or acceptance by patrons.
At first the form was mostly that found at Kilmaurs where an inscription identifies
the tomb to the maker and is hardly sophisticated work. Monuments made after c.1600
that are signed reveal a much higher level of education, such as those by Epiphanius
Evesham who was signing monuments at this date with ‘EVESHAM ME FECIT’. There is
a marked difference between his elegant cursive script and the clumsy efforts of
Scougal and certain English tomb-
Scougal's work shows evidence of a period of transition, with his name and claim
of ownership on the Kilmaurs monument used together with his mark, but the mark used
on its own for the slightly later tomb at Dunfermline. The use of prominently displayed
marks in this way seems to have been a short-
JenniferAlexanderATwarwick.ac.uk (replace AT by @)
Monument of the Earl and Countess of Glencairn in St Maurs, Kilmaurs Mason's mark and signature of the Kilmaurs monument opposite
Aonghus Mackechnie, ‘James VI’s Architects and their Architecture’, in Julian Goodacre and Michael Lyn(eds), The Reign of James VI, (East Linton, 2000), pp. 154 – 169, at
Richard Fawcett, Scottish Medieval Churches, Architecture and Furnishings, (Stroud, 2002).
Dr Jenny Alexander January 2011
Two wooden Epitaphien from Königsberg
In many German churches there are circular mediaeval wall tablets, depicting a coat
of arms with a memorial inscription; they are real church monuments, not funeral
paraphernalia like English hatchments. They were often set up in conjunction with
a floor slab, and are usually called Epitaphien, “memorials above the tomb”. These
two examples were salvaged from the ruins of Königsberg Cathedral, which was burnt
out in 1945, and remained exposed to the elements for sixty years before being restored;
they are now displayed in the museum rooms in the south tower. Each one shows a
shield of arms, with helmet and crest, and very elaborately carved mantling. The
work is delicately done, in lime or some such close-
The first one is to Gesueren von -
The second, to -
These are the beginning of a tradition which was to flourish in the early modern
period, as ever larger and more and more elaborate Epitaphien appeared all over the
walls of many Baltic churches, some with painted figures of the family of the deceased
kneeling in rows. They continued to be made into the nineteenth century, the inscriptions
nearly always in German, though there is one in Russian in the Castle Museum in Rīga.
These two are all that remain of many that were once in Königsberg, to judge by
old photographs. But Königsberg, which was once the capital of Prussia, was very
severely damaged in the second world war, and the population of the entire province
was exterminated. It was resettled with Russians, and renamed Kaliningrad for no
better reason than that Marshal Kalinin happened to die just as they were debating
what to call the new city. For decades it was a closed city, being an important
strategic base, but now left behind as a tidal pool of history, inhabited only by
rather melancholy displaced Russians. For their regular worship the people throng
to the new Orthodox churches, and they have no use for a Gothic Lutheran cathedral,
but the building is re-
Monument of the Month -
Abbot Adam of Carmarthen, Neath Abbey South Wales
The monument traditionally ascribed to Adam of Carmarthen, Abbot of the Cistercian
abbey of Neath from c.1266-
Although now quite difficult to interpret and appreciate – stemming not just from
the wear it has suffered, but also from the gloom of its current surroundings -
It is not known when Abbot Adam’s monument was thrown out from the abbey into the
nearby field, but presumably it was some time in the sixteenth or seventeenth century
when the church buildings were allowed to fall into ruin. Similarly, the motivations
behind the act are not easy to fathom: was it an act of iconoclasm, or an attempt
to remove it from the attentions of vandals and thus protect it? The breaking off
of the head and feet (which rest, it may be remembered, on the figure of a monk)
although conceivably an act of iconoclasm, may also be explained as the action of
The monument remained in the field until at least the latter part of the nineteenth century and was subsequently removed into the more protected position of the undercroft. This, unfortunately, was not the end of its travails, and a recent tormentor has appeared in the unexpected form of the BBC. Neath Abbey undercroft is now in demand as a set for episodes of the BBC Wales productions Dr Who and Merlin. Lying in the centre of the undercroft, Abbot Adam was judged to be in the way and has been moved to the edge of the room along with other fragments of medieval sculpture which are kept there. In doing so he has been disarticulated so that the head and feet have been removed from the body and the integrity of the figure has been lost. It is sincerely to be hoped that the original position and condition of this beautiful example of medieval sculpture will be remembered and that it will be restored accordingly.
 David Lewis, ‘Notes on the Charters of Neath Abbey’, Archaeologia Cambrensis,
vol. 4, 5th series (1887), pp. 86-
Peter Lord, The Visual Culture of Wales: Medieval Vision (Cardiff, 2003), p. 333.
Rhianydd Biebrach PhD
Sir John Newdigate, 1610, Harefield, Middlesex
The monument of Sir John Newdigate at Harefield, Middlesex, takes a common form for
a mural monument of the period, that of husband and wife kneeling under a plain round
arch, facing each other over a prayer desk, their children kneeling below, two sons
facing three daughters with a prayer desk between them. The spandrels of the arch
have the arms of Newdigate and Fitton on hanging shields with loops of ribbons around
them. Above the keystone is a cherub head with wings either side and the tablet is
surmounted by an achievement of nine quarters in a roundel topped by an hourglass.
The materials from which the monument is made are also common for the period, mostly
alabaster but enhanced with imported black and pink marble. Some parts, however,
are a little less usual. Sir John's name and date of burial, 12 April 1610, are on
a scroll rather than part of the main inscription. The scroll is set over the two
main figures and below it, above the prayer desk, is a winged skull with a second
hourglass set on it. At either end of the cornice are black marble blocks, on the
front faces of which are crests. These blocks presumably once had obelisks standing
on them but they are rather larger than is necessary just for that purpose. The tablet's
apron, on which is the inscription panel is terminated at either side by large S-
The monument was erected by Ann Fitton, Sir John's widow, whose agreement with the
sculptor William White was recorded by Lady Anne Emily Garnier Newdigate-
The main inscription is both Latin and English, the English verses to the right of the Latin equivalent:
Here wisdomes jewell, Knighthoods flower
Cropt off in prime & youthfull hower
Religion, meekness faithfull love
Which any hart might inly moove
These ever liv'd in this Knights brest
Dead in his death wth him doth rest.
So that the marble selfe doth weepe
To think on that wch it doth Keepe
Weep then who ere this Stone doth see,
Unless more hard then Stone thou bee.
Two earlier monuments have closely related verse epitaphs. That to Sir Martin Culpeper, died 1604, at Feckenham, Worcestershire, both begins and ends with the final couplet of the Harefield version and omits the couplet before that, while the epitaph of Mary Plomer, died 1605, at Radwell, is adapted to suit her (Vertues Jewel, Beauties Flower) and omits the third couplet of the Harefield version. While it is possible that these verses were ones that occur only on monuments by William White, comparisons between these three monuments are rendered difficult by the dismemberment of the Feckenham example – the effigies are said to be buried beneath the church floor – and the very different form of Mary Plomer's standing wall monument – she is seated holding a dead baby (and an hourglass!). Her six sons and five daughters are arranged in the same way as those at Harefield.but don't appear to be by the same hand.
The phenomenon of marble weeping, as the epitaphs at Harefield, Radwell and a number of others mention, is one that I have seen myself only once. On a visit to St Peter's church, North Barningham, Norfolk, I found all the black marble components of three monuments of the first half of the C17 in were absolutely covered with drops of water.
The joint tomb of João I of Portugal (d. 1433) and his queen, Philippa of Lancaster (d. 1415)
Founder’s Chapel, monastery of Our Lady of Victory, in Batalha, Portugal
João I of Portugal (d. 1433) and his queen, Philippa of Lancaster (d. 1415) were founders of the Avisian royal line, the second to rule in Portugal.
In the first decades of the fifteenth century, for the first time in the history
of the Portuguese royal family a funerary chapel was conceived and purposely built
as a royal pantheon. Significantly, João I (r. 1385-
Other contemporary factors seem also to have helped promote the tomb’s unprecedented grandeur. These were indeed new times, when a political and institutional message was purposely and carefully formulated, as befitted the founders of a dynasty whose aims included sustaining and emphasising its links with the past. This new dynasty was also one imbued with new principles and values. In fact, royal funerals tended to become, from João’s reign, richer and more complex affairs, thus showing the increasing awareness of the importance of such ceremonies, as well as their potential to demonstrate the magnificence and exceptional character of monarchical power and, indeed, of the monarch himself.
Accordingly, the description made by chroniclers of João I’s death is the epitome of the ‘good death’ on one’s deathbed, infused with ritual and symbolism. As such, it functions as a reference point for the royal family and the court. The act of dying, in the way it is described, therefore resonates with the new outlines of royal commemoration, in the shape of João’s most personal architectural project: a funerary chapel within the monastery he had erected to honour St Mary the Virgin, summoned for protection on the eve of the battle of Aljubarrota. This cannot be separated from the rising notion that the dynasty he heralded was divinely consecrated.
The options taken in the conception and design of João I and Philippa’s memorial
are its other major novelty. The tomb is composed of a large, box-
Moreover, this is – strictly speaking – the first joint tomb chest ever to have appeared
in Portugal. Such innovation, further to the tomb’s commemorative and laudatory aspects,
also helps explain its exceptionally grand dimensions – 148″ long x 67″ wide x 42″
tall (375 x 170 x 184 cm). The processes of development this tomb exemplifies cannot
be seen separately from earlier joint tombs in Portugal. In spite of each being devised
as one single undertaking, these tombs were in fact sculpted and displayed individually.
The model used for João I and Philippa – a single compartment covered with a lid
featuring the two effigies – is, however, an absolute novelty, and most likely the
result of influences from abroad; namely from England, as some scholars have suggested,
considering the well-
What might appear as the lessening of the king’s and queen’s individuality is offset
by the construction of a message which surpassed the sense of the individual’s confrontation
with death, and might achieve great political impact. Hence, this is not so much
a discourse where the believer has stepped forward, supported by his intercessors,
to face the Last Judgement, exercising one’s own virtues and social position, as
seems to have been the case with earlier, fourteenth-
Notwithstanding the queen’s representation as a virtuous and pious woman (her left
hand holding a prayer book), she is somewhat overshadowed by the way the king presents
himself, due to the meaningful and innovative character of his effigy. Unlike earlier
Portuguese tombs, whose model was non-
As follows, the apparatus surrounding the conception of João I’s burial place is a clear reflection of his rule while king, guided by two fundamental aspects: the assertion of royal authority and the establishment of an atmosphere of prestige surrounding the new dynasty, associating it with a divinely conferred image of authenticity – unpolluted, charismatic and nationalistic. On the one hand, foreign influences were adhered to and adapted. On the other, there is a sense of continuity from the local tomb art of the past, noticeable in Philippa’s effigy. That the tomb was (to our belief) the work of a Portuguese artist probably favoured this conservatism, framed by traditional practices and the customs of the land, but which all the same took absolutely innovative models as inspiration.
The monument to the founder king and queen of Portugal’s second dynasty is in many ways a turning point of great significance and innovation. Entirely original in its form, the tomb of João I and his Lancastrian wife would truly become a model for Portuguese tomb art in the fifteenth century, inspiring both monuments for other couples and for other knights individually, which from this point onwards always appear with a distinct military character.
● Coelho, Maria Helena de Cruz, D. João I, Rio de Mouro: Círculo de Leitores, 2005;
● Silva, José Custódio Vieira da; Redol, Pedro, The Monastery of Batalha, Lisbon: Instituto Português do Património Arquitectónico/London: Scala Publishers, 2007;
● Silva, José Custódio Vieira da; Ramôa, Joana, ‘O Retrato de D. João I no Mosteiro
de Santa Maria da Vitória’, Revista de História da Arte, vol. 5, Lisbon: Instituto
de História da Arte da Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas da Universidade Nova
de Lisboa, 2008, pp. 77-
● Sousa, Armindo de, A morte de D. João I: um tema de propaganda dinástica, Porto: Centro de Estudos Humanísticos, 1984;
Copyright: Joana Ramôa
Photographs by permission of José Custódio Vieira da Silva
‘Today and not tomorrow’
Doctor James Vaulx and his two wives Editha and Philip St Mary’s Church, Meysey Hampton
In the small Norman church of St Mary at Meysey Hampton (sometimes Maisey) in Gloucestershire is the charming painted limestone mural monument to Dr James Vaulx and his two wives Editha and Philip. Like many monuments in churches it is no longer in its original position. Today it stands in the south transept where it was moved from the chancel around 1872. Described in The Buildings of England as ‘an elaborate and striking provincial monument’ it embodies many of the features that make monument viewing so fascinating. As noted in a recent publication it is often the grand and sophisticated monuments that command the most attention. But for many people, especially the casual visitor, it is this type of arresting and enigmatic monument that makes their visit memorable and enjoyable.
Within the arches of the monument are three full-
Beneath each wife are grouped small effigies of their children. Twelve are beneath Editha including the eldest son Francis who, the only Latin sentence states, was responsible for the erection of the monument, while beneath Philip are her four children. A number of the children are shown in beds, at least one covered in a pall, an indication that some had predeceased their father. Indeed the death of a daughter is mentioned in the inscription above Philip.
At the time the monument was erected around 1630 inscriptions had become more numerous and biographical and, with improving literacy, in English. Here there are four, one of which informs us that Dr Vaulx was ‘That famous practitioner in Physicke & Chirurgery James Vaulx Esquire who deceased March 17th 1626 to the generall losse of the whole Countrey....’. His fame was such that it is said he was consulted by James I who thought about appointing him his own royal physician. On enquiring how he had obtained his knowledge and healing art the Doctor replied, ‘By practice’. The King rejoined, ‘Then by my saul thou hast killed money a man, thou shalt na’practise upon me’. Was the doctor qualified? No qualifications have been traced and his name does not appear in the Roll of the College of Physicians.
The legacies of the two defining movements that altered church monuments in the sixteenth century are evident. The influence of the Renaissance can be seen in the pose and demeanour of the effigies, the three coffered arches, winged cherub heads, composite columns and Virtues. Virtues were a product of the Reformation, when overly Christian symbolism was suspect, and became a popular method of illustrating the deceased’s exemplary character. Stemming from ancient pagan cultures the most common were the four Cardinal Virtues, Fortitude, Justice, Prudence and Temperance, and the three Theological virtues of Hope, Faith and Charity.
Although it is not uncommon to find Virtues on monuments of this period it is not so common to find all seven represented as here. The four Cardinal Virtues form one row on the pediment with the Theological Virtues above. Following 1 Corinthians 13:13 ’And now abideth faith, hope and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity’ (King James Bible). Charity, with her children, occupies the apex of the monument. Each Virtue is identified by its attribute many of which are now damaged (some within the twentieth century).
Chivalry and family lineage were of great importance as symbols of social status to those who commissioned monuments. This monument includes an esquire’s helmet incorporating a motto ‘Hodie et non cras’, (today and not tomorrow) and six heraldic shields. One of these appears to indicate a prior marriage to a lady of the name of Young but no details of this marriage have been found. We are left with the intriguing questions of whether Dr Vaulx was qualified and how many wives he actually had.
The monument is painted although there is considerable flaking. During conservation in 2001 nine paint samples from various parts of the monument were analysed. It was concluded that there were at least two colour schemes which resulted in a change of colour to some of the features. For instance, the robe of Fortitude had changed from blue to red.
As with so many monuments it is not an end in itself but a link in a chain and great fun can be had in trying to trace the interrelations between families. Dr Vaulx’s last wife Philip is not buried with him as she subsequently married a Baynham (an illustrious local family). When she died in 1631 her then husband placed a laudatory epitaph on her gravestone in St James Church, Staunton (then in Worcs. but now in Glos.).
She also appears amongst the three kneeling daughters on the monument of her father, William Horton (d.1615) also in St James Church. Thus she is commemorated on three different memorials.
Joan and Robert Tucker
The Bourchier Monuments in St Andrew’s Church, Halstead (Essex)
St Andrew’s chapel in the south aisle of the church contains the freestone effigies
of a knight and lady installed beneath a tall, heraldic canopy with matching ‘tomb-
John Bourchier was the son of Robert, Lord Bourchier (d. 1349), a confidant of Edward
III who fought at Crécy (1346) and was briefly chancellor of England (1340-
The male figure has a helm headrest with Saracen’s head crest, and originally had
the Bourchier arms carved in low relief on its chest. The mitten gauntlets are unusual.
The lady wears a gown, mantle and distinctive nebuly headdress, and has twin dogs
as footrest. Traces of red colour on the hem of the lady’s robe suggest the carvings
were brightly painted. The treatment of both effigies is formulaic: the armour of
the male figure is typical of the period 1370-
At least two other Bourchier monuments lie nearby. Immediately to the east are the
effigies of a knight and lady carved from a single slab, together with fragments
of a tomb chest. The knight’s armour and the v-
In 1631 the antiquarian John Weever recorded that a chapel stood on the south side
of the Halstead ‘Quire’ called ‘Bowser’s Chapell’ housing a number of Bourchier monuments,
including that of the first lord. It is not clear whether Weever meant the present
chapel or the south side of the Halstead chancel; whatever their original position
all of the present monuments have been moved and modified. Most of the displacement
took place during the eighteenth century, a period which saw widespread remodelling
of the east end of churches, great and small, and the displacement of medieval monuments.
The first lord’s tomb was all but destroyed by 1806 when the Rev. D. T. Powell sketched
fragments of his effigy. Powell also recorded that the twin effigy slab in the south-
The Halstead medieval monuments belong to a broader group of Bourchier tombs housed in a number of English churches, including those of Eleanor, Lady Bourchier (d. 1397) at Little Easton; Henry Bourchier, earl of Essex (d. 1483) at Little Easton, originally at Beeleigh Abbey, near Maldon; Elizabeth, Lady Robessart (d.1433) at Westminster Abbey, and Thomas Bourchier, archbishop of Canterbury (d.1486), in Canterbury Cathedral. Their number and geographical diversity is testimony to the aggrandisement of this Essex gentry family. There are also exemplars for a common theme in the understanding of medieval church monuments: what we see today is often far from what was intended.
Two Monuments in Bedfordshire
On my recent survey of some north Bedfordshire churches I visited All Saints, Odell where, in the chancel, there is a large late 17th century monument to the Alston family. The Buildings of England has this to say about it:
"To the Alston family, probably of 1678. Large richly decorated tablet with open pediment. By the same hand as the monument of 1678 at Bletsoe."
This piqued my interest and as Bletsoe is only about 6 kilometres away from Odell I included Bletsoe on my itinerary later in the afternoon. Pevsner's comments prompted two questions. Are both monuments by the same hand? What is the family connection?
The Alston monument at Odell is located on the north wall of the chancel. It commemorates
several generations of the Alston family starting with Frances (d. 1644) and her
son William (d. 1637), continuing through to Vere John Alston (d. 1762), rector of
Odell. The monument is fairly large and is made of white marble in three main sections.
At the centre is an inscription plate divided in two with the text in black. This
is flanked by pilasters adorned at the top with winged putti and pendants of foliage,
flowers and ribbons terminated with tassels. The base consists of a central panel
with a pair of shields in cartouches suspended from swags that are tied at the centre
and at the sides to two consoles upon which are gadrooned urns with swags. The sub-
Apart from the text none of the monument has any paintwork. The shields in the base
are blank and may have always been so. There is no clear indication of when the monument
was erected, but the style of the various sections of text give a clue. The earliest
inscription is on the left-
The monument at Bletsoe is inscribed to Lady Elizabeth Cavendish (Countess Bolingbroke)
and can be found in the north transept of the church. This was turned into the family
chapel of the St Johns and contains many minor wall tablets and four hatchments.
The Cavendish monument is mounted on the east wall of the transept and is very similar
to the Alston monument. The overall design is the same but some of the details are
different: the urns are flaming urns, there are remains of gold paint in various
locations, the putti in the superstructure are inside the rim of the semi-
Close examination of both monuments reveals the detailing to be distinctly different.
The putti heads and wings on the Alston monument are styled differently and are somewhat
coarser in execution, lacking irises and having less detailed hair and feathers.
The ribbons and drapery, however, have surface detailing on them whereas they are
carved flat on the Cavendish. Generally the Cavendish has a blunter appearance, made
up for somewhat by originally highlighting some of the details in gold paint, most
of which has now flaked off. It may be that there was one designer for both monuments
and they were carved by different sculptors at the same workshop. It could also be
that one is a copy of the other by a different workshop, although the close parallels
in design and the close timing of their manufacture tend to dictate against this.
The design and layout suggests a usage as seen in the Cavendish example with one
person commemorated on each inscription panel and the arms of the respective person
appearing below. In this respect the Alston monument may have been selected after
the Cavendish had been erected -
William Alston bought the manors of Great and Little Odell in 1633. As he had no issue on his death in 1638 they passed to his brother Thomas who was subsequently created a baronet in 1642. Thomas no doubt commissioned the monument at Odell.
Elizabeth Cavendish was the youngest daughter of William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Newcastle-
The connection between the two families is from the marriage of Thomas Alston to Elizabeth St John. Oliver 2nd Earl of Bolingbroke was a first cousin once removed of Elizabeth, as can be seen in the simplified family tree.
A last word may be said on the condition of the monuments. The Alston is in good condition and is located in a well cared for environment. The Cavendish is in reasonable condition although it displays staining from the iron fastenings that fix it to the wall. The conditions in the transept are not good as it is dirty, dusty and there are water stains on the walls. The area is used for storage and on my visit the monument was partially hidden behind a stack of desks. In recent years the monument to St John St John (d. 1559) was moved into the nave where it is in fine condition. It can only be hoped that conditions improve in future for the remaining monuments in the transept.
Cracroft's Peerage On-
Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire & Peterborough, 1968
William Page (editor), Victoria County History: A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 3, 1912