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Archive of Monuments of the Month  May 2014 to September 2015

September 2015




Two matching classical wall-tablets in the chancel of Spixworth churchcast an interesting light on the wider family of Lord Byron. That on the chancel east wall reads:


Sacred to the much revered Memory

and deeply lamented Death of


Born April 24th 1748 Married June 25th 1772


second Daughter of


succeeded to his Father in his Estates Feby 26th 1776


" The good Man and the Angel! these between

" How thin the barrier! Man but dives in death

" Dives from the sun in fairer day to rise,

" The grave his subterranean road to bliss.

" Tis this makes Christian triumph a command

" Tis this makes joy a duty to the wise."


Here also

are deposited the Remains of the said


who died June 26th 1828. Aged 74

The other, placed among other Longe family memorials on the south wall of the chancel is identical in design and reads:

Sacred to the Memory of


He died August 7th 1815

and lies interred in the family Vault

of the late FRANCIS LONGE Esqre

School fellows at Eton & faithful Friends in riper Years.

They trod the path of Life together

in uniform sentiments of affectionate Regard.

Suavity of Manners and liberal endowments of Mind

engaged the Respect & Esteem of all who knew him.

and the more endearing qualities of his Heart

confirmed the sincere attachment of those nearer Friends

who remain to deplore his loss.

 "The dread path once trod

Heaven lifts its everlasting Portals high

and bids the pure in Heart behold their GOD"


The sting of Death is to the living.

These monuments, in the light of the fact that Francis and Catherine Longe had no children, and that General Leigh (1748-1815) had apparently no family (based on a reading of the monuments in the church), might suggest a contented menage-a-trois in Georgian rural Norfolk, possibly like that shared by the Duke of Wellington and Charles and Harriet Arbuthnot. This may indeed have been the case, but General Leigh's memorial omits a great deal of family information.

While Francis Longe came from a line of local lawyers who had turned into gentry by the acquisition of the Spixworth estate, Leigh's background was plantocracy. He had a distinguished military career, culminating in his appointment as Governor of the Isle of Wight, and died in Park Street, London. Although his memorial makes no mention of wife or family. at the time of his death he was survived by a widow, a son, and several grandchildren.

 Leigh's wife was Frances Byron, daughter of Vice-Admiral the Hon. John Byron (1723-1786) and sister of "Mad Jack" Byron (1756-1791), father of the poet George Gordon Noel, Lord Byron (1788-1824) and of Augusta Leigh, née Byron (1783-1851). Augusta had, in the face of General Leigh's opposition, married his son George, her first cousin, in 1807. John Byron and his sister were close, and she seems to have been on cordial terms after his death with Byron's mother. So General Leigh was uncle-by-marriage to both Byron and Augusta Leigh, and Augusta Leigh's father-in-law.

General Leigh's fears about his son's marriage turned out to be justified, because his son was a gambler who went through his own money as well as Augusta's (one of General Leigh's objections was to her small fortune, although some her friends seem to have objected to the Leigh family, which was not aristocratic). By 1815 Byron had become first famous, with the publication of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (1812) and then notorious for his affairs with Lady Caroline Lamb (1812-13) and with other peeresses. Byron had married Annabella Milbanke in January 1815, but the marriage was soon in difficulty and she left him in January 1816. There were rumours that Augusta Leigh's daughter Medora (born 1814) was Byron's child, and there have even been some suggestions that Byron's father , "Mad Jack", had an incestuous relationship with Frances Leigh. The General would, of course, have been in a position to have known if these speculations had any truth in them. Certainly Mad Jack died in 1791 in Valenciennes in a house belonging to his sister, although she does not seem to have been there at the time.

  There are therefore several possible reasons for the absence of General Leigh's family from his memorial. The dispute over George Leigh and Augusta Byron's marriage may have led to an irreparable family rift, with his wife siding with her son and niece. Lord Byron may by this time have made himself so disreputable that the General had no wish to remind posterity of his connection to the family. Or Catherine Longe, who survived both her husband and the General, may have been happy to inter the friends together, but felt that the Byron connection was best forgotten.

Dr Jean Wilson


Monument of the Month - July 2015

The Farnham Monuments:

Myths, Legends and Family Fables (Pt.2)

Fig 6

The sixth monument to Thomas Farnham (d.1574) and Anne Eyre was another incised slab which, according to Nichols, was set in the floor next to the other tombs in the south chapel. This slab is now lost. The seventh monument is the hanging monument (fig.6). Although Nichols ascribes this to another Thomas (d.1666), I believe that the wall monument is in memory of Thomas, younger brother of Francis. There are four reasons for my attribution. The style of clothes is correct for this period and would be old fashioned in 1666. The hanging monument shows the right number of children, four sons and two daughters –the Thomas suggested by Nichols, had two sons and four daughters. Any monument for him would have been placed in the north chapel and the lack of dates on the wall monument might suggest they are already recorded nearby. Although this monument is visually different in style, the inscription continues to play a prominent role and is in a very similar in tenor:

He saieth to rottenes thou art my sire ...

His linadge from a knight his life unstainde

His hand not slack in bountie to the pore


By the 1570s, the south chapel would have been pleasantly cramped with five monuments whilst the north side still had just one. In the 1940s this monument was tentatively attributed to Epiphanius Evesham and since then this ascription has been repeated often, including in Pevsner. However, both White and Bayliss disagree with this attribution and Bayliss has suggested it is the work of a William Hargrave of Bilborough who worked at Wollaton Hall. In 1887, when it was relocated, the inscription was moved from the foot end of the monument to the head end. Although this is the only monument with fully carved figures, it would still have read very like the other four chest tombs, each monument consisting of images in the top two thirds and an inscription in the bottom third. This similarity is now lost and with it the visual clues that relate these monuments to each other.


As a young man, John had been a soldier and then became a pensioner at the court of Elizabeth I. He was rarely in Quorn and sold Nether Hall to Thomas his brother for £80. It was bequeathed back to him when Thomas died (1562). On John’s demise it went to the next brother, Matthew. Although other estates went to the daughters of John and Thomas it seems that it was important to keep the Quorn property in the Farnham name. John’s will makes interesting reading. Not only does he allow 100 Marks for a funeral ‘answerable to my degree’ and an equivalent sum for his monument, he also lists possible places for his burial. His first choice is the ‘north side of St Bartholomew’; his second is in ‘Christ church within Newgate by or near unto my good friends Walter Haddon and Nicholas Beaumont’. We don’t know how much his monument cost, but 100 Marks is about £66 which is a substantial amount to spend on a tomb.[1] On the inscription it was important to let it be known that ‘he descended of an antient house’. He takes his place alongside the rest of the family, but also manages to redress the balance between the north and the south side by commissioning a very large and splendid monument.

John also departs from the sentiments so far expressed in the other inscriptions. He is neither in ‘rottenes’ like Thomas nor is he extolled for his modest and responsible lifestyle. He is celebrated both for having lived an exciting life – firstly on the battlefield ‘for youth the best expense of days’ and then at court ‘where princes great he truely served ... for good conceit and pleasant wit favord in every place beloved of the noblest sorte well liked of the rest.’ This post-Reformation inscription celebrates John’s secular achievements and there is no purgatory to worry about because ‘the heavens his soule containe’. Traditional values were upheld on the modest inscribed slabs made by the Royleys, and John Farnham’s superb tomb, displaying an engagement with what was then termed the ‘new style’, is a complete departure from them.

Fig 7

So what of the putative Robert de Farnham alabaster relief? (Fig 7) Well it certainly doesn’t date from the fourteenth century, but it could have been created later to commemorate this infamous ancestor.[2] This would beg the question why was it commissioned 200 years after the event and originally placed in the North chapel?

Fig 8

There is neither inscription nor date. Nichols records it as being on the wall next to John’s monument. His sketch of the monument (Fig 8) shows that it had suffered somewhat and suggests it had lost its frame or surrounds. Following its restoration this looks very like a contemporary portrait of John Farnham, and his armour matches the effigy on the monument exactly. The Victorian restorer might have just replaced the original head and parts of the arm and leg. However, they may well have created completely new parts based on the portrait and John’s effigy. (Figs 8 & 9)

Fig 8  

Fig 9

 Kemp observes that there was a fashion for depictions of scenes in the life of the deceased, which started to occur at the end of the sixteenth century and he includes this relief as an example.[3] This would make it a portrait of John. But, I think it is more complex and that this ambiguity was intentional from its inception. John or the commissioners of this relief were playing on the parallel of both he and Robert being soldiers. John on the cadet side of the family is attaching himself to Robert de Farnham, a common ancestor, perhaps in order to suggest that like Robert, he too had a flamboyant lifestyle and was anything but repentant.

Thanks need to go to:-

Mary Arthur church warden for making the Chapel accessible to me

Sue Templeman of The Quorn Village On-line Museum who was so generous with information and sources

Dr Julian Litten who answered many silly questions over time, he also prompted me to think about why two second sons have monuments and introduced me to the idea of ‘peripatetic monuments’

Dr Adam White who helped so much with reading the inscriptions and attributing the monuments

Jon Bayliss who confirmed and suggested the attribution of these monuments


Primary Sources

   Available at Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office.

Commissioning document: 26D53/2751 9 Aug.1585.

   Agreement betw. George Shirley of Staunton Harold Esq., and Richard Royley and Gabriel Royley of Burton on Trent, tomb makers.

   Commissioning document between Sir George Shirley and Richard & Gabriel Royley for a memorial to Sir Thomas Fermor and his wife at Somerton, Oxon. (1581) transcribed fully in Greenhill, F.A., (1958) The Incised Slabs of Leicestershire and Rutland

    Nichols, J., (1800) The History and antiquities of the county of Leicestershire Vol. III pt I [online]

Secondary Sources

   Badham, S., (2004). “A new feire peyneted stone’: Medieval English Incised Slabs?’ In Church Monuments Vol. XIX

   Farnham, G. F. B., (1912) Quorndon Records London Mitchell, Hughes & Clarke ( Facsimile Edition, Miami, Hardpress Publishing)

   Farnham, G., & Hamilton Thompson, A (1929). ‘St Bartholomew’s Church Quorndon: Historical Notes & Architectural Notes’ In The Leicestershire Manorial Researches Vol. 16, [Online]  (accessed 14.04.2014)

   Greenhill, F. A., (1958) The Incised Slabs of Leicestershire & Rutland. Leicestershire Archæological and Historical Society, The Guildhall, Leicester.

   Kemp, B., (1981). English Church Monuments. London, Batsford.

   Richardson, C., (2013) ‘Make you a cloak of it and weare it for my sake’: Material Culture and Commemoration in Early Modern English Towns’ In Penman, M.,(Ed)  Monuments and Monumentality Across medieval and Early Modern Europe Shaun Tyas Donnington

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

[1] The most expensive Royley monument, to Thomas Fermor (d.1580) at Somerton was contracted to cost £40.

[2] Robert de Farnham went to war to avoid charges for ‘robbing Elena le Rous on Barrow Bridge’. He acquitted himself with such credit he was pardoned and able to return home.

[3] Kemp ( 1981) p.71


Moira Ackers


Monument of the Month - June 2015

The Farnham Monuments: Myths, Legends and Family Fables (Pt.1)

The Farnham Chapel at St Bartholomew’s, Quorn, is one of the few remaining private chapels within a parish church. It belongs to the Farnham Trust and can only be opened with permission of the trustees.

The Chapel was added to an existing Norman church in 1392 by John de Farnham.  There are no extant medieval monuments. According to a church guide a relief showing a battle scene is of Robert de Farnham (d.1349) at the Battle of Crecy/Siege of Calais in 1346; it is certainly not of this date and will be dealt with in more detail below. Today, the south chapel is crammed full of monuments to the Farnhams dating from 1502 onwards and it is the splendid chest tomb with recumbent effigies of John Farnham (d.1587) and his wife Dorothy Walwyn (fig.1) that dominates the chapel. Even a Bacon (c.1775) flanked by two neo-gothic monuments (c.1850) are in its shadow. However, the chest tomb was never intended to be placed in this chapel, and none of the existing seven early-modern alabaster monuments are in their original location. The 1887 re-ordering of St Bartholomew’s which made the church more serviceable to the living had a dramatic and damaging effect on the Farnham monuments.

Fig. 1:  John & Dorothy Farnham

During the sixteenth century, the Farnhams engaged in what can only be described as a flurry of memorialising in three generations. They commissioned nine monuments - including two for second sons - seven of which are at Quorn.[1] John and Dorothy’s is the last in the series and it is this monument and how it related to the other early-modern alabaster memorials that I shall concentrate on. Not only is this an impressive alabaster monument, but it is also an interesting example of how complex and problematic the study of a monument can be. For nothing is quiet as it seems. Sherlock reminds us that ‘monuments were not commonplace objects automatically erected by gentry and nobility to convey formulaic messages’ and that at most, only a third of these families erected any sort of memorial. [2] So it is worth exploring why a family should suddenly engage in this activity.

Shortly after the death of both the John de Farnham who commissioned the chantry chapel and his eldest son John Farnham in 1416 (there is a serious shortage of Christian names in this family), their respective wives seemed to have fallen out and the family split. The senior side of the family remained in Over Hall,[3] whilst the younger son Thomas built Nether Hall.[4] In St Bartholomew’s this necessitated two separate chapels. The Over Hall family used what is now the Farnham Chapel in the south aisle and the junior Nether Hall family used a chapel in the north aisle. Referring to Nichols, who recorded the monuments in the mid-eighteenth century prior to their reorganisation and restoration, it is possible to reconstruct where the tombs were originally sited. Using the dates on the monuments we may also speculate on the order in which they appeared.

Fig 2: Thomas & Margaret Farnham     The first monument is an incised slab which was on a chest to Thomas Farnham (d.1502) and his wife Margaret Kingston (fig.2). We don’t know why Thomas and Margaret decided to commission this monument, but it is worth noting that Margaret’s family had commissioned at least five monuments between 1480 – 1516, all of which had been placed at Rothley (sadly four have been lost). The remaining one shares similarities with Thomas & Margaret’s, especially the uncomfortable position of the hands and may have come from the same local workshop.

There followed at least three commissions from the Royley workshop at Burton upon Trent (2, 3 & 4 on the plan). All are incised slabs and were according to Nichols mounted on chests tombs. Today they are propped up ignominiously in the corner with that of Thomas & Margaret. Although this makes them much easier to read they have sadly lost their authority. Badham describes how such monuments would have been polychromed, gilded and decorated.[5]  The chests would have borne heraldic devices and probably weepers/children, much like those still present at Peatling Magna, and would have affected a much greater presence.  

The style of the three Royleys draws directly from the first Farnham monument. The four together create a strong sense of continuity, even though one of them would have been originally placed across the way in the North chapel. Margery’s dress is an exact copy of Dorothy’s, and Francis and Robert (father and son both lawyers) also wear the same long gowns.

Robert and Mary                 William and Dorothy

The inventory of Francis’ household possessions when he died and their value still exists. The list consists of what would seem to us today to be mundane objects, such as towels and kettles.[6] Richardson reminds that this was ‘a period in which there were still comparatively few objects of any kind in circulation’, so a monument was a very important display of wealth.[7] The sum total of Francis’ household possessions was £29. 13s. As Greenhill laments we don’t know how much a Royley incised slab on a chest cost However, we do know that the Shirley monument (c.1585) with recumbent figures at Breedon on the Hill cost £22.[8] This gives us an indicator of the expense involved.

Having the incised slabs lined up on a wall allows us to compare them. What is immediately noticeable is that the three Royley slabs all have exceptionally long inscriptions, the longest to appear in Greenhill’s study. It takes nearly fifty lines to tell us that William is a man of modest means disinterested in worldly goods. This is rather a mixed message, given it appears on an expensive tomb. We are also told that Robert was:


A gentyll man.

agodly welthye lyfe he ledde.

greate pacience he poseste...

his tenants he ded not oppresse.

nor of his neghborys non.

In haramefull sorte he dyd transgresse.

It is important to these three Farnhams that they are seen to be modest, upright and fair and their monuments bear witness to this. The Royley slabs stress continuity; on their original chests they would have had more presence, but would not have been excessively showy. Although these memorials straddle the Reformation the marginal inscriptions all show a concern about the transit of their souls through purgatory.

The fifth monument commissioned for a Farnham during this period is not at Quorn but at Stoughton and is from Richard Parker’s workshop. Although Thomas was a second son, he was important to the Farnham family. As Chancellor of the Exchequer under Edward VI and Mary, he was instrumental in securing the Farnham Chapel by buying it from the crown in 1553. So it is interesting that he is not at Quorn, but therein lies another story. He was the younger brother of John and we shall come back to their relationship later.

[1] The seventh, recorded by Nichols, was according to Greenhill broken and disappeared in 1887.[1] An eighth attributed to Richard Parker is at Stoughton, Leicestershire.

[2] see below

[3] Over Hall later became Quorn House

[4] Nether Hall later became Quorn Hall

[5] Badham (2004) p.20

[6] Farnham (1912) p. 219

[7] Richardson (2013) p.68

[8] Shirley contract 1585 be completed

Moira Ackers

Monument of the Month - May 2015

Edward, the Black Prince, d. 1376,

Canterbury Cathedral, Kent

Perhaps the most prestigious type of tomb monument created in the medieval period was the gilt cast copper-alloy effigy. They were produced across Europe, from Germany, France and Denmark in the north to Italy, Spain and Portugal in the south. The majority of those recorded in England have been destroyed during periods of religious and civil turmoil, but a handful survive. One such is the monument to Edward the Black Prince, in Canterbury Cathedral.

The manner of the monument was specified by Edward in his will; he asked for ‘unymaged’overeignelevezde latounsuzorrezsoitmysen memorial de nous, tout armez de fier de guerre de nous armezquartillez et le viagemei’. Although commissioned by his son Richard II, the effigy follows closely Edward’s specification. The beautifully executed and finely detailed cast copper-alloy effigy shows Edward as an adult crown-prince in armour. It compares with Edward III’s monument, also commissioned by Richard, in its cool restraint and is in marked contrast to the highly decorative monument that Richard later chose for himself. Edward is depicted recumbent with his head on his helm, hands in prayer and with his feet resting on a leopard. He wears a bascinet with aventail attached and plate body armour with a tightly-fitting heraldic coat armour over and an arse-girdle at his hips. The effigy rests on a Purbeck marble tomb-chest beneath a tester depicting the Holy Trinity, with his heraldic achievements hung over the tester; the combination of the tester and the surrounding iron grille have fortunately guarded against casual theft.


Like the two monuments at Westminster, the chamfer of the tomb-chest bears a highly personalised inscription. As with other aspects of his monument, the wording was specified in Edward’s will and bears witness to the Prince’s very distinctive form of piety. It reads in translation:

Who so thou be that passes by, where these corpse entombed lie: understand what I shall say as at this time speak I may. Such as thou art, so once was I, such as I am, such shalt thou be. I little thought on the hour of death so long as I enjoyed breath. Great riches here did I possess whereof I made great nobleness. I had gold, silver, wardrobes and great treasure, horses, houses, land. But now a poor caitiff am I, deep in the ground lo here I lie. My great beauty is all quite gone, my flesh is wasted to the bone. My house narrow and throng, nothing but truth comes from my tongue. And if you should see me this day, I do not think that you would say that I had never been a man, so altered now I am. For God’s sake pray to the heavenly king that he my soul to heaven would bring. All they that pray and make accord for me unto my God and Lord: God place them in his Paradise wherein no wretched caitiff lies.


The contrast between these modest, almost Lollard-like, sentiments and the material splendour of the monument may seem curiously incongruous.

There are no contracts for this tomb, which was probably made shortly after Prince Edward’s death in 1376. There is no documentary evidence naming the craftsmen involved, but Henry Yevele and John Orchard are regarded as the most likely candidates. The Black Prince’s Purbeck-marble tomb chest is an example of the London version of the Perpendicular style and has been attributed to Henry Yevele, who was the leading exponent of that style in the late fourteenth century. Contractual evidence demonstrates that he was involved in the production of Richard II’s tomb chest, while Orchard is a prime candidate for the copper-alloy elements of Richard II’s monument.

Copyright: Sally Badham MBE, FSA

Photos: Tim Sutton

Monument of the Month - April 2015

An Effigy in the Porch of Beaumaris Church

The iconic stone effigy in the porch of Beaumaris church has traditionally been understood to depict Siwan, wife of Llywelyn ab Iorwerth, who died in 1237. Illegitimate daughter of King John of England, wife of one of the greatest rulers of north Wales, she is a key figure in both Welsh history and historical fiction. Perhaps regrettably, the fiction has focussed around her mid-life affair with the marcher lord William de Breos (the central episode in Saunders Lewis’s play Siwan, Ellis Peters’ novel The Green Branch and Sharon Kay Penman’s novel Here Be Dragons). This has unfortunately distracted attention from her importance as a political figure behind the scenes in a crucial period of the Welsh struggle for independence. The romantic story also helps to explain why the Beaumaris carving has become one of Wales’s most iconic pieces of medieval art. It appears on numerous websites and has been photographed and drawn for several academic publications. There are particularly good photographs on the castlewales web site; Colin Gresham  drew it as the first item in his discussion of medieval stone carving in Wales.According to local tradition (again), the effigy and the stone coffin on which it now stands came from the friary at Llanfaes, the friary which Llywelyn founded over Siwan’s tomb and in her memory.

It caused some consternation, therefore, when Brian and Moira Gittos pointed out (in a paper at the Church Monuments Society’s Welsh symposium in Cardiff in the summer of 2012, subsequently published in Archaeologia Cambrensis) that the style of the head-dress on the Beaumaris carving, with the wimple drawn under the chin to give a triangular shape to the face, cannot be found before the 1270s and could even be as late as the beginning of the fourteenth century. In a further paper at the Cambrian Archaeological Association conference in Llangollen in the spring of 2014 they developed this argument further. The biting wyvern, the style of the foliate decoration on the tomb, and particularly the stiff-leaf trefoils at the junction of the stems, are all characteristic of late thirteenth-century work in metal as well as stone.  Other features of the carving – the straight posture, the combination of coronet, veil, wimple and brooch – suggest a date in the 1270s or the 1280s.


The tradition that the carving depicts Siwan is widespread but cannot be traced beyond the beginning of the nineteenth century. It probably goes back to that well-known scenario described by Tummers: ‘The best known name of a certain person at a certain place and at a certain period is taken to be commemorated by an effigy which, without scientific basis, is considered to date from that period. And then the effigy is taken to be firmly dated, because it can be connected with a historical person.’

So who is it? The head-dress is badly damaged but seems to have been a crown or coronet. We are therefore looking for someone of royal status. Brian and Moira Gittos suggested that the effigy might commemorate Eleanor de Montfort, wife of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd. She was the daughter of the aristocratic rebel Simon de Montfort and his wife Eleanor, youngest daughter of King John of England (and was thus Siwan’s niece). After several years as a hostage in England she married Llywelyn in 1278 but she died in childbirth on 19 June 1282, leaving a daughter, Gwenllian. She was buried at Llanfaes – but this does not prove that the effigy is hers. By the time she died, Llywelyn was fighting his final desperate campaign against the overwhelmingly greater forces of Edward I. Would he have spent time and money on a statement tomb?

There are other candidates. Of these, probably the most likely is Llywelyn’s mother Senana. One of the most shadowy figures of a sparsely-documented period, she married Llywelyn ab Iorwerth’s older son Gruffydd, probably fairly soon after his release from English custody in 1215, and bore him four sons including the rivals Llywelyn and Dafydd. She seems to have been particularly close to her youngest son Dafydd, and she last appears in the record in 1252, when she was at Dafydd’s court in Llyn

It was therefore exciting to read, in Andy Abram’s chapter on monastic burial in Burton and Stober’s Monastic Wales, that Senana was buried at Llanfaes. Abram went on to suggest, on the basis that Senana as well as Siwan and Eleanor was buried there, that Llanfaes may have been deliberately designed by the rulers of Gwynedd as a mausoleum for the women of the royal house, but that it may also have been chosen by the royal women themselves as a burial place deliberately set apart from the male dynastic burial place at Aberconwy.

Abram referenced Gwenyth Richards’ Sydney Ph D thesis, ‘From footnotes to narrative: Welsh noblewomen in the thirteenth century’. The thesis added a date of 1263 for Senana’s death: but crucially the only evidence cited for either the death or the burial was a Gwynedd County Council tourist leaflet, ‘Princes of Gwynedd: The Môn Trail’, published in 1996.  The leaflet, it transpired, was based on a book, The Princes of Gwynedd: Courts, Castles and Churches: and the information about Senana’s death and burial actually came from Ellis Peters’ novel The Dragon at Noonday, part of the Brothers of Gwynedd series. The Princes of Gwynedd book makes the source clear, but it seems that whoever used the book as material for the production of tourist trail leaflets failed to realise that Edith Pargeter’s work was fiction.

It is still possible that Senana was buried at Llanfaes. The date of 1263 would still be rather early for the Beaumaris effigy, but it could be a retrospective memorial, commissioned by Llywelyn or even by Dafydd. Alternatively, although she vanishes from the record after the 1250s, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, especially in a period when women in general are so sparsely documented. It is possible that she lived on until the 1270s and was then buried at Llanfaes. However, this must remain pure conjecture.

The debate over the identity of the effigy has been sharpened by the latest development in the afterlife of the monument. Even when the effigy was thought to be Princess Siwan, it was of obvious interest to those involved in the commemoration of a key period in Welsh history. The Princess Gwenllian Society has raised funds to commission virtual replicas of the Beaumaris effigy and the coffin at Llanrwst traditionally said to be that of Llywelyn ab Iorwerth: the current plan is that these will be part of an installation in Bangor Cathedral but that they will also be accessible on the internet. The current evidence suggests that the effigy most probably commemorates Eleanor de Montfort, but that it could be Senana: that is what will appear on the interpretative material for the exhibition.

The process by which this provisional conclusion has been reached is an instructive one. It warns us that we need to look at historical artefacts carefully, that antiquarian literature can be illuminating but can also cloud the picture, and that the academic practice of recording, checking and verifying references is not pettifogging nitpicking but crucial to sound research. Above all, the Beaumaris effigy reminds us of the need to look and to think for ourselves.

(A fuller version of this account with references will appear in the forthcoming Transactions of the Anglesey Antiquarian Society)

Dr Madelaine Gray PhD


Monument of the Month - March 2015

Monument to William Villiers died 1643

Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford contains a number of mural monuments commemorating victims of the Civil War. Many of these monuments were erected after the Restoration and that is the case with the monument at the east end of the south aisle. This large and imposing monument commemorates William Villiers, 2nd Viscount Grandison who died of wounds received at the battle of Bristol, 1643 aged 30. He was the son of Edward and Barbara Villiers.

William’s portrait can be seen at Lydiard House, Lydiard Tregoze and shows him wearing a slashed black doublet with a white undershirt and an elaborate lace collar, tight under his chin and falling over the shoulders. The hair is worn long as was the fashion of the time and there is a wispy moustache. The painting dates to c1640 and is said to be of the school of Anthony van Dyke. An inscription on the top right of the canvas reads

William Villiers Ld Grandison

Son to Sir Edwd Villiers

Father to Barbara first

Duchess of Cleveland

Barbara was born on 27th November 1640 in the parish of St Margaret’s, Westminster, the only child of William and his wife Mary Bayning and so was only 2 years old at her father’s death. A painting of Sir Walter St John, died 1708 also at Lydiard House is inscribed

Sr Walter St John  Bart

of Lydiard Tregoze

on the top left corner of the canvas in the same cursive script as the William Villiers painting. It is reasonable to conclude that the inscriptions were all added at the same time, possibly after 1708.

The Villiers monument consists of a tall pedestal with an oval Latin inscription on the front. Above a gadrooned lid is a smaller plinth upon which rests a garlanded funeral urn, again with a gadrooned lid and a simple finial. Behind the upper section is a display of arms, armour and military accoutrements.  It is made of lightly veined off-white marble and is signed on the front, below the inscription oval, I Latham Fecit. The monument was erected c1675 most probably by his daughter Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland and mistress of Charles II. She was created Duchess in 1670

The monument is one of a number that follow the same overall style but this example is the only one known to display trophies of arms. All the leading metropolitan sculptors of the period produced monuments in this style and one example is known – that to Brigit Higgons died 1691 at Cadeleigh, Devon - where the format was copied by a local sculptor

Jasper Latham (1636-1693) was, after the Great Fire, one of the City of London’s leading mason contractors. He worked as a mason contractor under Wren on the rebuilding of St Mildred, Poultry between 1670-79 but is chiefly remembered as one of the mason contractors who worked on St Paul’s Cathedral. The size of Latham’s practice is not known but it must have been substantial given the work he undertook in the rebuilding of London after the Fire.

Latham is actually only positively identified with four monuments, of which the Villiers piece is one. However, he is thought to have been responsible for a quite a number of others and it is possible that the apprentices he is known to have employed might have been responsible for the majority of them, Latham having designed then originally.

Dr Clive J Easter FSA

Monument of the Month - February 2015

A medieval miniature adult?

An unidentified female miniature effigy at St Giles’s church, Coberley (Gloucestershire)

Fig 1.

The small village of Coberley is situated not far from Cheltenham. Access to the parish church is through an arched doorway and across a private farmyard. The church houses a number of interesting monuments, including a small wall memorial depicting the half-length figure of a knight clasping a large object in both hands (Fig. 2 below). This memorial commemorates the heart burial of Sir Giles II de Berkeley (1240–1294), who gfought in the Crusades and whose body was buried in Little Malvern (Worcestershire). It is claimed by some to be the only memorial of its kind in the Cotswolds, but that is far from true: a second such heart tomb is located within the same church, just opposite Sir Giles’s memorial.

Fig 2.

When viewing the large double monument of Sir Giles’s son Sir Thomas I de Berkeley (1289–1365) and his wife Joan, visitors may be forgiven for assuming the diminutive tomb alongside it is to commemorate the couple’s unnamed daughter (Fig. 1 and 3). This is how it has often been incorrectly described in guidebooks in the past and perhaps still today. True, there is nothing child-like about this small fourteenth-century tomb effigy apart from its size, but its appearance might easily confirm the popular misconception that medieval children were regarded as miniature adults. The figure is certainly dressed like an adult and her feet rest on what appears to be a dog – the conventional footrest for female effigies.

Fig 3.

Yet this rather sentimental reading of the monument must make way for a perhaps less palatable one, for this miniature effigy probably commemorates not a child but an adult – or at least the heart of an adult. If we study the effigy closely (Fig. 4), it becomes evident that the figure does not have her hands raised in the conventional attitude of prayer. Instead she holds a glove in the left hand and with the right hand she reaches into her bodice, thereby indicating the heart that was removed from her body after death and buried separately on this spot. In 1931 Ida Roper already hinted at this possibility when she wrote that ‘no decided opinion has been formed by antiquaries concerning the meaning of this and similar diminutive effigies – whether they represent children or adults, or are placed over the heart buried beneath’.

Fig 4.

The medieval custom of burying the heart – and sometimes also the flesh and the viscera – of the deceased was originally intended for people who died far away from their preferred burial site. In order to preserve the corpse for transport the body was embalmed by removing the internal organs (evisceration) and burying these separately. Sometimes just the bones were preserved by boiling the body, a process known as excarnation. An early example is that of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa (b. 1122 – d. 1190), who drowned in the Göksu (then Saleph) River on the Third Crusade: the plan was to bury him in Jerusalem, but when efforts to preserve his corpse in vinegar proved unsuccessful it was decided to bury his flesh in Antioch, his bones in Tyre and his heart and internal organs in Tarsus

A famous English example is that of Queen Eleanor of Castile (b. 1240 – d. 1291), who underwent triple burial after her death in the village of Harby outside Lincoln. Her husband Edward I had her viscera buried in Lincoln Cathedral, her heart in the Dominican convent of Blackfriars in London and her body in Westminster Abbey, where her gilt copper-alloy effigy may still be seen: her viscera and heart memorials were lost centuries ago.

Division of the corpse actually became a matter of prestige among royalty and the aristocracy across Europe, irrespective of where the deceased had died. It allowed people to show their allegiance to a particular church or order, while there was the additional benefit of prayers to be said for their souls in different locations. For example, Robert the Bruce (b. 1274 – d. 1329) was buried in Dunfermline Abbey, but he had wished his heart to be buried in the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in token of his vow to undertake a crusade against the Saracens. When Sir James Douglas, to whom the heart had been entrusted, was killed in battle fighting the Moorish kings of Granada, the silver casket was recovered and interred at Melrose Abbey (Roxburghshire). Although the church frowned on bodily division and papal degrees forebade the practice, it was possible to obtain dispensation. The custom continued in modern times, for example among the Habsburgs in Vienna.

The Berkeley family seem to have been particularly keen on division of the corpse. Apart from Sir Giles’s heart memorial in Coberley, three more miniature effigies can still be found on the window sills of the nave of St Mary’s church next to the family seat of Berkeley Castle, of which two were probably holding hearts: these, too, have frequently been mistaken for child effigies and one may compare the famous case of the so-called ‘Stanley boy’ monument in Elford (Staffordshire), which was the Monument of the Month in January 2010. The unknown female whose heart was buried in Coberley presumably belonged to the Berkeley family as well.


Figure captions

Fig 1. Unidentified female miniature tomb alongside the double monument to Thomas Berkeley (d. 1365 and his first wife in St Giles’s church, Coberley (Gloucestershire). (Photo: Cameron Newham)

Fig 2. Wall memorial commemorating the heart burial of Sir Giles Berkeley (d. 1294) in St Giles’s church, Coberley (Gloucestershire). (Photo: Tim Sutton)

Fig 3. Miniature female effigy alongside the double tomb monument to Sir Thomas I de Berkeley (d. 1365) and his wife Joan in St Giles’s church, Coberley (Gloucestershire). (Photo: Cameron Newham)

Fig 4. Fourteenth-century miniature female effigy in St Giles’s church, Coberley (Gloucestershire). (Photo: Cameron Newham)

Further reading:

● Bradford, Charles Angell, Heart burial (London, 1933).

● Oosterwijk, Sophie, ‘“A swithe feire graue”. The appearance of children on medieval tomb monuments’, in Richard Eales and Shaun Tyas (eds), Family and dynasty in the Middle Ages (1997 Harlaxton Symposium Proceedings), Harlaxton Medieval Studies, 9 (Donington, 2003), pp. 172-92, esp. pp. 188-89 and pl. 44.

● Roper, Ida M., The monumental effigies of Gloucester and Bristol (Gloucester, 1931), pp. 377-378.

● Warntjes, Immo, ‘Programmatic double burial (body and heart) of the European high nobility, c.1200-1400. Its origin, geography, and functions’, in Karl-Heinz Spieß and Immo Warntjes (eds), Death at court (Wiesbaden, 2012), 197-259.

● Weiss-Krejci, Estella, ‘Heart burial in medieval and early post-medieval Central Europe’, in Katharina Rebay-Salisbury, Marie Louise Stig Sørensen and Jessica Hughes (eds), Body parts and bodies whole. Changing relations and meanings (Oxford, 2010),  pp. 119-133.

Monument of the Month - January 2015

Llancarfan and Carisbrooke: some thoughts on a seventeenth-century cross slab in the Vale of Glamorgan

The recent discoveries of medieval wall paintings at Llancarfan in the Vale of Glamorgan have produced excitement on an international scale. Strangely, the church has no medieval monuments, not even a humble cross slab: but it does have a post-medieval stone of considerable interest. It sits just inside the south door, which is the main entrance into the church. Llancarfan’s church is almost always open, though it’s as well to check before making a visit. Cleaning and conservation of the wall paintings is continuing, and when work is in progress the church has to be closed to visitors.

If medieval cross slabs are the unsung heroes of the commemorative industry, post-medieval cross slabs are the unknown warriors. Along with requests for prayer for the souls of the dead, religious iconography was supposed to disappear from monuments after the Reformation. In spite of this, the churches of south-east Wales have any number of late sixteenth- and seventeenth-century cross slabs. Some, like the one described in July 2014’s Monument of the Month, are elaborate baroque designs with floriated or interlaced heads. In the Vale of Glamorgan, though, the standard design is much simpler, a plain four-line cross on a stepped base. The earliest surviving example of this design, at Llantwit Major, is dated 1534.

Most of these slabs have simple inscriptions with the details of the individuals commemorated. Several have evidence of recutting. The Llancarfan stone has obviously been reused. At the top it says



DAVID     1628

But underneath is


7 5

and a final date which looks like 169... (the last number I cannot decipher).

What makes the Llancarfan slab so interesting is that it has a few lines of verse:






This little poem is intriguing, to say the least. The Victoria & Albert Museum has a seventeenth-century window with the poem scratched on its glass. According to tradition it came from Carisbrooke Castle and was scratched by Charles I when he was a prisoner there (more about it at . A quick trawl with Google (how did we ever do research before the Internet?) shows that the poem is actually quite common on gravestones, often with some other lines. This fuller version is on the monument of Thomas Urquhart of Kinundie in Ross and Cromarty and recorded in Charles Rogers’ Monuments and Monumental Inscriptions of Scotland:

My hope shall never be confounded,

Because on Christ my hope is grounded,

My hope on Christ is rested sure,

Who wounded was my wounds to cure ;

Grieve not when friends and kinsfolk die,

They gain by death eternity

Thomas Urquhart died in 1633. So the poem predates Charles’s stay at Carisbrooke – but he could have come across it somewhere and felt that it expressed his own feelings in captivity.

Wales was predominantly Royalist in the Civil War, and conservative in sympathies after the Restoration. Whether WR (whoever he was – or whoever she was, for that matter) knew about the poem’s connection with Charles I we will never know.

The line about Christ’s wounds has a very medieval feel to it. Depiction of the Arma Christi, the Instruments of the Passion and the disembodied Five Wounds,  was common enough on later medieval tombs. But like the cross this does not necessarily mean that Robert David or the mysterious WR was a Catholic. The wounds also figure in eighteenth-century Methodist hymns. Perhaps the best known example is Charles Wesley’s Advent hymn ‘Lo! He comes with clouds descending’. We belt this one out with great enthusiasm in the weeks before Christmas but do we really think about the words of the third verse –

Those dear tokens of His passion

Still His dazzling body bears,

Cause of endless exultation

To His ransomed worshipers.

With what rapture, with what rapture

Gaze we on those glorious scars!

You find the same ideas in Welsh hymns. The great William Williams Pantycelyn, writer of ‘Guide me, O thou Great Redeemer’, had a wonderful image of making his nest in the wounds. So our two seventeenth-century inhabitants of Llancarfan were well in the main stream with their poem.

We know nothing else about them, or why they are commemorated by the same stone. It is just possible in spite of the long time between them that ‘W R’ was Robert David’s son and had taken his father’s Christian name as his surname. In the seventeenth century Welsh people were just moving over from the old patronymic form of names (William ap Robert ap David ...) to the English style of surnames. But there is a crossover period during which their names look like surnames but change with each generation – so David Edwards’s son could be Robert David, Robert David’s son could be William Robert, and so on.

They were probably yeoman farmers somewhere in the parish. Llancarfan had no resident great landowners: much of the land in the parish belonged either to the diocese of Gloucester or to Jesus College, Oxford. It was the lack of money in the parish which enabled the wall paintings to survive under their coats of lime wash: there was no-one with the money to ‘restore’ the church in Victorian Gothic style. The same lack of local money may explain the paucity of memorials in the church, but it has left us with this one intriguing reminder of the very complex local responses to the Reformation and subsequent religious change.

Maddy Gray

University of South Wales

Monument of the Month - December  2014

Heaven under our feet: the Laleston triple cross

Cross slabs are the unsung heroes of the medieval monument industry. Lawrence Butler and Colin Gresham taught us to look at them, and more recently Peter Ryder and Aleksandra McClain have done sterling work in elucidating them, but there is still much more to learn.

Part of the problem is that they are usually set in the church floor, and very vulnerable to damage and erosion. This triple cross slab at Laleston, just west of Bridgend in the western Vale of Glamorgan, is so worn as to be almost indecipherable, and partly hidden by the twentieth-century choir stalls. Generations of worshippers have walked over it without realising its meaning. Even the incumbents who have stood on it were not aware of it.

Fortunately, it was drawn by the antiquarian T. H. Thomas and the church architect John Rodger in the early years of the twentieth century, and it is really from their drawings that we can appreciate its significance.

The slab has a very distinctive design with a plain central cross flanked by two others, all branching out from a stepped calvary plinth. Thomas and Rodger also drew a very similar slab at Llangynwyd, a few miles north of Laleston, and a triple cross slab with a slightly different design in the ruins of Margam Abbey, a little way to the west. There are plenty of incised slabs with miniature  crosses as part of the decoration, but the subsidiary crosses on these three slabs are clearly intended as full-size crosses. They are as far as I know unique (an impression confirmed by Sally Badham, Peter Ryder, Philip Lankester and Lawrence Butler, all of whom kindly looked at Rodger’s drawings for me). It looks as though these crosses are intended to show the actual scene of the Crucifixion, with the two thieves as well as Christ.

What could link these crosses? They are almost certainly medieval, judging from the style of the crosses, the location of the Margam one and the absence of inscriptions (the lettering on the Laleston cross is almost certainly a later addition). The one thing which links these three sites in the Middle Ages is the pilgrimage to the Holy Rood of Llangynwyd. The church at Llangynwyd belonged to the monks of Margam, and Laleston sits on one of the major pilgrimage routes to the shrine, the Ffordd y Gyfraith.

This raises the intriguing possibility that the Laleston slab and the other two triple cross slabs reflect the design of the Llangynwyd rood. Depiction of the thieves is unusual in the Welsh visual tradition. However, the thieves do appear in the Welsh mystery play of the Crucifixion. More to the point, several Welsh poets wrote in praise of the Holy Rood of Llangynwyd. Christine James of Swansea University (the current Archdruid of Wales) has made a detailed study of these poems and points out that two of them make reference to the thieves.

There are other reasons why depiction of the thieves would be appropriate for a tomb. Late medieval spirituality had a strong focus on the need to prepare for a good death. Books on preparation for death were among the earliest best-sellers. Among other things, they advised on dealing with the temptations that might assail the dying person. One of these was the temptation to despair, illustrated by woodcuts showing demons reminding the dying of their sins and failings. Against this the dying were promised the help of saints who had themselves fallen and been saved. Among these, as well as St Peter, St Mary Magdalen and St Paul, was the Good Thief. (Some of these woodcuts can be found online at .) The thief had not even had time for repentance and confession: but he had recognised Jesus and said ‘Remember me when you come to your kingdom’: and he had been promised ‘This day you will be with me in Paradise’. These were comforting words to be remembered in a tomb carving.

We also need to think about the decorations above the cross. As well as the three full-size crosses, there are two small crosses potent in the angles above the main cross. Many medieval cross slabs feature small circular decorations above and to either side of the  cross – either minature crosses or small stylized flowers. These may be purely decorative. Similar designs appear on seals, and as diapering in wall paintings. However, the placing of some of the miniature crosses and circular designs is reminiscent of the depiction of the sun and moon in so many representations of the Crucifixion.  This is of course a literal reference to the narrative with its eclipse. However, there is also a wider symbolic significance. The sun and moon are witnesses of cosmic salvation: their presence  in the Crucifixion scene symbolises the relationship between Christ the sun of justice and the moon as the church which reflects his light. Further, according to St Augustine the moon represents the Old Testament which can shine only by the light of the New.

So much cosmic significance from one cross slab, so battered and worn that no-one in the parish knew it was there. Now that it has been identified, though, it will feature in a new heritage trail designed to link some earlier carved stones at Merthyr Mawr  on the Welsh Coast Path and the deserted village site of Llangewydd, just north of Laleston. The trail will use part of the pilgrimage route to Llangynwyd, and reconstruction drawings of the crosses have been commissioned. The church at Laleston has also commissioned a local photographer, Nigel Nicholas, to photograph the stone under raking light. His photograph, shown above, will be the centrepiece of an interpretative panel. The church is always open and has plenty else of interest, including a medieval altar stone and some endearingly naive eighteenth-century memorials.

Dr Madelaine Gray PhD


Monument of the Month - November  2014

A Ledgerstone at Aldenham, Hertfordshire

Towards the east end of the north nave aisle of the  church of St John the Baptist, Aldenham, Hertfordshire, is a worn ledgerstone. It has the incised outline of a shrouded figure, the shroud knotted at the head and feet, with the outline of the legs clearly depicted. The figure's bare right arm protrudes and points downwards, and two lines crossing from top sinister to middle dexter of the shroud suggest that the shroud originally revealed the face as well as the right arm and shoulder, but these must have been worn away. A speech-scroll emerges from the area where the mouth may imagined to be, bearing the words 'SARAH. SMITH.'  in Roman capitals.

The upper inscription reads, in Roman capitals:







Below the figure are three inscriptions, the first in italics:

Death parts the dearest lovers for a while

And makes them mourne that onely vsed to smile

But after death ovr vnmixt love shall  tye

Eternall knotts betwixte my deare and I

The second reads, in large italic capitals:

    J. R.

The third reads, in lower-case Roman:

I Sarah Smith whom thou didst loue alone.

For thy dear loue haue layd this marble Stone.

Clearly the shrouded figure represents the shrouded body of John Robinson, and the ledger was commissioned by his surviving lover, Sarah Smith.

We know a certain amount about the persons involved in this act of commemoration. Both appear to come from prosperous yeoman families in that part of the parish known as Aldenham Wood. John Robinson's mother had died before him, and from the evidence of his father's will of 1675 his only surviving sibling was a sister, married with a family. The slab is mentioned in early guidebooks, but its verses are inaccurately transcribed and the shrouded figure is usually misidentified as Sarah Smith.

The iconography of the incised slab is complex and raises speculation about who devised it. Each section of text is distinguished by its font. The formal biographical information which heads the slab is in formal Roman capitals; the epitaph, a formal genre despite its personal declaration of enduring love, is in italics – another formal font – and the personal declaration of responsibility for placing the stone is in lower-case Roman, the most commonplace of fonts. There is a movement here from the public to the private, reflected in the growing informality of the lettering.

This leaves the shrouded figure, with its speech-scroll. The representation of shrouded figures seems (contrary to received opinion) to have been continuing sporadically in brass and sculptural form through the sixteenth century, rather than dying out and being revived by John Donne's monument in St Paul's – there are shroud brasses surviving as late as the 1580s (Leigh, Kent) and shrouded cadavers on tombs as early as that decade (Chesterfield, Derbyshire). Aldenham itself has a fine sixteenth-n century shroud brass to Lucas Goodyere, who died in childbirth c.1546/7.

In its outline the shrouded figure of John Robinson seems to resemble that of Henry Butler (d.1647) at Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire.  The position is reversed and Robinson's legs are positioned differently and enclosed in the shroud, but the draping of the fabric over the upper body, leaving the face clear, is similar. Butler's monument (ascribed to Burman) has been linked to that of William Curle at Hatfield by Nicholas Stone: are there other comparanda?

What the designer of the Robinson monument has done is to combine the latest form of the supine shrouded figure with the speech-scroll.  Speech-scrolls are common on brasses and their use extends to at least the 1590s, for example on the brasses to Henry Rolle (d.c.1625) and his wife Margaret Yeo (d.1591) at Petrockstowe, Devon, which were probably erected after her death. Shrouded figures with speech-scrolls survive in smaller numbers, but there is a clear indent of such a brass at Great Livermere, Suffolk, where the shrouded figures flank what was probably a Resurrection scene. Great Liveremere has surviving fragmentary wall-paintings of the Three Living and the Three Dead, and a noli me tangere scene, which may resonate with this brass.

As Peter Sherlock points out, the words on the speech-scroll changed at the Reformation from prayers to affirmations of faith, but they were invariably religious in content. Here the words that come out of the dead man's mouth are not addressed to the Virgin Mary, or to God, but to his lover, Sarah Smith. While this obviously carries on the theme of love triumphing over death, there is an element of blasphemy in it: John Robinson's faith is directed to his earthly lover, rather than to his heavenly creator.

There may be another theme here: John Robinson speaks to Sarah Smith from the grave. This is a common motif in ballads, the best-known being The Unquiet Grave (there are many recordings of this available: I like the one by Ian Campbell). This was not recorded until 1868, but close parallels are documented as early as 1740, and it reflects a much older tradition that is widespread in Europe. In The Unquiet Grave the lover cannot get over the death of his beloved, who speaks to him from her grave, saying that his mourning will not let her soul be at rest. She points out that her body is now an object of disgust and infection and recommends that he accept the transitoriness of life:

So make yourself content, my love

Till death calls you away.

The monument combines a group of tropes – the shroud monument, the speech-scroll, the unquiet grave – to produce an affirmation of undying love. Whether this was devised by Sarah Smith or by the local provider of ledger stones is not clear, but whoever did it was familiar with the traditions of funerary commemoration and able to produce a sophisticated melange for an individual client.

Sarah Smith's devotion did not go unrecognised.  When John Robinson Sr died the year after his son he included her in his will, leaving her five pounds, the same amount that he left his wife over and above her pre-nup entitlement (together with a selection of choice household items). To the children of someone to whom he was evidently connected, either by marriage or kinship, he left one pound each. To his grandchildren by his daughter (his only child at death) he left family pieces. Sarah Smith ranks in his will slightly behind his wife, but above other connections – his daughter was his residuary legatee. It is obvious that even after John Robinson's death Sarah Smith was a beloved member of the Robinson family.


Suggestions for further reading:

Peter Sherlock, Monuments and memory in Early Modern England (Aldershot, 2008)

For more information about ledgerstones and how to help preserve and record them, see the Ledgerstone Survey of England and Wales <>


Monument of the Month - October 2014

A Fool’s Monument?

The Tomb Slab of Hans Has at Wertheim, Germany

The town of Wertheim, which is located about 40 kilometers to the west of Würzburg on the confluence of the rivers Main and Tauber in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, is well-known for its many splendid funeral monuments and epitaphs of the counts of Wertheim and their successors, the counts of Löwenstein, in the Stiftskirche.[1] Further monuments and tomb slabs of citizens, clerics, and others have been preserved vis-à-vis in the delightful late gothic Kilianskapelle, and among them there is one of the most intriguing late medieval monuments of the region: The tomb slab commemorating a man called Hans Has in the guise of a court jester by an unknown local sculptor (fig. 1).[2]

Fig. 1: Tomb Slab of Hans Has, Kilianskapelle Wertheim (Photo by Gertrud K.: /9362339849)

Measuring 182 by 102 centimeters, the sandstone slab shows Has’s less than lifesize effigy, which is carved in high relief and retains some of its original paint. Standing on a dog, he wears a robe that is partly buttoned down his chest, belted at the waist, and ends in what appears to be a broad ornamental border covering his knees and thus most of his hosed legs, which are stuck in heavy thigh boots; the ample sleeves are gathered at the wrists and reveal the cuffs of his shirt, which can also be seen on his upper chest where some of the buttons are left open. What marks this outfit as a fool’s or jester’s costume, however, is the pocket in the righthand sleeve with its two rather damaged flutes and of course the hood emerging from the robe’s collar with its two ass’s ears with bells and a coxcomb down the centre.[3] This style of fool’s attire is typical for the time around 1500 as a number of Netherlandish paintings of laughing fools show, which in their turn inspired Heinrich Vogtherr the Younger’s woodcut of a fool of c. 1540 (fig. 2).[4] Unlike these merry fools, however, the finely sculpted face of Hans Has looks worried, if not downright distressed: his brow is furrowed, his crudely repainted wide-open eyes are directed heavenwards, and the corners of his mouth beneath the chipped-off nose point downwards. All merriment is gone as Has prepares to meet his maker, and it is certainly no coincidence that his haggard features are reminiscent of the suffering faces that feature in many of Tilman Riemenschneider’s masterly altarpieces and crucifixes carved in nearby Würzburg, which had a great influence on the development of sculpture throughout the region. The religious component is furthermore stressed by the badly damaged rosary in his right hand, of which only a few beads survive though its outline is still traceable.[5] The monument also documents Hans’s social standing as a member of a family which had prospered by its close contacts to the court as the shield with his canting arms of a running hare (“Hase”) in his left hand demonstrates

Fig. 2: Heinrich Vogtherr the Younger: Der Schalksnarr. Woodcut, c. 1540 (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig: _php_obj_z0057408.html)

The effigy is framed by an insciption which reads: “Anno / d[omi]ni / mo / cccco / lxxx / xi / jar / an aller / sellen / tag / starb / hans / has / geborn / von / remling / reuter / hans ge[ann]nt / der / gewesen / ist / ein / getrewer / diner / der / herschaft / d[em] / g[ott] / g[nade]” (In the year of the Lord 1491 on All Souls’ Day died Hans Has, born at Remlingen, called Hans the rider, who was a faithful servant of the sovereignty, on whom God may have mercy).[6] Archival records confirm that Hans Has, whose parents are unkown, was born in the nearby village of Remlingen into a family with connections to the county’s administration. It is uncertain when Has entered the counts’ employ, but it is assumed that he may already have worked for count Georg I (+1454), the father of Has’s master of many years, count Johann III (+1497). Interestingly, the slab’s inscription does not identify him as court jester but as “reuter” (i.e. a rider running errands and acting as messenger for his master). This is corroborated by other sources which furthermore identify Has as a juryman and judge in Dertingen, a village about halfway between his birthplace and Wertheim. Again, there is no hint whatsoever that he might also have been employed as court jester.[7]

In his article on a tomb slab featuring, among other things, an ass playing a bagpipe, Heimo Reintzer has convincigly refuted the assumption that because of his attire Hans Has must have been a jester even though he is not identified as such in the slab’s inscription and the archival records. Instead, Reintzer argues that depictions of animals making music and ass-eared fools with musical instruments (Has, as we have seen, carries two flutes in his sleeve pocket) often appear as symbols of mundus reversus, the world turned upside down, which imply a critique of the present times and, especially in the case of a funerary monument, an awareness of the folly and the futility of all worldly longings and aspirations.[8] This interpretation also explains the haunted look on Has’s face as he realizes that his only hope rests in God on high, whence he has turned his gaze. Consequently he abjures the gaudy and foolish vanities of his earthly existence, which are symbolised by his apparel.

Though in the end Hans Has was in all likelyhood not a jester in real life, his exceptional tomb slab just across the street from the magnificent monuments of the counts of Wertheim and Löwenstein in the Stiftskirche deserves more attention than it has hitherto garnerd. Late medieval and early modern monuments with depictions of the deceased in jester’s or fool’s attire are extremely rare, and the one dedicated to the memory of Hans Has is one of the earliest, if not the earliest. Later examples, this time of real jesters, include the memorial for the famous fourteenth-century fool Till Eulenspiegel at Mölln, Schleswig-Hollstein, which was however only errected in 1536, and the tomb slab of Hans Gerl, the bishop of Passau’s jester, of 1565.[9]

[1] For an amply illustrated introduction to the most important monuments, cf. Jörg Paczkowski (2012). Die evangelische Stiftskirche zu Wertheim. Gerchsheim: Kunstschätzeverlag. An in-depth discussion is offered by Judith Wipfler (1996). “Der Chor der Wertheimer Stiftskirche als herrschaftliche Grablege. Die Epitaphien der Regenten bis ins frühe 17. Jahrhundert.“ Wertheimer Jahrbuch , pp. 87-178.

[2] So far, Hans Has’s monument has received surprisingly little scholarly attention; cf. especially Ernst Cucuel, Hermann Eckert (1942). Die Inschriften des badischen Main- und Taubergrundes. Die Deutschen Inschriften 1. Stuttgart: Metzlersche Verlagsbuchhandlung, p. 177 (no. 180), Vital Huhn (1959). “Löwe und Hund als Gerichtssymbole auf zwei Wertheimer Denkmälern.” Wertheimer Jahrbuch, pp. 26-30, and Ernst Vollhardt (1964). “Zwei Grabdenkmäler für Narren. In Wertheim des Hofnarren Hans Has – in Mölln des Schalknarren Till Eulenspiegel.” Spessart, pp. 5-6

[3] The description of the effigy loosely follows Vollhardt, p. 5. Vollhardt also suggests that the curious object to the left of the head is a jester’s cup.

[4] Cf. e.g. the painting tentatively attributed to Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen of c. 1500 in the collection of the Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA: d=0 (accessed 6 August 2014).

[5] Cucuel/Eckert and Vollhardt identify the rosary as a ring of bells but the comparison with some of the other nearly contemporary slabs in the Kilianskapelle of citizens and clerics with rosaries suggests that Hans also holds a rosary as a sign of his piety.

[6] My translation. Transcription based on Cucuel/Eckert. Vollhardt’s transcription (ibid.) is incomplete.

[7] All biographical information is based on Huhn, p. 30.

[8] Cf. Heimo Reinitzer (1980). “Asinus ad tibiam. Zur Ikonographie einer Hamburger Grabplatte.” Litteratura Laicorum: Beiträge zur christlichen Kunst, ed. idem. Vestigia Bibliae: Jahrbuch des Deutschen Bibel-Archivs Hamburg 2, pp. 89-125, here pp. 100-102.

[9] For the Eulenspiegel memorial, cf. Vollhardt, p. 5f.; for Gerl’s monument, cf. Lutz S. Malke, ed. (2001). Narren. Porträts, Feste, Sinnbilder, Schwankbücher und Spielkarten aus dem 15. bis 17. Jahrhundert. Leipzig: Faber & Faber, pp. 28 (fig. 30), 64. Cf. also Vincent Mayr (1975). “Zur Darstellung des Narren auf Grabsteinen.” Ars Bavarica. Archivalisches Jahrbuch für Bauforschung und Kunstgeschichte in Bayern 3. pp. 21-30.

Dr Martin Spies

Monument of the Month - September 2014

Row On Row (1)

        Historic Tewkesbury Abbey draws thousands of visitors each year to marvel at its rich architecture and outstanding monuments.  The Abbey, now the parish church of St Mary, has possibly the largest and most impressive Romanesque tower in England.  The West front is one of the finest original Norman examples now existing.  The chancel has superb 14C stained glass and throughout the Abbey there are magnificent vaults, many of the lierne style with interesting bosses.  There are three chantry chapels of the stone-cage type and the carved tombs and effigies are considered to be surpassed only by the royal ensemble at Westminster Abbey.(2)   On the roof of the Trinity Chapel is the unique life-size kneeling effigy of Lord Despenser praying towards the altar.  There is also a cadaver monument including five vermin crawling over the body.

        Although surrounded by such competing attractions it is noticeable that visitors who wander down the south aisle of the nave invariably stop at the simplest monument in the Abbey.

       This is the wooden battlefield cross of Gunner Walter Roberts who was killed in action July 2nd, 1918, while serving with the Royal Garrison Artillery, and is buried in the Canada Farm Cemetery, Ieper (Ypres), Belgium.  It was placed in Tewkesbury Abbey by his widow on the fifth anniversary of his death.

       A few miles from Tewkesbury, but still in Gloucestershire, another wooden cross can be found in St Peter's Church, Stanway.  This is even simpler than that of Gunner Roberts.  It commemorates 2/Lieutenant Hon Ivo Charteris (an initial 'J' is wrongly given on the cross) fourth son of the 11th Earl of Weymss.  He was killed in action at Loos on October 17th, 1915, while serving with the Grenadier Guards and is buried at Sailly Labourse.  An elder bother, Hugo Lord Elcho, was subsequently killed in action on April 23rd, 1916, in the Katia Desert, Sinai.  Their names are included on the war memorial in the church, cut into the splays of the C16 chancel window, with lettering by Eric Gill.


 Gunner Walter Roberts       2/Lt Hon Ivo Charteris

      In death no distinction was made to military or social rank in the form of the wooden cross, a policy that was deliberately continued with the permanent grave stones which were all of the same dimensions (2'6''x1'6''x3'').  The manufacture of the crosses appears eventually to have devolved to the battalion's carpenters, so variations can be found although they all followed a basic form.

       Examples of crosses being made in the field on an ad hoc basis are known.  Amongst others,   siblings, acquaintances, members of the Grave Registration Commission and estate workers are known to have manufactured crosses.    The identifying of the graves was important to the relatives of the soldiers and for the morale of the troops.  Initially it had been hoped to repatriate all the bodies but the sheer number and cost rendered this impractical.  A few bodies were brought home privately by families with the means to do this.  However, it was quickly realised that only wealthy families would be able to do so.  The practice of repatriation was explicitly banned in 1915

      Gloucester Cathedral contains an impressive monument, on the north side of the nave, to Sir Fabian Ware.  Such was the regard in which he was held that the monument was paid for by public subscription.  A smaller stone inscribed 'In memoriam Fabian Ware 1869-1949' is located in St George's Chapel (formerly known as the Warriors Chapel) in Westminster Abbey.  Through the inspiration and determination of Sir Fabian Ware, more than any other individual, the recording of the location and details of graves of the soldiers in the battle zone was begun.  After the war he was instrumental in the formation of what is now known as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC).(3,4)

      Having had a career in education and as an editor of a newspaper, Fabian Ware was 45 when the Great War broke out.  He attempted to volunteer but was considered too old to fight and instead joined the Red Cross.  A fluent French speaker, he arrived in France in September 1914 to command a mobile Red Cross ambulance unit.  He soon realised that there was no official body with the responsibility to record and care for the graves of the soldiers.  Therefore his unit began recording and caring for all the graves they could find.  The Army quickly recognised the importance of this work and he and his organisation were transferred from the Red Cross to the Army in 1915 as the Graves Registration Commission.  Ware was given the local rank of major.  By 1918 some 587,000 graves had been identified, while a further 559,000 were registered as having no known grave.

       He subsequently realised that something needed to be done to establish permanent cemeteries after the war in order to create lasting memorials to the fallen soldiers.  Through his tireless efforts the Imperial War Graves Commission was formed on the 21st of May, 1917, fronted by the Prince of Wales with Ware as the Vice-Chairman.  The Commission eventually changed Imperial in the title to Commonwealth (CWGC).  The highly decorated and esteemed Major General Sir Fabian Ware died April 29th, 1949, and is buried in the graveyard of Holy Trinity Church, Amberley, in Gloucestershire.  He was honoured by receiving a Commonwealth Grave style headstone which is maintained to this day by the CWGC.


Gloucester Cathedral    Amberley churchyard

      Anyone who visits the CWGC cemeteries in Northern France and Belgium cannot but be moved by their dignified and immaculate appearance and saddened by the carnage occasioned by the Great War.  A similar sense of the sacrifice and loss can be experienced here by finding, proudly displayed in a local church, one of the wooden crosses.  During the war it was official policy to allow only the erection of wooden crosses rather than iron because of their lighter weight which made transportation easier in the field and also they could be readily replaced if damaged by enemy action.  When the permanent cemeteries were created it was planned to  have all the crosses pointing east.  This would satisfy both religious and military conventions.  When the crosses were replaced by the distinctive permanent Portland or Hopton Wood stone grave stones the wooden ones were made available to relatives.  Relatives could either travel to the battlefields to collect the wooden crosses or pay to have them shipped to England.  For many relatives they were the only memorial easily available to them.  These crosses became an important part of local remembrance and still exert a strong emotional appeal today.  A compilation of the location of First World War crosses used to be available on the internet but has now been removed.  It listed over 230 different sites in the UK.  Gloucestershire alone had some 14 site entries.

    With 2014 being the one hundredth anniversary of the start of the Great War it is fitting to recall the final lines of 'The Cross of Wood' by the Gloucestershire poet Lieutenant Cyril Winterbothan.(5)  Serving with the 1st/5th  Gloucestershire regiment he was killed in action on August 27th , 1916, near Ovillers-la-Boiselle and is listed on the Thiepval memorial among the 72,085 names of those without a known grave.

'Rest you content; more honourable far

Than all the Orders is the Cross of Wood'


1.   Taken from the first verse of in Flanders Fields by the Canadian poet Major John McCrae.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

2.                  The Buildings Of England, Gloucestershire 2:  The Vale And The Forest of Dean, David Verey and Alan Brooks, Yale University Press, London, 2009, pp712-728.


4.                  Empires of the Dead, David Crane, Harper Collins, 2013.

5.                  The Cross of Wood published in The Muse in Arms, editor E B Osborne, 1918.  The 'Wooden Cross' was submitted to the regimental trench newspaper the '5th Gloster' the day before Lieutenant Winterbothan was killed

Robert Tucker

Monument of the Month - August 2014

The monument to Lady Wolryche, 1678:

the Lady with the Lute

 St Andrew’s church in the Shropshire village of Quatt stands on a small hill just outside the village. At first glance the church appears Georgian and much of the building dates from the 1760s but other features suggest a late Saxon origin. Entering via the porch at the west end, Lady Wolryche’s monument is positioned on the north wall to the left of two large table tombs commemorating Francis Wolryche (II) died 1689 and Sir Thomas Wolryche died 1668.   Sir Thomas was knighted by Charles I in July 1641 and created first Baron Wolryche later that same year. During the civil war he raised troops for the Royalist cause and was later appointed governor of Bridgenorth Castle.

 Sir Thomas’ son, Sir Francis was declared insane and his fifth son, John, took over the estate and engaged Smith of Warwick as the architect to build the Dower House, a remarkable building, which occupies a site immediately opposite the church. This John (1637-85) was by profession a lawyer who was called to the Bar in 1661. He married Mary, daughter of Revd Dr Matthew Griffin, Chaplain to Charles I and Charles II and widow of George Elphick by whom she had one son, in about 1670. John died of smallpox in 1685. The main residence of the Wolryche family was Dudmaston Hall, in the possession of the family from 1403, and now in the care of the National Trust. The house contains a number of portraits of the family, including John Wolryche, but unfortunately not one of Mary.

Lady Mary’s monument consists of a plain base with a moulded black marble top on which the effigy of Lady Mary reclines. Her upper body rests against a tassled cushion, her head supported by the right arm while her left hand holds a lute. She is dressed in a very revealing and low cut flowing gown while her hair falls in ringlets around her shoulders. Rising behind the effigy is a pair of candy-twist columns that support a plain entablature – with a winged cherub head in the centre - and an open segmental canopy complete with garlanded urn. At either end of the canopy is a Baroque cartouche of arms. A long Latin inscription details her life, family and death in childbirth at the age of 41.

She was an accomplished singer and musician – hence the lute – and this is the only monument of the period to show a musical instrument.

Clearly a high quality monument and sculpted by a master craftsman, the obvious question is, who made it? The pose of the figure, while not uncommon at this time, perhaps owes something to the innovations brought about by John Bushnell, but Lady Wolryche is clearly not Bushnell’s work. Lady Mary’s monument bears some similarity of execution to that of Thomas Vyner, erected 1673 originally at London, St Mary Woolnoth and now at Gauntby, Lincs. While the Vyner monument has very bold acanthus volutes with winged cherub heads either side of the inscription panel on the base, the effigy has a broadly similar treatment to that of Lady Mary. Also related to these monuments is that in the chapel of St John’s College Oxford to Richard Baylie, 1667. Here the extended left leg follows a broadly similar style to that of Lady Mary although the angle of the raised right knee is much sharper. None of the architectural features appear to equate with one another but it is in the finer details that similarities begin to emerge, especially in the treatment of the edge of the mat on which the effigies lie.

These monuments all share a possible common origin – the workshop of Jasper Latham. Latham actually signs or can be directly related to only four monuments but, as a leading sculptor and mason contractor who worked under Wren following the Great Fire of London in 1666, he must have had a very large practice. The records of the Mason’s Company list several of Latham’s apprentices and it is reasonable to assume that many of the monuments attributed to Latham were actually produced by the apprentices and journeymen under Latham’s direction. By stylistic analysis it is reasonable to attribute Lady Wolryche’s monument to Latham’s workshop.


  Dr Clive J Easter FSA


Monument of the Month - July 2114

Brecon Cathedral: a post-Reformation cross slab

Half hidden by the carpet in the St Keyne’s Chapel in Brecon Cathedral, tucked under the heating pipes on the north wall, is a seventeenth-century ledger stone. Battered and worn, with key parts of the inscription spalled off, it is nevertheless one of the most fascinating stones in a building full of interest for the student of monumental carving.

The stone commemorates a Richard John William who married Gwladis daughter of Phillip Price and died in the 1620s. The names of their children have all but disappeared. There is replacement stonework in a central panel, probably where the slab has been damaged by reuse. But the key features are plain to see. The first is that the stone has an ornate cross head. Crosses on memorials after the Reformation are extremely rare in England, but in south-east Wales they are virtually the norm on seventeenth-century ledger stones. Some are probably medieval stones recut with later inscriptions, but most are clearly later in style, with inscriptions that appear to be part of the original design.

The crosses on post-Reformation memorials in Glamorgan are plain to the point of austerity, often just parallel lines with a simple calvary base. In north Monmouthshire and south Breconshire, though, there is a range of ornate baroque styles, suggesting several schools of local stonemasons each with its own pattern book. The stone in the St Keyne’s Chapel at Brecon has a cross head with an elaborate design of interlaced hearts and square-based fleurs-de-lys. Other ledger stones in the cathedral have slightly simpler crosses with similar fleurs-de-lys. Some of the crosses in north Monmouthshire have very distinctive scrolled bases and endearingly naive figures flanking the cross shafts. Most of the Monmouthshire stones have incised text but the Brecon stones have false-relief capitals rather reminiscent of the false-relief Lombardic capitals that characterise the medieval slabs of north Wales.

The second significant feature on the Brecon stone is the IHS trigram at the centre of the cross head. The IHS trigram is common enough on later medieval stones, reflecting the increased popularity of the cult of the Holy Name of Jesus. But all the medieval examples are in blackletter script. On this stone, the trigram is in square capitals, in the form popularised by Ignatius Loyola as the visual identity of his new order the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits.

The Brecon ledger stone is clearly not that of a Jesuit: but did it commemorate a Jesuit sympathiser? IHS emblems are not as common in post-Reformation south-east Wales as cross slabs, but there are a number of other examples: at least two more in Brecon, five in Abergavenny and a scatter across northern Monmouthshire. As with the cross slabs, there are few outside south-east Wales and the western border of Herefordshire before the end of the seventeenth century. The IHS emblem was regarded by many as ‘popish’ but it had a marked resurgence in popularity in the early seventeenth century under the influence of Arminianism and the revival of ritualism in the established church. In spite of its Jesuit connections the square capitals style seems to have been more acceptable than black letter with its undertones of the medieval church. It appeared on church plate and furnishings, though much of the latter was destroyed during the Puritan resurgence in the 1640s and 1650s.

South-east Wales was one of the strongholds of Catholic recusancy after the Reformation. Some of those commemorated with cross slabs and IHS emblems were certainly Catholic, or had Catholic sympathies. One of the cross slabs in Brecon commemorates a Lewis Havard, who died in 1569. That one has a Latin inscription concluding with the prayer ‘cuius anime Deus propicietur’. The Havards were one of Breconshire’s leading Catholic families, though confessional lines were not as clearly drawn in 1569 as they would be after the bull Regnans in Excelsis in 1570. One of the IHS stones in Abergavenny commemorates a ‘RG’ who died in 1672. Could this have been one of the Gunters, Abergavenny’s leading Catholic family? But most of the people commemorated by these stones cannot be indentified in any of the lists of Catholics. One stone in the Havard chapel at Brecon has the full Jesuit emblem – IHS trigram, nails and pierced heart, set in a sunburst – but it commemorates Ann Bulcott, daughter of Lewis Morgan, who was vicar of Brecon in the 1620s. Some of the Bulcotts were Catholics but the Brecon branch of the family was ostentatiously conformist and Ann’s son served as sheriff of the county in 1679

The stone in the St Keyne’s Chapel is if anything even more conspicuously loyalist. Much of the text has spalled off but you can clearly see, under the cross head, the words ‘Honor the King’ – the second part of the motto ‘Fear God, Honour the King’. Most of the text on the stone is in false-relief capitals, but the motto is in blackletter, which could have been intended to emphasise its separate nature: the false-relief capitals are the family details, the motto has more to do with belief.

It is particularly unfortunate that the final digit of the date is missing. The memorial dates from some time in the 1620s: and we do know that from 1621 to 1627 the bishop of St David’s (the medieval diocese covering Brecon) was none other than William Laud. He was already one of the leaders of the ‘Arminian’ group in the Church of England (though his theology was never explicitly Arminian) and of course went on to serve as Charles I’s Archbishop of Canterbury and to be executed in 1645. If the memorial dates from his period at St David’s, it could be evidence for his encouragement of ceremonialism, visual ornamentation and the ‘beauty of holiness’ combined with loyalty to the Crown and the Royal Supremacy.  

However, this ledger stone is clearly in the tradition of the other memorials of south-east Wales. Some of the people who commissioned them might have had Catholic sympathies, open or covert, but in most cases one suspects they would have identified themselves as loyal members of the established church. The same kind of stubborn traditionalism can also be found in the religious practices of the period. Bishops wrung their hands and tore their hair over pilgrimages, candles, and what Robinson of Bangor called ‘lewde and indecent vigils’: but these were never a threat to the authority of church or state.

More about the cross slabs of south-east Wales

at,,, and

Maddy Gray and Rhianydd Biebrach are planning to organise either a study day or an excursion to Brecon to look at the medieval and post-medieval stones in the Cathedral and in Christ College (the former Domincan friary). Watch this space, as they say.


Dr Maddy Gray PhD

Monument of the Month - June 2014

A military effigy

St James's Church, Iddesleigh, Devon


We are very fortunate in England in that a large number of medieval effigies have survived, often in an excellent state of preservation,  despite destruction and loss during religious upheavals, unfortunate restorations or just the ravages of time. They may be found in medieval churches, of course, often in small and isolated ones, this isolation possibly limiting active destruction, but  may be also found in modern churches, where they may have been preserved from an earlier church, moved from a nearby church or found buried during excavations and restorations

I have included this effigy in the Monument of the Month series not because it is particularly notable but rather because it is a walk down the road from where I presently live. Iddesleigh is a small village with the church, a rather fine pub and a few houses, all of which may well be missed as you pass through on narrow road which almost serves as a by-pass.

St James's originates from the 13th century but is mainly 15th century; it was partly rebuilt in 1720 and restored in the early 19th. The effigy is tucked away and easily missed, being under a low arch in the north wall of the north aisle, behind the organ in what, although Pevsner calls it a chapel, is more a broom cupboard for cleaning materials. It clearly does not belong under this later recess but the original position can  not now be ascertained.

The effigy is of a military figure, of oolithic limestone -1, nearly six feet in length and in a fairly good state of preservations; it dates from about 1250. There is no remaining paintwork.



The figure lies recumbent and with crossed legs -2, his head resting on a single rectangular pillow with no supporters, his feet on a lion, whose tail can been seen between the feet. His right hand passes across his body and rests on his shield, his left on the scabbard of his sheathed sword.

He wears a knee length mail shirt (hauberk) with long sleeves with attached gauntlets. A narrow strap passes around each wrist to hold these in position. His head is covered by a separate mail hood (coif) and this is tightened by a strap which can be seen above the forehead, A flap of this coif (the ventail) can also be seen to be fastened to this strap on the right hand side; presumably the neck was open in order to put on the coif, which was then closed by folding and tying this ventail to the other side of the coif. Above this coif can be seen the swelling of a padded arming cap which would have supported the great helm. He wears mail stockings and again  narrow straps can be seen, which also appear to join with pads, possibly made of leather, protecting the knees . The mail is represented by parallel rows of C's with the C's being reversed in alternate rows; because of the state of wear this is not obvious in many places.

His shield, which shows no heraldry, is held by a belt across his right shoulder and his sword with one across his hip; the buckles for both of these belts can clearly be seen. There is also a thin belt around his waiste hold the surcost in position. Prick spurs are shown strapped to his feet. Over his armour he wears a surcoat reaching to mid calf; this falls open at the front showing the underlying armour.

Who does this effigy represent? As stated there is no heraldry carved on the shield and, if it were painted it has long gone. Neither is there any inscription.  However Rogers -3 , quoting Westcote -4, states that it is of Sir John Sully, who lived in the area at the relevant period. However I do not know if there is any strong evidence for this claim.

John K Bromilow MInstP

-1 Mark Downing FSA Military Effigies of England & Wales Volume 2 states that this is Dundry stone, which indicates the material from which the effigy is constructed was at least quarried in the Bristol region.

-2 Note: military effigies of this period (from about 1250) and in England have crossed legs; earlier effigies have straight legs as do later ones. More rarely effigies of male civilians, and even ladies, have crossed legs, although, because of long gowns, are not so noticeable and rather pointless to depict. It is nothing to do with the Crusades, although this is often still stated and asked about; in fact, the reason for crossed legs is not known but is probably merely a 'fashion' to add interest to the sculpture.

-3 W H Hamilton Rogers FSA The Ancient Sepulchral Effigies and Monumental and Memorial Sculpture of Devon 1877 Published by the author

-4 Thomas Westcote (c. 1567 - c.1637) A View of Devonshire.Westcote was a historian and topographer of Devon.

Monument of the Month - May 2014

 A monument with a story

Double monument said to commemorate Lady Constantia and her son John, St Leonard’s church, Scarcliffe (Derbyshire)

 The monument of Lady Constantia and her infant son John in the Derbyshire village of Scarcliffe was conserved in 2007 with financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Council for the Care of Churches. Moved several times inside the church during its history, it is nowadays placed on a new stone plinth alongside the north wall of the nave. It was previously recorded by Charles Stothard and Richard Gough. Scarcliffe is proud of its monument, which is unusual but probably not quite what it seems.

Fig 1. Etching by Basire published in Gough's Sepulchral Monuments 1796

Fig 2. Etching by B. Howlett from a drawing by Charles Stothard, published in the latter's Monumental Effigies 1827


The magnesian limestone monument is curiously flat and archaic in style, but hard to date.  It shows a recumbent female effigy with an inexpressive face and plaited hair. She wears a long gown and a cloak fastened with a decorated cord that she clasps in her right hand – a common motif on medieval figure sculpture. The drapery is rather clumsily executed. (Fig 3) A grinning lion supports her crowned head (Fig 4) while her feet rest on what appears to be a crouching dog. (Fig 5) The latter’s head and right front leg are timber replacements of a later date. The effigy is broken across the lower legs

Fig 3.

Figs 4 and 5

On her left arm Constantia carries a little boy, whose feet are placed on a stiff-leaf corble that appears to be floating without any support. John’s right hand touches his mother’s cheek in a typical tender gesture also found on medieval Madonnas. (Figs 6, 7 & 8) In his left hand the child holds a long, broken scroll with an incised Latin inscription in Lombardic letters. (Fig 9) The partly reconstructed leonine hexameters read

Hic sv[b hvmo strata m]vlier iacet intvmvlata, Constans et grata, Constancia ivre vocata, Cvm genitrice data proles reqviescit hvmata. Qvanqvam pecc[ata capiti ei]us sint cvmvlata, Crimine pvrgata cvm prole Iohanne beata Vivat, prefata sanctorvm sede locata. Amen

 (Here placed beneath this earth a woman lies buried. Constant and gracious, she was rightly called Constance. The child she was given lies buried with its mother. Although sins accumulated to her person, may she live, purged from crime, blessed with her child John, located in the aforesaid seat of the saints. Amen.)


Fig 6.& 7  

Fig 8


Fig 9

Apart from the names Constantia and John, the text mentions no family name or patronym nor even a date of death. Lombardic lettering can be difficult to date stylistically and there is no heraldry to help us identify the mother and her child or date the tomb. Nikolaus Pevsner ignored the tomb in his 1953 Derbyshire volume, but the 1979 edition describes it as a ‘beautiful C13 effigy of a woman (probably Constantia de Frecheville † 1175)’. Constantia is an unusual name at this time, but the reputed link with the de Frecheville family cannot be substantiated nor her death in 1175. Stothard dated the monument as thirteenth-century, yet Harry Tummers excluded it from his 1980 study Early secular effigies in England: the thirteenth century. Other scholars have dated it to the fourteenth century, including Arthur Gardner and the jewellery expert Richard Lightbown.

In 1710 the Derby herald-painter and antiquary Francis Bassano (1675-1746) recorded an intriguing local legend of how Lady Constantia was pregnant when she found herself lost in the nearby forest. The sound of Scarcliffe’s church bells guided her to safety and she was delivered of a son. In gratitude she ordered a piece of land – varying in size from two to four or five acres in accounts from 1682 on – to be given to the church for the maintenance of the bell ropes and for ringing curfew in perpetuity. A wooden board painted in 1832 records this bequest. The story ends sadly: mother and child both died – in the year 1000, according to Bassano.

The story reads like a folk tale. Yet despite the absence of contemporary records relating to a lady named Constantia, a new church guide proposes a twelfth-century date for Scarcliffe’s grand monument. It also claims rather fancifully that the woman commemorated is Constance ‘FitzHenry’, illegitimate daughter of King Henry I by one of his many mistresses, and ultimately the 23rd grandmother of the late Diana, Princess of Wales. A previously unrecognised royal memorial in a village church in rural Derbyshire reads like a fairy-tale  and probably is just that.

The monument that we see in Scarcliffe today is unlikely to date from the twelfth century, before the period when effigies to the laity are known in England. In fact, it is probably not medieval at all: its condition is too good for such an early date, various aspects suggest different dates, and the iconography suggests heavy borrowing from typical medieval sculpture – most notably the Madonna and Child – in order to create a medieval pastiche. Crucial is the account of 1710 by Bassano, who recorded the moment as being ‘fine but very Antient’ and described the crown or coronet as ‘mostly broken off’. More importantly, he added that he ‘could not Read ye Scroyle’. This is curious, for even in the present broken state of the banderole the inscription is not difficult to read and certainly should not have been so for an antiquary. However, did Bassano describe the same monument that we still see in the church today, or was he looking at an earlier monument than the one we see today?

There may well have been a medieval monument at Scarcliffe that inspired a local legend but became so battered over time that a replacement was needed to keep the tale alive. A similar case is the so-called ‘Stanley boy’ effigy in Elford (Staffordshire), a ‘restored’ miniature effigy that was described here as the Monument of the Month for February 2010. Alternatively the monument may have been created specifically to lend substance to an earlier local legend. Either way, we probably have here not a grand medieval tomb, but a post-medieval forgery by an unknown sculptor.


See also:

● Sophie Oosterwijk, ‘“A swithe feire graue”. The appearance of children on medieval tomb monuments’, in Richard Eales and Shaun Tyas (eds), Family and dynasty in the Middle Ages (1997 Harlaxton Symposium Proceedings) Harlaxton Medieval Studies, 9 (Donington: Shaun Tyas, 2003), 172-92.

● Sophie Oosterwijk, ‘Madonnas, mothers, mites, and the macabre: three examples of medieval mother-and-child tomb iconography’, Church Monuments, 18 (2003), 10-22.

● Sophie Oosterwijk, ‘Deceptive appearances. The presentation of children on medieval tombs’, Ecclesiology Today, 42 (2010 – theme issue on church monuments edited by Sally Badham), 43-58.

● Trevor Skirrey, ‘The legendary Lady Constantia of Scarcliffe’ (Tony Bell, 2008), ISBN 978-0-9537775-2-5.