Church Monuments Society



Month: October 2023
Type: Chest tomb   Effigy  
Era: 16th Century

Visit this monument

Shrewsbury Abbey
Abbey Foregate, Shrewsbury SY2 6BS

More about this monument

This tomb of a Tudor soldier and his wife has suffered maltreatment and restoration, but is still fascinating with its detail of bedesmen and angels.

Sir William Dugdale visited the parish church of All Saints in Wellington, Shropshire on 11 Aug 1665. He noted ‘On the North side of the chancell a faire raised monument of alabaster, whereon is cut the portraiture of a man in armour, and by him his wife, with this circumscription: Hic jacet in tumba corpus Will’mi Charlton armigeri et Anne uxor’ ejus, qui quidem Anna obiit vii dei mencis [sic] Junii anno d’ni mill’imo cccccxxiiii & dictus Will’m’s obiit p’mo die mencis [sic] Julii anno d’ni mill’imo cccccxliiii quorum animab’ p’picietur Deus’[1]

The medieval church was entirely rebuilt 1788-90. This resulted in the Charlton tomb being relegated to the churchyard where it stood for more than 30 years until it ‘found refuge in the south aisle of this church [Shrewsbury Abbey], where, by aid of the mason and the painter, it has resumed a very respectable appearance, though far inferior to the elegance which it exhibited before its delicate sculpture was melted down by the action of the elements.’[2]

William Charlton of Apley, a manor and minor castle north of Wellington, had fought in France for Henry VIII where he earned the epithet ‘stout’. He married Anne Hoord of Bridgnorth. He was dead by 1532 as the wardship of his grandson and heir Francis was granted to Francis, Lord Talbot in that year.[3] The date of death on the tomb inscription is incorrect.

Until recently the monument stood at the West end of the North nave aisle but is now once again in the South nave aisle where Owen and Blakeway saw it in the 1820s. It is one of several monuments which ‘found refuge’ at the Abbey. It is impossible to know how much restoration has occurred since it was rescued, but, given its maltreatment, it is surprising that so much survives. Photographs taken relatively recently show that it was formerly disfigured with black paint on the weepers.

The effigies of William and Anne are much restored. It is interesting that the remains of an angel supports the left side of the cushion beneath Anne’s head. William has lost his right foot, but beneath his left foot rests a pensive bedesman seated on a lion, reminiscent of several other alabaster monuments.[4]

The tomb chest has alternating angels holding heraldic shields and bedesmen. The latter are quite lively and give the chest a sense of movement by their different poses. Some of this must have been there when the tomb was erected, but it is impossible to know what is restoration and what is original. One of the bedesmen has his right foot standing (stamping?) on an unidentifiable object.[5]


Tony Carr

[1] Owen, H. and Blakeway, J.B. A history of Shrewsbury. 1825, vol II, p. 166

[2] ibid.

[3] L & P Henry VIII, vi, p. 141

[4] Lowick (Northants) 1498, Strelley (Notts) 1501, Norbury (Derby) 1483, Harewood (Yorks) c. 1430, Exton (Rutland) 1524

[5] Owen and Blakeway identify the bedesmen as friars; they describe this object as a fox’s head and suggest that it satirises religious fraternities. A history of Shrewsbury. 1825 vol II, p. 167