Church Monuments Society

Obedience Nevitt

Obedience Nevitt

Month: February 2017
Type: Board / Plaque / Tablet  
Era: 17th Century

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St Bartholomews Church
High St,
TN19 7EH

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The memorial that commemorates Obedience Nevitt at Burwash in East Sussex, seen by those who attended the society’s symposium at Herstmoceux last September, is deceptively modest, just four pieces of alabaster, the topmost a half-circle inscribed ‘An Epitaphe’, the second has an heraldic oval to the left side (the charge recorded as argent a double-headed eagle displayed sable), and on the right ‘In memorie of Obedience Nevitt wife of Thomas Nevitt of London Gentleman and daughter of Robert Cruttenden of this parish’. The third and the top of the fourth are occupied by a verse epitaph. Below the final couplet are details of Obedience’s life and of the charity her husband confirmed in her memory:-

{ Borne 18 April 1587

Shee was { Married 11 March J604

{ Buried 15 1619

And in whose further memorie Her said

Husband and hath in his life time confirmed to

This Parishe an anuitie of 50 Shillinge eight

Pence to be disposed on Yearlie For ever as

Is declared in a table heareunto annexed

The annexed table is no longer apparent and nor are its contents recorded although charitable bequests to Burwash are included in Thomas’s will of 1633 and are still in effect. Obedience’s memorial is a cenotaph – she and her husband were buried in London at the church of St Benet Paul’s Wharf. Thomas’s will made provision for the cleaning of the monument to Obedience he had erected there among a number of charitable bequests and early the next century Strype recorded ‘A Table hanging up where a Monument stood before the Fire, for Tho. Nevet, and Obedience his Wife; both good Benefactors to this Parish.’

Obedience’s father had taken a lease of the Burwash forge in 1592 but died in late 1596 or very early 1597 leaving two young sons, three young daughters and a pregnant wife. Thomas Nevitt, who had completed an apprenticeship to a draper, seems to have been in the service of Sir Robert Sidney, later the Earl of Leicester, from early 1594, initially in charge of Sidney’s wardrobe, until Sidney’s death in 1626. At some point after the death of James I in 1625 he compiled accounts (Nevitt’s Memorial) of the income and expenditure of his master. Amongst the income from the earl’s land is this entry:

Receaued of Henry Cruttenden and myselfe for a lease of Halden

and for the woodes there att two seuerall tymes 2520li

In the accompanying text this is referred to as ‘purchase of the Lease att Halden by my brother Cruttenden and my self’. If Henry Cruttenden is the man who was in partnership at Cowden in 1638-43 with the ironmaster John Browne, it is likely that that Nevett and Cruttenden bought the lease of Halden and of the woods in order to make iron. A Henry Cruttenden of Burwash, a yeoman aged 40 in January 1632/3, had lived in Burwash all his life and his age makes it likely he was Obedience’s brother and Robert Cruttenden’s eldest son. Halden is presumably High Halden in Kent, about 20 miles from Burwash. Cowden is around the same distance.

The verse epitaph appears to be the work of Christopher Brooke, a poet who made his living as a lawyer. Well regarded in the circle around John Donne and, unlike Donne, published in his own lifetime, his work is little-known now. When Sir Thomas Overbury’s poems were published a year after his murder, various poets contributed memorial verse to open the volume, each having his initials after his contribution. The penultimate couplet of C. B.’s elegy was:

For him, and to his life and death’s example,

Love might erect a statue ; Zeal, a temple:

very close to the final couplet of Obedience Nevitt’s epitaph. The expression ‘Exchequers Store’ from another verse epitaph by Brooke which once hung over the grave of Elizabeth, died 1597, wife of Sir Charles Croftes, in the church of St James, Clerkenwell, seems to be unique to Brooke as it is used only in that verse and that for Obedience Nevitt.

Neer Nature framed A better wife,
By Lawes Divine Shee squarde her Life;
Shee was not proude, nor High in aught,
Save when to Heaven Sh’advanced Her thought;
Her name and nature did accord,
Obedient was Shee to her Lord;
And to His Hests Shee did attend,
Wjth dilligence until Her end;

Her hart was an Exchequers store,
Of love to Friends, and Bountie to the poor

Envy Shee strooke dumbe, who might repyne,
But not to reprove Her Vertues so Divine;

To whose faire Life and Death’s example,

Love might erect a Statue, Zeale a Temple.

Text and picture: Jon Bayliss


  1. Nevitt’s Charity: Parliamentary Papers, House of Commons and Command, Volume 11 (1831), 120
  2. Nevitt’s Memorial:

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