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Archive of Monuments of the Month July 2012 to March 2013

2012 July

Lowsley Family Tomb, Hampstead

Norris, Berkshire

St Mary’s, Hampstead Norris, is probably best known for the fragmentary sculpture of a charging knight on horseback which may have formed part of a funerary monument


Behind the church, another monument demands attention.  Bright orange with rust, it is a cast iron square-based pyramid to the Lowsley family.  Each of its seven steps was designed to carry one or more individual dedications, though not all the spaces were used.  Unlike a stone monument, a new inscription panel had to be cast each time a person died.  The first person commemorated was Job Lowsley (1790-1855), son of Joseph; the last family member recorded died in 1947 – almost a century of family history.


But in common with stone, cast iron is not indestructible.  The third photograph shows that the south-east corner of the pyramid is splitting.  This remarkable monument is in urgent need of conservation if it is not to collapse.


Dr Andrew Sargent

2012 August

Oliver Cromwell's Coffin Plate

The Protector Oliver Cromwell died at the early age of 59 of what was described as a tertian fever ¹ at Whitehall on the afternoon of Friday 3rd September 1658. A post mortem - to rule out foul play - was performed immediately after death and his body was embalmed the following day. It was then placed in a lead shell inside a lead coffin and conveyed to Somerset House on the 20th September and there the coffin lay in state. An effigy of the Protector, which was first moulded in wax by medal maker Thomas Simon and then carved in wood, surmounted the coffin. The embalmed body was buried privately at an unkown date in a vault below the chapel of King Henry VII in Westminster Abbey, so that an empty coffin was later conveyed ceremoniously in the funeral procession on 23 rd November to the Abbey. Various explanations - all speculative - have been given for this but these will not be discussed here. A hearse and recumbent effigy were place over the site of burial, the latter probably resembling those which survive in the Abbey museum. A coffin plate (above) was fixed to the lid with an inscription in Latin which, when translated, reads simply:

Oliver Protector of the Republics

of England, Scotland and Ireland.

Born 25th April in the year 1599

Inaugurated 16th December 1653

Died 3rd September in the year 1658

Was buried here

However Oliver was not to rest in peace. At the Restoration in 1660 Lords and Commons, not satisfied with the brutal execution of the living regicides, were determined to exact revenge on the dead ones too. Parliament ordered that the corpses of Henry Ireton (an important architect of the regicide), John Bradshaw (president of the court which had tried the King), Thomas Pride (of Pride's Purge ²) and Oliver Cromwell  were to be disinterred, dragged in hurdles to Tyburn ³ and there hung up 'in their coffins', although the actual meaning of latter phrase is somewhat obscure.

This disgusting performance was carried out on the 30th January 1660/61, the anniversary of the execution of Charles I. Colonel Pride's body was not discovered but the other three were all resting in the Cromwell vault. At this point Oliver's coffin plate was torn off and passed into private ownership. The three bodies were dragged to Tyburn and hanged, then beheaded and thrown into the common pit. At the same time the effigies of the Protector and the Commonwealth coat of arms were burned

The subsequent fate of Oliver Cromwell's body - and especially that of his head - will be the topic of another article.

The coffin plate is on display in the Museum of London

¹ A fever with a forty eight hour periodicity which occurs in some forms of malaria

² Col Thomas Pride was one of those who stood at the door of parliament and purged parliament of the members who would not vote for the trial of the King

³ Site of the famous London gallows, now Marble Arch

 John K Bromilow MInstP  

 2012 September

A Monument in

Holy Trinity Church Hull

 In the south aisle of Holy Trinity church, Hull (Yorkshire) is a tomb monument with effigies of a civilian and wife carved from the local Ledsham alabaster resting on a tombchest decorated with shields within quatrefoils. The whole is within an ornate canopied niche, which is cusped and subcusped and has an ogee gable with blank panelling to the left and right. The effigies are carved in a singular way suggestive of local workmanship. It has been subject to some restoration. An engraving made by Basire for Richard Gough before 1786 shows the man’s hands as having been broken off, but they have been replaced and the broken figures of supporting angels smoothed off. The book held between his hands may not therefore reflect the original design, although a heart held by his wife is authentic.

Who is commemorated by this tomb has been the subject of vexed debate. The accompanying notice in the church is headed ‘the de la Pole tomb’ and quotes the opinion of many antiquaries. Candidates include various of the de la Pole family members and their Wingfield connections, but the two most popular suggestions are Richard de la Pole (d. 1345) and his wife, and his brother William de la Pole the elder (d. 1366) and his wife Katherine Norwich. Yet both can be ruled out.

  Civilian costume is not always easy to date with precision but a date in the range 1380-1390 for her closely-gathered over-gown with straight sleeves seems likely. The bulky veiled headdress of the lady is remarkably similar to that shown on the female effigy on the Marmion tomb of c. 1387 at West Tanfield (Yorkshire). Hence a date of c. 1380-90 seems indicated. Such a late dating would exclude Richard de la Pole as a candidate as he died in 1345 and probably also William the elder (d. 1366). Moreover, William’s wife, Katherine Norwich, like other later members of the family, chose burial in God’s House Hospital at Hull, commonly called the Charterhouse, which, according to her will, was planned by her husband, William de la Pole, but not actually established until after his death in 1377. He left the choice of his burial place to the discretion of his executors. Whether he was temporarily buried in Holy Trinity and subsequently removed to the Charterhouse is uncertain, but what is clear is that their joint tomb is recorded as having been placed beneath the high altar of the priory church.

A significant clue as to the identity of the civilian and wife at Hull is that he has dangling from his belt a probe, used by wool merchants for testing the quality of wool. It is highly unlikely that the upwardly-mobile de la Poles would have chosen to be shown as wool merchants. As is often the case, antiquarian notes provide the clue to the couple commemorated. The antiquary, John Leland, who wrote his ‘Itineraries’ in the years 1535-43 visited Hull; he recorded that ‘Selby is buried in the south side of the waulle of isle by the quire: and his wife also, with very fair images’. Richard de Selby was a prominent Hull merchant of the Staple of Calais, who traded, inter alia, with Gascony and the Low Countries. He served at least six times as mayor of Hull. In 1382 he was one of the two most generous donors who contributed £4 each to the cost of making Hull’s charter. He was associated with Holy Trinity church as early as 1361 when £5 raised by Hull Corporation by means of a special duty on wool exports was placed in the keeping of him and Walter Box ‘for the work of the church’ perhaps the completion of the chancel. In 1375 he and his wife Emma Ravenser obtained licence to grant lands in Hull worth £10 a year to the priory of Guisborough. In return the priory was to maintain a chantry priest in Holy Trinity Church, and twelve poor men, each of whom was to receive ½d. a day. The hospital is believed to have stood on the north side of the churchyard. In the same year, Robert, Richard and Emma established the Ravenser chantry in a chapel off the south aisle of Holy Trinity church near the tomb in question.  Robert de Selby died in 1390, but whether the monument was commissioned in the couple’s lifetimes or after his death is uncertain.  

Sally Badham FSA

 2012 October

East Worldham (Hampshire)

 The charming small church at East Worldham (Hampshire) has but a single medieval monument. This is a semi-effigial slab, positioned in a recess in the south wall of the nave with a low arch above. This may well be its original position. The upper part of the slab has an aperture with a carving in sunk relief of the head and hands of a female figure with her hands folded loosely on her breast. The rest of the slab is carved at a higher level, the main feature being a cross carved in relief; the head is a straight-arm cross with trefoil terminals but the bottom is too worn for its form to be discerned. It was probably made locally, as one odd feature suggests. Although the overall appearance is of a coffin with an aperture cut in it to reveal the body below, on either side of the base of the cross carved on the higher surface of the slab are shown the very worn feet of the lady with the foot drapery of her tunic. The body is thus shown on two different levels; the carver seems to have been confused as to what exactly this type of monument was meant to represent.


There has been a long-held local tradition that this is the monument of Philippa Roet, the wife of the famous poet Geoffrey Chaucer and sister to Katherine Roet who was mistress to John of Gaunt and subsequently his third duchess. Philippa was born c. 1346 and died c. 1387. There is a link between East Worldham manor and a member of the Chaucer family: Thomas Chaucer (1367-1343), Philippa and Geoffrey’s son, married Matilda, daughter and coheiress of Sir John Burghersh, nephew of Henry Burghersh, Bishop of Lincoln. For several centuries, the manor of East Worldham had been held by the de Venuz (or Venuiz) family, but the Patent Rolls record that, as the result of a trial in 1329, the manor passed, on the death of Margery, widow of John Venuz, to the Burghersh family. Thomas Chaucer inherited this manor with many other lands as a result of his marriage to Matilda Burghersh, but his mother Philippa Roet was never associated with the manor and so is unlikely to have been commemorated in the church.

There are various other reasons why the monument at East Worldham cannot have commemorated Philippa Chaucer. First, this type of semi-effigial monument was in fashion in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries; some examples were made later but none are known as late as the later 1380s when Philippa died. Second, the costume shown is appropriate to a date in the late-thirteenth century. She wears a super-tunic with a cloak over it held in place by a cord. The neck of the super-tunic has a slit and beneath it is another garment, either made or fur or with fur trimming at the neck. The woman’s hair is all but covered by a veil; this and a linen band round the chin are held in place with another deep linen band. The belief that the monument commemorated Philippa Roet appears to have stemmed from the circular device on her upper chest. It has been interpreted as a wheel from the Roet arms, but close examination shows it is actually a buckle comprising two semi-circles which joined together to fasten the two flaps of her supertunic.

 Having disposed of the tradition that this monument commemorated Philippa Roet, who does it represent? The latest edition of the Buildings of England for the area suggests that it was made to commemorate Margery, widow of John de Venuz, who died in 1329. It is very likely that it commemorated a member of the de Venuz family, but a date of c. 1329 for this monument seems too late unless she was depicted in outmoded costume. So the search goes on …

Sally Badham FSA

2012 November

Floor slab of Cornelis Pietersze (d. 1532) and his wife Jozijne van Domburch (d. 1557), Sint-Maartenskerk, Sint Maartensdijk (province of Zeeland, Netherlands), Belgian hardstone, 254 x 141 cm.

This month’s monument is found in the Dutch coastal province of Zeeland, which is unusually rich in late-medieval incised slabs. The small town of Sint Maartensdijk (part of the municipality of Tholen since 1971) was a flourishing settlement in the Middle Ages and acquired town rights in 1491, albeit without having its own representative in the States of Zeeland. Jacqueline of Hainault (the repudiated wife of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester), Countess of Holland, and her fourth husband Frank van Borssele had a castle on the north side of the town, which was demolished in 1819. The church is dedicated to St Martin. The tower dates from c.1350, but the body of the church was built in late-Gothic style during the fifteenth century. Frank van Borssele made it a collegiate church in or around 1429, which provided great wealth. Thanks to the collegiate church and the prosperous Van Borssele court nearby, Sint Maartensdijk enjoyed prestige as well as influence amongst the towns in Zeeland.

The double slab of Cornelis Pietersze and his wife Jozijne van Domburch is situated in the north aisle of the church, partly hidden under carpets for protection. It commemorates a local married couple. Cornelis was a steward in the service of the counts of Buren (from the House of Egmond). He was thus responsible for raising taxes and, more generally, for managing his lord’s properties in Zeeland. He and his wife probably lived in the local castle, thus overseeing the court of Sint Maartensdijk in the absence of its formal owners. Little else is known about them. Cornelis died in 1532 and was survived by his wife Jozijne van Domburch, who died on 1 December 1557. The slab must have been commissioned in her lifetime and probably while her husband was still alive, for his date of death was added on the second line along the bottom while hers was never completed. It was quite normal to buy one’s future grave and tombstone in advance with the names and titles already engraved in the stone: the details of death could be added later, althoughthis did not always happen. The inscription in incised Gothic textualis lettering reads:

Hier leyt begra(ven) Cornelis / Pieters zo(on), rentm(eeste)r in zij(n) leve(n) va(n) Sinte Mertensdijck, / sterf a(nn)o XVc XXXII de(n) XIIt(en) meerte. // En(de) joncfr(ouw) Jozijne van / Do(m)burch, zij(n) huysvr(ouw), sterf a(nn)o XVc [...].

(Here lies buried Cornelis, son of Pieter, steward of Sint Maartensdijk in his lifetime, died in the year 1532 on the 12th of March. And the lady Jozijne van Domburch, his wife, died in the year 15[...].)

The slab shows husband and wife as if alive, turning towards each other and standing on a tiled floor, their hands raised in a gesture of prayer. He is shown wearing a below-the-knee gown pulled together across his legs; it has wide lapels and what would be a square flat collar at the back of his shoulders. The sleeves of his gown have two horizontal slits edged with a ribbon laid flat as a trimming; the sleeves on his forearms belong to his doublet, which seems to have a square neckline, above which we probably see the gathered edge of his shirt collar. He also wears ‘hammerhead’-toed shoes. The female figure is not dressed as a widow. She is dressed in a gown with a high-set square neckline; the skirt is lifted somewhat to reveal the kirtle skirt underneath. Netherlandish women appear to have worn cloaks over their heads when out of doors, and probably also for going to church. It seems to have a heart-shaped dip at the centre top, in the way that a starched linen headdress of the period would have had. What appears to be a small flower above her left temple is in fact a mark of the fossilised coral Michelinia (favosa), typical of Belgian hardstone; an even larger mark mars Cornelis’s face. A rosary with a cross hangs down the front of Jozijne’s skirt as a sign of her piety. The couple’s attitude of prayer and the woman’s cloak and rosary would thus be particularly appropriate for a monument in their local church.

The two elegant figures have been carved in the taille d’épargne technique with incised lines for the inner drawing. The design has been confidently executed by highly skilled craftsmen able to meet the local demand for effigial slabs. The worn double slab to Niclaes Niclaeszoon Basijn (d. 1536) and his wife [...] Gillesdochter in the same church is very similar in design. Although the slab of Cornelis and Jozijne is in good condition, considering its age and position, it has suffered the typical vandalism of the French occupation in the late 1790s when marks of heraldry and rank were considered at odds with the new desire for égalité. The heraldic shields in the spandrels of the decorated arch above the figures and the banderole in the centre have thus been hacked away completely, while the housemarks on the shields halfway down the lateral text bands have been effaced. Curiously the quatrefoils in the corners of the slab have also suffered the same fate, although these contained the evangelist symbols that are commonly found on medieval memorial slabs. An antiquarian drawing in the collection Zelandia Illustrata shows the slab as still intact, although the artist misinterpreted the two horizontal slits in the man’s right sleeve as some sort of buckle.

There is an interesting sequel to this double monument as Jozijne was apparently never buried with her husband. She is instead commemorated with her mother Katherijne  Tshuwers or Tschauwers (d. 1538) on a still extant, double effigial slab in the church of Our Lady in Tholen that was recorded by the same eighteenth-century draughtsman: it is here that we find an inscription with Jozijne’s date of death.

The slabs in Sint Maartensdijk and Tholen and others across the Netherlands will be included in the database of the MeMO (Medieval Memoria Online) project that is currently being completed for its launch at in early February 2013. See also and With thanks also to Dr Margaret Scott for her analysis of the dress of the two figures, Drs Hendrik-Jan Tolboom for his identification of the fossil inclusions, and Dr Harry Tummers for his comments.

See also:

● F.A. Greenhill, Incised Effigial Slabs. A Study of Engraved Stone Memorials in Latin Christendom, c.1100 to c.1700, 2 vols (London: Faber & Faber, 1976), vol. II, 184.


● for antiquarian drawings by Korstiaen Bestebroer in the collection Zelandia Illustrata.

● Hans van Dijk, ‘Vloerzerken in Zeeland. Vloerzerken met persoonsvoorstellingen, ca. 1300-1600’, 3 volumes, unpublished MA dissertation supervised by Dr Harry Tummers, (University of Nijmegen, 1989), esp. vols II (catalogue) and III (plates), nrs 119 and 131.    

Copyright: Dr Sophie Oosterwijk FSA and Kees Knulst BA.  

2012 December


An exercise in white marble and whitewashing

Cenotaph of Lieutenant-Admiral Jacob van Wassenaer Obdam (d. 13 June 1665), by Bartholomeus Eggers, situated in the choir of the Jacobskerk, The Hague (Netherlands), white, red and black marble and wood.

Those lucky enough to gain entrance to the Grote or Jacobskerk in the heart of The Hague cannot fail to be impressed by the imposing Baroque monument to Jacob van Wassenaer Obdam, Lieutenant-Admiral of the Dutch Republic. The monument is situated in the choir exactly where the high altar used to be until the Reformation, and that position is no coincidence.

The monument to Van Wassenaer Obdam is actually a cenotaph that was erected as a piece of political propaganda in 1667, i.e. towards the end of the Second Anglo-Dutch War. Van Wassenaer Obdam is shown gazing confidently ahead as Fame blows her trumpet behind him while holding out a laurel wreath. Fame is mounted on an eagle that sits on top of the globe with spread wings that look from a distance as if they are attached to the naval hero’s back as if he is about to soar heavenward. He hero himself is dressed in armour and holds his baton in his left hand. On the left a young page holds his helm aloft and looks up at him reverentially. On the right a semi-naked cherub supports the hero’s shield while holding out an olive branch to him; the serpent or ouroboros in the child’s left hand represents the cycle of birth and death. Sitting on the shield that rests under Van Wassenaer Obdam’s left foot is a composite vanitas emblem: a tear-faced cherub who leans on a skull while holding an extinguished torch and an hour-glass.

This ambitious monument was designed by the painter Cornelis Moninckx (c.1623-1666) and sculpted by Bartholomeus Eggers (c.1637-c.1692) whose signature can be clearly seen on the ledge beneath the shield. Eggers was a pupil of the Antwerp sculptor Peter Verbruggen, but had moved to Amsterdam in the early 1650s. The white marble group is surmounted by a canopy that rests on red marble columns, its dome decorated with white marble urns, thereby resembling a catafalque. Standing on the corners of the black marble base are four allegorical female figures in white marble: Prudentia, Vigilantia, Fortitudo, and Fidelitas. Three white marble reliefs on the black marble base show naval battles in which Van Wassenaer Obdam had been involved, and the Latin epitaphs on the black cartouches suspended from the canopy extol the heroism of this new Hercules who battled his way to heaven through the flames that destroyed his ship.

Yet instead of celebrating a naval victory, as its impressive appearance might suggest, this public monument was intended to disguise the truth of probably one of the worst defeats ever to befall the Dutch navy. In 1653 the aristocrat Jacob van Wassenaer Obdam (1610-1665) had reluctantly succeeded Dutch naval hero Maarten Harpertszoon Tromp, who had been killed in 1653 in the battle of Scheveningen during the First Anglo-Dutch War. Yet it was not for his seafaring experience that Van Wassenaer was appointed Lieutenant-Admiral and suppreme commander; he was the eldest son of an earlier Lieutenant-Admiral (Jacob van Wassenaer Duivenvoorde) and he was pressurised to accept the post after three other, more experienced candidates had either been found politically unacceptable or had declined the commission. Under his command the Dutch navy forced the Swedish fleet to end its blockade of Copenhagen in the battle of the Sound in 1658. When Charles II declared war upon the Dutch Republic in 1665 Van Wassenaer Obdam was put in charge of the then largest Dutch fleet ever. Ordered by his government to take on the English fleet he grudgingly engaged in battle off Lowestoft in June of that year and there was a moment when his ship De Eendragt nearly succeeded in sinking or forcing the surrender of the Duke of York’s flagship Royal Charles, but then De Eendragt caught fire and exploded. Van Wassenaer Obdam was killed along with most of his crew and his body was never recovered. Two other Lieutenant-Admirals, Egbert Cortenaer and Auke Stellingwerf, also died. This disaster threw the Dutch fleet into confusion and the battle ended in an English victory, as Samuel Pepys noted in his diary.   After this debacle the Dutch States-General badly needed to restore the prestige of their navy. There were thus political reasons for a posthumous rehabilitation of their chosen commander, which would help mask the reality of the naval defeat. Admiral Tromp had been awarded a state funeral and an impressive mural monument by Rombout Verhulst and Willem de Keyser in the Oude Kerk in Delft. In an attempt to make up in sculptural grandeur for what he had lacked in naval stature, Van Wassenaer Obdam’s cenotaph was to be much grander still and it has rightly been described as an apotheosis. Its similarities with the Baroque monument of 1614-21 to William the Silent (the ‘Father of the Fatherland’) in the New Church in Delft by Hendrick de Keyser underlines the intended posthumous rehabilitation. By its sheer grandeur the costly monument fulfilled its purpose and it was to feature in various paintings and prints just like the monument in Delft.  

Van Wassenaer Obdam was succeeded by the most famous Dutch naval commander, Michiel Adriaenszoon de Ruyter (1606-1676), who had earlier declined to accept command of the fleet after Tromp’s death. De Ruyter restored Dutch naval pride with his victory in the Four Days Battle in June 1666. After he had been fatally wounded in the Battle of Agosta ten years later, he was given a lavish state funeral and laid to rest in a grand marble tomb by Rombout Verhulst in the choir of the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam, thereby continuing what had become a Dutch tradition of celebrating of naval heroes.


Dr Sophie Oosterwijk is the Co-ordinator of Tomb Monuments for the MeMO (Medieval Memoria Online) project at the University of Utrecht: see With thanks to Jean Wilson for her comments and to Barbara Tomlinson (National Maritime Museum Greenwich) for additional naval information.

See also:

● Frits Scholten, ‘The apotheosis of an admiral: Bartholomeus Eggers and the tomb for Jacob van Wassenaer Obdam’, in Sumptuous Memories. Studies in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Tomb Sculpture (Zwolle: Waanders, 2003), 144-177.

● William Laird Clowes, The Royal Navy: A History, from the Earliest Times to the Present (1898, repr. London: Chatham Publishing, 1996), 259-265.

● N.A.M. Rodger, The Command of the Ocean: A Naval History of Britain 1649-1815 (London: Allen Lane, 2004), 69-71.

● Entry on Bartholomeus Eggers by Wilhelmina Halsema-Kubes in Grove Art Online at


 2013 January


Martin Kistenmaker and his Parents

Heiligenkreuz, Rostock


The former nunnery church of Holy Cross in Rostock, on the Baltic coast, contains an outstanding collection of incised slabs, all beautifully displayed and catalogued.  (Wolfgang Eric Wagner, Die Grabplatten des Klosters »Zum Heiligen Kreuz« in Rostock, 2007)  Many of the slabs represent nuns, sometimes two or three to a slab, as well as their chaplains, relations and benefactors.  This one shows us a chaplain in Mass vestments, holding a chalice and host in his left hand, and blessing with his right, a characteristically German pose.  The scroll around his half-effigy simply reads “Here lies Sir Martin Kistenmaker, Priest; pray for him”.  Below are presumably his parents, father in civil dress, mother in a simple veil headdress, but between them is a butcher’s cleaver.  The explanation is on their scroll, or rather by an inserted word above it: “this stone belongs to Heinric Bucow, \ butcher / and Mechtild his wife.”   Different family names, in fact, but surely they must be related?  Half-effigies are unusual in the Baltic,  and virtually all known examples are in this one church.  For this and other Baltic peculiarities, see my Bishops and Burgers, Dukes and Knights, available directly from            

The slab measures 1.44 x 0.76 m, and is number 21 in Wagner’s catalogue.


Jerome Bertram

2013 February

The monument to Archbishop James Sharp (d.1679)

Holy Trinity Church, St Andrews (Fife)


The monument of this month commemorates both an archbishop and a political murder. James Sharp was born at Banff Castle in 1618 and studied at King’s College, Aberdeen. By 1642 he was a regent at the University of St Andrews and in 1648 he became the minister at Crail. He married Helen Moncrieff with whom he had seven children. Originally a moderate and a mediator in troubled times, Sharp is now best known in local folklore for his murder in 1679.

Throughout Sharp’s life there were movements in Scotland against the monarchy, eventually leading to the Civil War. Moreover, the Reformation had left deep rifts between Catholics and Protestants. The Episcopalian Church was seen as a Catholic religion headed by the monarchy and its allies. It is thus that, in the aftermath of both Reformation and Civil War, Sharp’s decision in 1661 to become episcopalian archbishop and primate of all Scotland was regarded as a betrayal of presbyterianism (a minimalist form of Protestantism) and caused him to be seen as a self-interested turncoat.

Things came to a head on 3 May 1679 as a band of presbyterian conventiclers set out to scare a local sheriff for some authoritarian wrong he had done them. When the sheriff failed to turn up, the men got wind of the Archbishop passing close by on his way from Cupar to St Andrews, and seized this new opportunity to flex their muscles. Riding swiftly across the barren Magus Muir they pursued the Archbishop’s carriage and, having overtaken it, held his daughter while they fell upon Sharp hacking at him until the fatal shot was fired into his chest. Their momentum had taken them too far.

Unsurprisingly, the event was seized upon by both sides as representative of their own glory and the other side’s godlessness. The murderers justified this vicious whim as God’s will. They claimed that God had sent them the Archbishop. In St Andrews, meanwhile, the Archbishop was buried at Holy Trinity church as an episcopalian martyr. Still occupying most of the east wall of the south transept is a wall monument commissioned that same year by Sharp’s son, Sir William Sharp of Scotscraig, to tell the story of his father’s murder and celebrate his martyrdom. The unknown sculptor may have been Dutch or at least trained in the Netherlands.

Sir William had two main agendas. The first was to commemorate his father as a martyr rather than a turncoat. The second was to establish his family’s heritage by thus celebrating his father’s privileged status as archbishop. The Restoration introduced a new aristocracy whose members felt pressured to justify and consolidate their positions by devising noble family histories for themselves and thereby claiming a place in public memory. Numerous – sometimes entirely fabricated – family tombs and portraits were created across the country, and Archbishop Sharp’s was no exception.

Sharp’s monument consists of three tiers. The lower tier holds a marble relief of the murder, which depicts the Archbishop calm and serene as he is martyred, his raised hand reminiscent of many Renaissance and Baroque martyr scenes. Flanking the relief are two Chi Rho monograms each crowned with archiepiscopal mitres and framed by martyr’s palms. The Chi Rho is an old Christian symbol for Christ and arguably associated with Catholicism.

Above this lower tier, resting on three skulls, is a sarcophagus flanked by two grandiose marble pillars and two torches. The skulls act as a memento mori to remind us of the temporary nature of all things physical. Indeed, the overt presence of the sarcophagus may be seen as conveying a similar message: the body is here, and there is no denying that it is a corpse.


The monument’s centre piece is a full-size marble sculpture of the archbishop kneeling on top of his sarcophagus. An angel hands him a martyr’s palm and crown. Sharp kneels before heaven dressed not as an archbishop but as a simple minister, indicating that he is being crowned not for his archiepiscopal status but for his virtue – a remarkably Protestant concept in principle: one wonders whether this reflects Sharp’s own beliefs or whether it is a posthumous attempt to quell his enemies’ hatred of him as a turncoat. Nonetheless, his mitre and staff are very much present lest anyone forget, even in this pure heavenly moment, that this was an archbishop. Above the archbishop’s figure is his coat of arms, crowned with a mitre and supported by two angels.

The upper tier features a relief of what we may guess to be a fanciful reconstruction of the church of St Regulus at St Andrews, the remains of which still stand next to the cathedral. The archbishop stands beside it in full archiepiscopalia, underlining once more his status as a virtuous father of his church and archbishop of St Andrews.

Although the monument is imposing in size, elaborate in design, and made of costly materials, it cannot be described as a work of high artistic quality. The figure of the archbishop is not only rather disproportionate, but also lacking in detail and life-likeness. The decorative angels are stiff and graceless, the murder scene is less dramatic or glorious than awkwardly clumsy, while the whole composition seems out of tune and disjointed. If this was the work of a Dutch (or Dutch-trained) sculptor it is very second-rate compared to the monuments by the great Dutch sculptors of the time, such as Rombout Verhulst and Bartholomeus Eggers.

Nevertheless, the monument tells the story of a notorious and symbolic political event at a turbulent, crucial time in Scottish history. Indeed, the monument’s size, luxury and loud episcopalian symbolism contrasts sharply with the church’s quiet Protestant decor. This in itself is a poignant reminder of the town and country’s deep religious conflict of the time. The memorial to Archbishop Sharp must therefore be considered an important monumental highlight in the university town of St Andrews.

Copyright: Phoebe Armstrong

This piece was based on my Art History undergraduate dissertation ‘The Various Images and Bodies of a Man: Archbishop James Sharp’ at the University of St Andrews (2011) supervised by Dr Sophie Oosterwijk.

N.B. Larger versions of all the above photographs can be seen by clicking on the smaller version included in the text.


Further reading:

   Julia Buckroyd, The Life of James Sharp, Archbishop of St. Andrews, 1618 to 1679: A Political Biography (Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers, 1987).

    Nigel Llewellyn, Funeral Monuments in Post-Reformation England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).

   David George Mullan, ‘James Sharp’, entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography at

   Rev. W.E.K. Rankin’s notebook, ‘Old St Andrews’, Article V, held in the University of St Andrews Special Collections.

   Peter Sherlock, Monuments and Memory in Early Modern England (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008).

2012 March


The Monument at Sheriff Hutton (Yorkshire).

Is this the tomb of Richard III’s son?

At the east end of the north aisle of Sheriff Hutton parish church (originally the chantry chapel of the Wytham family) stands an undersized chest tomb of alabaster (Fig 1). It has evidently spent some time exposed to the elements, being severely damaged by damp and frost, especially at the north side.

It now consists of the east and west ends, both with shields under canopies, and a south side with panels of kneeling angels supporting shields each side of a central Trinity carving and flanking saints, probably SS. Barbara and John the Evangelist. That this is the original south side of the tomb is confirmed by the presence of a donor figure facing east in the central panel of the Holy Trinity. The north side is missing. The effigy wears a robe, possibly furred at the hem, and a soft cap. The feet and supporters are missing (Fig 2). The face is much weathered but seems to be rounded, with no facial hair and could be interpreted as that of a juvenile. No colour is now visible on the tomb but the Neville arms were reliably recorded on it in 1623

For more than a century the legend has been gaining ground that this is the monument of the only legitimate son of Richard III, Edward of Middleham, Prince of Wales, who died young in 1484. The suggestion can be traced to J.W. Clay in 1904 who, in editing the Church Notes of the antiquarian  Roger Dodsworth, first made the tentative suggestion for the tomb’s identification, based on a reading of the record of the Neville heraldry on the monument and in the glass of the church. This notion was taken up with enthusiasm by later commentators and is now often uncritically accepted, although it has been challenged in recent years.

The contemporary accounts in the 1480’s of the death and burial of Edward of Middleham: the Crowland Chronicle and the Rous Roll, place his death and burial at Middleham.  He “…was seized with an illness of but short duration and died at Middleham Castle…”, “…..Edward was honourably buried at Middleham, it is said”.  The movements of Richard III and his Queen at the time of Edward’s death are detailed in the Harleian MSS; they received the news of his death at Nottingham, went first to York on their way north and then to Middleham. There is no indication of a journey to Sheriff Hutton at that time.

The first record of the tomb in the church is that of Dodsworth in 1623. Previous to that, a Visitation in 1584 by Robert Glover, Somerset Herald, describes the other monuments in the church but makes no mention of the alabaster chest tomb. It is possible the original location of the tomb was not the parish church at all, but the chapel at Sheriff Hutton castle. In 1546 the chantry commissioners recorded a chantry of the ‘Holy Trinity and Our Blessed Ladye’ (possibly the chapel’s dedication) in the chapel of Sheriff Hutton castle, served by two priests. The presence of the carved panel of the Holy Trinity, together with the donor figure on the south side of the tomb may relate it to this chantry.

The style of the tomb is quite unlike other alabaster tombs of the 1480s and relates to a closely connected group of tombs made sixty years earlier which can be dated to the first quarter of the fifteenth century, all associated with Yorkshire gentry of the Lancastrian affinity, more specifically that of Henry IV. The design of the Sheriff Hutton tomb chest is a compressed version of the tomb chest of Robert Waterton (d.1425) at Methley (Fig. 3) and of Sir Richard Redman (d. 1426) at Harewood. At Methley the tomb and the chapel in which it is housed, relate specifically to the 1425 will of Robert Waterton and the arms of his executors on the contemporary wooden screen date the chapel to soon after the will.

Comparison with similar tombs is not the only dating evidence for the Sheriff Hutton tomb; the bare-headed donor figure, almost certainly the patron who commissioned the tomb, kneels at the feet of God the Father in the Trinity panel with a scroll going up to the ear of God the Father (Fig. 4). He wears armour and the short, round haircut of the first part of the fifteenth century.


The workshop which produced the tombs at Harewood and Methley (and possibly also at Swine) was probably situated not in the Midlands, where the major deposits of alabaster were found, but at York, using a local source of the stone. Characteristic of this workshop is the carving of miniature vaulting within the canopies finished with a small central boss and a slight convexity to the carving of the shields. This workshop seems to have ceased producing tombs some time during the 1420s; no later examples are known. The Sheriff Hutton tomb forms part of its output and its significance lies, not in the dubious identification with Edward of Middleham, but the evidence it gives of another high status Lancastrian patron of this York workshop. The heraldry reliably recorded on the tomb links it with the Nevilles and, at the period of its manufacture, Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland held the castle and manor of Sheriff Hutton, so it may be one of his children. It may be some comfort to Ricardians to think that the tomb may be that of a kinsman of his Queen, even if it is not of her son.  

 Copyright: Dr Jane Crease

Further Reading.

British Library: Harleian MSS 433, f. 172 et seq.

Pronay, N. and Cox, J (eds.),  The Crowland Chronicle Continuations 1459-1486, Sutton, 1986

Courthope W. H. (ed.), The Rous Roll, London 1859

Crease, J., ‘Not commonly reputed or taken for a saincte’: the output of a northern workshop in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries’; in Badham, S. and Oosterwijk, S. (eds.), Monumental Industry: The Production of Tomb Monuments in England and Wales in the Long Fourteenth Century, Donington, 2010

Crease, J., ‘The Sheriff Hutton Monument’, Ricardian Bulletin, Sep. 2009, pp. 37-40; Dec. 2009, pp. 39-41.

Routh, P. and Knowles, R., The Sheriff Hutton Alabaster: a Re-assessment, Wakefield 1981