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Archive of Monuments of the Month Jan 2010 to October 2010

January 2010

Thomas More (d.1586) and his widow Marie at Adderbury (Oxfordshire)

Most effigial monuments of the Early Modern period feature figures of the deceased carved in relief. However, some show them painted in two dimensions on stone tablets, wooden boards, canvas, or even painted directly on plaster on church walls. They appear to have been popular from the late sixteenth century and throughout the seventeenth, but few examples date from after 1800. Often these compositions mirror those shown on three-dimensional monuments. Perhaps they were regarded as a cheap alternative to more conventional monuments.

Our first ever monument of the month focuses on a modest framed wooden panel memorial at Adderbury (Oxfordshire). It commemorates Thomas More (d. 1586) with his widow Marie, who commissioned the monument. The inscription at the bottom says that she ‘caused this monument to be made in testimonie and certain beleefe of the resurrection of their bodies which are laied hereby’. It shows only Thomas and Marie, omitting any children that they had. The couple are shown kneeling at a tomb with a skeleton atop, representing Thomas in death. There is other memento mori imagery on the monument. Above Marie is a skull with the text ‘That larst I was is gone and past’ and above Thomas is an hourglass with the text ‘The fleeting stream not halfe so fast’.

The iconography of this monument is not, however, concerned totally with death. The arms of the two families are shown above each figure and their impaled arms in the triangular panel atop the monument. It is clear that they wanted to draw attention to their armigerous status.

On the tomb in the Adderbury painting is the couplet ‘So far is ought from lasting aye; that tombes shal have their dying daye’. A panel at the top has the verses:

We have bene flesh and bloode, we are but bones,

and lie for other flesh to take their viewe;

our sides were never brasse, our strengthe not stones;

we could not choose but bid the world adieu;

fare well then sister flesh and think on us;

no odds but time, we are, thow must be thus.

Two parts of these verses merit particular attention, both regarding the lasting nature of funeral monuments. The part of the couplet ‘all tombes shal have their dying day’ refers to the death of monuments, a common theme in funerary verse. In the verses in the panel at the top the phrase ‘our sides were never brasses, our strength not stones’ seems to refer to more conventional monumental materials than were used for this painted memorial. The whole seems to point up the executors’ awareness of the ephemeral nature of the monument that they were commissioning.


The so-called ‘Stanley boy’ monument

at Elford (Staffordshire)




   Many monuments bear witness to high mortality among infants and children in the past. Particularly moving are so-called ‘chrysom’ figures of babies in swaddling bands, which became more widespread from the later fifteenth century. Yet

whereas swaddled babies are instantly recognisable, identifying tombs of older children can be difficult. A small-sized tomb may deceive the beholder into thinking that it must commemorate a child, but there may be other explanations. The freestone monument to the so-called ‘Stanley boy’ at Elford (Staffordshire) is a good example of historical misinterpretation.      

  St Peter’s church at Elford was completely restored in the Victorian period and its monuments repaired in 1848 by Edward Richardson, who also restored the military effigies in Temple Church London and whose reputation is questionable. At first sight, the ‘Stanley boy’ tomb appears to be that of a child: it is small in size and the male effigy has short hair, seemingly childlike features, and wears a simple robe that ends well above the ankles. Unusual are the hand gestures: the left hand holds a round object while the right touches the side of the face.  

  The monument is traditionally said to commemorate John Stanley, the last male heir of the Elford Stanleys who was fatally hit by a ball around 1460, but there are no historical records to support this identification. The story itself can be traced back to at least the late sixteenth century: it was recorded by the Staffordshire antiquarian Sampson Erdeswicke (d. 1603). The manner of John’s death is apparently indicated by the object in his left hand and by the right hand touching the point of impact,

as confirmed by the Latin motto ‘Ubi dolor ibi digitus’ (Where the pain is, there is the finger). The plinth with its motto is probably Richardson’s work, however, and he was also the first to interpret the ball as a tennis ball. Moreover, there is a curious discrepancy in early accounts of the effigy: Erdeswicke described it as ‘holding a ball to his ear’, whereas according to Thomas Pennant in 1781 ‘one hand points to his ear; the other holds a ball’

 The church notes of Erdeswicke’s collaborator William Wyrley identify the ‘Stanley boy’ as the heir of the fourteenth-century house of Aderne and thus much earlier than the traditional c.1460 date. In fact, the effigy is thirteenth-century in style and the true explanation of this monument is probably less sentimental. During the Middle Ages, separate heart burial became a mark of prestige: it offered a focus for prayers for the deceased in more than one location and allowed families to patronise different churches. Miniature effigies were sometimes erected to mark such heart (and sometimes entrail) burials: examples can still be found at Coberley and Berkeley (Gloucestershire), for example. Over time these were often mistaken for child monuments. The Elford effigy may originally have commemorated a heart burial with the ‘ball’ in the left hand representing the heart.  

Historical evidence and the figure’s overall appearance suggest that the effigy we see today may be a post-medieval forgery to replace a badly damaged thirteenth-century monument that had already attracted antiquarian interest. It is worth noting that Richardson stated that the effigy required only minor repairs in 1848 whereas other monuments in the church were very dilapidated. The unusual gesture of the right hand may have been introduced by a forger in the seventeenth or eighteenth century to illustrate local legend even more convincingly.

Further reading:

● Erdeswicke, S., A Survey of Staffordshire (London, 1717), p. 162.

● Oosterwijk, S., ‘“A swithe feire graue”: the Appearance of Children on Medieval Tomb Monuments’, in R. Eales and S. Tyas (eds), Family and Dynasty in the Middle Ages (1997 Harlaxton Symposium Proceedings) Harlaxton Medieval Studies, 9 (Donington, 2003), pp. 172-92, esp. p. 190 and pl. 46.

● Oosterwijk, S., ‘Of Tombs and Tales ...’, CMS Newsletter, 22:2 (Winter 2006/7), pp. 16-18.

● Richardson, E., The Monumental Effigies and Tombs in Elford Church, Staffordshire. With a Memoir and Pedigree of the Lords of Elford (London, 1852), pp. 8, 21-22.  

Copyright: Sophie Oosterwijk

 March 2010

William Shakespeare’s monument,

HolyTrinity, Stratford upon Avon




 The monument stands high on the north wall of the sanctuary of the church, above Shakespeare’s gravestone which is set in the floor beneath. It comprises a half-length effigy in an arch which is set within an architectural frame with Composite columns of polished black marble. Above is an attic storey bearing the coat of arms of the deceased which are carved in low relief. The armorial panel is flanked by two seated figures of naked boys, one with a spade and the other a doused torch and a skull, symbolising work in life and rest in death. A second, larger skull surmounts the coat of arms while below the effigy is a panel on which the inscription is incised in gilt letters. It reads as follows:














Shakespeare is shown bareheaded, dressed in a doublet, collar and cuffs. Over the doublet he wears a gown. In front of him is a cushion with gilt tassels on which he rests his hands. In his right hand he holds a quill pen which is a real quill that has to be replaced from time to time; in his left hand he has a blank sheet of paper.

The monument is of the ‘preacher’ or ‘scholar’ type with a truncated effigy and ornamental surround. Late medieval in origin, it became popular in Oxford around the turn of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and then spread elsewhere. Shakespeare was neither a preacher nor a scholar. Ben Jonson chided him for having ‘small Latine and lesse Greeke’ – the one an essential and the other a desirable qualification for the role at the time – and he was probably not entitled to wear the gown in which he is portrayed. He sports it as a mark of social status, to which his coat of arms also makes claim.

The sculpture has all the hallmarks of the ‘Southwark School’ of foreign craftsmen who settled south of the river Thames during the sixteenth century to avoid a ban on immigrant labour which was imposed by the City of London livery companies. They developed a distinctive style which was adapted from work in the Netherlands from which they came, using a colourful combination of materials, particularly alabaster and black marble, enhanced with a great deal of paint and  gilding and a bastardised style of classical architecture for the surrounds. The herald and antiquary Sir William Dugdale noted in his diary for 1653 that this memorial and that of John Combe nearby were the work of ‘one Gerard Johnson’. Dugdale is not an entirely reliable source in such matters but his testimony must bear some weight and it points to Gerard Johnson the Younger, a second-generation member of one of the leading Southwark workshops.  

 The inscription does not cohere with the monument itself. It is a scrappy assemblage of words, crudely cut, the lettering being far below the standard of most Southwark work. Remarkable by its absence is any of the genealogy and biography in which Elizabethans and Jacobeans delighted. All we have by way of personal detail is Shakespeare’s date of death and his age which are inserted at the bottom in smaller lettering. The rest is an epitaph, in two lines of Latin and six of English, of the type which several poets contributed to the First Folio of his works, published in 1623. One of the poets in question was Jonson and the epitaph has been attributed to him. It rehearses a familiar theme of the period, derived from Horace, that a person’s life and work are his true monument ; the theme recurs, in much more lucid form, in his First Folio epitaph.  The whole text shows every sign of having been added after the monument was erected. This strongly suggests that Shakespeare set up the monument to himself, following a common and well accepted practice of the time, leaving others to glorify him in verse and to specify when he died. If so, the effigy acquires a new interest and significance. In the twentieth century it did not get a good press. The famous Shakespearian scholar John Dover Wilson said it made the Bard look like a ‘self-satisfied pork butcher’. It has been repainted more than once and if the later paint layers were removed some detail might be revealed which would improve the likeness.

Dr Adam White  PhD

April 2010

The Lovell Tomb

Minster Lovell (Oxfordshire)

North Face

The church at Minster Lovell (Oxfordshire) lies to the south of the ruins of Minster Lovell Hall, adjacent to the River Windrush.  The Hall was rebuilt between c.1431 and c.1442 by William 7th Baron Lovell (of Titchmarsh in the County of Northampton) (c.1397-1455).  William was also responsible for remodelling Minster Lovell church, and had previously fought alongside Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt (1415).  It is probably William’s tomb that survives in the church, although there is no inscription or documentary evidence to confirm this claim fully.

The alabaster tomb-chest is now positioned in the south transept of the church.  The recumbent effigy takes the form of an armoured knight, whose hands rest together in prayer.  Five diminutive figures and ten heraldic shields are depicted in architectural niches on the cusped-panelled chest below.  The shields bear the arms of the Lovell and Beaumont families (Maud de Beaumont, married an earlier William Lovell [born c.1102], and William 7th Baron Lovell’s son John married Joan Beaumont).  However, the shields have been heavily repainted (probably in the nineteenth-century), so it is impossible to conjecture what emblems they would have originally displayed.

South Face

On the north face of the chest are two sculpted female ‘weeper’ figures clad in robes and elaborate headdresses, their hands outstretched in supplication.  On the south face, towards the western end, a crowned Virgin Mary figure holds a potted lily in one hand (signifying the Annunciation), and supports the Christ Child with the other.  To the east stands the crowned figure of St Margaret of Antioch, holding a book under her left arm.  She pierces the dragon beneath her feet with the long, cruciform staff, supported in her right hand.  Both figures are positioned on plinths, perhaps to emphasise their superiority to the partner ‘weeper’ figures on the north face of the tomb-chest.  A sculpted St Christopher is positioned on the western face of the tomb (below the effigy’s head).  The crowned figure perches on a plinth, and is shown (in the usual manner for this period) crossing the river, clutching his flowering staff.  His head is angled upwards to gaze at the Christ Child, who he bears on his shoulders across the river.  The Christ Child supports an orb in one hand, and blesses the saint with the other.

   In the medieval period, saints provided protection, guidance and intercession with God during the time spent in Purgatory (after death and before the Last Judgement).  Saints also acted as a conduit between the living and the dead, offering spiritual rewards for visitors who prayed or performed pious works on behalf of the deceased (and thus assisted with their ultimate salvation).  Weepers (often representing a relative or associate) might also encourage viewers to pray for the souls of the dead.  The theoretical purpose of the medieval funerary monument was religious.  Nevertheless, many were also intended to promote the power, wealth, status and pedigree of a family, and to commemorate the worldly achievements, gifts and position (or even occupation) of an individual.  Tombs also served to remind the living of the piety, virtues and devotion of the deceased and their family, and to prolong the presence and memory of the dead in the community.  Monuments could function as a source of comfort for the living by helping to speed the process of grieving, and by acting as a lasting memory to families of the deceased.

The customary function of St Christopher (after his emergence in English and Welsh illumination, glass and wall painting from c.1350) was as a protector against misadventure, as a friend and helper, and as an intercessor in this life.  His intermittent appearance on tombs and brasses from the fourteenth century onwards, suggest that these pre-obit functions were transferred into the afterlife.  St Christopher is most commonly depicted in mural painting between the late thirteenth and early sixteenth centuries.  His image is frequently positioned on the wall opposite the principal church entrance (typically north or south nave), meaning he is visible to visitors entering or leaving the building.  Examples can be seen at nearby Black Bourton and Woodeaton churches (Oxfordshire).

Dr Ellie Pridgeon PhD

Photographs: Sally Badham & Ellie Pridgeon

Further Reading

Cheetham, F., Medieval English Alabasters, Oxford 1984, 92.

Marks, R., Image and Devotion in Late Medieval England, Stroud 2004, 177.

Sherwood, J., Pevsner, Nikolaus, The Buildings of England: Oxfordshire, Harmondsworth 1964, 706.

May 2010

Monument of the Month - May 2010

The chantry of Humphrey Duke of Gloucester

1391-1447 at the Cathedral and Abbey

Church of St Alban

In 1703 a grave was being prepared for 89-year-old John Gape, a rich tanner and former mayor of St Albans.  He had asked to be buried in his parish church, St Albans Abbey, in the Saint’s chapel, which had been used as the consistory court since the Reformation. As the men started to dig, an underground burial chamber was uncovered. At the bottom of a narrow flight of stairs lay a large coffin and when the lid was removed  a male corpse was revealed, lying in a bath of aromatic liquid. The body, visible in the murky depths was in an astonishing state of preservation.

   The discovery caused a sensation as clergy and congregation flocked to view the corpse and pronounce upon its significance.  News of it appeared in national journals. Although it was the Age of Reason, most believed that the preservation of the body was surely due to its proximity to the long-gone relics of St Alban. A blessed miracle!  The fact that the body was later identified by antiquarians as a royal prince, that of Humphrey Duke of Gloucester perhaps made it more attractive and certainly did not deter women from dipping their fingers in the magic liquid and applying it to their faces to ward off wrinkles. The burial chamber walls are covered in their names. Soon the sexton was doing a roaring trade selling thimbles-full of the magic potion which surely had wonderful medicinal properties. Some of the money provided a tidy income to parish funds and physicians took away phials of the liquid for scientific experimentation.  It was in fact alcohol laced with embalming spices.  Local inns benefited from this grisly tourist attraction and cheap brandy was offered discreetly to the Parish Clerk for topping-up purposes, to keep the wheels of commerce turning. There was still some liquid left in 1752.  It provided a national tourist attraction and David Garrick wrote a ballad about his visit, deploring the waste of fine alcohol on a corpse. He determined to drink sufficient booze during his lifetime to preserve his body from within.

Eventually the liquid had to be seen to be disappearing, and the exposed corpse began to decay. Visitors then pulled bits of poor Humphrey’s nails and hair away and today only half of his bones remain. It was not until the discovery of the fragments of the shrine of St Alban were discovered in 1872,  providing a much more elevating spiritual attraction, that the trap door was finally closed on Duke Humphrey. He doesn’t haunt us.  As a scholar, we hope that he can understand the yearning of women for eternal youth and everyone longs for magic medicines to cure all ills.

Who was this royal prince and why was he buried at St Albans Abbey in the most prestigious place?

Humphrey Duke of Gloucester (1391-1447) was the youngest of the four sons of King Henry IV, Bolingbroke. A natural scholar, it was his misfortune to be born during the Hundred Years War with France. After the untimely death of his brother King Henry V, leaving his heir just a few months old, his brothers John of Bedford and Humphrey of Gloucester were appointed respectively regents in France and England. Temperamentally John was a good soldier, calm and brave. Humphrey was brave but too hot-headed for diplomacy. Henry V was buried at Westminster Abbey with a silver-covered effigy on a splendid tomb chest in a chantry with a chapel above. This impressive design was repeated at Winchester for Henry’s and Humphrey’s uncle, Cardinal Beaufort (1377-1447) and for Humphrey at St Albans Abbey. Both chapels are far less grand as the spaces claimed for the monuments was smaller than at Westminster, and although there appear to be upstairs chapels, there is in fact no access above at Winchester or St Albans.

Humphrey was a great friend of the Abbot of St Albans, John of Wheathampstead. They met at university and St Alban became Humphrey’s favourite saint. He ordered and paid for his chantry and burial vault in 1442 at a cost of £434.6s.8d. and an annual expenditure of £142.13s.4d. was paid to the monks for masses for the Duke and his soul, and for candles to be lit daily on the now-absent altar which would have been placed at the east end of the chantry. (This was financed by Humphrey’s gift to the Abbey of the income of the priory of Pembroke, which he owned. He also left £60 a year to the monastery kitchen, a gift which must have greatly pleased the monks).  There was never any provision for an effigy, probably because Humphrey was a humanist and the Gardens of Adonis, little vases of flowers, appear as a decorative motif all around the chantry. In the burial chamber, a painting of Christ crucified presents Him as the Mystic Grape with chalices collecting water and blood from His wounds for the two main sacraments of baptism and Eucharist. The painting, now much faded, was well-recorded in 18th-century antiquarian pictures.    

    The chantry is in the most prestigious position on the south side of the Saint’s shrine, a place that could only be claimed by royalty. Residual paint in the recesses of the carving shows that it was colour co-ordinated blue and red with recesses in the Saint’s shrine. The Duke’s shield of arms, carved with great delicacy, figures prominently and obsessively, perhaps because his father usurped the throne. The number of ducal caps and shields is excessive but decorative. The miniature fan vaulting with open pendants is very fine.  There are 17 niches on each side of the canopy, those facing the Shrine now empty of statues, no doubt because they contained saints, which would have been destroyed when King Edward VI’s edict of 1547 commanded that all religious images must be removed from wall and window. On the south side 17 kings occupy the niches, and trying to identify them is a popular local sport.  Had there been only 15 it could be said that they represented English kings from the Conqueror to Humphrey’s day. One of the kings holds a castle, while all the others once held sceptres (symbol of authority) which have been broken off or removed.  This vandalism can have been no easy task, and was probably the work of Cromwellian supporters.  The message is clear: the authority of kings can be destroyed.  A statue damaged in a particular way says more than an empty niche. These 17 kings are almost all that remains of the Abbey’s medieval carving which was destroyed by iconoclasts.  Unfortunately the little kings were not carved by the skilled sculptors who made the chantry. They are squat and gnomic, like parodies of playing card figures.  On the south side of the chantry a contemporary iron grille of fine quality allowed pilgrims full view of the Shrine of At Alban.

   Humphrey died in suspicious circumstances in Bury St Edmunds, where he had been summoned to meet the Duke of Suffolk, who was in thrall to the Queen, Margaret of Anjou. Humphrey, who had disapproved of King Henry VI’s marriage to this devious woman, had watched these twins of mischief manipulating the simple-minded King to their advantage.  Humphrey was a thorn in their flesh, and would inherit the throne if Henry and his son died. On 18th February 1447 he arrived at Bury St Edmunds with 18 supporters. The next day he was arrested and his personal servants were taken from him – a shocking event for a royal prince. That night he fell into a coma and died three days later, aged 56. His corpse was displayed so that all could see no marks of violence on it. It was then disembowelled and encased in a double coffin and a torchlight procession of his followers slowly made its way to St Albans where he was buried will less-than-royal ceremony, but those present were genuine mourners. Was Humphrey murdered, or did he die of natural causes?  The Abbot clearly states that his sickness was probably brought on by the shock of his arrest and separation from his supporters and personal servants. Suspicion fell on Somerset and the Queen, and indeed their immediate seizure of his property, on the day that he died, points to assassination.

Humphrey’s greatest legacy was his influence on scholarship in England. His early interest an Humanism, the New Learning, was later espoused by Erasmus and Moore. He kept a house full of scholars busy translating the classics. They understood Greek, and indeed Humphrey himself could read from Plato and Aristotle. And by calling his daughter Antigone, he demonstrated not only his admiration for Sophocles, but also for those who valued spiritual laws above those of the state.

© Jane Kelsall, Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban.

 June 2010

Thomas Babington of Dethick (d. 1518) and his

wife Edith at Ashover (Derbyshire)

An early-sixteenth-century alabaster tomb chest topped with the effigies of a man and a woman is set into the east wall of the south aisle in the parish church of Ashover (Derbyshire). The monument commemorates the gentry couple Thomas Babington of Dethick (d. 1518) and Edith, daughter of Ralph and Elizabeth Fitzherbert of Norbury (Derbyshire).  Thomas commissioned the monument following Edith’s death sometime between 1511, when the couple established a chantry chapel in the south aisle, and Thomas’s own death in 1518. He is shown as a civilian: the effigy wears a doublet with a standing collar above a collarless gown with heavy folds falling to the ground. The costume is completed by a linked chain collar which does not appear to be associated with livery (despite Gardner’s suggestion that it might represent an SS collar) and a belt with a purse and knife attached to it. Edith is shown wearing an early form of the English hood with plain lappets over a wide-necked kirtle with tight-fitted bodice and sleeves which falls in voluminous folds to the ground; a belt with a single clasp and a mantle complete the ensemble.   


  Probably a product of the Burton-upon-Trent alabaster workshop of Henry Harpur and William Moorecock, the tomb chest bares striking similarities to other contemporary Derbyshire monuments by the alabastermen at Great Cubley and Chesterfield. Like these other monuments, the Ashover tomb chest features sculpted weepers framed in twos and threes under double canopies with elaborate crockets. Representations of the couple’s fifteen children occupy the long sides of the chest (the east end is currently flush with the east wall of the south aisle). The west panel of the tomb chest features an unusual composition: two angels holding shields flank a central scene in which Edith and Thomas kneel before St Katherine and a mitred saint who raises his right hand in benediction while his left hand holds a staff. Scrolls which would have featured painted supplications to the saints appear blank above the heads of the Babingtons in this atypical example of the commemorated appearing multiple times on their own tomb. A border inscription around the top of the tomb chest is nearly entirely effaced.

The two principal effigies are painted in deep red, dark green, and black, evidently much refreshed but offering a rare opportunity to experience an essentially medieval monument in the painted form which such effigies would have originally taken. In addition to the principal effigies, the weepers were also painted, and substantial traces of what may be original paint survive on the south facing panel and include blue, yellow, red, and black pigments. The figures on the south panel include a Knight of Rhodes (the Babingtons’ second son, John), a priest (their sixth son, Thomas), and a figure who may represent a lawyer (their third son, Ralph), as well as several civilians and women.  Those holding shields — most of which appear from surviving traces of paint to have shown the arms of Babington impaled with others — probably represent those children of Thomas and Edith who married. Another thirteen figures on the north side of the chest facing the nave may represent children who died in infancy or childhood: the seven boys and six girls are all depicted identically and, although fewer traces of pigment survive on this panel, no indication of impaling is present on the heraldic shields the boys hold.   

Dr Kelcey Wilson-Lee

July 2010

Baptist Noel, Third Viscount Campden

(c. 1612-1683) at Exton, Rutland

  The church of St Peter and St Paul at Exton (Rutland) contains some outstanding monuments. The largest and most spectacular of them is to be found on the east wall of the north transept. This is the monument to Baptist Noel, Third Viscount Campden (c.1612-1683). This formidable structure, squeezed in to a space too small to adequately display it, is of white and black marbles and shows the Viscount and his fourth wife, Elizabeth daughter of Montague Bertie, 2nd Earl of Lindsey and his wife Martha. Reliefs on various parts of the monument depict his three other wives and their nineteen children. It was made by Grinling Gibbons, perhaps better known for his carvings in wood.

The massive white marble base features a relief showing six of the children, two sons and four daughters along with his third wife Hester Wotton, flanked by inscription plates of black marble. The inscription on the left gives brief biographical information on Baptist, while that on the right gives the names of his children by his four wives.

Centrally placed on the base is a sarcophagus with a relief of nine children, three sons, three daughters, and three babies, along with his fourth wife Elizabeth, all surrounded by an oval wreath. Upon this is a pedestal surmounted by an urn and flanked by large standing statues of the Viscount and his fourth wife. On the pedestal is a black marble inscription plate recording that the monument was erected by order of Elizabeth and carried out by her third son, John Noel, in 1686.    

  Flanking the figures are two large truncated pyramids on balled feet surmounted by wreathed urns of black marble and decorated with garlands and two oval wreaths depicting the remaining wives and children. That on the left shows his first wife, Ann Fielding,with three babies while that on the right shows his second wife, Ann Lovet, and one baby.

Above the ensemble is an arch supporting an open pediment upon which are draperies and a shield in a cartouche with the arms of the Third Viscount.

As was the fashion for the age, all of the figures are depicted in Roman dress.

The monument is well-balanced given its size and level of fine detail.

The reliefs and garlands are excellent - not surprising given that they are by Gibbons - but the figures, to my mind, are not particularly successful. It cost £1000, the equivalent of over £130,000 today.

Baptist Noel was a Member of Parliament for Rutland between 1640 and 1643. He succeeded to the title of 3rd Viscount Campden, 3rd Baron Hicks of Ilmington and 2nd Baron Noel of Ridlington in March 1642/3.

During the Civil War he sided with the King and it was during this time that he ordered his house at Chipping Campden (Gloucestershire) to be burnt down so as not to be of use to Parliamentary forces. He was subsequently fined £9000 for his support of the King. Baptist Noel died on the 29th of October 1683.

The monuments in Exton church were restored by the Exton Monuments Restoration Fund between 2000 and 2002. The Viscount’s monument cost £49,000 to restore. The work was carried out by the Skillington Workshop of Grantham (Lincolnshire).

C B Newham

August 2010

Monument of the Month - August 2010

Isabelle of Angoulême

at Fontevraud Abbey

It is surely remarkable, as well as fortunate, that  four [1] monuments remain in the main church of the Abbey of Fontevraud [2], having survived the Religious Wars and the Revolution, when much destruction occured. The monuments are essentially similar but with interesting variations: each figure is recumbent, lying on a bier carved to appear as being covered with a draped cloth; the bier is raised at the head and feet so that only a simple pillow is required to support the head. Isabelle's monument shows a greater variation than do the others, not only is it significantly smaller [3], it is also made of wood. All four monuments have been painted  several times in the past but this polychrome is now faded and worn so that, whereas the other three monuments appear light in tone, being made of tuffeau, a local pale yellow Cretaceous limestone [4], that of Isabelle appears much darker from the wood below. This tone difference is particularly noticeable as the monument of Richard the Lion Heart, which is placed next to that of Isabelle, is the most worn, and hence the palest, of the other three.

General Description

The drapery over Isabelle's bier, as well as the bier itself,  is red with a darker border, probably originally gold, and semé with probably gold flower heads. Isabelle herself is represented as recently deceased with her hands folded on her breast, quite unlike Eleanor, who is shown alive reading a book. She wears a long blue gown which is open at the neck to show a white underdress, which is closed at the neck by a clasp. She wears a red girdle around her waist with a gold buckle and evidence of other metalwork.  Her mantle, which is wrapped around her body, as are those of the other effigies, now appears brownish on the outside, although it was probably gold, and greenish on the inner aspect where it is folded back. It is held in place by a girdle, also probably gold, across her breast.


 She rests her head on a white pillow semé with flower heads and painted with a double rectangle which more or less separates the sharply curved outer aspect from the flatter and indented inner part; all originally probably painted in gold. She wears a wimple and a jewelled crown on her head; this was again probably originally gold and is now broken. Her white shoes appear just below her gown. Here the monument varies from the others: in those the draped cloth at the feet is represented as falling over two short posts of the underlying bier whereas at the feet of Isabelle, the cloth appears to be folded in front of these posts to give this part a double aspect. This probably represents a foot cushion, which is also shown on the monument of Eleanor in a different fashion but not on those of Henry or Richard. There appears to have been some carving of the folds on this outer aspect. See the two photographs  below

The monuments are now believed to be in their original positions in the final bay of the nave. This is based on the somewhat vague descriptions of contemporary chroniclers [5], the discoveries of a plan of the abbey from 1762 and  of the coffin of Raymond VII in 1910 which may indicate the original burial site. The church has been extensively excavated in recent times but no sign of remains, graves or coffins of the Plantagenets has been found. It is likely that these were disturbed when a burial vault for the abbesses was constructed on the order of  Abbess Jeanne-Baptiste de Bourbon in 1639.



The earliest representation I have seen was that commisioned by the French antiquary, Roger de Gaignières [6] in the later seventeenth century. In this drawing [7], where Isabelle is referred to as Elizabet de la Marche [8],  Isabelle lies on a white cloth, semé with blue flower heads. Her gown is blue but her belt yellow. There is no underdress but her mantle is now white semé with red flower heads and has a red lining. Her pillow is yellow and her shoes dark blue. Her crown is complete and set with jewels. The double arrangement of the bier at the feet alluded to above can be seen.  Left

The English antiquarian draughtsman, Charles Stothard, visited Fontevraud in the early nineteenth century and produced a series of drawings of all the monuments which were published as etchings [9]. Now the draped cloth is red, the pillow blue, her gown blue semé with silver half moons, her mantle yellow (probably representing gold) semé with red and green flower heads, her belt red with golden metalwork and her shoes white. Her crown now shows some damage. The drawing from the side  (not shown) shows that the 'drapery' from the this aspect of the bier is missing and it appears to have a stone core. In fact both sides if the monument appear to have been separately carved and attached, showing that the whole monument was not carved from a single block of wood. These side pieces are not drawn on either of the early representation and joints can be seen today, indicating that they were probably added or restored during the last restoration, although it is likely that they originally existed, as part of the posts are intact with the main part of the monument. Right

The Monuments Travel [10]

Isabelle was first buried in either the nuns' cemetery or the chapter house: both accounts occur although these may refer to the same place. Her son, King Henry III , visited Fontevraud in 1254 and ordered that his mother's remains be moved to the choir, an act that was carried out with some ceremony, and that a monument be constructed over her grave.

The monuments have been moved around over the years and various other movements have been proposed. In 1504 the position of the effigies was altered, moving them away from the graves, so that the whole monastic community could be accomodated in the nave. In 1638 the then abbess, Jeanne-Baptiste de Bourbon, ordered the construction of a Baroque mausoleum, on the north of the nave and immediately west of the crossing to house the four effigies. The effigy of Raymond VII [11] had been destroyed at some point and new kneeling effigies of Raymond and his mother Joan (daughter of Henry and Eleanor and who may never have had an effigy) were added at this time to this totally out of keeping construction. This was destroyed at theRevolution but a drawing of it appears in the de Gaignières collection and there are fragmentary remains - mainly wall paintings - in the church today. Note the names of those represented by the effigies, although that of Isabelle is the only one which has been almost entirely obliterated and may well  have read as Elisabet

The abbey was dissolved in 1792, bought by a farmer in 1796 and turned into a prison by Napoleon in 1804. In 1816, Charles Stothard, who was travelling in France, found the monuments in a cellar [12] and proposed they be send to England for safe keeping. Although this was approved by the French government, there was much local resistance and the Prefect of Maine-et-Loire ordered the prison authorities to move them to a 'disused passage' off the cloisters. Two years later, following a similar request, they were moved to a chapel south of the transepts. Later they appear to have been moved to the famous and much photographed Romaneque Kitchen.

In1846 the monuments were taken to Versailles for a much criticised restoration and this may be the time when they were finally painted in the state we find them today. They were returned to the abbey in 1849 and displayed in the cloisters; in this year the abbey was classified as an ancient monument .

In 1866 the Pall Mall Gazette again proposed that they be moved to England and displayed in Westminster Abbey; on this occasion Napoleon III offered them to Queen Victoria. Today I think we can be thankful that this quite wrong and historically ignorant - the word 'returned to England' had been used - proposal was never carried out.

In 1909  the abbey was put under the protection of the Department of Ancient Monuments and in 1930 the monuments were displayed in one of the transepts, an arrangement that often appears in reproduction of photographs even now. The main prison was closed in 1963 although some of the prisoners remained in another part of the complex - the Madeleine Dentention Centre - until 1985 to work on clearing and restoration of the principal site. The restoration continues today. The monuments were eventually displayed in their present position. In 1975 the Abbey became the Cultural Centre of the South West.

There was a rumour a few years ago that the British Government had again requested that the monuments be sent to England; however this was firmly denied by the Foreign Office.

But Is It Isabelle?

The three other monuments represent people who died within a fifteen year period of each other so we may assume that they were constructed at more or less the same time. Isabelle, however, died forty-two years after Eleanor, the last of the other three to die. In fact, G. Zarnecki [13] states that the monument under discussion cannot that of Isabelle for this very reason. This argument is however fallacious as there is no reason why an earlier style cannot be copied. Furthermore if it does not represent Isabelle, then whom does it represent?

Why Wood?

There appears to be no explanation for this. There is certainly plenty of tuffeau in the area. Perhaps a stone carver could not be found, although tuffeau is much easier to carve than wood. Henry III visited Fontevraud in 1254 and requested that a monument to his mother be made. Perhaps a sufficiently large block of tuffeau could not be quarried and transported in time for him to see the finshed result.  Perhaps it was a prototype to show to Henry  for a stone effigy which was never realised.

Something About Isabelle

Isabelle was born about 1188  being daughter and sole heiress of Count Audemar of Angoulême, a large French county and part of the 'Angevin Empire', which King John had inherited from his father and brother. As a child she was bethrothed to Hugh le Brun IX, Lord of Lusignan, whose lands again were in this 'empire', but King John married her in August 1200 when she was but twelve years old. Was this a passion for the young girl or were there more political reasons: Hugh  had already aquired the large county of Le Marche and with his marriage to Isabelle he would have aquired Angoulême also, giving him an area of land as large as the Duchy of Normandy. Unfortunately, John was no diplomat and instead of compensating Hugh in some way, he confiscated the county of Le Marche which he granted to his new father in law. This lead to a diplomatic and armed struggle between John and the Lusignans and led to Hugh appealing to the French King, Philip Augustus, over the head of John, his immediate overlord. The final result was the confiscation of the Duchy of Aquitaine from John and the beginning of the loss of the Angevin possessions. It has been said that Isabelle was thus indirectly responsible for the loss of these lands.

John and Isabelle had five children, including the future Henry III. She succeeded to Angoulême on the death of her father in 1202 and returned to her county following the death of John and the crowning of her son in 1216. In 1220 she remarried: this time it was to Hugh le Brun X, lord of Lusignan and Count of Le Marche - the son of the man to whom she had been betrothed twenty years earlier. (or did she marry the father, her original finace - both stories appear) This was also a diplomatic move as it aided the Angevin interest in this part of France. From this marriage she was to have nine further children. In fact her new husband had been promised to Isabelle's own daughter, Joan, but she was now promised to Alexander II of Scotland instead. After some diplomatic wrangling, which even involved their threatened excommunication by the pope, involving the English Council withholding Isabelle's pension and dower lands and she and Hugh withholding Joan and her portion in retaliation, this matter was eventually resolved.

In 1241 Isabelle joined an English backed conspiracy with Raymond VII of Toulouse (her nephew by marriage) to unite the South and West against Louis IX. There appears to have been some antagonism between Isabelle and the Queen Dowager of France, Blanche, because the latter had supported the French invasion of England against John which had been instigated by the English barons. It is said that Isabelle bribed two of the French King's cooks to poison Louis. In 1244 this plot failed and Isabelle retired to Fontevraud, where she died in 1246 at the age of about 58.

John K Bromilow MInstP

Fontevraud L'Abbaye, 2010

[1]  There were several others: some lost and some fragmentary ones still in existance.

[2]  Maine et Loire, Pays de la Loire, France; in Plantagenet times in the County of Anjou

[3]  Isabelle's monument is 205 X 45 cms whereas that of Eleanor of Aquitaine is 220 X 60 cms

[4]  This information kindly supplied by Dr Tim Palmer

[5]  For example Roger of Howded states that Henry was buried in "the nuns' choir"

[6]  See Church Monuments Volume XII for John Coale's article

[7]  They are all reproduced in 303 La Revue des Pays de la Loire, XVII 3ᵉ trimestre 1986 as are birds' eye views of all the extant monuments including that of Raymond VII

[8]  Her second marriage was to the Count of La Marche; she is also here referred to as the Queen of King John

[9]  Charles A Stothard The Monumental Effigies of Great Britain (1887)

[10]  This has been cobbled together from a number of contradictory sources; I will revise this as I glean further information and post it on the main site.

[11]  This was discovered in a fragmentary condition in 1985

[12]  There are extensive underground passages in the Abbey

[13]  G. Zarnecki The Monastic Achievement (London 1972)

Sept 2010




The imposing church of St Mary in the Dorset village of Beaminster contains two important monuments. The larger of the two monuments on the south wall commemorates George Strode who died in 1753 and was sculpted by Peter Scheemakers. The other monument is that to Thomas Strode, Sergeant at Law who died in 1698.

Thomas was born in 1628, the son of Sir John Strode and his second wife Anne, the daughter of Sir John Wyndham of Orchard. The Strode family lived at Parnham, a mid sixteenth century house about ¾ of a mile south south east from the village. The first Parnham House was built around 1400 by the Gerard family. It passed into the hands of the Strode family in the reign of Henry VI when Richard Strode married Elizabeth Gerard and it remained in the family for three hundred years. Under the Strodes the estate flourished, not least because of their knack of marrying rich wives. In 1522 Sir Robert Stroud married the daughter of Sir John Hody, Henry VIII's Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer and her considerable fortune helped him to rebuild Parnham.

Thomas Strode studied at Oxford matriculating on 1 July 1642. He was called to the bar at the Inner Temple in 1657 and made Sergeant at Law in 1677. On 1st February 1664/5 he married Mary Adams, the widow of Parkinson Odber, also a lawyer who, like Strode, went up to Oxford. He matriculated on 15 July 1639 aged 14! He died c1660.

The effigy of Thomas Strode has all the swaggering self confidence of the age and shows the him standing beneath swags of drapery that are suspended from an arched canopy. Two putti stand on the shelf above the console brackets, that on the left having his foot resting on a skull. Between the brackets is the Latin inscription with a gadrooned plinth at the bottom. The inscription reads:


Mortalitatis Exuvias hic deposuit THOMAS STRODE Serviens ad Legem; Qui in Christo  placidè obdormivit

Feb: 4o. 1698.  Ætat.: suae 70.  Vir Immortali Memoriæ sacratus; Jurisprudentiâ, pietate, & Consilio, Insignis;

Moribus Integris Juxta ac Suavissimis: Deo, Principi & amicis semper fidus:

Patre JOHANE STRODE Equite Aurato de Parnham in Comitatu Dorset oriundus; Charissmam

sibi adscîvit Conjugem MARIAM ADAMS relic: de PARKINSON ODBER Armigero;

Ex quâ filiam suscepit unicam adhue superstitem.

Quæ hoc supræmu: pietatis Monument:,  Mœsstissima & cum lacrymis gemens,


To God the Greatest and Best and to Posterity

Thomas Strode, Sergeant at Law, who quietly fell asleep in Christ  on February 4 1698, at the  age of 70, here deposited the remains of mortality.

He was a man consecrated to undying memory: distinguished by knowledge of the law, piety and wisdom: uniting in his character both integrity and great sweetness; ever faithful to God, Prince and friends. Born of a father, Sir John Strode of Parnham in the County of Dorset he took to his most dear wife Mary Adams, the widow of Parkinson Odber, Gent, who bore him one daughter as yet living, who most sorrowful and groaning with tears as a last act of piety this  [well-deserved] monument willingly ordered and placed.

The question that needs to be addressed is who made this imposing monument? It is clearly a very high quality piece and probably a metropolitan product.  Thomas Strode and his brother Sir George Strode, also a Sergeant at Law, were the executors of Sir Hugh Wyndam, died 1684 and whose large monument, erected in 1692 can be seen at Silton, also in Dorset. The Wyndham monument is unsigned but is the work of John Nost (died August 1710) while that at Sherbourne Abbey to John Digby, Earl of Bristol who died in 1698 is signed by Nost and is the only monument to bear his signature. It can be assumed that as executors of Sir Hugh’s estate they may well have been involved in the contract for the monument and therefore knew of Nost.

Beaminster is approximately half way between Silton and Sherbourne and there is more than a passing similarity between the Strode monument and the other two.



In the Silton monument the left foot of Sir Hugh is projecting forward and at an angle and the right hand holds a scroll so as to give balance to the figure. Precisely this arrangement is repeated on the figure to Thomas Strode while at Sherbourne the Earl holds a coronet in his right hand and the left foot is slightly forward but balanced by the left hand resting on the hip. The treatment of the wig is identical on the Beaminster and Sherbourne figures. The drapery above the heads is very similar in all three examples and the monuments are all made of fine white marble.

Architecturally, the Wyndham and Digby monuments are clearly similar, the former having barley twist columns to support the superstructure but the coffered soffit, square capitals and, lower down, Corinthian capitals are the same in both examples. However, this is not so surprising when we realise that Rachel, second daughter of Sir Hugh Wyndham by his first wife Jane Wodehouse, was the second wife of John Digby and became Countess of Bristol in August 1663. The inference is that it was Rachel who was responsible for commissioning Nost to produce the monument to her husband, having seen at first hand the quality of his work in the monument to her father. The Strode monument uses pilasters to support the canopy. The floral decoration seen on the Digby and Wyndham monuments is absent on the Strode piece and the weeping putti are, like those seen on the Digby piece, much more conventional in their treatment unlike the Wyndham examples where the weepers are almost life sized.  All three monuments make use of black backgrounds. The Digby example is flat while Wyndham and Strode stand within black marble niches, the former on a raised gadrooned plinth upon which the weepers are seated.

Nost has only five works attributed to him in the Biographical Dictionary of British Sculptors (Roscoe, Hardy and Sullivan 2009) but his principal business activity was in the production of lead garden statues.  The Spencer monument at Yarnton in Oxfordshire (1684) is also firmly attributed to Nost as is that at Wanstead, Essex to Sir Joshua Child (1699) and it appears that one of his trademarks is the pose he uses for his principal figures marked by a projecting left foot. There is increasing evidence to suggest that Nost produced more monuments than currently ascribed to him and from the evidence it can be said that the Strode monument at Beaminster is one of them.

 I am grateful to Dr Jean Wilson for translating the inscription.

Dr Clive J Easter

October 2010

Monument of the Month

October 2010

The cadaver monument of Guillaume de Harcigny (d. 1393), formerly at the Franciscan church now Musée de Laon (France) (église des Cordeliers) on a slab, 1.84 m in length

    The transi or cadaver monument of Guillaume de Harcigny is of great interest to historians and art historians alike for a number of different reasons. Cadaver monuments began to appear in the later fourteenth century, which makes this one of the earliest examples. Of the original monument only the effigy survives, which is remarkable for its realism and anatomical detail. The customary shroud is absent. The corpse is shown naked and emaciated, but with the skin still intact and stretched taut across the skull and skeleton, while the muscles can be clearly observed; the crossed hands cover the genital area. Carved in limestone, it would originally have been painted in realistic colours.

Cadaver monuments were designed to be a statement of devout humility as well as of a firm belief in the resurrection as expressed in Job 19:25-26: ‘For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and in the last day I shall rise out of the earth. And I shall be clothed again with my skin: and in my flesh I shall see my God.’ A biblical comparison is Ezekiel’s vision of the Valley of Dry Bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14). The macabre appearance of the effigy is thus a deliberate reflection of the inevitable fate of the flesh as opposed to the immortality of the soul, which is in accordance with the medieval contemptus mundi tradition.

The monument is also important because it commemorates a highly unusual individual who made his mark in history. Guillaume de Harcigny was born near Laon around 1310 and made his career as a physician. Yet he was not the stereotypical medieval quack, but a man who obtained his degree from the University of Paris and then travelled to Italy and the Middle East, increasing his medical knowledge before settling in Laon. When the French king Charles VI (1368-1422) suffered his first bout of insanity (probably a form of schizophrenia) on 5 August 1392 while on a military campaign against the duke of Brittany, the octogenarian Harcigny was summoned from Laon to treat him. The chronicler Jean Froissart (who gives his name as Guillaume de Harselly) describes in detail what happened next. Harcigny’s diagnosis was that the young king was affected by ‘tourble’ (trouble or agitation) and a weakness of the head, and also took ‘too much from the moisture of his mother’, i.e. he had inherited her temperament. Charles was taken to the castle of Creil where in Harcigny’s care he slowly recovered through sleep, relaxation, exercise and fresh air. Upon delivering his patient back to his family, Harcigny counselled the king’s uncles not to burden him with the affairs of state but to allow him to regain his strength. He was awarded a thousand gold crowns and returned to Laon where he died a very rich man on 11 July 1393, leaving his home town generous bequests.

    Guillaume de Harcigny left instructions about his burial in his will. His cadaver effigy was probably produced the year after his death. He was buried in the church of the Cordeliers until the building was sold and demolished at the time of the Revolution. His effigy and remains were then moved to Laon Cathedral and buried in the floor of the nave, only to be unearthed again in 1841 – almost like a resurrection, but not quite: the lead casket with his remains was subsequently lost, but the effigy was transferred to the museum in 1853.

photograph: 666@orange.f.gif

Further reading:

● Cohen, K., Metamorphosis of a Death Symbol: the Transi Tomb in the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, California Studies in the History of Art, 15 (Berkeley/Los Angeles/London, 1973), esp. pp. 103-4, n. 20, and figs 1-2.

● Froissart, Jean, Œvres, ed. M. le baron Kervyn de Lettenhove (Brussels, 1867-77), vol. XV, pp. 48-53, 76-78, available on

● Taburet-Delahaye, E. (ed.), Paris 1400: les arts sous Charles VI, exhibition catalogue (Paris, 2004), cat. 158.

● Tuchman, B.W., A Distant Mirror: the Calamitous 14th Century (London, 1979), chapter 4, ‘Danse Macabre’.

● Wickersheimer, E., Dictionnaire biographique des médecins au Moyen Âge (Paris, 1936), 246-47.

Copyright: Sophie Oosterwijk