Church Monuments Society

thumbnail Thomas Stewkeley Hinton Ampner

He Promise Did A Hopefull Man: Epitaphs to Children in the Early Modern Era



Online lecture

Funerary monuments commemorating dead children are relatively rare in the Middle Ages, and even in the 16th century children tend to feature as part of their parents’ memorials rather than as individuals in their own right. From the early 17th century onwards, there is a change. Children start getting their own memorials, often using language and imagery that emphasise their young age, childlike qualities and early demise. Dr Lena Wahlgren-Smith will be talking about epitaphs to children from southern England and how the death of a child is framed in a memorial setting: as unseasonal loss, as a warning of the transitory nature of life on earth, or as a Christian example of resignation.

Dr Lena Wahlgren-Smith trained as a classicist and historian at the University of Göteborg, Sweden. Her doctoral research was on the textual tradition of the 12thcentury writer Peter of Blois, and resulted in a monograph published in 1993. Her interest in funerary inscriptions rose out of a role as Latin tutor at Southampton University. Part of the teaching duties involved introducing students to Roman epigraphy. When Lena needed short authentic texts to illustrate points of Latin grammar, it was a natural decision to turn to epigraphical material from her local area (Hampshire). She trawled local parish churches in search of Latin inscriptions, and soon found a wealth of material. The life stories presented on tombs tied in with her work on identity and self-presentation in epistolography, as well as with a personal interest in language and bilingualism.


Event Information

This is one of a series of online talks delivered by the Church Monuments Society. Our online talks are FREE to all, but we do welcome donations towards the cost of setting up. You can donate easily by PayPal: go to .

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