Church Monuments Society

The Farnham Monuments Myths Legends and Family Fables Pt 2 06

The Farnham Monuments: Myths, Legends and Family Fables (Pt.2)

Month: July 2015
Type: Mixed  
Era: 16th Century

More about this monument

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.

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?

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 9 & 10)

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

Read part 1

Moira Ackers

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